Anthem for PlayStation 4: Everything you need to know

Electronic Arts has debuted Anthem, its new shared-world role-playing game (RPG) for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PCs. Its loot-driven shooter gameplay is promising, rivaling Tom Clancy's The Division and Destiny in a new cryptic universe.

We've brought together everything you need to know before jumping into Anthem in 2019.

Understanding Anthem story and lore so far

Coming from BioWare, the renowned developer of Mass Effect and Dragon Age, Anthem marks a new and ambitious direction for the studio. In the game's world, hostile monsters rule the wilderness, and humanity has taken refuge inside a walled city known as Fort Tarsis. Freelancers, bounty hunters bearing "Javelin" exosuits, are among the few who can venture outside the walls, forming the basis for Anthem's gameplay. An evil collective known as the Dominion plans to use a mysterious force known as the "Anthem Of Creation" to destroy the remnants of society. As freelancers, you will be tasked with fighting back these forces and protecting humanity.

Bounty hunters bearing "Javelin" exosuits are among the few who can venture outside the walls.

Diverging from the developer's heritage solidified in narrative-driven experiences, Anthem pursues an online shared-world, built with action-adventure mechanics in mind. However, even if action lays at the center of Anthem, the developer's role-playing legacy isn't entirely out of the picture. A story intertwines with Anthem's gameplay and has a greater emphasis over similar rival titles.

A majority of Anthem's narrative takes place in Fort Tarsis, the game's safe zone where players will obtain missions, visit vendors, and prepare their loadouts. This area is designed to be exclusively first-person, in contrast to Anthem's mostly third-person gameplay. Cutscenes and dialogue options will also be present, allowing players to forge their own adventure to some extent. And don't worry single-player fans; despite its cooperative focus, the whole of Anthem's story can be experienced solo with an internet connection.

Which Anthem classes are best for you

At the start of Anthem, you're tasked with creating a freelancer, who defines your character through the game. You'll be provided with Ranger Javelin power armor too, which grants the basic skill set to survive outside Fort Tarsis.

Anthem's Javelins are divided into four distinct classes, each with distinct designs and in-game abilities. While players initially start with the default Ranger class, new Javelins can quickly be unlocked through missions. Below we've broken down Anthem's four Javelins and how they differ.

  • The Ranger is a balanced Javelin inheriting attributes of other classes and is best suited for beginners. This class is tailored for close-quarters combat and provides flexibility to adapt to situations.
  • With heavy firepower and armor, the Colossus is specialized for devastating the battlefield. Limited mobility counters its strong frontline performance, but it can hold its ground with impressive stopping power.
  • Packing elemental abilities, the Storm class is comparable to a mage class. This Javelin can hover for long periods of time and appears to be capable of delivering support from a distance.
  • The Interceptor is an agile, rogue-style class, outsmarting foes with fast movements and traps.

Unlike class-based games where characters are tied to a certain playstyle, your suit doesn't define you in Anthem. The game allows players to change their Javelins regularly and explore new approaches. And with distinct upgrade paths for each, it encourages you to experiment with each during your playthrough.

The world of Anthem is ever-changing with updates

As expected from a modern multiplayer title, Anthem adopts a Games-as-a-Service (GaaS) model for providing content post-launch.

Anthem leverages online features significantly more than any other BioWare titles.

Live services are nothing new in the modern age, allowing dozens of games to maintain healthy player bases, sometimes years after their release. By purchasing Anthem, you'll be buying into the game's service, with future updates expected after launch. Few details have been shared on how this "live service" will develop going forward, although content updates, events and larger expansions are all plans.

What to expect in Anthem's March update

This also feeds into Anthem's concept of a shared open world, adding an interconnected and somewhat dynamic edge to the experience. Anthem leverages online features significantly more than any other BioWare titles, through both gameplay and post-launch support. Cross-platform multiplayer has been ruled out for Anthem despite its online focus, but its developer is "looking into" migrating saves between platforms.

The loot grind continues with weapons and cosmetics

Following the abysmal launch of Star Wars Battlefront II, a game also from Electronic Arts, questions still lie over Anthem's gameplay and item economy. Battlefront II was ridiculed at launch for its "pay-to-win" approach to monetization and loot boxes, leading to widespread outrage, which even extended to government intervention.

Electronic Arts has embraced a consumer-friendly business model for Anthem, abandoning loot boxes and embracing cosmetic microtransactions. Furthermore, all items available with real-world money are also obtainable in-game, making premium purchases truly optional.

How Anthem's 'dynamic' store and microtransactions work

Collectible loot plays a significant role in Anthem's progression system as a result. Upgrades focus on your weapons and suits, improving gear for your level. Firearms feature a tiered rarity level and associated statistics, determining its in-hand capabilities. This pairs with Javelin abilities and consumables that upgrade your suit and your combat performance. It's a deep system identified as Anthem's biggest draw at launch.

Earnable customization options coexist, offering cosmetic paint jobs to stand out against other players. Armor styles and materials augment the shape and texture of your suit; while vinyl, colors, and, wear state further alter presentation.

How to play Anthem today

Anthem was released on February 22, 2019, for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Two versions of the game are available, starting at $60 in the U.S.

Like many triple-A titles, Anthem's standard edition is priced at $60, which provides access to the base experience. The premium-tier Legion of Dawn edition is priced at $73, which locks down additional in-game content for launch. Buyers will receive the complete set of Legion of Dawn Armor Packs for all four classes, alongside a legendary weapon, Javelin gear attachment and a copy of the soundtrack.

While Anthem has seen its full public release, the game still isn't clean of bugs and performance issues. Beyond its technical achievements, stability and fluidity remain significant pain points. And with equally frustrating loading times, you should be wary of these issues and how to combat them in early 2019. Although the developer has released a Day One patch with improvements, it's still far from a polished product.

There is more to discover about Anthem, with a string of updates slated throughout the years ahead. What are your thoughts on the game so far? Drop into the comments section below and let us know.

Updated March 5, 2019: We refreshed this guide following Anthem's full release.

Matt Brown