I’ve been interested in Anthem ever since the game’s announcement at E3 2017. But even with my excitement growing each day as we get closer to the game’s launch, I’m still left with a few questions that leave me a bit apprehensive.
My first concern is a practical one: will the game have enough content? BioWare’s been letting the information flow a lot more freely these days, but it’s still hard to get a grasp for what level of content will be available at launch. After The Division and narrowly dodging the Destiny 2 launch bullet, I’m wary of jumping into a new looter shooter that’s lacking in this area.
The fact of the matter is that players will plow through whatever static content you’ve put together in fairly short order, so a game like Anthem needs to have replayable content. I don’t mean running the same stuff over and over, but content styled after Diablo III’s Rifts, such as the Underground, which eventually made its way to The Division. Eventually is the operative word here. BioWare has shown that it’s clearly cognizant of the lessons learned by its competitors in this space and I’m hoping the advantage of coming in late means the team has some plans to keep whatever content they’ve cooked up as fresh as possible right from the outset.
The last two things that have been bugging me are things I do actually know about the game’s item hunt. The first issue relates to Inscriptions. BioWare recently explained that the plan right now is that players won’t be able to reroll Inscriptions on their gear. Inscriptions are Anthem’s item affixes, and with the ability to roll numerous Inscriptions per item, I’m already nervous about burning myself out trying to get the “perfect roll” on items I want for my build. Most loot games these days give you a way to mitigate this issue to some extent, but in Anthem, you’ll have to just recraft (if possible) or keep hunting manually for the perfect version of whatever it is you’re looking for.
In my experience, this is a recipe for burnout, and I really do hope BioWare reconsiders its stance on this issue. I do know that BioWare’s Ben Irving has publicly commented on this sort of feedback and it seems the team is at least receptive to changing this if need be, but I feel this is one thing that doesn’t really need a wait-and-see approach. There are plenty of case studies in existing games on how frustrating this can be for players. I understand the desire to have players go out and play the game instead of just sitting at a terminal rerolling their gear, but there are plenty of possible solutions to this issue that can work for everyone involved. Personally, I found The Division’s Recalibration to be a fair approach. But I’m also used to playing Marvel Heroes where I was able to reroll affixes individually as long as I had the materials. I’m not attached to a particular solution here, I’m just looking for something more than having to go hunt for the same thing over and over.
My suggestion? Allow players to consume duplicates of an item to unlock an Inscription slot for rerolling. If an item has four Inscription slots and a player is happy with the results on three of them, well then they only need to find one more to unlock that last slot for rerolling. You’d still need materials to do the actual rerolling, too. This would keep players hunting, but it would also put an upper limit on how many times they’d need to find a specific item to fully reroll it to their heart’s content.
My other potential issue with Anthem’s item hunt is the fact it won’t have boss loot tables. I’m actually a bit conflicted on this one. On the one hand, it’s great that you can find anything, anywhere. You can play whatever type of content you feel like at a given moment and potentially find something you really want for your character. Awesome. But on the other hand, we all know that players always seek out the path of least resistance. Once everyone figures out what endgame piece of content is easiest and quickest to farm, that’s all players will do. There are many ways to incentivize players to mix things up and BioWare may already have some solutions there, but if not, things could get real boring, real fast.
Even if BioWare does have a solution for this issue, being able to target your grind can be really helpful. If I’m hunting something specific, I’d like to know I can focus on a single activity to get that drop instead of just hoping it drops out of a much larger pool of things while doing something else. The lack of boss loot tables makes the Inscriptions situation worse, too. If you can’t target your farming, finding that perfect roll just got a lot harder.
All this isn’t coming from someone who is anti-grind. I love chasing items and it’s clear BioWare is embracing the “looter” part of looter shooter. But the deeper your item hunt, the more important it is that players have some way to mitigate the edge cases of RNG.
All the cool content and tight gameplay in the world won’t matter if you don’t nail the item hunt and have some systems in place to keep content fresh. These sorts of games can live or die based on these smaller details and I’m looking forward to hearing what plans BioWare has to get ahead of these potential issues.