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Dessert

March 4, 2019 by Tim

I’ve been giving loot lot of thought about this over the past week (probably a stupid amount of thought, actually), but I think it’s because I really wanted to like Anthem. On a complete level, not just in the “Well flying around in the suits is cool, but…” kind of way.

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Games require a certain equilibrium between their moving parts, I think. And what that equilibrium is, what the right balance is, will be different for each game, or each genre. But when that balance is skewed somehow, we as gamers feel it. It sticks out to us.

And Anthem doesn’t feel like it has balance. It’s clearly designed to be a loot shooter in the vein of Destiny or The Division, in that once you get through the short single-player stuff, the long-term gameplay is a cycle of “get gear to grind content to get better gear to grind harder stuff to get even better gear” etc. But the grind and the loot are out of harmony right now.

Setting aside that I still maintain that’s fun to be in your Javelin, moving around and shooting things… the things I’m shooting at aren’t very interesting. There is a very limited number of enemies, they all act very samey (a Dominion Storm and an Outlaw Storm are interchangeable as far as I could discern), and aside from bosses, you’ve seen everything the game has to offer, re: enemies, by level ten.

They don’t do anything particularly interesting or surprising, they don’t take cover, they don’t try to flank you, they just stand there (or walk towards you) and shoot. Then add in the fact that on higher difficulties, they don’t change their behavior, they simply have way more health, and way more damage. That’s not making the encounter more challenging, it’s just turning it into more of a slog.

Now in and of itself, the grind wouldn’t be the end of the world… if it was offset by lots of exciting loot to collect. After all, the loot is typically the goal, in a game like this (or Diablo, or Destiny, etc). That tiny little endorphin tick you feel when a glowy orb pops out of a bad guy and you have that little thrill of “ooh, what’s that?”.

But Anthem is so stingy with their loot right now that it makes the lack of content, and the grindiness of that content, stand out even more. Sometimes you play a game like this for a couple of hours, and you get no gear upgrades. That happens, its part of the gamble. But if that’s the case, it’s much more fun to have been showered with loot in that time, than it is to get a single piece and find its rolls suck. The net amount of upgrades can stay the same, but simply receiving more loot to sort through creates this constant feeling of accomplishment and excitement that “maybe this next piece will be legendary!”.

Conversely, if Anthem had more to do at the end of the game, more activities or more interesting challenges, it might be easier to overlook some of the less-than-exciting gear. I was originally thrilled that Anthem had chosen not to implement any sort of PVP, since it would make balancing the game so much more straightforward. But now I wonder if that was a mistake.

Destiny and The Division both launched with some loot issues of their own, but they at least had a bunch of other content, like PVP, the Dark Zone, etc that could keep their players occupied while the developers worked on fixing the other parts. Anthem doesn’t have that. The endgame basically amounts to repeating the same missions over and over, and as I’ve mentioned, that doesn’t currently feel particularly rewarding. So you basically have no choice but to focus on the problems.

Now Bioware has been working on improvements; they took some steps to prevent gear from rolling inscriptions that didn’t even relate to the gear itself (+pistol damage on an assault rifle, for example.) And supposedly they’re going to remove white and green gear from the loot table at level 30 (I haven’t seen this yet… it was not in last time I played). Those are steps in the right direction.

However I feel like that’s only part of the problem. It will make what does drop have a higher chance of being useful… but still doesn’t fulfill that desire to constantly be collecting treasure, which the game desperately needs to do if they want players to stick around for any of the “three month roadmap” they’re promising.

While I was trying to parse my thoughts about the current state of Anthem and where it would need to go in order to get me excited to play, the Division 2 beta dropped this weekend and threw everything into stark contrast.

I have a couple of problems with The Division 2 as well (Negative stats on weapon mods? Really?), but there are a lot of things it gets right. Enemies were smart, varied and unpredictable. Every fight was something new, and moreover, there was a huge difference between normal and the endgame mission we could preview. Enemies became way more aggressive, used every opportunity to surround us, get behind us, etc. It required more communication, and challenged us to come up with new tactics.

And through it all, I was picking up tons of gear. I was walking away from every encounter with some loot. It might have been junk, or sidegrades, and sure, I didn’t get to zip around in my awesome Iron Man suit, but it still felt like I was being rewarded for conquering the mission, for overcoming my enemies.

That’s what Anthem is lacking right now. I’ve been impressed by how quickly Bioware seems to be responding to feedback, saying “Yeah, we’re listening.” But they’re also only human, they have a long road ahead of them and video games are complex beasts. I expect it will take months of tweaks to get Anthem where it needs to be, and by then… it might be too late for most gamers.

It’ll definitely be too late for me. I’m not going to grind away on a dull endgame today, just because they promise it’ll get fun ninety days from now.

