BioWare has outlined Anthem’s upcoming new and improved loot system – and it sounds much better than what’s currently in the game.
It’s fair to say Anthem’s loot system is pretty bad. In fact it was one of the parts of the game heavily criticised when Anthem launched in February 2019.
“Gear skills are treated as loot, which means that your ability to experiment is dependent on drops, or that you sometimes have to choose between optimising your character and keeping a favoured playstyle – not a fun choice,” wrote Oli in Eurogamer’s Anthem review.
“Experimentation with your build, which ought to be one of the most fun and liberating aspects of the game, is severely discouraged by the fact that your suit’s loadout can only be changed in the hub word of Fort Tarsis and never out on the field of play.
“Worse still for the game’s long-term prospects, all this plugs into an insipid item game. Loot in Anthem just isn’t fun or desirable. Most drops represent minor improvements on something you already have and, as you move towards endgame, you are swiftly overwhelmed with fiddly min-maxing as you try to match the affixes on your equipment to the strengths of your build, optimising by a percentage point here or there. Eventually, you are steered hard into farming for crafting materials and endlessly rolling and rerolling craftable items to get those affixes just right. It’s a pure, incremental numbers game, with none of the sense of adventure of heading out to quest or grind for legendary rewards, nor the lottery-winning thrill of finding an ultra-rare drop.”
In a fresh blog post, studio director Christian Dailey admitted the developers had got loot wrong. “A good player experience depends on the loot system being extensible and robust, and a lot can go wrong,” Dailey said. “A lot did go wrong. We fell short here and we realised that building something new from the ground up was going to be required – starting with taking a long look and understanding the best in class of the many great games that inspire us. Based on this research, along with your thoughts and feedback, we planned some high-level goals and changes we wanted to try.
Dailey showed off a screenshot of Anthem’s revamped equipment sheet. As a lapsed Destiny player, this screenshot feels pretty familiar. Perhaps Bungie’s influential looter shooter was one of the games BioWare took inspiration from when redesigning Anthem’s loot system.
This equipment sheet can be accessed from anywhere, Dailey said, letting you easily see what you have equipped in each slot.
BioWare also plans to increase the frequency of loot drops, and make all items better and more competitive. The idea is players can pursue specific loot without relying on randomness alone, with quests, specialised vendors and unique loot tables to work with. You’ll also be able to modify your loot.
BioWare also hopes to make loot feel more exciting and noticeable when it drops, so it is “celebrated” when collected. Rare enemies will provide a “burst” of loot all at once. Again, this will be pretty familiar to Destiny players.
Each item will have an inscription “budget”, based on its power and rarity. This should mean you’ll no longer get items rendered useless because they were missing must-have inscriptions, such as increased weapon damage by +225 per cent.
You’ll also be able to easily increase your power cap, and the loot system should scale accordingly.
Away from loot changes, Dailey said BioWare is working on improving Anthem’s gunplay, with more responsive enemies who react to hits “near instantly with improved client-side prediction”. The developer is also looking into the role of melee items and builds, and being able to spend skill points to unlock new types of equipment and synergies.
All these changes sound welcome, and should go some way to improve Anthem for its planned 2.0 relaunch. As recently announced, this back-to-the-drawing-board retooling of the game involves a new pirate faction named Pirates of Blood Wind.
BioWare Austin, the studio responsible for Star Wars: The Old Republic, has been tasked with relaunching Anthem at some point with a raft of much-needed improvements – though there’s been no word on when this big 2.0 revival might see light of day. Dailey noted some of the changes outlined involve “a rather large tech undertaking”, and warned: “this is not an easy fix and will take time.”
Anthem was originally developed by BioWare Edmonton, the studio’s mothership, which has now moved on to building the seemingly still far-off Dragon Age 4 and the even further off next new thing in the Mass Effect franchise.