Anthem VIP Demo Impressions

Anthem VIP Demo Impressions

Anthem Demo - Naithin's Ranger exosuit Javelin in the background, coloured red, blue and gold. In the foreground are various engineer types working on other machinery items.

Hmm. Well, we know from the expectation setting done before the demo launch that the demo build of Anthem is without the benefit of ~6 weeks of bug fixes.

Still — I can’t help but wonder the impact the demo experience (or lack of it, for some) will ultimately have on the critical early sales period.

Personally I’ve been relatively lucky — I experienced the initial issues with server capacity and Origin going down in general like everyone did, but I did not run into the bug preventing people from unlocking their second Javelin, nor have I had to struggle too hard to actually load into missions vs. the infinite loading screen bug.

Some of my friends though have — and it has without any doubt dampened their enthusiasm. The experience delivered next weekend is going to be critical in winning at least one of this group back.

So how was it being able to play?

The foundational elements of Anthem are strong, and will support the load of long term play from its player base if allowed to. If BioWare can deliver a meaningful endgame with a good pacing on content releases the future for Anthem is bright.

You know how sometimes when playing a game, it simply reminds you of another similar thing, and then you get the urge to go play that other thing instead?

Well, I think the best shorthand compliment I can give Anthem, is that when playing — this didn’t happen. I was invested in the moment to moment gameplay and just wanted more Anthem.

Nowhere more was this true than in the Stronghold. I saved this for a bit of a demo endgame experience for myself and my team. We did it at level 15, pretty well geared, and cranked it to hard.

Hoo boy. We had been impressed with the game (when it let us) already, but the step up in the quality of the content and the degree of teamwork required was impressive. We were truly challenged, but in a way that felt good- it felt exhilarating. Will it ten runs from now? Twenty? Possibly not, but there is at least some hope in trying again through the Grandmaster difficulty ranks. Working out builds both as a team and as individuals to make it work I can imagine being great.

And yet, I was just watching the video I captured of my first outing into the world of Anthem (embedded below), and was reminded all over again just how satisfying and powerful even those early, most basic of skills felt.

I played with Mouse + Keyboard and while there was certainly a learning curve, particularly around mastering the transitions between ground, flight and hover modes — I honestly think it already controls well and feels good.

The live game has tweaks coming to the control model to make things a little less ‘twitchy’ — but I’m personally, at least, really hoping the feel isn’t too significantly changed!

It currently works in a way that will be familiar to anyone who has played Freelancer, or the X-series of games — where in flight control mode the cursor becomes as if a joystick onscreen. The further off-centre you move the cursor, the sharper your shift in that direction.

Swooping through the air — be it deep in the caverns of the earth or through the open air feels spectacular. Each Javelin seems to control very differently as well, adding to their sense of uniqueness.

Second half of the first mission, and my first hands on with the game. I went on normal difficulty and solo. (No puzzle solution spoiler)

The Ranger’s movement has a strong sense of physicality to it. Short, powerful boosts from your suits rockets propelling you into the double-jump or dash. The Storm by contrast lacked a double-jump but had total mastery over itself in the air, capable of slow-falling and adjusting direction at whim.

Overall, the foundational elements of Anthem are strong, and will support the load of long term play from its player base if allowed to. If BioWare can deliver a meaningful endgame with a good pacing on content releases the future for Anthem is bright.

Mtashed revealed1 that the embargo on the endgame content the ‘EA Game Changers’ saw and played through ends Feb 1st 2019. This will likely be the day then, when we start to get a more complete view of what not only Anthem will come with at launch, but what the post-launch support plans look like.

What are my main complaints or issues?

It’s not all roses though, and there are certainly some things I feel the game needs to add or adjust to improve upon the strong foundation the demo proves exists.

No Build / Stats Overview Screen — Itemisation may require data mining to effectively theorycraft.

Please BioWare, allow us an in-game way of viewing our overall build stats and effects. At least provide some transparency over what components are doing and the base values we’re working with.

More than anything else, this is my biggest gripe. There is no way to view your Javelin’s overall shield, health or armor. When you look at a component piece that provides a flat amount of health or armor, there is no way to gain context on what sort of change you’re looking at.

