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A new Anthem for BioWare: Is this online-only trip worth taking?

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Mar 14, 2019, 11:03 AM EDT

It's been a while since we saw a new IP from BioWare, but at last 2019 brings us Anthem. Unfortunately, it's not quite the space adventure most were hoping for. Still, it's an intriguing online option in the vein of Destiny that's worth exploring if you're jonesing for a new adventure to blast off on. 

This new looter shooter is out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and finds you taking the role of a Freelancer, or an in-universe mercenary — definitely not the type of freelancer like the one writing this piece. It's your job to bring back the Heart of Rage to keep the Monitor (the bad guy, essentially) from using the Anthem of Creation to wreak havoc upon the world. It's all standard sci-fi stuff, and will seem quite familiar to many players acquainted with the genre. 

As a Freelancer, you take on special contracts to eliminate targets and perform duties that other characters have asked you to complete, as well as work on stopping the Monitor. You don't really have much in the way of customization for your character, but that doesn't matter as most of your time is spent in a mech called a "Javelin." This lets you zip to and fro, exploring the map taking out enemies and siphoning their gear. It's pretty addictive, despite the somewhat lackluster and uninspired story. 

Anthem BioWare via official site 2019

Credit: Electronic Arts Inc., BioWare

That's what most of the game centers on, in fact — flitting from one area to the next in the game's oversized map in one of four different Javelins, each with their own unique play style: The Ranger is the all-around choice, the Interceptor offers some sick ninja skills; the Colossus is clearly for tank fans, and Storm is great for those looking for more mythical offensives. As you build up your experience levels, you'll add new weapons and skills to your arsenal, level the weapons you have, and earn new gear to play with. If you've ever experimented with dungeon-crawlers that constantly reward you with new goodies, that's essentially what's going on here, albeit on a larger scale.

There's a lot to see, and you get the freedom to explore most of it as you see fit, soaring and spiraling through the sky. It's thrilling in a way that BioWare hasn't attempted before. But as fun as it can be to fly around and pick off enemies, there are plenty of annoying moving pieces as well. Sometimes, it seems as though Anthem wants to clip your wings lest you fly too close to the sun. 

That's due to several different reasons. When you don't stop and get bogged down with overtly familiar lore (and you will, every five minutes, it seems) Anthem is a lot of fun. It can be entertaining to check out Fort Tarsis (Anthem's hub world) and chat with all the different NPCs there. Keep in mind that a lot of these interactions aren't optional, though, and you must take part in them if you want to see additional rewards, even when adding other players to the mix. 

Anthem Game on YouTube

Unfortunately, the game in its current state is riddled with some unfortunate pitfalls. The loading screens, while previously unwieldy, haven't quite been shortened enough to a reasonable amount of time, and you could be disconnected at just about any time. As this is an online game that you must play while connected to the internet, you can imagine how this might be a bit frustrating — read: very frustrating.

As of the last time I played, there were still various annoying bugs where weapons disappeared, friends disconnected, and the game necessitated a restart. Even with the recent patch that debuted, intended to fix many of these problems, it appears that several of them are still, unfortunately, impossible to ignore at the moment. Hopefully, they will be resolved in the future, but right now, they're still very much plaguing the game in a big way. 

Anthem features several interesting concepts that haven't been fully explored just yet. It's rife with potential, but some odd decisions end up marring it so that it doesn't quite reach them. As far as whether it's worth putting down your money for the game now, in its current state? It's at least worth a look, especially if you have friends to pass the time with. For anyone else, you may want to wait until it's reached maturity — whenever that is, anyway. 

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