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Old 03-05-2019, 06:55 AM   #1
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The Evil Avatar Anthem Review

Title: Anthem
Platform: PS4,Xbox One, PC
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Aaron Birch

Anthem Review

Back from the chop shop

Following the poor reception of Mass Effect Andromeda, and the uncertainty that comes with being a developer under EA's infamous studio-ending Sword of Damocles, it's safe to say Anthem is a very important title for BioWare. Keen to prove Mass Effect Andromeda was a nothing but a glitch, BioWare's assault on the looter shooter market has to be a hit, and with stiff competition already in existence from the likes of Destiny, Warframe, and even different genre titles like Apex Legends (also from EA), BioWare was always in for a difficult task.

Despite this challenge, this is BioWare, right? Sure, Mass Effect Andromeda wasn't exactly a classic, but look at BioWare's track-record. The original Mass Effect trilogy, KOTOR, Baldur's Gate, Dragon Age, Neverwinter Nights... That's a lot of classics, with more than a passing familiarity with loot games. Diablo arguably coined the phrase, after all. Anthem certainly had the pedigree behind it, so how did it turn out? Oh, come on, you already know by now, so I won't sugar coat it. Anthem has missed the mark quite meteorically.

Simply put, Anthem has disappointed in almost every single way possible, being as it is a shallow, shell of a game that features repetitive, uninspired missions, dull enemies, boring and extremely limited weapons and loot to pick up, limited customization options, an open world that looks the same throughout, and the usual microtransaction ugliness.



Let me delve into that shopping list of disappointment in more detail, but first, I need to focus on the good, as Anthem does have some good gameplay to offer.

First up is the core combat, which I actually like a lot. The Iron-Man-alike suits, or 'Javelins' you control are a lot of fun to play around with. Able to sprint at high speeds, hover, and of course, fly, these suits grant you access to a very agile and effective combat machine. The mixture of agility and a range of weapons and special abilities is used to great effect, with combat that really is enjoyable, and the Javelin classes are fun to experiment with. Although the enemies themselves are lacking in variety or imagination, there is a need to utilise your arsenal tactically, such as using grenades to deal with groups of foes, elemental attacks on susceptible foes, and super attacks for big hitters. Some foes require quick, agile movement to outflank them to hit weak points, and others require a mixture of weapons and defensive abilities to take on. It's a very impressive combat system that is genuinely fun, and is the foundation for a very good game. The verticality, too, is impressive in the open world, and fights are given that extra dimension as you're not limited to one plain of movement, as you can also fly and hover, opening up more possibilities.

Maybe contrary to popular opinion, I also found the story, and the hub area of Fort Tarsis to be well done, if still with some issues. The story of a world torn apart by strange relics that can often cause cataclysms that threaten all life on the planet is interesting, and unlike Destiny, the game isn't shy to actually give you some exposition, and a reason for shooting various creatures in the face. Here, you know who you are, why you're here, and what you have to do. Yes, there's an over reliance on text-based lore entries, but there's also a lot of lore passed on by NPCs, and missions do have reasons behind them other than just shooting things until they're dead. Fort Tarsis also changes and evolves as you play, which isn't important, per se, but a nice touch.



It's true that the story does have massive plot holes, such as meeting characters in missions before you actually meet them in the story, and order of events being incorrect, but still, I managed to get somewhat invested in the world anyway, in a way Destiny failed to manage in it's first couple of years. The voice acting is solid, the script is decent, and there are a couple of characters who are genuinely likable, and visually, Anthem really does look great.

Now, however, we get to the rest, and dear readers, this is where things go south, very quickly, unlike the game's loading screens, which are far from speedy.

By far the biggest problem to be found in Anthem is the lack of imagination and variety in content. Although supported by solid combat and fluid controls, the actual missions you'll be undertaking in the game world are among the most banal and downright dull I've seen in a long time. There's just no effort here, and the limited mission types are experienced within the first hour of the game, give or take. There's kill all enemies, kill all enemies whilst picking up and delivering items, kill all enemies whilst defending a point, and kill all enemies and then kill a boss. That's it. These few basic, tried and tired missions form the entirety of the game, with outings usually mixing a few different mission types into the expedition to make up a single mission outing. There are a few missions that feature the worlds easiest and most uninteresting puzzles ever created, so bad they'd be best left out to be honest, but other than this minor change of pace, that's your lot.