What is the base health of my Javelin? Is it 500 or 2500? Just how significant a buff is a flat 250 health increase?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

You can’t see what bonuses you’ve got applied, or how much damage mitigation you have, the final weapon or gear damage figures you have as a result of your gear inscriptions — nothing.

Missing this while always frustrating, might at least be able to be lived with if the itemisation on item drops was clearer. Shielding components — I’m looking at you.

The base lines on components always appears to be ‘Javelin Health’ and ‘Javelin Armor’ – how much of each depending on rarity, item level and type.

Components generally also have a white text description implying potential further increases beyond what is shown. Possibly. The Armor Upgrade components do tend to have higher armor values. But shielding components don’t show any flat numerical value.

So… What do they add?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Please BioWare, allow us an in-game way of viewing our overall build stats and effects. At least provide some transparency over what components are doing and the base values we’re working with.

Other Itemisation Issues

Two issues here, but one of them is likely to be entirely demo related and may not show in the live game. Possibly both, if we’re really lucky.

Impossible Stats

By which I mean — I saw multiple instances of inscriptions and item types having fundamental conflicts, rendering the inscription completely useless.

Still not with me? Here’s an example — a component specific for Interceptors, no other Javelin can equip it — that also provides a buff for the Ranger Javelin Assault Launcher gear slot.

This is one that may be a design intent rather than a bug. I hope not. But the philosophy might be one of keeping things entirely random making that ‘perfectly rolled’ drop that much more exciting.

This is a rather archaic view in my opinion, and while I don’t expect every drop to be useful or amazing — I would expect the combinations to at least make some degree of sense.

0% inscriptions

I expect this to be a demo-only issue in one form or another.

  1. If it is a true 0% value, it is possible the itemisation generation was still not finalised in this build of the game, and the capping on lower end rolls was not set.
  2. It may be a non-zero value with a rounding/display error

Menu / UI Interactions

Urgh. For the love of all things holy, please do two things for us PC users:

  1. Remove all instances of ‘hold Esc to exit’.
  2. Let us click into the sub-menu which is clearly displayed on screen already.

No-one is hitting the Esc key on accident. I get the concern for controller; but at least provide the option to turn this safeguard off for Mouse + KB players!

And while the menu’s actually look pretty good — the console design is written all over them. There are many instances of having a sub-menu clearly visible but utterly unable to be interacted with when clicked over.

You have to go back and click or otherwise confirm entry to that menu before you can do anything.

Makes total sense for a controller, far less sense with a mouse pointer. And it is actively horrible to work with.

If we can get these changes in – it would be a huge quality of life improvement!


Footnotes

  1. I’m not sure he was supposed to… But I appreciate it nonetheless. ;)

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3 thoughts on “Anthem VIP Demo Impressions”

  1. Ok! So, apparently the Health and Armor descriptors on components are part of what is to be ‘renamed in the final build for clarity’.

    This is unconfirmed, but it seems that Javelin Armor actually = Shield (the blue bar), and Javelin Health = your armor state, or your actual health (red bar).

    If this is confirmed, then even Shielding Components *do* show their full itemisation, nothing is hidden, which invalidates that whole complaint. Although not the lack of an overview for the build as a whole or obscuring the base stats of a Javelin!

  2. I’m pretty sure the 0% inscriptions are a known bug that was mentioned on Twitter though I’m too lazy to go look it up now. :)

    For controller players, they need to tweak the weapon swap. Right now you hold a button to switch weapons and success is hit or miss, and it takes too long. Hoping they’ll go with a double-tap or something. And maybe add some audio feedback that you’ve switched.

    • Yes! You’re right, I saw it in a link to a ‘status update’ style post, where they mentioned the 0% thing had already been fixed for launch, so thankfully that won’t be an issue. :)

      Seems like there have been a *lot* of improvements between the demo we played (and will play again this weekend) and the gold copy of the game.

      You can run in Ft Tarsis for one. ;) I also saw a video where accepting a mission let the person jump straight into the expedition launch screen, without having to run over to their Javelin and jump in manually.

      Also seen a screenshot of a screen where you can collect XP and Items from expeditions you had to quit out of early for whatever reason.

      So a bunch of really good looking Quality of Life type improvements!

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