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Exclusive ANTHEM hands-on with at GamesCom2018 - Thoughts & impressions

GamesCom 2018 has come to an end, leaving everyone who attended it with the best of memories. Tons of good games were shown during the week and gamers from all over the world attended the event.

I was there, representing the Anthem Insider community. As you may already know through a recent tweet, I got the incredible chance to sit down and play Anthem during GamesCom 2018!

I want to begin this article by thanking everyone that was involved in making this possible.

The AI community came together lightning fast and completed the fundraiser I set up, enabling me to fly to GamesCom 2018! You guys are awesome.

Also, huge thank you to all the EA community managers and Bioware developers for vouching and allowing me to experience the game this early and on top of that letting me know that I am invited over to the Game Changers Network for ANTHEM!

But enough of that, I'm sure that you're here to read about Anthem and how it felt playing it.

So, like Haluk says - Freelancer, it's time to get to work!

GamesCom 2018 Anthem hands-on

My Anthem hands-on appointment begun with me introducing myself to Jon Warner (Lead Director), Andrew Johnson (Global Community Lead), Zachary Beaudoin (Producer) and many more!

We then entered the magical room where the Anthem demo computers were set up. Promptly sat down and picked up the controller, following Zach's instructions and explaining of the key mapping.

The game was already running, so I did not see how it loads up or anything like that. Also no menus, besides Zach taking over and fixing my inverted camera settings.

Everything else I saw and played was more or less the E3 demo gameplay shown a couple months ago.

Despite the build being months old and most likely not even touched since (the demo, not the game!), Anthem felt incredible.

Animations were smooth and natural, movement responsiveness on par with Blizzard games like WoW & Overwatch and the flying felt as an integral core part of the game.

It took me a minute (if that) to get used to the controls. Mind you, I had never touched an xbox controller up to that point. I grew up with the playstation 1 & 2 and I always use mouse and keyboard on my computer. I was not familiar with the controls at all.

As a small summary I would say the game felt devoid of the Destiny movement "restriction" and was more open like Borderlands, with the playable areas being huge and fully explorable.

No "death by the Architects" and no "misadventures". You can fly all over the place. It feels open and spacious.

It's also not a cover shooter like The Division and it doesn't have the "acrobatic" feeling Warframe has.

Anthem is most definitely NOT a clone. Huge kudos to the Bioware team for achieving that.

Below I'll be going over specific parts of the game, which I feel like should be mentioned separately and thoroughly. Enjoy!

Graphics/Artwork - Stunning Fidelity

Anthem's graphics will impress you. It will probably be one of the first things you'll notice ingame.

I am not sure but it seemed like I was playing at 4k resolution and everything had so much detail. The textures, the colors, the javelins, the world! It all looked really good.

Even objects in the distance had high quality textures and as a result the Anthem world felt immersive.Rocks, trees, flora, everything looked so alien yet at the same time, so incredibly beautiful.

Anthem's level designers did a really good job handcrafting the areas around Fort Tarsis.

And then you have the javelins.

They must consist of an insane amount of triangles. They have minimal flat surfaces, they have tons of realism in their design, while at the same time they feel so exotic.

Alex Figini and the rest of the artwork team have surely put all their talent in creating them.

They are most definitely the center of attention in Anthem and you'll be spending most of your time playing the game seeing them for every angle imaginable, so they should look good.

And they do.

Gameplay/Movement - Smooth, Responsive, Natural

As I was enjoying the lush world of Anthem, Zach (Anthem Producer) on my right, told me to try the flying controls. Press "A" to jump, then just push the left thumbstick to go into "fly mode".

I did that and my mind was blown. Usually, games with amazing graphics lack in other areas, such as controls and character movement.

Anthem doesn't.

As soon as my Ranger's thrusters engaged, I found myself flying around the Strider I had just took off from. At first it was slightly confusing, as no other game has this type of flight mechanic built into it, let alone an online co-op game that you can play with your friends.

I immediately started to see how high I can fly and what the limit was. To my surprise, the "Ripstream" (in Anthem there are strong winds circling the planet, forbidding high altitude flights, named Ripstream) came into effect in such a natural way that I didn't know what happened initially.