Eventually you'll be able to partake in endgame content, and other modes such as the games raids, or 'Strongholds', but rare highlights just cannot make up for a core game that's just so damn lazy in terms of design, and by lazy, I'm not joking here. Take the loot system, surely a key feature in any loot shooter, right? Not according to Anthem, as the loot here is woeful, to say the least. The loot here is just MIA. The weapon pool is limited to the most basic types, such as assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, etc, and each type has three, count 'em, THREE gun variants. These guns all pretty much look the same regardless of their status as common, uncommon , rare, or legendary, and the Masterwork weapons, which are the game's version of Exotics, simply have a yellow decal applied. Better weapons have minor buffs applied, many of which (before the recent patch) bestow bonuses for totally different weapon types. So, you can pick up a shotgun that give pistols more ammo. What's the point of that?! The patch has fixed this, apparently, but I question how this was a thing in the first place and needed to be fixed.

All weapons are plain and dull, with no special abilities. When games like Destiny and Warframe have huge collections of weapons that look cool and different, with totally unique abilities, it only makes Anthem's sorry selection all the more dreadful, and this is from BioWare, one of the creators of the looter. Exactly what happened here guys? Where's the drive to grind for that epic weapon? Where are the cool, special items for people to proudly show off to their mates? Where exactly was your creativity?

Non-weapon content is also missing, with customization of your Javelins being as basic as possible, with a limited paint option, and all other aesthetics being locked behind the game's microtransaction shop. Yep, new armor styles, logos, and emotes are found in the in-game store. Purchasable with both in-game currency or by using real money, you can buy cosmetics to customize your suit. Of course, in-game currency costs are purposely high to entice people to spend real money, so expect to grind for days to afford that new armor style unless you wish to spend more cash. Even then, the actual content on offer in the store is laughable. There are a couple of passable suit styles, but as for the logos and decals, it looks like most of them were drawn by pre-schoolers, they're pretty awful, and emotes are basic and pretty much useless, as Anthem just isn't as social as other games, like the two games I keep bringing up, Destiny and Warframe.



Also, all armor style items are purely aesthetic. There's no way to improve or customize your Javelin's armor with new, functional outfits, other than adding invisible gear items to slots you unlock to add buffs and stat boosts. Why is this a problem? Look at those other games again. One of the things players love so much about Destiny and Warframe, is being able to customize their avatar's appearance in detail, and in Destiny's case, armor all has functional abilities, so you not only look different, but also enhance your character at the same time, changing your play style. None of this is possible in Anthem.

This is a problem, as Destiny and Warframe are hardly new. They've been around for a long time now, and already have the looter shooter gameplay nailed, so it's not as if BioWare didn't have prior knowledge of the content they needed to include that players want or expect, even at a basic level. Still, this was seemingly ignored, and the bare minimum was delivered.

Other issues abound, such as the aforementioned loading times. Trust me, you'll spend a good portion of your time with Anthem looking as the same handful of stills over and over as the game loads.



There's a distinct lack of players in public instances, with a limit of four per server. With a world map this large, it means you'll often spend entire outings without meeting another player. As the game forces you into public instances during freeplay, it means you'll potentially have server issues due to others bad connections for no real reason as you'd lose nothing playing solo. Speaking of servers, Anthem is not stable, at all. I've been dropped out of the world several times due to connection problems not caused by my end, and I've seen reports many others have too. There are some glitches with mission events not triggering (I had to restart a couple of times due to this), and enemy AI is poor, with most enemies just rushing towards you, or standing still and shooting from a distance.

Now, let's face it, BioWare doesn't sit down to intentionally make a game as limited, or problematic as this, the devs have far more skill and ambition, not to mention love for their work. They pour their lives into these projects, and live and breathe the game they're making. The issue here, is far more likely corporate meddling, and although not usually the place for a review to focus, with Anthem, I feel it just can't be ignored.

