Anthem should learn from Diablo 3 – or risk being another game on EA’s scrapheap

1) Fix the loot

The joy of a game focused on collecting and equipping new pieces of gear is earning something cool, and getting the chance to try it out. Be it your first high-level piece of armour that comes with numerous buffs, or simply a weapon that deals extra damage, loot is king in the genre.

This makes it all the more baffling that Anthem launched with such a dismal loot pool. There simply aren’t enough interesting pieces of gear and ones that feel hamstrung by dismal stats. While an early patch made some changes to the perks attached to each piece of gear, too much of it is poorly explained.

Diablo 3’s gear and items have obvious benefits, as opposed to vague non-sequiturs. In Anthem, you can earn a piece of loot that buffs “luck” – a stat that isn’t reflected anywhere in the game. Making loot more useful would go a huge way to keeping players engaged.

2) Stop being stingy

A common complaint levelled at Diablo 3 at launch was that the game was too stingy with loot. Players could grind for hours and hours for little reward, and combined with the genre’s repetitive action, many left.

Since the addition of the Loot 2.0 patch, Diablo 3 showers the player in loot. Some of it is inevitably under-levelled, but simply through the number of weapons and armour dished out, there’s invariably something that changes your play-style.

Anthem’s reluctance to offer anything short of a “masterwork” item (the second rarest item type, often with disappointing stats, see above) as a guaranteed drop from the game’s harder content (more on that later) has players fighting through the same encounters again and again for little reward. Familiar?

Offering an increased chance at Legendary items (the rarest of them all) would allow for a much bigger bonus to those still plugging away. A rising tide raises all ships, and the possibility of Legendaries becoming more prevalent could bring players back to the higher-end activities.

3) Content Malcontent

Anthem didn’t launch with a lot of content, and while Bioware is promising free DLC to pad out the title, that counts for nought now. The three endgame activities are known as Strongholds and each is… fine. 

They each have some good moments and some bad, but for the most part, they entail working your way through a series of encounters in the hope of some loot at the end (which, as we’ve discussed, isn’t all that enticing).

With there only being three of these missions available, difficulty level becomes an important modifier, and here is where Anthem falls hopelessly short. Levelling up to Grandmaster 1, 2 and 3 difficulties bring such a minor boost to drop-rates for high-level loot but forces the player through disproportionately grindy encounters with spongy enemies.

Bosses can take twenty minutes at a time, sometimes more, to be able to defeat. The carrot is on the end of such a disappointingly long stick that it rarely feels worth it. Even worse, one Stronghold is much easier to complete than the other two, making it the clear favourite one to grind.

Meanwhile, Diablo 3 offers a variety of ways to improve your character. Its difficulties scale up to ridiculous encounters, but with the combination of higher loot chances, it feels worth it. In fact, each rung on the difficulty ladder offers both currency and XP boosts – put in the time to eliminate higher level enemies, and you’ll be impressively rewarded for your efforts.

Anthem’s difficulty needs rebalancing at its most basic level.

4) Here today, Paragon tomorrow

Once you have earned a chunk of Anthem’s most coveted loot (which can take a lot of grinding), it can be satisfying to see your Javelin’s rating increase. Short of allowing players to have a chance of battling higher level content (which itself has no minimum power requirement, much to the chagrin of high-level players), it’s something to show off.

Meanwhile, once your pilot level reaches the cap of 30, it tops out. There’s nothing to that level. In Destiny 2, each subsequent level gained offers cosmetic rewards, while Diablo 3 offers a huge incentive in the form of Paragon levels.

This is a whole extra levelling system that encourages players to grind to increase their base stats. It makes your character feel more permanent, elongating growth to a degree that is unique to each class. 

Anthem needs a reason to keep playing for those that have all of the loot they’re chasing.

5) All about the style

One of the big draws of Anthem is the Javelins. Acting as the game’s version of classes, each one looks and feels unique to one another, with abilities that complement each other. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that your Interceptor (paint job aside) will look identical to one of a player that just started playing.

While having stats and gear separated from visual customisation is a neat idea (and stops your character looking like a mess a la Destiny 2), the fact that there are so few armour sets in Anthem is a huge detriment to the contingent of players still playing.

Gear is doled out via an in-game store (fine in theory), but with gear rotating in and out it’s easy to hold your hard earned coins only to find that next week’s selection isn’t as good. One of the more interesting sets is a pre-order exclusive, too.

Diablo’s pieces of armour often look distinct, simply because they’re so stylised. If you find something you like the look of, you can “transmogrify” an item to look like it but maintain its own stats and abilities. This offers the kind of flexibility many are looking for when designing what is essentially some of gaming’s coolest armour, and I’m sure Anthem players would love to be able to put some time into changing their style.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but Anthem’s core combat remains fun enough to be able to build these systems around.

It may take some time, but here’s hoping Bioware can make some changes and turn things around.

They only need to look to Blizzard, Bungie, or Ubisoft for inspiration – although, from the sounds of things in the Kotaku article, that may take some doing. 

  • Activision Blizzard
  • Anthem

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