BioWare’s new multiplayer loot shooter Anthem can be fun but it’s also hard to get the hang of, since so little about how it works is explained. Knowing some basics before you start will go a long way to making it more enjoyable.
There are three main pieces to Anthem: walking around Fort Tarsis, going out on missions, and fiddling with your Javelin in the Forge. While you could probably make it through the entire game playing on normal by basically just following objective markers and holding down the trigger button, to get into the real meat of the game it’s helpful to know the following things.
It’s hands-down the most fun and the best for tackling early missions. I mean, if you really want to unlock one of the other Javelins, be my guest. They all have something unique and fun to offer. But if you’re at all unsure, the Storm is a good way to go. It’s basically Anthem’s mage class and as a result has lots of high-damage area-of-effect abilities that are useful in just about every situation. And since its shield gets stronger while you’re hovering, it’s easy to feel like a real bad-ass as you glide around blowing things up by simply waving your hand.
Everything in Anthem can be played with up to four people, and the game will throw you into groups with randos if you don’t set your party to private. While missions are often more fun with more people, especially later on, Anthem is too unstable right now to recommend it. If you want to experience the mic-chatter, puzzle-solving, and cutscenes at your own pace, you’re better off doing so solo or with a good friend.
When you go to the main mission launcher you’ll have a lot of different things to choose from. Story missions are denoted with an upside down triangle. They progress the story and grant a hefty amount of experience upon completion. Agent quests are side-missions that increase your reputation with each of the game’s three main factions: freelancers, sentinels, and arcanists. They’ll have an icon for a person’s head next to them.
Then there are Agent contracts, denoted with a gold scroll icon, which are shorter missions that net you the usual experience points and loot but are necessary for unlocking higher-level legendary contracts later on. Those are a bit harder, more involved, and grant better loot. You’ll know when one’s opened up because the icon will be a purple scroll.
Finally there are Stronghold missions, which appear on your map as purple fortress icons and become available as you progress through the story. They are currently three in the game: Tyrant Mine, Temple of Scar, and Return to the Heart of Rage. Defeating a Stronghold boss on the grandmaster difficulty currently guarantees at least one Masterwork item will drop.
There’s a really boring set of missions a third of the way through Anthem that require you to grind out activities during freeplay to unlock hidden tombs. They’re called the Challenges of the Legionnaires and they require doing the following:
- Defeat 50 enemies with melee attacks
- Defeat 30 enemies with guns
- Defeat 50 enemies with ultimates
- Defeat nine elite enemies
- Defeat three legendary enemies
- Get 30 weak point kills
- Get 30 ability kills
- Get three multi-kills
- Trigger 15 combos
- Complete three missions
- Open 15 chests
- Harvest 25 resources
- Collect 10 pieces of lore
- Revive three other players
The game starts tracking your progress at level three, so between then and when the challenges are complete, it’s a good idea to always go out of your way to slowly make progress on each of them. While the kill-related achievements will come quickly and naturally, you’ll want to make sure you’re also collecting pieces of lore and harvesting resources as you play.
There’s a helpful map someone put together on Reddit that shows common locations for treasure chests. You don’t get credit when other party members do any of this stuff, save for opening chests, so it’ll be easier to knock this stuff out if you’re playing alone.
Once you’ve completed the Challenges of the Legionnaires section, you should be in pretty good shape to begin playing the rest of the game on hard. You can select this difficulty during the mission launch screen and once you do it will stay the default going forward. While the enemies are harder, you’ll get a lot more experience. Plus it’s more fun to actually have to think about what you’re doing, even if Anthem enemies tend toward being a little bullet-spongy.
Fort Tarsis, the game’s main hub, is full of different characters you can talk to and get missions from, but you have to work at it. Seemingly trivial conversations early on will eventually lead into more serious discussions later in the game, with characters asking you for advice and giving you missions. Making the rounds every couple of missions or so will help get the ball rolling so that you can start getting bigger contracts earlier. Conversations also grant small amounts of loyalty points to various factions, which are crucial to unlocking higher-level blueprints.
While Anthem’s main campaign has a story with a beginning, middle, and end, it doesn’t explain much about the larger world and why it is the way it is. To actually learn about things like the game’s different factions, cities, and the people you’re constantly shooting at, you’ll need to collect codexes from around Fort Tarsis and visit landmarks out in the field. You can go back and re-read the bits of lore at anytime from the menu and occasionally collecting this stuff will also grant you loyalty points, which are used to rank up your reputation with different factions and unlock crafting blueprints and more options for customizing the look of your Javelin.
