Anthem
Developer BioWare
Publisher Electronic Arts
Official site ea.com
release date February 2019
Genre Action, Shooter, RPG

In recent years, BioWare has lost its image as one of the pillars of the role-playing genre. Their last project, Mass Effect: Andromeda, came out not bad, but secondary. Anthem looked intriguing before release, but upon launch it garnered mixed reviews. Instead of a full-fledged role-playing game, players received another network project with cooperative missions.

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Anthem takes place in a world where people confront dangerous nature and fantastic animals. In the prologue, we become a member of an unsuccessful raid into a certain “Heart of Rage”. After fighting powerful monsters, the squad is defeated, which undermines the status and strength of the freelance organization. And the rest of the time we will return these positions, upgrade the combat suit and assemble a team to re-penetrate the «Heart of Rage».

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The game world looks interesting and unusual due to the mixture of medieval motifs and technologies. Freelancers here act as defender knights in exoskeletons with powerful guns. Humanity itself lives in separate enclaves in protected cities, and all kinds of aggressive beasts and bandits roam the open world. The key element of this universe is the ancient heritage of the gods — the Hymn, which is the source of creation and the source of great danger. Some ancient artifacts emit the Anthem and change the world, creating marvelous creations. And according to all the canons of the genre, there are villains who will try to master such a powerful force, turning into a threat to all mankind.

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In fact, this is the world of magic in a new interpretation. Anthem could become an excellent representative of techno-fantasy if the authors skillfully developed their ideas. But with a high story potential, the game world is shown very superficially. It all comes down to confronting factions and searching for artifacts in ancient ruins. Many nuances are revealed beyond the main narrative, the authors fill the universe with meanings through text entries that you will quickly get tired of reading.

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Visually, the game looks great. For the first few hours, you frankly admire unusual landscapes with multi-level vertical locations framed by rocks and waterfalls. The control of the exoskeleton gives the feeling of a powerful machine, and the battles look bright and spectacular. The sensations are complemented by an excellent juicy sound with rich explosions and the trill of machine guns. The Frostbite Engine 3 engine works out one hundred percent. And the battles themselves are dynamic — a combination of flights, sharp attacks, firing from powerful cannons and throwing grenades at enemies are perceived cheerfully.

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But the first impressions gradually pass, and the shortcomings of the game begin to appear behind them. All our activity comes down to sorties outside the city-enclave. The game world is presented as an integral location, where there are dungeons and some other closed areas. This territory is not too big, so at some point missions will begin in familiar places where there is not even an attempt to somehow change the situation.

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After the missions, tedious walks around the city are coming. The return cannot be avoided, because here you can trade and receive new tasks. All this is furnished with long dialogues and requires slow walking around different parts of the city. And from some point it turns into a frank routine. There is an attempt to make the world more alive through dialogues with secondary characters. A number of NPCs are open for communication, there is even variability in the dialogue and the ability to somehow influence the interlocutor. But this does not affect the world in any way and does not appear in the game. Even if, as a result of a series of conversations, you persuade some merchant to develop the idea with greenhouses, this will not have any consequences in the game. Learned the story of a former spy who found a wife and settled in the city? This again does not affect the world. There is no point in such dialogues.

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The main characters are not much better. Standard characters, no interesting stories, and attempts to play the drama sometimes look strained. There are sharp moments that are poorly disclosed. For example, in the story of betrayal, much is left behind the scenes, and this does not benefit the plot.

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Anthem tries to be a deep story game, but that’s not the best part of the game. But the battles are really addictive. Monster shredding and gunfights look bright. Enemies are diverse, crowds of shooters or aggressive creatures are running at us, some healthy monsters periodically appear. There is the right variety — fast opponents, armored, with shields, snipers and melee fighters, plus different beasts. All this stimulates constant movement, you often change position and use your entire arsenal, precisely controlling the time to fill the scale of special abilities. Make quick flights between sites and hover in the air to shoot from above.

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But even here not everything is smooth. Missions are built according to certain patterns. It all comes down to battles in arenas, where you need to look for items or protect some points. And if in large story missions there are interesting scenery and the missions themselves develop in several stages, then side missions are too similar. Well, as mentioned above, your actions do not affect the world. You can fly three times to clear the same ruins as part of separate tasks.

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In addition to missions, you can explore the world in free play mode. This mode is needed to complete tests, since random tasks are generated here in the spirit of “kill the bandit indicated by the marker”, etc. At the same time, you can collect additional resources and help other players. But if you decide to start the mission, you will have to go back to the menu and select the desired task. It kills the feeling of a coherent world.

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During the course of the story campaign, at a couple of points, Anthem encourages you to visit the free game to collect resources and complete challenges. And it does not look burdensome, since I quickly fulfilled all the necessary conditions. Hiking around the fort and meaningless conversations strain much more.

