Looter, No Looting!By Danny Nissenfeld
I used to be an Anthem player, but then I took an epic drop to the knee.
The Anthem launch (and post launch) has meant a lot of things to a lot of people. Most of those things aren’t good. I mean really are any of them good? Having pre-ordered Anthem on the strength of the gameplay from the demo period (certainly not the stability from the demo period) and the fact that Bioware was delivering a mech combat game with tons of flying, explosions and more importantly truly heavy feeling mechs. I long for the old mechwarrior days where the hardware you climbed into felt heavy.
It felt like a machine meant for destruction.
Anthem at launch, and even now, is still delivering that promise. The game play, flight mechanics, and visceral feel of movement is some of the best in the industry. It’s unfortunate that literally everything else is a total bomb up to, and including, server stability and outright game breaking bugs. I’ve been there since the beginning. Origin says I’ve put 84 hours into Anthem so far and while a lot of that might be loading screens, none of it was idling.
This isn’t about the game of Anthem, though; it’s about the wake of Anthem. It’s about Anthem’s community: the Reddit, the Twitter posts… all of it. It’s not even about what you’re thinking right now. It has nothing to do with the horrendous working conditions that plague the gaming industry outlined in Jason Schreier’s excellent article (which you should absolutely read if you haven’t yet). It has nothing to do with the timeline of events that lead Anthem into the dumpster it’s currently in.
This article is about why the community expressed its frustrations, and how those cries came out. One of the biggest things said over and over, as the majority of the player base moved up through the levels (1–30), was that the drops are better in MW1. Normal and Hard are easy mode, if you want drops you play in at least MW1. Difficulties in Anthem scale from Easy to Normal, Hard, MW1, MW2 and top out at MW3. MW1/2/3 is basically Diablo 3’s Torment difficulties. HP/Damage scales way way up with each number (1 through 13 for Diablo), but drop chance and gold amounts also scale up.
Similar to Diablo 3, gear and weapons in Anthem—and as we came to find out everything else— scale with rank. You’ve got whites, greens, blues, purples (epic), Masterworks (orange) and Legendaries (yellow). Masterworks and Legendaries are like Diablo legendaries. They’re much better versions of their counterparts, with an extra unique trait. Legendaries explicitly also have higher stat rolls and a guaranteed “god stat” where one stat rolls perfectly.
Unlike Diablo, however, Anthem also scales some things similarly to Destiny’s Light Level. You have a cumulative gear score, and everything you do is scaled against that score. This means equipping Legendary class items, irrespective of their use for your build or their stat rolls, is generally the best option until you are full legendary and can concentrate on getting the “right” legendaries. Guns are the exception where getting a very high Damage +% stat is one of the only criteria for a good gun versus a bad one.
With that in mind we can get back to how the community has expressed itself. The loudest and most frequent call was for drop rates to be increased, or in this case specifically the drop rates of Masterwork and Legendary class equipment to be increased because, in all honesty, once you reach maximum account level (30) the only thing that matters is getting to an all-masterwork build and then replacing those with legendaries as they come.
It’s not hard to understand why it came out this way. Getting legendaries is pretty much the only thing you can work towards for improving your build. The legendaries don’t do anything unique, they just have higher numbers, and you need those numbers to combat the ridiculous scale increase between MW1, 2, and 3 difficulties.
Something happened in the middle of all of this too: The Division 2 dropped; the other highly anticipated Looter-Shooter MMO. Except the most frequent comment on the Anthem Reddit, and within the community at large, was that everyone loved the feel of the combat and mechanics in Anthem and they felt Division’s mechanics and combat were mundane at best, but they were playing the Division 2 anyways because they got tons of loot drops in that game, as opposed Anthem.
There’s a pretty big difference in gameplay too. The Division is a modern setting military shooter. You’ve got squishy humans putting on flak vests and other modern body armor shooting a variety of modern weaponry: shotguns, rifles, pistols, ARs, etc. Humans don’t fare well jumping off of a 3 story building and shoulder tackling through the ranks of the enemy like a Colossus would in Anthem. Humans don’t backflip 30 meters in the air and execute exploding spinning jump kicks into a crowd of terrorists hiding behind an SUV. Humans sit behind large, dense objects and peek out to shoot at the other humans when they’re reloading or they hold their gun awkwardly over said cover object and blindly shoot towards the enemy hoping to hit them. The loot is similarly… modern.
You get guns and clothing; sometimes you get parts of guns to make your existing guns more gunny. Sometimes you get a really powerful version of a gun which is the gunniest gun that you could gun.
The Division 2 does what it does very well, and a modern shooter is appealing to quite a lot of people. It clearly wasn’t to a lot of these Anthem players, but they were playing it anyways because it was a loot party every match. They were more satisfied with an inferior experience simply because they were progressing. This is akin to being given a choice of having a fresh shiny apple or a bowl of week old, lukewarm apple sauce and choosing to eat the apple sauce because every time you eat a bowl you get a Sauce Point. You can’t do anything with said points except look at the number getting bigger and even then you have to be in this mythical Apple room to even see the number but by god you’re progressing in something.
Another thing that recently happened (more or less) is Diablo 3’s season 16. Unlike all prior Seasons Season 16 had a very interesting mechanic: you automatically had the passive status of wearing a Ring of Royal Grandeur which allows you to gain +1 set bonus per set you’re wearing. This isn’t just a simple bonus to some builds. The RoRG is worn by nearly every single competitive or useful build in Diablo 3. Getting more set bonuses is the key to killing things. I took the bait for sure. While I’ve put in quite a lot of Diablo 3 hours I’ve never played seasons but finally I had a reason.
So I played Diablo 3 season 16. I enjoy the gameplay of Diablo 3. I don’t play it often anymore because I’ve played it for so many hours most of the time I’ve had my fill. I don’t really have a whole lot of new things to try out having maxed every class and gathered most of every set for a build at one point or the other. The RoRG passive opened up another set of build potentials, though, so that’s what I did and these new builds were fun for a bit. I still have seasonal progression left (I went all the way through GR80 and getting my extra stash tab) but to be honest it’s not worth the trouble. The extra blizzard profile achievement points have no actual point.
It’s entirely maddening. As it stands progression mechanics and “gamification” are more important to people than enjoying the gameplay. It makes me wonder why anyone is bothering making anything but Clicker games (where is Ex_Venture Capitalist Edition anyways Eric?) and reboots of Progress Quest?