Two Hours With Anthem’s New Demo

Two Hours With Anthem’s New Demo

Today BioWare’s demo for their upcoming online coop shooter Anthem went live, sort of. An apparent problem on the back end and some weird infinite load screen bug have made it difficult to actually explore the game for any sustained period of time.

At the time of writing, the game still isn’t accessible for a lot of the EA Access and Origin Premier subscribers who can play this weekend. Fortunately, I was able to spend close to two hours with the game before getting booted. I came away excited but sceptical.

I first got a chance to play Anthem at E3 last year. I hadn’t expected the game to look or feel as good as it did. Intuitive movement and controls aren’t something I normally associate with BioWare, though I’ve enjoyed the studio’s past action role-playing games despite their clunkiness.

After seeing how different it felt to move in fight in Anthem, it quickly became my most anticipated game of 2019.

Returning to Anthem’s world today has cooled my enthusiasm slightly.

The demo, which BioWare has gone to great lengths to note is a separate slice of the game and balanced somewhat differently when it comes to the in-game economy and levelling, starts in Fort Tarsis, Anthem’s main narrative hub.

From there players have the option to embark on a few different types of missions, solo or with up to three other people, to achieve specific story objectives or just to explore and grind for loot and XP.

Playing on an Xbox One X, the game doesn’t look as visually striking as when I played it on a high end PC at E3. The natural lighting effects on my first outing through the mountainous jungles outside the base, for instance, aren’t as impressive as what I’ve become accustomed to in games such as Destiny 2 and even Fallout 76. The interior of a temple was brown and ugly. (The diegetic music in Fort Tarsis’ open air market whips, though.)

I also encountered multiple, lengthy load screens when entering different parts of the map, as well as between missions and respawning from death, though it’s hard to know how much of that is a result of the game’s current server-side maladies.

Combat is more visually interesting, bordering on effervescent. Anthem’s particle effects help give each fight a little zing. Ice attacks, fiery explosions and shield effects collapsing fill the immediate vicinity with a ton of satisfying visual details.

Despite the visual flair, aiming is a bit stiff. Numbers indicating damage pour over enemies rather than having the enemies physically react, but the sound effects of each bullet leaving the chamber make me want to keep shooting everything I can find.

Being able to fly is wonderful, and moving around Anthem in general feels phenomenal, but I find myself falling into a strict rhythm of fighting enemies from behind bits of cover, moving to a new place, and then taking cover to fight more enemies. So far I haven’t come across many encounters that really require or reward using the verticality my suit affords me to try to outmanoeuvre my opponents.

There are a ton of options to customise the look of the Javelins, the mech suits you wear when adventuring out in the world. There are options for switching up the colours and textures of several layers of the suits’ metallic and cloth components, as well as your gun. I’m excited for possibilities when it comes to bedazzling them in the coming months.

At the same time, I didn’t stumble upon that many interesting items in my initial outings outside of a few components to augment some of my Javelin’s defence and melee damage. Anthem doesn’t seem like the type of shooter where new equipment is constantly dropping from dead enemies.

Though I was dubious about another online multiplayer game with NPCs, so far Anthem’s characters seem like real people with fully-formed personalities. Matthias, who I recovered an artifact for, is incredibly knowledgeable but also unsure himself, a dichotomy he oscillates between during conversations in subtle ways rather than remaining one note.

I’ve only chatted up a handful of characters, but none of them seem like stilted, one dimensional personas who only exist to add lines to your to-do list. The residents of Fort Tarsis look like Final Fantasy 10’s Al-Bhed in their skin-tight cutoffs and high-tech surgeon masks. (The jury’s still out on whether that’s a good thing or not.)

Anthem’s current demo period runs through the weekend. I plan to play a bunch more of it during that time, levelling up to unlock other Javelins and exploring some of the missions on tougher difficulties with a full party — assuming the servers are working at least.

The game’s next demo period, which runs the weekend of February 1, will be open to all players, and the complete game launches on February 22.


  • My six hours with the demo… connecting servers. Infinite load screen A or infinite load screen B, occasional infinite load screen C.

    In six hours. (on Xbox) I have got in three times. First the mission failed to pop when talking to the NPC. Had to restart. An hour or two later, got into game, launched missions, got stuck on infinite loading screen. Forced to restart. An hour later, actually playing, having fun, five minutes later get killed because I was stuck on the terrain, team couldnt rez me, had to restart. That was two hours ago.

    Its now eight hours of issues, especially those on Xbox who still cant get in on mass, at what point do we have permission to go from *shrug* I understand, these server things are to be expected, to, this reminds me of Simcity and its epic fail of vast proportions.

    The worse part access to this was through real world money, yet people who didnt pay are in and playing because those who paid are.

    Im patient and seen and been part of enough launch day rubbish, but this one really does feels a bit more rubbish than most.

    • supposedly they have fixed the issue on PC and PS4, but not xbox yet. But hopefully that at least means your fix will be there very soon so you can properly get some play in.

      • It was not fixed for PS4 for me. In twelve hours of trying, I played maybe 2.

        This is the only use case for mobile games. XD

        • Yeah, it was definitely not fixed lol. On PC I got like 3 hours maybe from nearly 10 of trying and I only got that much because when i got into free play i just kept playing because i knew loading to a different mission likely wouldnt work.
          Overall it seemed pretty fun at least.

          Lol yeah, you never hear of issues like this on mobile games.

