Ever since EA and BioWare announced Anthem at E3 2017, comparisons to Activision’s Destiny have run rampant. It’s not hard to see why: it’s another always-online class-based shooter/RPG hybrid with a sci-fi bent and a similar setting. Plus, much like Destiny’s last haven on Earth, Anthem’s human characters hail from a walled city surrounded by hostile alien-types.
In Anthem, you’ll take the role of a Freelancer, and no, that doesn’t mean hustling to land writing gigs and filling out invoices. These mercenaries can leave the city to fight beyond it, with help from customizable Iron Man-esque exosuits. The exosuits, called javelins, appear to serve as classes, but we didn’t get into any of that during our E3 demo.
Since my session took place in NVIDIA’s E3 meeting room, it’s not shocking that Anthem looked amazing. PC gamers with beefy rigs and GeForce GTX graphics cards won’t find Anthem lacking in the visual department, though I’m sure it’s no slouch on the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X consoles. More importantly, my co-op demo was a lot of fun. Moving around in a javelin felt totally intuitive, once I got a grip on the airborne controls. Characters can hover, soar through the air, strike from above, or splash through watery caverns to make their way to the next objective, which is displayed with a marker on the HUD.
The world of Anthem is fairly open, so much so that it’s easy to get separated from your teammates if you float off to look at something shiny, yet my play session felt straightforward and linear. It probably helped that my four-person squad was made up of two game reps who guided us through and gently warned us when we were getting off track.
On top of fighting lots of smaller enemies, we engaged in a massive boss fight, one that couldn’t be fought on solid ground due to the sheer size of our foe. I could really feel the teamwork during this battle as we communicated and worked together to deliver damage. I didn’t know any of the people in the room personally, but for a brief time we were a team.
Naturally, I couldn’t get an idea of how BioWare’s long-term ambitions for Anthem will work out from one half-hour pre-release demo, and I’m certainly not going to throw around cheesy terms like “Destiny-killer.” From what I saw, however, it looks like Anthem might be able to shake the head-to-head comparisons to Activision’s behemoth franchise and stand on its own when it’s released next February.