Last night I got the credits roll for Anthem. It happened sooner than I would have liked but considering what sort of game Anthem was… it honestly provided about as much content as I was expecting. At the point of finishing the final mission I had logged about 37 hours worth of game play. It took me roughly 20 hours to get to the point in Destiny 2 where I had beaten the main story arc for the first time. It is hard to actually compare the two however since I didn’t really focus fire the Main Story Quest in either game. There was a lot more distractions along the way in Anthem and I took them and latched onto them with both arms.
I spent a lot of time talking to the various NPCs as new conversations opened up and spent a significant amount of time running down side quest chains. Pretty much anytime I felt like I was nearing a major jumping point in the story, I went through a sequence where I burned down every bit of side quest content that I had available to me… which was a lot. I read the dialog… occasionally contemplated what was being said and it allowed me to piece together fine details about Fort Tarsis and the extremely rich setting that is Bastion… which is only one such area of the Anthem world.
If you set out a laser focus on ONLY beating the story… you could probably do it in about 10 hours total whereas the Destiny 2 equivalent of that would probably take you about 5 hours. Largely I am throwing the comparisons out just to prepare you for the expected scale of the initial content release. To use another Bioware game as an example… I spent a little over 90 hours playing my way through Mass Effect Andromeda… and yes I am still bitter that we never got any DLC content for it. Essentially Anthem is a game that provides a bit of story that is adequately scaled for the sort of Looter Shooter gameplay experience that it is. However there is a richness to the world and characters that Destiny 2 failed to deliver… without copious amounts of piecing things together outside of the game.
If you are avoiding talking to the side characters or completing the secondary objectives… then you are honestly missing a lot of the magic that is Anthem. While the characters are fundamentally different than the ones you encounter in Mass Effect or Dragon Age… they are somewhat serving a different purpose. Each character interaction that you have builds upon the larger world that is Fort Tarsis and the territories beyond. Each story acts as a vehicle for delivering a vignette that fills in another gap in the picture of what is happening… and quite regularly the arc that happens with character A will bleed into the arc that happens with character B and C later down the line. There is a delightful interconnectedness that happens with Anthem that I greatly enjoyed.
In the above screenshot you can see a fountain in the courtyard of Fort Tarsis that evolves over time from being a completely abandoned moss clogged mess to being a thriving hub for social gatherings. You can also see the two Lancer statues at the back end of the courtyard restored to glory… both events happen as you play through the game and interact with other characters creating a subtle sense that your actions really did change the setting of the game. I think of this as similar to the way that Rowena rebuilds an area in each Final Fantasy XIV expansion that slowly progresses and gets more intricate as additional patch content is released.
Sure there are no romances and you don’t get a cast of supporting characters that respond to your commands, but I don’t think either of these would have worked with the sort of story that Anthem is telling. That is not to say that at some point down the road there is not room for both to happen, but I think that is not really their focus right now. However nothing is set in stone because if you look at the sweeping changes that occurred to Elder Scrolls Online between the client that launched and the current juggernaut that exists today. I have not doubt that tweaks will be applied as we move through the content cycle. I am very curious to see what the content drops that are coming end up looking like, because I feel like they have equal opportunity to impress or disappoint.
All of the elements of Anthem built up to provide me a very enjoyable experience. I maybe lucked out and did not encounter much in the way of bugs during the almost 40 hours I have played since last Friday. Now that additional players are entering the fray, I am hoping that Bioware is capable of scaling the servers up smoothly to provide for a solid “official” launch. For now however I feel like Anthem is well worth your time and attention in spite of all of the confusing drama that seems to be surrounding it. I keep thinking that they are playing a vastly different game than the one I have been playing. Sure there were things that could be smoother, but in the grand scheme of things I have loved the experience so far.
Some additional resources for those entering the game today… I have been keeping a Roster of players Origin account information seeing as there is no way to import friends from other platforms. If you want to add your own information to the list the Sign-Up form is here. Adding friends had the side benefit of helping to progress the Alliance system that I do not fully understand… but it appears to be some sort of gold payout based on your “doing stuff in the game”, and how much your friends have also “done stuff in the game”. Naithin has talked a little bit about the system over on the Time to Loot blog, but I still don’t feel like I have a firm grasp on it. I look forward to more of you joining those of us who did the silly thing and paid for faster access to the game.