Anthem Thread for First Impressions, Criticism and Praise


Not only that, but it undercuts the value of the probably the biggest thing that Anthem gets right! We all talk about how good the core gunplay / mobility / character fantasies feel, but we’re not really pushed to develop the ways we utilize them.

Games like Destiny work way harder to get you to engage with their “verbs” - swarms of enemies are best handled with grenades, AoE heavy weapons & AoE supers, while beefy damage sponge bosses are best handled with single-target stuff, etc. Some projectiles are telegraphed and can be dodged, while others can’t. Anthem…doesn’t really do that…! 90% of the time, if you’re shooting the things in the head and using your abilities as soon as they come up, you’re basically playing optimally.

I always think of those titan enemies’ ring of fire attack, the one that forces you to watch out and either jump over or run under them. That’s an idea! But that’s the exception and not the norm, and Anthem’s toolset absolutely deserves to be explored with more of that stuff.


IMO, Bungie has done this really well since Halo 1 (and Maybe Marathon? I’m not old school Mac enough to have played those). They are really very good at creating enemy forces that are more than the sum of their parts, with different units that not only create different challenges for you, the player, but also a kind of tactical whole that’s very satisfying to take apart or get beat by.

Anthem has in my opinion gone a long way to providing that feel (Scars and the Dominion, particularly), and higher difficulties do a have a great edge of “this could actually go very badly” to them, but I completely agree that a lot of the (fun) dynamic feel in the combat is less reacting to what your foes are doing than reacting to what your allies are up to.

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I’m trying my best not to be mean to this game that I think is slowly spiraling into being a serious hottest mess contender but this is, like you said, very embarassing and really wild. First it obliterates people’s ps4’s and now this. What in god’s name happened with this entire project, I’m dying to know

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Someone recently pointed out the glaring discrepancies between the first reveal and the final game. Not usually something I’d give thought since initial reveals almost always have some degree of “here’s our concept trailer”, but in this case it was indicative of a disparity in vision vs reality.

As far as I can tell, all of the outdoor gameplay is almost identical to the final game barring obvious UI and design differences. The big thing is Fort Tarsis though, which is very blatantly a CG mockup with traces of what the final version would be.

It’s in that main thoroughfare where you access your Javelins, but it’s this big bustling market with tons of life. Most notably, instead of going to a particular NPC, the player organically bumps into one who explains a particular problem which leads into a quest.

That last bit had me the most curious. The structure of the final game is super weird, where you get back after each mission and have a ton of new, largely inconsequential optional dialogue from all these characters, most of which aren’t tied into any missions at all.

I’m wondering if there was an original vision to have the fort be a bustling hub, where optional dialogue and mission requests would blend together more seamlessly to create a better impression of a lived-in world.

I’d love to one day find out how things went like this on the project.


It still seems like the outdoor gameplay from the first reveal was not actually gameplay, as there is lots of stuff in there that never made it into launch, but that’s perhaps not an important discussion now that we are past launch. What is even more interesting to me is the 2018 “Gameplay” clip (which won an award at E3) is also vastly different from what was launched - and its hard to know how much of that was a conscious change and how much just due to constraints of EA saying this has to launch now.

What amuses me most about the discourse is how many people saying that it needs to copy the loot from Diablo 3. Man, it is basically a perfect match for Diablo 3, at launch right down to the useless inscriptions issue. D3 at launch was awful. If it wasn’t so sad it would be purely amusing to see how close they seem to have ended up to D3 with their loot issues, and possibly the pre-launch issues of Destiny 1 w/r/t to story and scope/vision.

I would imagine that Jason Schrier must be lining this up as a major chapter in a book.

@epigraph if you are interested, you can play the Marathon Trilogy for free now. There is an open source launcher that works on modern OS’s and all of content has been released for free by Bungie. Obviously the majority of the story is told through monitor screens, so YMMV depending on how interesting you find that (or you could just read through them online), but I do think the gameplay holds up.


Boy, the Freelancer Down mission is straight FUUUUUUUUUUCKED, huh?

First a combat encounter loops and I have to somehow communicate to my team that we probably have to wipe to reset it. Then, on the second attempt, the game fucking crashes and I have to rejoin the expedition further in, helping some dude named Roland. I had no idea who he was because I missed that story bit BECAUSE THIS IS A POLISHED GAME


I had a frustrating similar bug with Research and Rescue (which is still not fixed to my knowledge), where if your team kills the end-mission elite enemy before all their dialogue plays, the scripting breaks and the mission can’t be completed.

Because the enemy dies so quickly, on a subsequent attempt I had to tell the other players to stop shooting until it was dead.

It’s really shocking to see a game ship with these sorts of progress-breaking bugs, and still persist weeks later.


Put a decent amount of time into it but I think I’m going to give it a rest until it’s had a quality of life improvement or two.

The gameplay is really fun but my goodness the whole experience needs work.


Can you sell items in Anthem for real cash money?


That’s what I was thinking as well, I mean, the Defender bug takes even the most basic skinner box appeal of this type of game and throws it in the trash!

