I sat down with Anthem, BioWare’s upcoming shared-world third-person shooter, for 30 minutes today. I came away surprised at just how good it feels to move around in the game’s fantasy sci-fi world. Flying through its gorgeous environments on my way to kill some bad guys, fix an ancient relic, or take out a giant egg-laying monster felt great. Sprinting, jumping, flying, and shooting flow together well. I wouldn’t call it seamless, but it’s a big step forward from the moment-to-moment action in BioWare’s previous games.
The demo I played was the same one shown at EA’s press event and focused on combat and exploration rather than the game’s loot grind or story scenes. The promise of Anthem is as an MMO shooter that also tells a good story. I can’t really speak to any of that: outside of some initial chatter between crew members prior to my mission starting and a non-playable character occasionally feeding me directions over an intercom, what I played consisted entirely of me and three devs playing in a four-person squad going about our business looking for stuff to kill. BioWare has already confirmed the game won’t have character romancing and has yet to share much about the plot or how dialogue and other narrative interaction will work, so much of the game remains a mystery. Instead, the studio is focusing during this E3 on showcasing the game’s action. Based on my short time with the game, Anthem seems to have found its groove just over half a year out from its current release date of February 22, 2019.
I played in the Ranger Javelin, the game’s jack-of-all-trades exosuit, which had a satisfying combination of agility and defensive metal plating. People have joked that what’s been shown of Anthem’s gameplay so far looks like Iron Man The RPG, and based on what I played that’s almost exactly how it feels. The first thing I did was jump, expecting it to feel unwieldy like it did in Mass Effect: Andromeda, BioWare’s previous Frostbite-engine driven foray into double-jump platforming. Instead, the jetpack boost was more precise and easier to control. It’s not as intuitive or fluid as Bungie’s Destiny, a series to which Anthem will suffer no shortage of comparisons, but the Javelins let you do something those games don’t: fly.