Contrary to my expectations, Anthem is still available on Game Pass, even after BioWare’s plans to revamp the game were dashed. I stumbled upon it while searching for space games that aren’t Starfield. I had assumed it shut down, but apparently not. So, despite the possibility of encountering the infamous spinning loading ball or server error message, I decided to give it a try. To my surprise, the game launched successfully and I found myself playing it. It’s still alive!
Anthem was originally released in February 2019 as BioWare’s answer to Destiny. It’s a live service looter-shooter where the storyline revolves around random capitalised Nouns. To truly become a game worth playing, it needed significant updates and potentially a sequel with even more updates. “It needs changes to how it actually works, which is a lot to ask,” remarked Alice Bee in our Anthem review. Unfortunately, unlike Destiny, Anthem didn’t get a second chance. EA ultimately scrapped the proposed ‘Anthem Next’ overhaul in February 2021 so that BioWare could focus on Dragon Age 4 and the mysterious new Mass Effect project. And yet, somehow, the game is still running.
Initially, I thought it would be amusing to “speedrun” Anthem. I imagined completing the game in 13 seconds and receiving a victorious “service unavailable” message. Maybe I could write a review based on the few splash screens I encountered before encountering a loading stall. It seemed like a great joke. But then, the intro cinematic played, which caught me off guard. Maybe the intro mission was offline? However, the game just kept going.
Everyone I spoke to also believed that Anthem had shut down years ago. During my gameplay, I tried a few missions with matchmaking enabled and was matched with another player twice, although one of them remained AFK until leaving three minutes before I finished the mission solo. Additionally, there were still a few players leaping around the social hub. I don’t know how much longer Anthem will remain online (EA frequently shuts down less popular games), but it’s still here, for now.
Is Anthem a good game? No, not really. It’s a looter-shooter with uninteresting loot and uninspired shooting mechanics. However, there are elements that I find enjoyable. Flying around in my visually impressive exosuit is a pleasant experience, gracefully soaring through the skies of an alien world. The movement mechanics are engaging, as the suit gradually heats up and needs to be cooled down by diving or flying through waterfalls. I appreciate the small motions required to traverse the environment. Additionally, I’m intrigued by the typical BioWare-like NPC interactions and story elements at the hub base. Unfortunately, the rest of the game isn’t compelling enough for me to continue playing.
I’m starting to realize that the real value of Game Pass for me lies in exploring lesser-known games that I wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. It’s similar to how I primarily use Netflix and Amazon Prime to watch direct-to-video horror and Christmas movies (excluding Hallmark Christmas movies, which deserve their own subscription service). Discovering that a failed BioWare game, which I believed to be long gone, is still accessible feels like stumbling upon Hellraiser 17: Carry On Up The Leviathan. So, why not give me that exosuit and that bizarrely delightful experience?