Lots of Anthem’s character development is hidden on the mail tab of the menu. As you meet new people and progress throughout the game, it’ll slowly fill up with messages that clue you into what people’s hopes, dreams, and fears are and what everyone’s up to at Fort Tarsis. It’s not a substitute for the great character-based side-quests BioWare is known for but it’s what the game has.
Anthem’s in-game economy is weird in that it basically doesn’t exist. You can buy crafting materials and a handful of cosmetics but that’s it. Any new guns or pieces of gear need to be found out in the world or crafted from scratch. To craft them you need blueprints, and to get blueprints you need to complete challenges. It’s Anthem’s version of a skill tree, sort of.
For example, the Hammerburst Challenge requires defeating 20 enemies with that type of gun. Doing so unlocks the blueprint for crafting uncommon Hammerburst rifles. It’ll also open up the Hammerburst Challenge II, which will require you to shoot even more enemies in exchange for gaining access to the rare blueprint. The downside to this system is that it requires you to really invest in a particular set of equipment in order to efficiently grind toward crafting the best versions of it.
The best equipment in Anthem are Masterworks, and while they’ll occasionally drop out in the world once you reach level 30, to get the best rolls for their accompanying stat bonuses you’ll want to be able to craft them yourself. This requires maxing out the challenges for each corresponding weapon and gear type.
Anthem’s best loot drops at level 30 and beyond. That’s when you can begin attempting missions on the grand master difficulties (there are three of them) to increase your odds of getting Masterwork drops. Getting there will require a lot more than just completing the main story.
Unlike in many other games, you don’t get experience points in Anthem for killing enemies. You get experience points for completing missions, playing as part of a group, and completing challenges that reset every mission like reviving another player and getting multi-kills. Quickplay missions grant another bonus level of experience on top of all of those things by placing you into someone else’s party to fill in for whoever left.
Anthem’s cosmetic store is limited right now, but even so it can be tempting to shell out thousands for a new emote or piece of cool Javelin armor. Just keep in mind that coin, the currency earned in-game, is also used to purchase ember, the game’s main crafting resource. If you just want to look cool and have fun casually making your way through the game than go for it, but if you have aspirations of crafting the ultimate sniper rifle, you’ll want to save your coin for that.
The key to doing lots of damage in Anthem is by chaining together primers and detonators. Primers are things like frost grenades and venom darts—elemental attacks that affect enemies over time. Detonators are impulse and blast attacks that combo when landed on an enemy that’s already been primed and do lots of extra damage. You’ll know which is which because gear with primer attacks will have a circle icon next to it while gear with detonating attacks will have a spark icon.
When you’re playing solo, you’ll want to have one of each equipped at all times. Playing as a group, however, you can strategize more. For instance, Storm Javelins have lots of elemental primer attacks, while Rangers have lots of detonators. As long as your squad is coordinated, you can chain these combos together to do lots of damage in quick succession. In addition, remember that each Javelin produces a unique effect when they execute a combo.
The Interceptor gets an aura that primes nearby enemies, the Colossus deals bonus area-of-effect damage near where the combo took place, the Storm spreads the elemental effects of the primed enemy to other nearby enemies, and the Ranger deals bonus damage to the detonated target. It’s a lot to think about and keep track of, and Anthem doesn’t really explain any of it. Fortunately, there’s a really handy player-made chart online breaking down all of the elemental primer and detonator combos.
It’s surprisingly easy to get shot out of the air in Anthem, so if you’re flying around during a fight make sure you know where you’re going. Good reasons to take off might be to get the Storm’s shielding bonus for hovering, to revive an ally, or find better cover. You’re often at your most vulnerable while flying around so it’s a good idea not to spend too much time pretending to be Iron Man, especially on grandmaster missions where it’s easy to get two-shotted. And once your engines overheat, you lose complete control of your Javelin until it crashes, which is never a good time. Usually the only reasons to be zipping through the air during encounters are to revive another player, find better cover, or get behind a group of enemies. Being on the ground safely behind a sheet of scrap metal is always better than being completely exposed in the air. You might feel like Top Gun’s Maverick but you are actually Goose.
Ice attacks do 25% bonus damage against shields while electrical attacks do 50% more. This is extremely useful to know given how powerful enemy shields can be and their penchant for restoring to full in the middle of you shooting at them.
Anthem is in a rough spot right now and a lot of it feels more like a game in early access than a fully finished release. Still, the combat and flying can be a lot of fun, and if you’ve chosen to embark on this journey, hopefully the advice above helps.