Despite being a loot-based action RPG, Anthem has a severe problem with its loot progression. The drop rate is too low, endgame loot doesn't always feel meaningful and distinct from leveling equipment, and the inscription system is creating useless weapons for players. Loot is the thing that keeps games like Anthem alive in the long-term, so it's a major problem.
Following BioWare's undocumented change to the loot drop rate, players in the Anthem community have been asking for several fixes to its loot system. Those players include veteran developers, which is why former Diablo 3 senior game designer Travis Day created a lengthy post on the Anthem subreddit, offering tips to improve the game. Day would know a thing or two about improving loot systems, given that he was one of the key developers behind Diablo 3's Loot 2.0 overhaul.
While Day is currently a designer working on Phoenix Labs' Dauntless, many of his tips for Anthem are clearly drawn from his time working on Diablo 3. Anthem shares many systems with Diablo 3 in terms of loot, primarily the randomly-rolled Inscriptions on weapons and equipment. Currently in Anthem, weapons are rolling with inscriptions that are "dead," meaning they don't work at all, providing bonuses that don't apply to the item. Day says that BioWare should change the range of inscriptions rolled on each items, so a weapon only pulls from a pool of inscriptions that matters.
"Having items roll affixes that are sub-optimal is standard practice for this kind of game, but I think there should be a hard distinction made between 'bad' and 'literally doesn't work'. Currently, this causes a considerable amount of confusion for players learning the game, as their initial assumption is to think anything an item rolled will work on the item it rolled on. Since that isn't true, I assume the design intent was to create a larger spectrum of item power based on the rolls, I would argue it comes with too many drawbacks," said Day in his Reddit post.
Day also addressed Anthem's Strongholds, which operate as dungeon or raid content. First, he explained that the three Strongholds at launch—Tyrant Mine, the Heart of Rage, and Temple of Scar—all have wildly different difficulties. He tasked BioWare with retuning the instances to bring them all in line with one another, or increasing the rewards for the harder dungeons.
"If the intent is that dungeons are tiered, then this isn't something that needs to be addressed, if the intent is that dungeons are comparable in difficulty then the lack of a bonus or incentive to diversify which dungeon I run is an issue. Players will generally follow the path of least resistance; at present, that means run Tyrant Mines repeatedly. This also increases the speed at which players will 'burn out' since the game feels shallow and lacks variety," said Day.
He also addressed allowing for some degree of player control over loot progression. Currently, Strongholds will offer a Masterwork skill, while Legendary Contracts give Masterwork class modifications as a reward. The problem is while Strongholds can be run forever, Legendary Contracts only come once a day. Day believes that the random queue systems should offer a chance for players to aim for the item type they need, whether that's a Masterwork or Legendary weapon, skill, or class mod.
Finally, Day talked about the problems with Anthem's endgame difficulties. Currently players can run three different levels of Grandmaster once they reach level 30. The difference between each mode are the health and damage of the enemies, and the players' chance of getting Masterwork and Legendary gear. The problem is Grandmaster 2 and 3 scale enemy damage and health so high that encounters take much longer, but loot enhancements aren't big enough to make those modes worthwhile to run. At higher Grandmaster levels, enemies one shot players and boss encounters can take 20-30 minutes, the amount of time it would take to run an entire instance on Grandmaster 1.
"As it stands the difficulty jump between [Grandmaster] and [Grandmaster 2] is big enough that once you reach the point where GM1 feels trivial and attempt to enter GM2 you find enemies feeling like bullet sponges who one-shot the frailer classes in the party. Going from hard to GM1 felt great, the early power jumps provided by the introduction of [Masterworks] felt good, GM1 went from being 'holy shit' hard to 'this is trivial' over the course of MW and legendary acquisition. Unfortunately the transition from GM1 to GM2 doesn't deliver that experience. Either tuning for GM2/3 needs revision or new intermediate difficulties should exist," said Day.
It's a good laundry list of fixes for Anthem's current progression, something that's clearly in need of a rework. Diablo 3 launched to a backlash in the community once players reached endgame, and Anthem is currently heading down that same path. I said previously that Anthem had no reason to not learn from its predecessors, and here's one developer that's offering a few tips to get Anthem into a good place. Hopefully BioWare listens, because without a strong endgame, Anthem isn't going to have a strong community.