Anthem VIP Demo: Overall Thoughts

The first weekend of the Anthem demo is almost over, and the word I keep coming back to is “unfortunate”. It’s unfortunate for BioWare that they have to do as much maintenance as they do for a slice of a build of Anthem that is (according to themselves) about 6 weeks behind the gold build. It’s unfortunate that anyone (EA or BioWare) thought calling it a “VIP demo” was a good idea. I’m not a big fan of hyperbole in marketing, and “VIP” is right up there with “iconic” on the list of words to never use. And it’s unfortunate for all of us, the consumers. One, because the demo was littered with issues. And two, because this and next weekend’s open demo are the two chances BioWare and EA have to sell people on the game, and this demo doesn’t really sell it. Having said all that, I’m going to break down my overall feelings about this demo and how I’m feeling about the game itself. I will have multiple posts after this covering the pros, cons, and changes I’d like to see.

Let’s get the big question out of the way: will I play this game at launch? Many have said no, but I say yes. At the surface level it’s as simple as believing that what I played isn’t what the launch game is. Part of that is due to the more complete demo people in games media got to play about a week ago. What they described and what this VIP demo ended up being are two very different games. Of course there are obvious concerns that come with that. Games media presumably played this in a much more stable, safer environment for the game. This could also mean that BioWare doesn’t actually know which issues from the VIP demo will return at launch because the newer, near-gold build was played in a more controlled space.

Beyond that I’m also just a big fan of what I’ve played when I was able to play it. The simplest I can boil it down to is this: if the two biggest bugs in the VIP demo return at launch then this game is a 1 out of 5, but if those bugs are gone then this game is probably 5 out of 5. The actual gameplay when you’re out in the world doing missions is incredible. It feels like you could call this Mass Effect 5 (I’m not convinced that it isn’t, but I’ll save that for a theory post). If you enjoyed multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 and/or Andromeda, or even just the mobility and exploration of Andromeda, you should give next weekend’s demo a chance. Hopefully it actually works.

Additionally, the world itself, the characters, and the music come together with the gameplay to provide a really fun experience. There are things I think weren’t the best, but even those parts were hindered mostly by the fact that this was an unpolished slice of the game. This is where my complicated feelings about this demo come from. The idea to slap the word “demo” on a piece of a build from late November/early December is just bad. It was a bad move, probably even without hindsight. It’s perplexing why they did this. I can’t stress enough how maddening the connectivity issues are. But again, when it worked I became even more convinced that there’s something great here. Knowing that there’s an ‘Elder Game’ (late-game, presumably post-campaign) coming is promising. Getting a glimpse into the quirkiness of not only the characters but actual story moments is promising. The gameplay is already amazing. This game could be the MMO-ARPG I’ve been waiting for. Could be.

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