I don’t know, I might stick with it anyway, just to get it all over with.


That’s an especially weird thing, as it stands, there’s very little in the game to drive making real money purchases, which was outlined in this article by Mike Fahey.

One potential way it could be similar to D3’s original system is that you can buy premium crafting material in Anthem with real money, and a lot about statistic min-maxing revolves around repeatedly crafting gear for the right stat roll.

I don’t know enough about the system though, and part of me doubts that it would be so cynical as to require buying materials to keep up with gear level requirements.


Endgame Spoilers

Striders, stronger than gods apparently. It seems like a lot of wasted effort when we could have just run the Monitor over this whole time.

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It was mostly that: loot drops are excessively stingy, which D3 was at launch, can roll stats for items that literally cannot be used together, and limited variety for builds


If we’re talking about the store, I think we have to talk about Prospero. I am super torn about Prospero. I think it’s clear that he was authored to help players buy into the idea that custom Javelins in in-fiction important and worth doing. On one had, getting to know Prospero is actually great and this idea that image matters in the world of freelancers is really fun to engage with in isolation. On the other hand, when you considering how coins are slowly awarded after an initial spike due to challenges, it’s probably one of the most cynical hard sells I’ve ever seen for RMT’s.

The existence of this hard sell is hilarious when you consider how little you can actually buy on any given day. Did they really think rotating the store would improve player retention? More likely it’s just more evidence that Anthem had to ship or die.


By 2017, Anthem had presumably been in core production for around 3-4 years. One could reasonably assume that it and other games in development at the time had some form of loot box system for obtaining cosmetic items, but were scuttled after the catastrophic PR situation with Battlefront 2.

Two years might sound like a lot of time to completely redo the main method that players acquire cosmetic equipment, but when you consider how many other systems that this change would have a knock-on effect for, and that it’s a tertiary functionality during a project with an allegedly tumultuous development, it’s no surprise that the final version of that store is a confusing mess.

They could have had all items available in the store at once, but the fear there is having people start number-crunching like they did prior to Battlefront 2, and post stuff like “it would take 999 hours of grinding or $400 to unlock all the cosmetics”. It makes a lot of sense to obfuscate that by having only a few items available at once on a twice-weekly rotation.


I completely did not take into account how the loot-box crisis would have scuttled development schedules. Yeah, that totally makes sense. I’m a software person myself, so, I get how “small” changes can take much longer than a layperson would intuit. It’s also probably true that the replacement for lootboxes was not remotely obvious and a subject of continued internal debate and interaction. What they shipped is probably like the 10th thing they came up with, and assuming the plug isn’t pulled: won’t be the last thing they implement around this.

and post stuff like “it would take 999 hours of grinding or $400 to unlock all the cosmetics”. It makes a lot of sense to obfuscate that by having only a few items available at once on a twice-weekly rotation.

But, that data is going to come out, or be estimated to a reasonable degree of accuracy within days of release no matter what you do. It feels like a fools errand to obfuscate this stuff, though I can understand the thought process that goes into getting to this point. By contrast: Warframe, straight up provides their drop tables and store contents to the community, because they know that it’ll get crowdsourced anyway, and optimizing loot acquisition through the creative application of excel is what some players are going to do and love anyway.

Aside: I’m always a bit amazed at how game development actually works (Spend 90% of the project working on things that look very little like the final game. Spend last 6 -12 months crunching to finish the damn thing based on decisions that are still being made up to the last week before ship. Considering how interrelated everything is, it’s a minor miracle that any sizeable game feels coherent.)

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From what I’ve seen, a lot of projects fall apart either due to a lack of realistic goals being planned out during pre-production, or losing grasp of those goals over time, usually due to the creative indulgences of project leads who aren’t considering the limitations of their design staff (see: everything with RDR2).

Not that either of those were necessarily the case in Anthem, it’s equally likely that things were going relatively okay during development, but EA’s company initiatives (pushing Frostbite, more/less loot boxes, etc) kept getting in the way.


So yeah, I finished the main campaign, unlocked all the Javelin’s, and now just have some Agent Missions, Contracts and Strongholds to sweep up.

But, I don’t think I will. The combat’s become a mostly boring tangle of particle effects and I audibly groaned the last time I saw a host of speech bubbles on the fort map, because I’m exactly the type of person who forces himself to sit through every second of asinine conversation.

And I took one look at the first legionnaire challenge and went “HA, no fucking way!”

God, this game is depressing.

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I don’t know if this is too cynical or not, but I saw someone suggest that if you put everything on show at once (even if purchases are limited) then the player will pick their must haves, and mostly ignore the rest. But if you only ever show a limited amount then people are far more likely to buy something fine, because its the best right now, which drains peoples limited supply of coin, and then pushes people to buy the actual best thing with IRL money.

Edit: obviously that is entirely dependent on the game having enough legs to drain people like that, which its looking 50/50 as to if it will survive that long right now


BioWare rolled out a major patch this morning, three days ahead of schedule, FYI. A lot of fixes and changes, including “you can launch missions from anywhere in the Fort without walking back to your suit.”