I personally don't think there's a better, and more clear cut example of corporate interference than Anthem. It's so painfully clear the game has been intentionally gutted, and chopped to pieces by EA in order to sell future content to players to make more money. This is why some of the missions in the game make little sense, with characters you've yet to meet all of a sudden appearing as if you're supposed to know them, it's why there are no other game modes and minimal mission types, it's why there's hardly any loot, and it's why the world feels largely barren and devoid of content – it's all been removed to be repackaged to sell to us to appear as though we're going to get more content in future. Aren't we lucky? No. No we're not. Even with lack of content aside, it's also clear the game was rushed out, and needed more development time, but again, those unreasonable sales targets and oceans of money for stakeholders to swim in are all-important, quality and customer satisfaction be damned. This, my friends, is how games as a service works, after all. Deliver an unfinished game, and then sell the missing content later on for even more money.



Games as a service is a horrible, horrible idea that only benefits publishers and share holders, and no one else. Asking players to shell out for the 'full' game, only to then sell cut content to them at a later date is a putrid practice. It's even more of a kick in the unmentionables when the inevitable 'Complete' edition is released, only highlighting the initial release was incomplete, and only part of the experience. Nice. That's one way to treat customers with respect, eh?

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe Anthem is exactly what it is, a lazy, poorly implemented mess that just didn't have the effort put in, but I just can't see it. BioWare's very future is potentially on the chopping block here, and EA's knives are among the sharpest in the industry. This is where the big worry comes in.

Love it, or hate it, Anthem is a promising game in some respects. In its current state, it's not good, but the foundation of good combat, and a world and IP that could easily grow can be fixed in time, given the chance. Will EA give the game this chance, though? It killed Mass Effect off after one bad game, it's killed whole studios after commercial flops, and has just culled masses of jobs in its Australian mobile gaming studio. Big names like Visceral, Bullfrog, Origin, Pandemic, Westwood have all been unceremoniously put out to pasture by EA, so BioWare isn't safe by any means, especially after its second flop in a row.



Personally, I hope BioWare gets chance to fix Anthem, and to make more games, as it's one of the most talented studios in the industry. Perhaps its flirt with the shooter genre should end, and the company should return to it's RPG roots? Whatever happens, Anthem will always be a key part of these events going forward, and I hope it's not the end of the story.

As it stands, although I do find some of Anthem fun, and have enjoyed the combat and Javelin acrobatics, I can't recommend it to anyone in its current state, it's just not worth the asking price.

With such minimal content variety, missing content, and hardly any decent loot, even though it's a loot shooter, Anthem fails in almost every way. It'll take quite some effort to improve upon this, and don't confuse this start with Destiny's initial release, or even Destiny 2's. Whereas Destiny had major issues with content on release, the core game was fun, the content variety was there for the most part, and the social elements and multiplayer content was present, so less work was required to improve things. Yes, even vanilla Destiny 1 had far more content than Anthem, a game that's released over four years ago. There's really no excuse.



Unless you played the beta/demo and became enamored with it, or you can find it on sale, Anthem is a game you should play the waiting game with. See if BioWare improves things, and if EA allows it to grow. Only then will Anthem be able to be the game it should have been in the first place.

Score: 2.5 out of 5



The Good
  • Visually impressive
  • Solid combat
  • Story and NPC dialogue is decent
The Bad
  • Bare bones content
  • Abysmal loot system
  • awful microtransactions
The Ugly
  • loading times and frequencies
  • server instability
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:19 AM   #2
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What possible content could they have cut to "resell" to gamers later on? They've already said that the only thing they are selling is cosmetics (which so far are abysmally limited).

I'm more likely to chalk this up to incompetent developers give how many game breaking bugs there are right now. The most EA meddling I could see is forcing a release date when it could clearly use another 6 months to a year in the oven.
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:47 AM   #3
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What possible content could they have cut to "resell" to gamers later on? They've already said that the only thing they are selling is cosmetics (which so far are abysmally limited).

I'm more likely to chalk this up to incompetent developers give how many game breaking bugs there are right now. The most EA meddling I could see is forcing a release date when it could clearly use another 6 months to a year in the oven.
That's the problem with the whole conspiracy of "cut content to sell as DLC later".

1. Most of the time developers barely have enough time to finish the actual game - why would companies spend a bunch more money making a bunch of content they're not even going to use right away, that they're instead going to cut - not knowing if the game is even going to sell well. It doesn't make sense. That would be a horrible move.

2. They DO cut content sometimes, but its the unfinished stuff they cut. Then they'll have the devs finalize it later, sometimes to sell as DLC.

