This week's highs and lows in PC gaming


Samuel Roberts: Mass reject

Why do you hurt me so bad, Anthem? I just want to load into Freeplay, and you've given me five connection errors, booting me back to the same spot in Fort Tarsis (an annoying jog from the mission start point). And this is after your confusingly named day one patch! 

Ah, it's worked the sixth time. Good. Time to beat this nearby world event, and unlock the final chest to complete the Tomb of Yvenia challenge. What's that? Even though an NPC has told me the World Event is over, the HUD says it hasn't ended and you won't give me or the other nearby Freelancer our chest? Guess I'll turn this off now. 

This game is a mess. If the aspiration is to have me repeat the same content over and over again in search of better loot on higher difficulties, that is enormously optimistic. I know BioWare gets a lot of doom, gloom and genuine abuse on the internet, and historically it's been unjustified and horrific to watch. I don't want to pile on: I want BioWare to be at its best. I enjoy the basics of combat in Anthem, but this isn't good enough in its current shape. It doesn't feel finished. It costs an eye-watering £55 in the UK, and it simply isn't worth it. 

Tom Senior: You’re javelin a laugh

Anthem’s pretty much all I have been playing for the last week, which makes it my low too. If I had to find a silver lining I would drag up the story of Final Fantasy 14, a game that launched in a dreadful state in its first iteration. Now it has a happy fan base and is a decent MMO that works surprisingly well on a couch.

That took years of effort and a lot of money, though. Is EA going to back the game for the long haul to bring it up to the standard that we would expect from a big budget release? Anthem promises to be a long term evolving game, so it would be rough on players to abandon the game any time soon. Hopefully I’m sitting here in a year’s time writing a high of the week praising Anthem’s turnaround. It’s hard to see that happening at this stage though.

Chris Livingston: Mage against the machine

I played Spellbreak this week, a battle royale in closed alpha that has spell-casting instead of gun-shooting. And I enjoyed it quite a lot! The spells, which you can combine with one another, are creatively destructive and have fantastic art, effects, and sounds. There are all sorts of other powers you can collect on the battlefield, like runes that let you teleport, become invisible, and even rewind time (just for yourself).

It left me wishing all of this was in a game that wasn't battle royale. I don't have anything against BR, but when I see a game like Spellbreak or Apex Legends, where the powers and combat are so much fun, it makes me wish there were other ways to play besides the last-man standing, shrinking circle of death mode that's become such a big deal. Hopefully, Spellbreak will do well and we'll see its spellcasting and spell-mixing systems in other modes, or maybe even in a traditional RPG someday.

Jarred Walton: I hate surprises

It's been a busy few weeks, what with all the new games launching. And then the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti got dropped on me literally at the last minute. The first official notification came on Tuesday, saying I should have received a card. Thus ensued a mad scramble to get one of the AIB partners to overnight me a card. Thanks, Asus! (MSI and EVGA GTX 1660 Ti reviews are coming…) So the card arrived Wednesday afternoon, which left me with less than 48 hours to complete all the testing and write up a review.

And it's not like we didn't expect the GTX 1660 Ti to come out. The first rumors showed up in January, with suggestions of a February 15 launch. Maybe Nvidia was kind and decided to push it back a week since we had five major games drop on February 15. Maybe it wanted the various hardware editors to be able to actually celebrate Valentine's Day. But somehow my notification "slipped through the cracks," and because of NDAs no one was quite sure who knew what. Hopefully the end result was worth it, but my family and I think surprise announcements like this suck.

Steven Messner: Day one—I mean eight—patch blues

Anthem has been out for a week but BioWare insists on calling its first update a "day one" patch, which is silly for all kinds of reasons. But after holding our review to see how that patch improved the experience, I was pretty disappointed. It did shave a few seconds off of Anthem's very long load times and made gear stats more readable, but it's also introduced a long list of bugs that are far more frustrating. Matchmaking seems more unstable than ever, and I really hate the new matchmaking menu that feels like a poorly placed bandaid. The good news is that BioWare is responding to feedback quickly and is making good progress on squashing certain bugs. I just hope they can keep this pace up and that, in a week's or month's time, Anthem be in much better shape.

Tim Clark: Anthem Anthema

From reading my high, you might think me the perfect audience for Anthem. And honestly, with Destiny 2 in one of its between DLC lulls, I’m definitely in the market for a secondary looter shooter. But after the time I’ve spent with Anthem, it looks like The Division 2 is getting that job. The changes made to Anthem by its day one patch don’t do enough to make me think my time spent with it is going to be tolerable. The one patch note I really need to read is: “The forge can now be found in your menu, and will no longer require loading”. Having sunk 1000s of hours in Destiny and 100s into the Division, I can safely say that making gear management require a laborious load is absolute death. Even Destiny, which lets you manage all your gear and bounties even whilst loading a destination, would be much less slick without its API enabling brilliant fan-coders to create tools like Destiny Item Manager.

My concern with Anthem is that so many of its issues—like the forge, like the rubber-band loading when in a group, like the fact that the loot is fundamentally dull—are not the kind of things which can be unpicked easily. As a team we spent an enormous amount of time discussing Anthem this week, and Steven did a tremendous job on the review, including spending time with the game post-patch to see if it substantially changed the way he felt. Which it did not. As an old stager at this point, I can honestly say that reviewers go into every game wanting them to be brilliant. If there’s a crumb of comfort, it’s that Destiny (twice!) and The Division took about a year to mature into their best versions. But I would also caveat that by saying that I think, right now, Anthem is in worse shape than either of those were at launch. I won’t be back for a while.

PC Gamer

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