Anthem VIP Demo First Impressions

Before I get started, I want to make one disclaimer. I also had connection issues with Anthem on Friday, and I floated around my Xbox to see if they’d resolve themselves (I managed to get into a game early on, but it hung up when I tried to load the mission). When I returned to the game on Saturday and Sunday, I had a much smoother experience – and this write up focuses on that.

The Demo loads you into Fort Tarsis, which appears to be the primary locale for cutscenes and story progression. You’re tasked with finding an ancient artifact. Fort Tarsis itself is a living, breathing area. There are opportunities to engage in discussions with NPCs, and a number of collectibles to pick up (full-game only). You’re then directed towards your Javelin – an exosuit with incredible capabilities – and enter into a mission select menu.

Menu navigation was a little confusing at first, as I was still getting a handle on the controls. But, after a short trial and error, the first mission of the demo was loading and I was soon out in my javelin blasting around the planetscape.

The game will draw a lot of comparisons to Destiny, and rightly so. However, as soon I’d stepped into the Javelin, I got much more of a Titanfall meets Mass Effect style gameplay vibe. The levels are lush and beautiful, the locale itself evoking an Avatar sort of vibe. The notion that you must learn to crawl before you walk is thrown out the window, as flight was fairly easy to pick up off the get-go. That being said, as soon as you start getting into firefights, you realize that mastering the art of flight is not so easy. Javelin flight opens a number of interesting options – and Bioware’s level design offers a high skyline for getting above opponents.

Feel free to check our Anthem pre-order guide.

Anthem Pre-order Guide

The three levels featured different locales within the map. Some were small base type areas, some open fields with sparse cover options, and others jagged cliff faces. Certain levels would have an indoor component, which would lead to a loading screen within the level, a bit of a weird design, but not unexpected considering how huge the outdoor area is.

Gameplay for the demo was pretty run of the mill – head to checkpoints, engage enemies, sometimes there was a king of the hill type defend, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Okay, there was one out of the ordinary moment. You encounter the artifact, but it’s shielded. You’re in this vast alien room, and you have to figure out how to lower the shield. Four colored buttons surround the room, and basically, it was a guessing game to determine how to lower the shield. I’m sure there are tutorials, but in that particular game no one was using a mic, and it was pretty much trial and error for about 5 minutes.

During most missions, you’ll eventually encounter boss type enemies. One such, again drawing a Destiny comparison, is a four-legged tank apparatus, with a charging turret that chases you with a laser scope. Make no mistake, however, these battles were real dogfights when additional enemies started spawning (and the tank itself took a lot of punishment) – perhaps due to the fact that everyone in the game had similar demo loadouts.

When I got through the first mission, I decided to switch things up and try some different weapons. The basic loadout is an automatic assault rifle, however, there appears to be a vast array of weapons you can load out with (as you pick up/unlock them). For my second mission, I tried using a precision rifle, and for the third, I went with a sniper rifle. Different weapons do have different advantages and disadvantages, and I’m excited to get back into the demo and try some different types out.
Customizing your javelin also affords opportunities to load boosts and artifacts that will help you in game. Things like efficient flight, that will reduce your overheating from flying around, and different grenades.
So what was my final verdict? Still undecided… there is a lot to unpack in Anthem. I think EA knows they potentially have a winner here, and that’s why they went a little Oprah crazy with the code giveaways. I’d like a little more time playing with the game, and trying new javelin types and customizations (EA had announced all javelin types would be available towards the end of the VIP demo).

Connection problems aside, there were some latency issues where enemies would pop in and out, but I assume stability patches will rectify these issues. The game is fun, and that’s really what matters most.

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