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Snark
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Snark

But.. But broccoli is good for you?.. It will put hair on your chest..
(And that’s good, right? Unless you are a girl.. then probably you should avoid broccoli..)

inverted4life
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inverted4life

“And through it all, I was picking up tons of gear. I was walking away from every encounter with some loot. It might have been junk, or sidegrades, and sure, I didn’t get to zip around in my awesome Iron Man suit, but it still felt like I was being rewarded for conquering the mission, for overcoming my enemies.” I guess that’s where these games fall apart for me. I personally do not feel like I’ve been rewarded if all I picked up is junk and sidegrades. I can’t use any of it, so I didn’t gain anything from the… Read more »

DannyboyO1
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DannyboyO1

My brain does not respond very well to random rewards. (Side effect of depression? Dunno) Makes it hard to stay addicted to anything… or to enjoy gambling. I even see the cookie shower as a chore (looking at you, borderlands.) because it takes effort to sort out what I’ve gotten. So to me, fatigue is a big factor. There’s other perspectives that tend to stick in my brain when figuring out if a thing is worth my time. If a drop is one in a thousand, and you roll 1,000 times, your odds of not getting it are 36%. (0.999^1000)… Read more »

HonoredMule
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HonoredMule

This. So much this. I’ve had my lifetime’s quota of RNG to the point that MMOs and any other online games that look even vaguely like one are all dead to me. And not a one of them has ever been half as fun as any popular competitive AFPS from 15-20 years ago, with every game a blank slate, skill the dominating factor, and encounters as varied as the game is populated. About the only exception for me has been the odd well-polished dungen crawler with progression/NG+, and that because the reward drip rate ties into an evolution of gameplay… Read more »

0zway
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0zway

Have you looked at all into Warframe? It accomplishes a lot of the same goals as Anthem (third person class-based looter shooter with cool movement options), but I’m 500+ hours in, and the progression still feels meaningful and achievable. The easy to get stuff feels like things you can do in one play session, the hard to get stuff feels like you could do it in a weekend.

It’s also worth playing just for the story. “Worth” is a weird word to use because it’s a free to play game, but you know what I mean.

Ven
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Ven

You can use the word “worth.

Is it worth your time? YEP. Absolutely.
Is it worth your money? Quite possibly the best looking free to play game on the market today, but that’s really up to you. You can push as far as you like without spending a cent, and not feel like you’re being crippled by it.

Kaogen
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Kaogen

I wanted to like Anthem because i wanted to believe Bioware was on the right track again. Ugh. It hurts.

Ven
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Ven

Sorry to be the one to tell you this, dude, but…. original founder of Bioware? Gone. Writers of mass effect? Gone. They don’t even have the same janitors as the old days. That company is nothing more than a rotted corpse animated by EA’s foul magics. It will NEVER be as it once was. Which doubly hurts because I’ve been waiting years for a Jade Empire sequel, and that’s never going to happen either.

DannyboyO1
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DannyboyO1

I don’t feel like they left anything unsaid in Jade Empire. It resolved everything well enough, and the lore… eh. It’s Chinese mythology. Anyone can make more of this.

KaoGen
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KaoGen

I know it will never be on the same level again, but there’s a point where im left wondering if they can even understand what made the old greats so great anymore. I’m no concerned with whether they’ll make another ‘real’ mass effect (for example) so much as if they’ll ever stop going further and further from them.

Urazz
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Urazz

The way I see it, it’s another example of a game being released too early. The way I see it, if they released the game in like 1 to 2 months later than they planned then they could’ve had the bugs fixed and the content they planned on releasing within the first month of the game would’ve been able to be put in with the game at launch and increase the amount of content you can play with at launch. It was the same thing with Mass Effect Andromeda, after the game launched they spent a few months patching the… Read more »

Loopback
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Loopback

From what I have seen, Anthem is quite a bit like Destiny 2. Which means that it should be pretty good next year.
In the meantime, I am enjoying the hell out of Mutant Year Zero, Road to Eden.

Logan
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Logan

Another “Could be Great” game. Played through the whole thing a few months back. And, honestly, it took a few tries to ‘get into it’. There’s a handful of mechanics they don’t explain, leaving it up to the player to figure out. Perks don’t trigger at a rate appropriate to what their stats say (and in combat, while the brains of the game take things into account… the final reault of all those things, including bonuses you can see on gear, isn’t shown accurately). It could really do with having a minimap feature added, of some kind. Audio needs some… Read more »

Ven
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Ven

Don’t worry, Tim. I’m sure that Anthem will start giving you cookies…. in the form of this new shiny legendary cookie box, available for only $19.99 from our premium store!

DracoPsycho
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DracoPsycho

“Now Bungie has been working on improvements; they took some steps to prevent gear from rolling inscriptions that didn’t even relate to the gear itself….” Bungie should be changed to Bioware 😉 Damn those companies’ names beginning with B!