It turns out, its designed in a genius way. Your javelin begins shaking violently and it will automatically descend to a safe altitude promptly, in a very natural way, instead of just killing you or bumping into the upper ceiling of the playable area.

Soon Zach told us to move ahead, towards the first camp of Scars. Just like in the E3 demo, we fly under the waterfall and into the cave, Scars spawn and we kill them.

Past that point is where you really start getting a sense of the massiveness of the Anthem world and the so called "verticality" of it. More on that below!

Animations were nothing like the infamous ME:A.
In Anthem, they are fuild, realistic animations, which when paired with the intuitive controls, result in a game that's easy to pick up and start playing and having fun.

I almost missed a landing and my Ranger automatically initiated a "ledge grab", pulling itself up onto the rock I initially planned to land on. It's details like these, that add character to a game.

Movement felt super responsive. I will use Blizzard's Overwatch as an example, because its the best I can think of right now. And Anthem's character movement is on par with that.

My character didn't feel like it was "fighting against" me, like in games such as PUBG.

It responded immediately to my input and it felt amazing.

Lastly, swimming. It's not "flying" underwater, but actually feels and looks like the character is swimming/floating underwater.

Speed is different, the sounds are muffled and it seemed like the physics affecting everything I mentioned had changed.

I was clearly underwater and it felt...right.

Combat/Time To Kill/Abilities - Fluid,Adequate,Substantial

Okay by now many of you must be wondering how combat felt like, if enemies are "bullet sponges" and how fun it is using the various abilities of the javelins.

I'm going to start with saying that combat felt alright. Nothing revolutionary, just good old aim and shoot at the thing trying to kill you. It's simple and it works. No complaints here.

I clearly liked shooting at stuff, mainly because it is up to par with other games in genre.
No surprises here, as Bioware has a long list of games that included gunplay and Anthem is developed using the Frostbite engine, which greatly favors shooter games like the Battlefield series.

Shooting the Ranger's automatic rifle and pistol, both felt equally fun.

Now to the big question I see everywhere. Are enemies in Anthem, bullet sponges?

The answer to that is, categorically, no.

Shooting the scars and spiderlings later on, took a few "weakspot" shots to kill. At no point, did I feel like enemies took too long to kill. Everything is fine in that matter and TTK is adequate.

It might take an extra step for enemies that carry shields, or their weakspot is at their back, but I don't consider that an issue, as it introduces tactical play.

Also, a boss like the Swarm Tyrant, the Ash Titan or something of that size and difficulty, will obviously take a hell of a lot more shots/ultimates to kill. Nothing out of the ordinary imo.

Which brings us to the Ranger's ultimate ability "Rocket Volley".

At one point during the fight against the Swarm Tyrant, I thought my ultimate meter was bugged or broken and promptly asked Zach on my right if I broke the game.

He laughed and said, "No, it's just that your ultimate only charges if you shoot the spiders, not the boss".

[This part might be inaccurate, I apologize. Brenon Holmes corrected me on reddit about it and it seems I misunderstood how the ultimate charge works! Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/AnthemTheGame/comments/9bmz1r/exclusive_handson_with_anthem_at_gamescom_2018/e55xssr/ ]

I was so impressed by that detail he had just revealed to me! That means there is a point in every boss fight, where I as a player, will have to choose whether I want to use my ultimate or not, depending on which phase of the boss fight we are currently in!

I'll have to choose to either use the Ranger's ultimate and take out multiple spiders at once, or keep it, fight them off with the rifle and then save the utlimate for the boss.

Things like this will be the difference between a good group of players versus a bad one and will be the deciding factor between winning the fight or wiping and having to do it all over again.

Anthem's combat has depth and tactics will be needed to take down the hardest of enemies.

Soon after doing some decent damage to the Swarm Tyrant, the demo ended, exactly like in the E3 demo and that's how my experience playing Anthem for the first time came to an end.

If you guys have any questions regarding my Anthem hands-on, leave them in the comments section below.

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