What is Anthem hoping to become? While BioWare has at least three acts of content planned, encompassing everything from Freeplay events to a 'Cataclysm', seemingly teased by the game's post-credits cutscene, right now it's hard to see it becoming a game we want to play every week. It's launched as a pared down-feeling base game: repetitive objectives, fights with the same dull enemies over and over again, and a campaign that feels like it ends before it really starts.
But hey, you know all of this, if you've played the game yourself or read Steven's review of Anthem. Right now, it's not in a position to become a fixture in our gaming lives, and it may never become that—but here's our wish list for the game, if BioWare is determined to grow it over the next year or so. We'd like to see it build on its strengths, and still be talking about it in a year.
For context, check out the game's 90-day roadmap, which we discuss below.
More enemy types
Tom: Most of the enemies you fight in Anthem are just fodder. Hordes of little enemies run out into open, miss with most of their shots and then wait for your squad to obliterate them with missiles and elemental combos. They are there to make your team of Javelins feel powerful and destructive, but it takes more than that to sustain high level play with enough depth to challenge experienced teams with high level equipment.
There is a lack of mid and high-level enemies that really force you to change your approach to a fight. The big-guy-with-shield archetype is there, but once you know how to combo off area of effect abilities you don’t really have to worry about their shields. Large enemies like these can do huge damage at high levels, but taking them out isn’t different or interesting because their behaviours are limited.
There are a few interesting enemies. The giant bug monster you fight at the end of the first stronghold is one—the fight has multiple phases, and it’s fun to jetpack around it to access its weak points. The dust titans force you to dodge and weave by materialising fireballs and throwing out rings of fire. There isn’t much of this in ordinary play, though, with the exception of turrets. It’s great to have a Colossus taunt them and put up its shield while Interceptors chop them up with knives. That’s the sort of squad interplay that could keep Anthem fun for more than a couple of weeks.
Samuel: Just three strongholds—Anthem's equivalent of Destiny's strikes—make the cut in the released version of Anthem, and one is the (not great) final mission. A new Stronghold, The Sunken, is coming in April, which is promising. In an ideal world, there'd be a new one to tackle every couple of months. Over the course of a year, you'd actually have a decent selection of them to knock down over and over again with a group of pals, assuming each one can challenge players in different ways.
Strongholds are the kind of content that will keep me coming back, particularly with exciting new enemies to fight—more so than repeating story missions on higher difficulty settings, anyway.
Many more Freeplay world events
Samuel: Thankfully, BioWare seems to have a lot of these planned for the first couple of months of the game's life—because as it stands, Freeplay feels super limited in Anthem. The range of potential objectives just isn't that interesting, and if you've pottered around Bastion for a few hours looking for chests or Titans to fight, you've probably encountered all of the variants. Three new Freeplay events are coming before the end of the month, two additional ones are coming in March, and seven are planned for April, which seems ambitious. Still, these should spice up the experience of exploring that world.
New story locations and areas of the world
Samuel: This is probably a big ask, but hey, this is a wish list. After my time spent beating the campaign and hoovering up a few contracts and World Events, I already feel like I've seen enough of Bastion as it's presented in Anthem. BioWare has teased 'monstrous firestorms tearing across the sky' as a coming twist in the game's 'Evolving World'—messing with the world state is a cool idea. But it still feels like a repetitive place to explore. I'd like to drop into more environments.
I'd extend this to story-based areas, too. The problem with keeping all of Anthem's story inside Fort Tarsis is that the world ends up feeling rather small—like you're stranded on a single, tiny world in a Mass Effect game. Even if the first-person story sections aren't always implemented in the smoothest fashion, I wouldn't mind another mini hub where I can wander around talking to people. I liked a few of the Tarsis NPCs by the end of the game.
Tom: Anthem gives you its whole world map right away, and while there is some variety there, its zones feel samey quite quickly. There’s the industrial zone to the north east, the temple bit to the north west, a few small swampy areas, and then pleasant but unsurprising jungle areas.
The game gets away with this for a while because it’s so damn pretty, but there’s a reason so many games do a fire area, an ice area, and sewer levels. A change in colour palette can hide the fact that you’re doing the same repetitive activities. Destiny has its planets, Diablo 3 has its Acts. Anthem has the scope to go new places with portals, and its dungeons do feel quite different. I’d wish for more though. I look forward to seeing what the ‘Cataclysm’ is like in a few months.
Tom: There are some cool Masterwork weapons to grind for, including a heavy pistol that does extra damage while you hover, and a machinegun that detonates combos when it reloads. However it’s surprising that guns are the top tier loot in Anthem when the Javelins are such cool machines, and the part of your character that you see the most throughout the game.
BioWare has made a clear decision to separate armour stats from the cosmetic armour pieces you’re wearing—bonuses are applied as Components instead. But armour pieces and Javelin skills are more important to me than anything else. I don’t want a gun I can barely see, I want a sweet-looking Interceptor chestpiece that lets me somersault in midair, or something. Also right now it’s unclear how loot bonuses are applied to your stats. I feel like I need a detailed character sheet highlighting how the buffs work. Loot is essential because it gives players ways to set goals once all the story missions are exhausted. Anthem doesn't seem to have an equivalent of 'sets' or another top level gear equivalent. Strong loot rewards will capture a subsection of players for a long time even if Anthem's basic activities don't change.
More Javelins and weapons/abilities
Samuel: The game's greatest strength is how distinctive each Javelin feels—the attention to detail on their animations is impressive, and being able to try each one out highlights their many differences. Long-term, I'd love to see one or two more join the fray, which interact with the other four in new and interesting ways. The Division 2's first year will see more specialisations—basically, endgame classes—open up in the game. Anthem's Javelins are no doubt extremely tough to design and animate, but new additions would be a compelling reason to come back.
Tom: The way you equip primary, secondary and support skills leaves a lot of room for new Javelin abilities and builds to be added in future, which is exciting. There’s nothing in the roadmap about this at the moment, but it would allow players to access advanced builds without BioWare necessarily having to design a whole new Javelin. I’d love to see more Javelins further down the line, though: they look great and have a lot of personality (apart from the Ranger. Sorry, Ranger).
A continuing story
Samuel: The first phase of 'legendary missions' comes to the game in March, with more 'new missions' planned for each month thereafter. When the credits roll in Anthem, it feels like the story has barely gotten started. Tarsis divides people, and I can't say I haven't skipped a whole bunch of the conversations I've had there, but I came to like Haluk and Faye, and wouldn't mind seeing some further development, there.
And what about romance, eh? I feel like that has to be one of BioWare's eventual goals.
And of course, many quality of life fixes
Samuel: I saw this on Reddit the other day, criticising the fact that Anthem's stingy 'return to mission' warning covers up your temperature reading, at a moment when you're probably flying fast to keep up with the rest of your party. I mentioned the same issue last week when we talked about the game's problems after launch. I imagine we'll see a lot of minor fixes to issues like this over the next few months. During the campaign after the 'Day One' patch, in a key cutscene my character just vanished while NPCs were talking to him. This sort of stuff makes it feel like the game isn't ready for launch.
Also: please let me set waypoints on the map in Freeplay. Let me access Forge in Freeplay and make tweaks to my loadout without leaving the game. And so on.
Tom: There are so many small and not-so-small examples of bugs throughout the game, from enemies in the open world vanishing or firing invisibly, to performance issues and more. I’m confident these will be fixed over time. It wouldn’t be much of a wishlist if we didn’t mention them, though. All games have bugs, but it’s reasonable to expect a stable and largely bug-free experience for the £55 asking price.