Vilios
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Vilios

for me the worst is when people are proving that the system works, ie: “look i ran this boss only 6 times and got all the loot i needed.” or “look im at chain 35 and just found a shiny”, and im here at a chain of 1482 looking over the numbers and wondering where my statistical 5 shinys are. systems that have a _in_ chance of a thing happening have always bugged me. if i roll a D20 my odds are the same for every number 1in20 say i roll a 1, pick the die and roll again, most… Read more »

Croi
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Croi

I’m a pretty big fan of Destiny, but I’m not an apologist in any way of the game or a lot of the design choices. I was really hoping Anthem was going to be good…not for it to kill Destiny, but for it, in its own right, to be good. I wanted it to be another choice for people, especially those who didn’t and don’t like Destiny. I always wanted it to be good for Bioware’s sake. We know how EA likes to destroy companies once it acquires them. Really, though, I think we’re all tired of the “Well, they’re… Read more »

Richard
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Richard

I think the larger issue is what the gaming community expects for their money tbh. The endgame content may be a little lacking at this point. It will get better, and at least a large portion of it will be at no additional cost. I get that you don’t want to wait for more but as the game stands I find it to be a lot of fun. I’ve sunk probably like 30 hours into the game by now, and still enjoy it myself. I havn’t even made it to the endgame either. There are very few things that I… Read more »

Urazz
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Urazz

I at the very least just expect my AAA games to be bug free. Or at the very least just have minor bugs that are just an inconvenience.

Big thing is that Anthem’s release should’ve been delayed by like a month at the very least to ensure it was bug free at the minimum.

Croi
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Croi

I’m really glad you’re enjoying Anthem. I certainly hope more people get to as well.

Also hope it doesn’t brick your PS4 like it has so many already.

Stephen M. Schaefer
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Stephen M. Schaefer

You should play the RWBY app Amity Arena. They give you literal (digital) cookies.

kittebstorm
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kittebstorm

And then there’s PoE. So many cookies you could drown in them but 99% of them are moldy.

Sigurther
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Sigurther

That’s about how I feel about WoW:BFA; lots of broccoli and occasionally a broccoli flavored cookie. Sometimes neither at all.

Brandon
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Brandon

Have you had a chance to play Apex Legends yet? Looking forward to seeing pathfinder’s humor in your comics!

Alex
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Alex

I was just explaining this to my wife on Saturday, and I think you did a really good job of putting it into words (probably better than I did). I have EA Access, so I got the 10 hours of Anthem before buying. I was super, super excited for it. Once I got the trial thing started, I was blown away by the first couple missions and almost pre-ordered the game right than and there. But I promised myself I’d hold off and decide only after I’d run out my 10 hour trial. I ran a few more missions, and… Read more »

GenericHuman#48264732
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GenericHuman#48264732

I noticed you’ve never posted a metro game *hint hint*

Griffin
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Griffin

Well, I can see your point on the loot. A great deal of it is trash loot but the loot is there. I’m usually patient with games that just release. Whats the old saying …”no successful game has had a successful launch” so something like that. From the crashing every 5-10 min into the game on the first day to finding the quests that a bugged (having that issue now. my team keeps killing the boss before the conversation is over…ugh) Whats funny is that I have found better loot just doing freeplay in the game. Professor Plum finally showed… Read more »

Liam Price
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Liam Price

“No successful game has had a successful launch”? Christ, the apologists these days. Look at every single successful game before ~2013. Games released as finished products with content and actually playtested. Games now often get released because “This is the day we marked on our calendars 3 years ago when we started. Guess we gotta ship it out”. Look at Kingdom Hearts III: Originally slated for 2018, released January 2019. No game-breaking bugs, fun content. Sure, it’s not the hugest game, but it’s a complete and finished experience. Look at Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Look at Monster Hunter World. Look… Read more »

Sabre Runner
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Sabre Runner

I just read an IGN article that said exactly that but more elaborately.

Jester David
Guest

How soon they forget: https://cad-comic.com/comic/you-had-one-job/

Looking at Anthem now and comparing it to Destiny 2 post-expansion is probably a fool’s errand. Because you’re forgetting that soooo many people spent days just sitting around and mindlessly shooting into a respawn point in the early days of Destiny 1. Anthem may be grindy, but at least you’re playing the game and not spawn camping a loot cave…

leduk
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leduk

exactly what I was looking for

Kaitensatsuma
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Kaitensatsuma

Apparently they banned someone who was just going around the maps opening up item boxes because it was faster and yielded better results than the endgame was.

Let me reiterate:
They banned a paying player.
For opening item boxes.
Item boxes the developers themselves placed and coded.
Because their endgame loot tables are worse than the random boxes.

Lily
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Lily

I never thought I would hear people complaining about loot this much. People have known how to throw loot at people for 20 years and in nearly every genre of game, heck loot even crosses over to table top gaming. What are loot boxes if not a way to monetize people’s greed to open a chest and find something shiny?

How does anyone not understand the importance of loot in this day and age?

Ben
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Ben

And then you get banned for finding too many cookies

EMac
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EMac

Ok, I get people are dissatisfied with the loot drops in Anthem. Personally I haven’t found a problem yet but I’ve only just passed level 20 and epics have started to show up for me. So the issue is with end-game drops I guess? In any case it’s nothing that can’t be fixed pretty easily by the developers after some constructive feedback – not just “this game sucks”. What I object to is people calling it a bad game for this one reason – not citing anything else that might be wrong with it or which needs improving on and… Read more »

Hello
Guest
Hello

You forgot biscochitos! (New Mexican here)

Thomas
Guest
Thomas

And the same goes for The Division 2. Except, switch broccoli with “trash out of the garbage” , yes … thats it 🙂