Anthem: VIP Demo Review

tl;dr Rating

3 out of 5

If you haven’t pre-ordered this game, don’t. Unless you’re absolutely invested in fps/loot based games or want a game to burn some free-time then wait a week or two. While the game has great potential, the possible lack of content could impact the game’s lasting power. Are there more types of world events, weapons, abilities, and gear? What we saw in the demo seemed great, but was that the tip of the iceberg or did we get a look at it all? Let’s hope we get confirmation on this soon.

My first half of game time was played using a keyboard + mouse, second half was played with an xbox 360 controller. I can without a doubt tell you that the controller wins out. Flying with a controller feels smooth, and. easy to control. With the mouse? You have to deal with an annoying elasticity with the flight controls. Underwater flight is another pain point, why change the sensitivity for it? Unless underwater areas become a common occurrence, the change in sensitivity and movement is more of an annoyance.

Pros

  • Classes felt unique. Different mechanics were fun.

  • Flying has the chance to feel like a great.

  • Combos feel amazing. Gratifying sound and visuals.

  • Has potential for lots of fun grinding for loot & crafting mats.

  • Weapons & gun play are sharp.

  • Beautiful environments.

  • A+ Fashion Show.

Cons

  • Difficulty. Could be tuned. Hard didn’t feel that difficult.

  • Flying on KB+M is a nightmare.

  • Crashes. Disconnects. Rubber-banding.

  • World events felt too far spread out.

  • Repetitive unless different world events are being held back.

  • Menu UI is a hot mess.

  • No text based chat. Annoying to communicate with teammates.

  • Content. Hoping for additional abilities/weapons/skills.

The Quick Details

To get an understanding of where I stand with this game, it may help to explain the type of gamer I am and the games I tend to gravitate towards. I thoroughly enjoy repetitive events and min-maxing the tiniest details in my gear. The concept of continuous grinding to get crafting materials in hopes of crafting a perfectly rolled gun for my load-out is my idea of a good time. While Destiny originally launched without much of an end game i sank hours and hours into the loot cave, and ran the chest farming routes more times than I’m proud to admit. So know that this review comes from someone that has already pre-ordered, and enjoys the challenge of min-maxing each class, for multiple builds.

Controls

Let’s start off with what is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. Flight. But we can’t speak to the good without acknowledging the bad. Flight controls, specifically on keyboard and mouse.

My first half of game time was played using a keyboard + mouse, second half was played with a wireless xbox 360 controller. 9 times out of 10 I prefer the controller. Flight with a controller feels smooth, natural, and easier to control. The mouse on the other hand feels like the polar opposite. You have to deal with an annoying elasticity with the flight controls as you look around and change direction. This becomes apparent when you’re trying to do a quick sharp turn, swing the mouse too wide, and then you’re playing a game of autocorrect. Imagine your javelin as a car that you constantly have to correct for oversteering.

Underwater travel is bad, let’s just rip that band-aid off. Unless underwater areas become a common occurrence, the change in sensitivity and movement is more of an annoyance. Keep it all the same from when I’m in the air to when I’m in the water.

Once you get the hang of it the transition from flying to free falling to flying feels natural. Maneuvering the battlefield is where the controls shine. There is something so gratifying about circling the enemies as a ranger and dropping your grenades and rockets as you drop in from above. Or as a Storm hovering above enemies as you rain down a combination of freezing ice shards followed up by huge fireballs. Over time these moves start to feel natural, spend some time in freeplay mode and you won’t ever give it a second thought.

Gameplay

This is where the game has the chance to shine. Everything from the sound of landing after free falling from overheated thrusters to the visual and audio feedback of a combo that is detonated, it all feels extremely satisfying.

If you played Mass Effect: Andromeda then the combat system will feel very similar, which is not a bad thing because it may have been the best part of that game. It doesn’t have the same snappiness of Destiny or Halo and I’d argue that the game is better for it. Run and gun tactics can be fun, but this game requires movement and using the environment if you’re going to survive firefights on harder difficulties, you can’t just walk down a straight line mowing down enemies. Dodging an oncoming rocket mid-air and then firing your rocket at a turret to see it blow up feels like you’re recreating a scene straight out of a movie. When the mechanics work, they work flawlessly.

There are occasional moments that can remove you from the game. Constantly opening up the mini-map to make sure you’re headed the right away is a pain until you learn the world, this could all be prevented with some form of a basic waypoint system and mini-map. Trail too far away from your squad mate and their marker disappears so you’ll need to pull up your map and orient your character in that general direction. Don’t get me wrong, these elements don’t ruin the game, they just add some annoyances that would otherwise be prevented with the addition of UI staples for games within this genre.

I played through the demo with the default Ranger and Storm. Both classes felt different enough that I had to change my play style when going between them. This was so refreshing, it felt like the javelin you chose actually had an impact on your overall play style. Enjoy hovering above enemies raining down chaos? Storm may be perfect for you. Want a bit of tankiness while you’re darting from place to place shooting enemies and setting status ailments? Ranger it is. I’m excited to try out the other two classes I didn’t get a chance to play. But from watching my friends, and how we interacted in battles, I can see that each class serves a specific purpose. Yeah, you could just all beef your armor and health and then shoot, but part of the fun of this game is how different each javelin can be, and the custom load outs you can potentially have.

Performance

By now I’m sure that you’ve heard and read about the demo launch, and the numerous amount of bugs that are plaguing the game. BioWare released a statement about the launch of the demo and the problems they faced. This transparency is nice to see from a major developer, but my worry is if they have plans to fix all of this before launch. February 22nd, or 15th for the pass members, will be here very soon.

Going from the fort to freeplay, only to be forced to reset the entire game because the game locked up after loading 90%. Disconnects, and rubber banding while in the middle of a firefight. All of these little issues piling up made this experience feel more like a beta test over an actual demo.

Performance on the PC felt smooth. I ran the game on 1920x1080 @ 144mhz with custom settings. A majority of graphics were set to medium with a few textures set to high or ultra and I was able to maintain at least 60fps during graphically intense fights. Beyond that was a steady 80+ fps for the story and flight around the world. I can’t guarantee that it’s going to run this well for everyone, and I didn’t have an opportunity to test this on console. Here’s hoping that there are continued improvements.

 
Game ReviewAnthony Nguyen