Metro Exodus Misses the Mark With Anna

Metro Exodus involves a harsh journey across Moscow as Artyom, alongside the rest of his crew aboard the Aurora train, attempts to find a habitable environment where everyone can settle down and finally live peacefully. Crew members are quick to lend a hand, both directly and indirectly. But this team dynamic becomes imbalanced, as Artyom’s wife, Anna—the best sniper in the group—constantly needs saving. In a game with so few women characters, compared to men, it’s disheartening to see how much Metro Exodus missed the mark with this skilled markswoman.  
Note: this article will include narrative spoilers involving major plot points in Metro Exodus.

We Need a Hero

Like most video games, Artyom needs to be the hero in order to drive the game forward and give the player a sense of purpose and importance in the world. Because Artyom is a silent protagonist, only his actions can characterize him. This makes it even more crucial that he plays an instrumental role in the group. 
Throughout the game, Artyom is sent on a variety of missions to save others or help move the Aurora forward by  doing things like seek fuel and water or clear a path. The player can opt to make Artyom even more heroic and kind by doing optional side-quests to help out the people he encounters during this journey.
Ultimately, we never get a strong sense of who Artyom is, but his ongoing characterization is fueled by his love for his crew. He loves his team and his wife, Anna. But mostly, Artyom yearns for a better life for all of them. It’s why everyone is on this journey to begin with.
There’s nothing wrong with Artyom being the hero who takes center stage. After all, he’s the protagonist. But the fact that he’s constantly positioned as Anna’s savior is overkill. 

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

There’s plenty of camaraderie among this crew. In fact, our first real introduction to the world of Metro Exodus (and its cast of characters) happens towards the beginning of the game when Artyom is overwhelmed by the Watchman who have cornered him in the tunnels. We see his friends literally carry him to the hospital wing. Later, Duke pulls Artyom from the water as he narrowly escapes the Tsar fish. Towards the end of the game, everyone pulls together to try and nurse Artyom back to full health. As a result, Artyom feels more real. He’s not just this unstoppable force rescuing everyone around him; he’s a person who needs help sometimes just like everyone else.

But unlike Artyom, the amount of times Anna needs help is disproportionate to the number of times she’s taking action.

It’s worth noting that Artyom’s heroics aren’t purely limited to Anna. He helps Krest take down Humanimals at the port and aids Giul as she snipes enemies from the lighthouse. But this just makes it even clearer that having Artyom constantly save Anna is unnecessary, given the heroics that are already in the story. She’s one of the only women aboard the Aurora, and she’s the only character who needs direct help on four separate occasions. 

Anna’s Potential

By reading Artyom’s journal, we know Anna is the best sniper in the group. We even get to see her in action several times throughout the story. She’s the first character to accompany Artyom, and she holds her own well against the Watchman roaming Moscow.

Anna isn’t afraid to speak her mind either. She verbally rips into her father, Colonel Miller, after realizing he lied about there not being a world beyond the Metro. She’s willing to tell Artyom how important it is that he stays alive as her husband, rather than dead as a hero.

But for every shot Anna fired, there’s a moment where she’s captured, in a ditch, or deathly ill. She’s reduced to a recurring subgoal and, despite other characters sometimes needing help, no one else becomes this archetypal. Usually, after she’s saved, we see her fight back with a vengeance. I can’t help but wish we got to see this side of Anna more often.

Forever in Distress

I should’ve known that Anna would get stuck in the “damsel in distress trope” the first time Artyom burst into the back room to free his wife in the first chapter of the game. From there, Anna goes missing. She falls into a radioactive underground area and needs Artyom to find a way to open the door so both of them can leave.

Then comes the most jarring rescue mission. After being misled and forced to fight off a group of cannibals in Yamantau, Anna is captured. What’s odd about this moment is the entire crew is captured, but Anna is the only one who actually gets taken away, making this the prime example of how unnecessary and narratively inconsistent it is to have Anna be the one who’s constantly in need. We’re told she’s just as strong, if not stronger than, her crewmates, yet she’s the only one who needs to be saved over and over again.

Lastly, Anna becomes sick and the last chapter or so of the game is dedicated to getting her the medicine she needs to live. Anyone could’ve become deathly ill on that train. But they didn’t. Anna did.

Love Sick

Anna loves her husband. But there are times that love dips into an obsessive territory. Her facial animations are always a bit too over the top, where she seems to have this desperate desire for him at all times. It’s uncomfortable to watch, especially from the first person perspective.

Maybe that’s just the dynamic of their relationship. Maybe they’re just passionately in love. But it comes off awkward and imbalanced, because Artyom is a silent protagonist. When combined with how often Anna needs rescuing, this clunky depiction of their relationship only serves to further the idea that Anna is the helpless, loving wife, rather than the badass the game initially positions her as.

As a player, I still love Anna. She’s still a great partner on the battlefield. I only wish she was given a chance to reach her full potential and didn’t (literally) have her hands tied so often.