Anthem has a lot of problems, and while some run deep, others feel like avoidable missteps. How the game handles its loot falls into that second category. As we get farther into the game’s post-launch life, a lot of its end-game feels like reliving the dark days immediately following Destiny 1’s release.
For a brief period after Anthem’s day-one patch went live on February 21, players noticed the game had gotten extremely generous with its loot drops. Then that went away. The game’s lead producer, Ben Irving, eventually took to Anthem’s subreddit to explain what had happened: The day-one patch had unintentionally buffed the drop rates for the game’s epic and masterwork gear. After confirming what had happened, BioWare proceeded to revert the drop rates back to their standard pre-day-one patch levels.
After reaching level 30, players are able to run existing stronghold missions on grandmaster difficulties. They have three tiers, with each successive one granting higher odds of getting better drops. For the brief period following the day-one patch, players were finding a healthy selection of rare, epic, and masterwork gear, the equivalent of Destiny’s green, blue, and purple engrams respectively. Now, drops more frequently consist of just common, uncommon, and rare loot, with epic and masterwork drops few and far between. Since even Anthem’s best gear comes with a handful of randomized stats, there’s an incentive to collect multiple versions in the hunt for one with a better mix. As a result, the baseline drop rates can feel that much stingier.
The game’s most diehard fans were angry about the change. Though many people started playing Anthem on February 22, subscribers to EA Premier on PC had access a week early, on February 15. As a result, many, myself included, had already embarked on the end-game grind by the time the day-one patch rolled around. More than anything else, the temporary shift in drop rates helped throw into sharp relief just how grueling and unrewarding Anthem’s current end-game activities can feel.
An ever-growing list of popular posts on the Anthem subreddit are decrying the current state of the game’s loot, with some players afraid that by erring on the side of being less generous, BioWare is potentially turning away players who are currently on the fence about whether to stick with Anthem. Over the weekend, Travis Day, who worked on Diablo III’s soft reboot with the Reaper of Souls update, added his two cents, suggesting that the way the Anthem currently rewards loot to lead to burnout as players focus on running the same mission over and over again in the hopes of getting end-game equipment.
It’s not unlike the first few weeks following Destiny 1’s release when purple engrams could still decrypt into useless blue gear, a nasty trick that also masked just how scarce purple gear was. Bungie started addressing the issue with its 1.0.2 patch, which made purple gear drop in a wider range of activities and stopped it from sometimes turning out to be a blue piece of equipment in disguise. It took months and years, however, for Bungie to hone in on a more balanced grind in which players could get access to some of the best weapons earlier on and then work on slowly strengthening them rather than still be at the mercy of incredibly low odds even after hours of grinding.
While it’s standard for an ambitious new loot shooter with a lot of moving parts to not get everything perfect at launch, it feels like Anthem is hitting many of the same pitfalls nearly five years later. The game’s director, Jonathan Warner, told a fan yesterday on Twitter that BioWare is already considering adjustments in the wake of player feedback. We’ll see if Anthem is able to get it right faster than Destiny did.