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Anthem jets into a free-for-all open demo weekend

Assuming Origin doesn’t buckle under the load again, anyone interested can log in and play Anthem right now until February 3rd. BioWare reckon they’ve got the worst of the kinks hammered out of the power-armoured open world shooter after its rocky ‘VIP’ demo, according to this here developer blog post. This is set to be the game’s last public demo before it launches on February 22nd (or the 15th if you’re an Origin subscriber), so give it a spin. Technical issues aside, I quite enjoyed my time with the previous demo session – it’s not quite Terra Nova 2, but it’ll do.

What I’ve enjoyed most about Anthem so far is that it sells the fantasy of Iron Man style powered suits. The Javelins (as they’re awkwardly termed here) are fast and agile, but they’re heavy. You can fly, but it’s a slightly wobbly, wild kind of flight because you’ve got no wings to stabilise you, just a bunch of jets to blast you through the air. There’s a lot of difference between the heaviest and lightest suits, too, and those who played the VIP demo will find all four unlocked and free to play around with this weekend to decide what suits them best. For me, it’s the big one with big guns.

The middleweight Ranger feels most like a standard third-person shooter protagonist, but the heavy Colossus feel like piloting a small mech, cycling through heavy automatics, artillery, railguns, rockets and a big shield that can be used to ram. On the lighter end of the scale you’ve got the fast melee-centric Interceptor (feels most like a Warframe) and the Storm is a literal wizard in robot-themed pyjamas. While some have complained, I didn’t feel enemies were excessively spongy either. Grunts died in one shotgun blast or from a few rifle bullets. Mid-tier enemies died in one hit from my Colossus railgun, and real beefy lads (bigger than my suit) felt appropriately death-resistant.

My number one complaint with the game during the last demo session was enemy spawning. I’d much rather that enemies approach from all around (and they do sometimes), but many minor objectives have them teleporting in waves from a single nearby point. It turns into whack-a-mole. One demo boss fight against a big quadruped mech had enemy infantry reinforcing it from several different directions and elevations. It made for an interesting fight encouraging flight and regular re-positioning, and I want to see a lot more of that.

Another concern I do have is the overarching story. The setting is a strange science-fantasy universe where godlike creation is a thing and reality can be bent and moulded. It’s also a world where people chill out and eat street food while listening to cornball radio serials. Much of the dialogue has that familiar BioWare edge of Whedon-esque banter, at least so far. The VIP demo gave us one short quest arc that, divorced from the rest of the game, didn’t stand too well on its own. Hopefully the full game’s writing will flow better when we’re not being dropped into the deep end.

The Anthem demo is live now. Snag it on Origin here – it’s open to all and running til’ 2am on Monday, February 4th. Contrary to EA’s wildly confusing chart, the launch is pretty simple, too, so let me try explaining it on one line: It’s out February 22nd for £55/€60/$60. Origin Access subscribers get access a week earlier on the 15th – Premier gets the entire game, Basic gets a 10-hour trial.

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Dominic Tarason

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