3. If a game is incomplete, its almost always because the game needed more time and the devs weren't afforded the time.
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:48 AM   #4
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What possible content could they have cut to "resell" to gamers later on? They've already said that the only thing they are selling is cosmetics (which so far are abysmally limited).

I'm more likely to chalk this up to incompetent developers give how many game breaking bugs there are right now. The most EA meddling I could see is forcing a release date when it could clearly use another 6 months to a year in the oven.
After nearly a 7 year dev cycle what would another year have given them? Think about it. The talent has left Bioware, they are a shell of a once great developer.
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:48 AM   #5
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Bioware’s next move should be to dumb down the gameplay & the graphics, make it BR, sprinkle in more MT’s, add loot boxes, & of course... F2P that motherfucker.

Moz can then “Bro, it’s free so why the fuck not” it up all day long.

Boom! Studio saved & customer base happy. Everybody wins.
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:56 AM   #6
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The review starts "Following the poor reception of Mass Effect Andromeda..." which I still don't really understand. Why did people hate it so much? It delivered a good Mass Effect story with gameplay that I had tons of fun with and played until I finished the game. Yes, it had some slightly goofy faces sometimes, but was that really enough to turn so many people into haters? Were they expecting some other game? Was it hype backlash? EA studio dogpile?
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Old 03-05-2019, 08:14 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by SpectralThundr View Post
After nearly a 7 year dev cycle what would another year have given them? Think about it. The talent has left Bioware, they are a shell of a once great developer.
Well another year and they could have worked out (maybe?) the massive amount of bugs that permeate every bit of it and add in the content they have planned for this year. But still, that's my point, it's far more likely incompetent developers than EA.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Booda View Post
Bioware’s next move should be to dumb down the gameplay & the graphics, make it BR, sprinkle in more MT’s, add loot boxes, & of course... F2P that motherfucker.

Moz can then “Bro, it’s free so why the fuck not” it up all day long.

Boom! Studio saved & customer base happy. Everybody wins.
If you're arguing that a game being free is a bad thing I... I just don't know what to say. At this point Apex as a free game certainly shows more care and craft than full priced Anthem. This is a perfect example!

But it's Respawn who is going to be shuttered in 9 months right? You didn't mean to say BioWare with their full priced game right?
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Old 03-05-2019, 08:16 AM   #8
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Well another year and they could have worked out (maybe?) the massive amount of bugs that permeate every bit of it and add in the content they have planned for this year. But still, that's my point, it's far more likely incompetent developers than EA.



If you're arguing that a game being free is a bad thing I... I just don't know what to say. At this point Apex as a free game certainly shows more care and craft than full priced Anthem. This is a perfect example!

But it's Respawn who is going to be shuttered in 9 months right? You didn't mean to say BioWare with their full priced game right?
If said bugs and bad design wasn't addressed in the entire design, another year in the oven likely wouldn't have done much. Just being realistic about it.
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Old 03-05-2019, 08:26 AM   #9
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That's an incredibly high score.
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Old 03-05-2019, 08:36 AM   #10
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If said bugs and bad design wasn't addressed in the entire design, another year in the oven likely wouldn't have done much. Just being realistic about it.
Not liking the design is one thing, but I am strictly talking about the bugs/content here. The core gameplay loop is actually pretty good, the reviews and opinions of people who have played it met that out.

Issue is you need content to go along with it, and that content has to work. Currently there are just too many bugs getting in the way of enjoyment, and it certainly lacks in the content department. Content can come in time, but I don't have much faith in the developers being able to fix these bugs in a timely fashion.

There are of course design choices that irk me, but they secondary compared to bugs and content in my opinion.
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Old 03-05-2019, 08:47 AM   #11
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Sure, Mass Effect Andromeda wasn't exactly a classic, but look at BioWare's track-record. The original Mass Effect trilogy, Diablo, KOTOR, Baldur's Gate, Dragon Age, Neverwinter Nights... That's a lot of classics, with more than a passing familiarity with loot games. Diablo arguably coined the phrase, after all.
I'm surprised I'm the first one to point out that Blizzard made Diablo, not Bioware. Bioware really had no loot games prior to Anthem, and it kinda shows. Bioware games have always been about story driven narratives, but Anthem was designed from Javelin system out. They have a great combat system but they really fell flat with making a compelling game. My guess is that lack of experience with the genre really hurt them.
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Old 03-05-2019, 10:16 AM   #12
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I wonder if another year they would have discovered their game randomly bricks the PS4.

