Monday, May 20, 2019

A mild defense of Anthem

I said some unflattering things about Anthem last week, summed up by the statement 'It is a sad game.' And it is. But it is also not a bad game. It is not the game that most people were expecting not is it the game that EA advertised. I also believe that it is not he game that BioWare wanted to make. There are bits and pieces of very good ideas here: interesting characters and a world with a tremendous and largely unexplored backstory. In a better game, a game not forced into the money shaped hole left behind by Destiny 2, it could have been much better, but that does not mean that what is here is all bad.

It must be said that I played the game incorrectly. Anthem is designed as a squad based shooter and I turned that option off at the first opportunity. It warned me each time I started the game and each time I said 'fuck off, I can amuse myself' to which it replied 'sure thing spanky, but I am not going to make anything easier on you just because human interaction give you a rash.'

We came to an understanding.

The act of playing Anthem, flying around in a javelin and shooting wave after wave of very similar enemies, is fun. It's not Destiny fun. because BioWare is not Bungie, but I played it for around twenty five hours and my eyes did not pop out of my head. The game did not give me cancer. It was fine. Most of the game was fine. The world was detailed and fun to look at, though exploration was a bit cumbersome. Missions were straightforward, if a bit repetitive.  Enemies were fun to kill, though the game's idea of increased difficulty was simply 'MORE MONSTERS,' not different monsters or more interesting attacks.

It was fine. 7/10.

The sadness kicks in when the BioWare bits shine through the 7/10 and it becomes apparent what the game might have been. The characters in the game are capital C characters: well written, well voice acted, but poorly animated and residents of a very detailed but stagnant world. There is a scientist who is split into three people, each new entity reflecting part of himself, that would have been more at home in an RPG than stuck in the same idle animations in his house, never leaving his tiny little world. The whole fort is filled with NPCs that never move, looking more like an exquisite diorama than a functioning fort.

Anthem's world is being constantly torn down and rebuilt by shaper relics, leftovers of a long dead civilization that do as much harm as they do good by tapping into the anthem itself, an unexplained but ever present power that fills the world. Think The Force but less subtle. Instead of churning out moody bad guys it creates giant scorpions or titans the size of buildings.

It could have been good. It could have been more. The real problems don't kick in until well after my time the game has ended. End game content is almost entirely absent leaving players to grind randomly created missions with the end goal of, well, something. I never touched any of that so I don't hate the game but I at least understand why players looking for more than a twenty or so our campaign would be frustrated.

Anthem was fine. Sad, but fine.

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