Against the general background, missions that are called «Fortresses» stand out. This is a typical dungeon raid, where you, in the company of players, arrange a genocide of bandits and beasts, passing through a series of combat stages. All game elements are combined here, and there are a lot of enemies, which makes the passage tense and difficult. Sometimes there are simple puzzles with the manipulation of devices. In the finale, a big powerful boss appears with ultimate abilities, where the need for teamwork becomes as acute as possible.

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For the passage of the «Fortresses» the game gives out the most valuable rewards, stimulating the repeated passage. And these missions themselves came out rich and interesting, this is the best thing about Anthem. They are available after completing the campaign for numerous replays, but there are only four of them for the entire game. You can also repeat contracts. But if you always find players in the «Fortress» mode, then the rest of the missions are more likely to have to be done alone.

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There are three javelin suits available in the game with different combat specializations, which determine the preferred weapons and a set of additional features. New javelins are unlocked at certain levels. This allows you to thoroughly study the features of each costume, fully get used to it and upgrade its characteristics. And then you can change the javelin and get new combat impressions.

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The game favors a fast-paced play style, so the fast versions of the javelins make you feel more confident. A single heavy suit is too clumsy, although its shield and weaponry provide certain advantages. With proper pumping, the very first option will turn out to be no worse than the others. Moreover, it is versatile, and allows you to combine powerful combat capabilities with good mobility.

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We have two types of firearms available. It can be a rifle and a shotgun, or any other configuration. The game has many varieties of rifles, machine guns, pistols and shotguns. All of them have a different combination of rate of fire, range, accuracy and reload speed. Therefore, the effectiveness of any gun depends on your tactics and the right choice. Javelins can also be equipped with laser and missile launchers. There are protective shields and auxiliary effects for teammates.

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Higher tier primary weapons have minor non-combat-type side effects. Another type of damage is associated with auxiliary weapons. You can equip the suit with regular, incendiary, freezing, or poison grenades. Fire and Freeze allow you to trigger a combo where a quick combination of different types of damage removes maximum hit points. This is the most effective tactic for group action and against powerful enemies. Without a combo, you will knock out life points from the enemy for a long time. According to the rules of such games, shooting to the head does not lead to instant death, but allows you to deal critical damage. If we talk about bosses, then they also have weak and protected places. Therefore, it is important to hit at certain points, and not pointlessly drain all the ammunition into a thick-skinned monster.

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You earn costume modules and weapons as you progress through your combat adventures. But the main rewards are colored crystals, which, along with other components, are used to create new ammunition. There is no shortage of components. If something is missing, you can easily buy the necessary ingredients from the merchant. Loot hunting is not very sharp. Completing simple missions may not bring anything fundamentally new, and valuable rewards fall out only at the end of the «Fortresses». Therefore, the upgrade does not occur as often as in other games. And for this genre, this is a definite problem, because there are not enough worthy rewards for passing.

As noted above, the graphics in the game are all good. The picture is pleasing to the eye due to the high detail and embossed surfaces everywhere.

There is dynamic weather. Beautiful sunrises give way to storms with heavy rain and gusts of wind.

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Battles turn into vibrant shows with juicy special effects and flashes.

Let’s find out which video cards will provide gaming comfort in different modes. Let’s compare different AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce models in three resolutions. All tests were carried out on our standard test configuration for video cards (description here).

Because the world of Anthem is dynamic in time of day and weather, the tests are done in a tutorial in which the environment is preserved. A certain sequence of actions with shooting and explosions was repeated.

At least six repetitions on each video card. Standard Ultra settings.

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In Full HD, you need video cards no weaker than the GeForce GTX 1060 and Radeon RX 580. If you want to play at a stable 60 frames in Ultra mode, you can’t do without more powerful models.

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At 2560×1440, the Radeon VII and GeForce GTX 1080 Ti do well. For 4K, you need the flagship GeForce RTX 2080 Ti.

The game supports the new NVIDIA DLSS technology. This method relies on intelligent scaling and anti-aliasing to speed up performance. Only available on GeForce RTX graphics cards with Turing architecture. This method works best in 4K, and in Anthem DLSS will provide about a third of the fps speedup. If in other games such a mode, with good acceleration, still gives a certain blurring of the picture, then in this game the clarity is not lost, and the changes in detail are minimal. This is the best example of how DLSS works so far. We will talk more about the technology in a separate review.

Anthem is a fast-paced online action game with co-op missions. Plays great, looks and sounds great. The game tries to pretend to be a story adventure, but the narrative is not interesting. The world is presented superficially, a lot of unnecessary actions at the base and empty meaningless chatter with the characters. This is not the level of BioWare developers, who have always delighted us with thoughtful interesting worlds. At the same time, the overall concept is interesting and promising, there is potential for something more. As an online PvE action game, it is perceived well. But the game is not getting new content that has been promised for a long time, so the active audience is now small. At the end of the story campaign, “Fortresses” are available to you, where someone is constantly playing, and finding partners for other missions is already problematic. To refresh Anthem, the Cataclysm update is called upon, which will not reach the public release. The problem is that now there are a lot of games in this direction, where there is more content and more incentives to retain the player. As a result, Anthem deserves attention only if there is a discount.

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