Bioware is fucked.
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Old 03-05-2019, 11:03 AM   #13
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Despite this challenge, this is BioWare, right? Sure, Mass Effect Andromeda wasn't exactly a classic, but look at BioWare's track-record. The original Mass Effect trilogy, Diablo, KOTOR, Baldur's Gate, Dragon Age, Neverwinter Nights... That's a lot of classics, with more than a passing familiarity with loot games. Diablo arguably coined the phrase, after all.
Uh...what?

Bioware had absolutely nothing to do with Diablo.
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Old 03-05-2019, 02:06 PM   #14
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Please let this be the end of Bioware. This is one case where I will actually cheer for EA shuttering a studio. Come on EA, be the good guys for once!
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Old 03-05-2019, 05:49 PM   #15
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The review starts "Following the poor reception of Mass Effect Andromeda..." which I still don't really understand. Why did people hate it so much? It delivered a good Mass Effect story with gameplay that I had tons of fun with and played until I finished the game. Yes, it had some slightly goofy faces sometimes, but was that really enough to turn so many people into haters? Were they expecting some other game? Was it hype backlash? EA studio dogpile?
i would not say “hate” but rather meh. it was not a bad game but rather a weak story, and a little too much SJW crap. overall it failed to expand the ME universe in any interesting way, and was quote repetitive in terms of missions.

still not hate. i put a lot of hours into it and can’t say it was money ill spent. but whereas i have fond memories of the first three, this one is not memorable.

btw - didn’t bioware produce Jade Empire? why yes. yes they did.

no one ever mentions that game. i recall it being a solid game.
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:43 PM   #16
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For all the people who continually forget: Anthem is already effectively in the bargain bin. For $14.99 (on PC at least) you can play through the whole game and then some by subscribing to one month of the EA Premier pass. Just remember to unsubscribe right away or they will charge you over and over each month.

Why wait? The game is what it is. Any significant content drop is still 30 to 60 days out and by then better games will be out and the player bubble will be far, far past Anthem.

Also, completely unmentioned in this review was the hideous UI and HUD which do their best to work against the player and make the game even less enjoyable.

And the fact that all progress is based on each session so if you don't properly end the session (by actually ending the mission or deliberately exiting free play mode) all story progress, loot, and experience from that session is LOST. Except for special occasions you only save when you enter and leave Fort Tarsis or the Launching Bay.

Finally, I want to make a point that "Games as a service" doesn't mean a company can't have a roadmap, and this review seems like it scorns a company for having future plans. Anthem isn't a product of a company having future plans and excising content for those future plans.

Anthem is an example of a game that was pushed out the door well before it was ready for release. It is almost a case of "Minimum Viable Product", in this case the viability was measured in the amount of content and the number of busted ass systems people would suffer with.

Companies are allowed to have roadmaps and Games as a Service is fine. It isn't defined by withholding content and Anthem is a terrible example of trying to pound a square peg into a round hole here.
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:48 PM   #17
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And the fact that all progress is based on each session so if you don't properly end the session (by actually ending the mission or deliberately exiting free play mode) all story progress, loot, and experience from that session is LOST. Except for special occasions you only save when you enter and leave Fort Tarsis or the Launching Bay.
That hasn't been my experience or what they've said. I believe progress is "checked" each time you pick up an item or end a session. You'll gain the coins you earned from challenges done at that time, and even if you crash out after picking up an item you just have to go into another session, end it, and that item will be given to you.
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:57 PM   #18
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No denying that the EA effect is at play here. But the thing is, Anthem gets the most important things right. The things that it got wrong are precisely the things that can be fixed, and I expect they will in due time (like so many games before it). Frankly, this is the first Bioware game I've been able to stomach in many years. I'll need to see steady progress if I'm going to stick with it, but I'm by no means ready to write it off. I've been enjoying it thus far, which is more than I could say for Destiny 2 at the same juncture.
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Old 03-05-2019, 09:49 PM   #19
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I don't get the hate. The combat loop is incredibly fun and the loot hunt is as well.
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Old 03-06-2019, 07:01 AM   #20
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Relevant.

Haven't played the game but I'm betting it's still relevant.
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