          • Haha, what I actually meant was there was no way I was going to spend my entire weekend just staring at the load screen, and instead played mobile games while waiting/jogging from the login spawn to my javelin.

          • That makes sense. I dont know why i didnt realise what you meant because i was literally complaining to my friend about waiting for all the load screens as i recently lost my phone and have nothing to do during them. You dont realise how much you use your phone to pass small boring moments until you dont have one.

  • Good to hear the NPCs actually seem interesting. thats certainly one of my worries about this game.
    What javelin have you been playing? that could contribute to you feeling like staying back out of the fight and not using mobility as much. It seems like getting in there is a bigger part of the interceptor(?) and even colossus, but maybe not as much for the other 2.

    Also, sorry to beg, but anyone that comes here if you have one of the friend codes for the VIP demo leftover i’d really appreciate one

      • Thanks a bunch for the offer mate. But for some reason my Kotaku notifications are fu**ed, so i didn’t see your message until today (feb 1st).
        Ill just have to smash out the open demo tomorrow 🙂

  • What’s everyone else’s verdict so far?
    I’ve gone from completely not interested – to interested purely to scratch my co op itch.
    But I haven’t played the demo yet..

    • Haven’t been able to get past the login screen on PS4. On PC though I had a little play around and it felt like the Mass Effect Andromeda combat so a bit clunky. Kind of wish it was easier to meet people or be social in it.

    • technical issue aside, the game is ok. they said the PC controls isn’t the same as what’s in the live build and it does feel a bit off flying using a kb/mouse as opposed using a controller (but it could be me needing to tweak settings)… under water control still feel bad no matter what control scheme I use so there ‘s that (again tweaking settings might be in order)

      the combat feels very like Mass Effect which isn’t a bad thing for me… I don’t have any feeling towards the story but that might be intentional since BW is keeping it under wrap.

      I get the feeling the overall point of the demo is less to showcase the story and more to showcase the flying / combat

  • I was on the fence, and just spent an hour or so in the demo. I’ve decided it’s not a game for me.

    It’s really not solo friendly at all, you can see from the limited information in the demo that high level play is going to be all about farming top end loot in co-op with 3-4 random other players, and like Destiny, loot drops are infrequent and 90% junk.

    If it was more like Diablo 3’s loot system, I might be convinced to play it, but it’s just not.

    The world seems interesting though, so perhaps if it goes on sale down the road, I may pick it up and play the “story” in story mode at least, but for now, I’ll just continue waiting for the next good single player/co-op game from Bioware (maybe the next Dragon Age?).

  • I suppose you can call this a soft launch, hopefully it lit a fire under the EA’s IT department so they are somewhat prepared for the 22nd. off course I don’t expect the bean counters to approve additional infrastructure but at the very least they can now prepare the necessary automation to rapidly spin, test and deploy infrastructure

    I guess we’ll find out when the open demo goes live next week heh

  • Update. Originally wanted to go st the missions alone, kept freezing loading screens. Decided to matchmake and worked, really enjoying it, chaining combos. Comparison wise, feels like a heavier version of waeframe.
    There’s definitely potential here. Just concerned about story etc

  • I recommend doing as much air combat as you can, it’s really good. I’ve been playing solo because apparently I don’t have Demo access according to EA to give friend codes.
    I was staying in cover and moving a lot but then I took it to the air flying, shooting, hovering, dodging and slamming to the ground with the sword. Using the ultimate from the air is very satisfying. I constantly run into the infinite load screen bug but I just close app and I restart in mission.

      • No, Because its going to do the same thing as Activision did with Black ops 4. They won’t implement their microtransactions until after the game has been reviewed.

        Black ops 4 got glowing reviews. Can you imagine how different they would have been had the current version of BO4 been reviewed?

  • Tarsis was pretty but empty. I only got past the loading screen for expeditions once. Unfortunately, the rubberbanding made it nigh unplayable.
    Due to my FIFO roster I won’t be able to play again until about 10 days after it’s actually released. Hope it’s fixed by then.

  • Watched the Kotaku video of it getting played and it looked pretty lacklustre. Doesn’t seem to have the pop and gun play of Destiny or the atmosphere of The Division. Assuming they are its main competitors. Looks like a multiplayer Mass Effect: Andromeda. Hopefully the campaign dials it up to eleven, as it looks meh at the moment. For me it will be a wait and see until the reviews come out, after they have fixed the servers, and after they have introduced all the micro transactions.

  • Played it on PC for about 3 hours last night with no disconnects.

    Looks great and the snippet of story I saw has me wanting to know more.

    PC control is ok, takes a while to get used to but is fun to fly around and blast things.

    Only issue I had was one underwater section in one mission. It was very confusing. Not fun. Not rewarding. Had teammates waiting for me to navigate an underlit tunnel (with limited oxygen). Took ages.

    If not for my pile of shame i’d get Anthem when it comes out.

  • Playing the vip demo mainly just freeroaming and getting a feel for it and it looks amazing on the Xbox One X,very striking visually and vibrant.After reading the article I’m intrigued to know how much better the Pc version looks after reading your comment.As with a lot of other’s I had issues getting in initially tried restarting after stuck at load screen and was prompted to rejoin last session,got me in straight away

  • The frame rate on the Xbox one is terrible and the gunplay is like Mass Effect Andromeda. I’ve tried playing on Saturday and Sunday but constant infinite loads and other game breaking bugs lead me to just give up.

    I was really looking forward to this game but now I’m not sure exactly how playable it’ll be.

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