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Anthem should learn from Diablo 3 – or risk being another game on EAs scrapheap

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Diablo 3 has risen from the ashes of a tough launch. Can Anthem do the same? (Pic: Blizzard/Activision)

Bioware's Anthem has been in the news a fair amount since launch, and rarely (if ever) for positive reasons. Kotaku's Jason Schreier's expose on the game's tortured development cycle makes for grim reading, but it's far from the first game to launch in an underwhelming state.

Even within the action-RPG and MMO genres, there are plenty of titles that have emerged from the ashes of a rocky launch in order to redefine themselves.

Destiny (and its sequel), The Division, and Final Fantasy 14 had to rebuild themselves to various extents.

Even Blizzard's Diablo 3, often regarded as one of the greatest loot-focused games, launched in a sorry state but corrected course so incredibly that it is now amongst the best in the action RPG genre.

With that in mind, here are five things that we believe Anthem can learn from Diablo 3 to help ensure its own phoenix-like rise from the ashes.

Anthem needs to make changes, quickly

Anthem needs to make changes, quickly (Pic: Bioware/EA)

1) Fix the loot

The joy of a game focused on collecting and equipping new pieces of gear is earning something cool, and getting the chance to try it out. Be it your first high-level piece of armour that comes with numerous buffs, or simply a weapon that deals extra damage, loot is king in the genre.

This makes it all the more baffling that Anthem launched with such a dismal loot pool. There simply aren't enough interesting pieces of gear and ones that feel hamstrung by dismal stats. While an early patch made some changes to the perks attached to each piece of gear, too much of it is poorly explained.

Diablo 3's gear and items have obvious benefits, as opposed to vague non-sequiturs. In Anthem, you can earn a piece of loot that buffs "luck" – a stat that isn't reflected anywhere in the game. Making loot more useful would go a huge way to keeping players engaged.

2) Stop being stingy

A common complaint levelled at Diablo 3 at launch was that the game was too stingy with loot. Players could grind for hours and hours for little reward, and combined with the genre's repetitive action, many left.

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Since the addition of the Loot 2.0 patch, Diablo 3 showers the player in loot. Some of it is inevitably under-levelled, but simply through the number of weapons and armour dished out, there's invariably something that changes your play-style.

Anthem's reluctance to offer anything short of a "masterwork" item (the second rarest item type, often with disappointing stats, see above) as a guaranteed drop from the game's harder content (more on that later) has players fighting through the same encounters again and again for little reward. Familiar?

Offering an increased chance at Legendary items (the rarest of them all) would allow for a much bigger bonus to those still plugging away. A rising tide raises all ships, and the possibility of Legendaries becoming more prevalent could bring players back to the higher-end activities.

3) Content Malcontent

Anthem didn't launch with a lot of content, and while Bioware is promising free DLC to pad out the title, that counts for nought now. The three endgame activities are known as Strongholds and each is… fine.

They each have some good moments and some bad, but for the most part, they entail working your way through a series of encounters in the hope of some loot at the end (which, as we've discussed, isn't all that enticing).

With there only being three of these missions available, difficulty level becomes an important modifier, and here is where Anthem falls hopelessly short. Levelling up to Grandmaster 1, 2 and 3 difficulties bring such a minor boost to drop-rates for high-level loot but forces the player through disproportionately grindy encounters with spongy enemies.

Bosses can take twenty minutes at a time, sometimes more, to be able to defeat. The carrot is on the end of such a disappointingly long stick that it rarely feels worth it. Even worse, one Stronghold is much easier to complete than the other two, making it the clear favourite one to grind.

Meanwhile, Diablo 3 offers a variety of ways to improve your character. Its difficulties scale up to ridiculous encounters, but with the combination of higher loot chances, it feels worth it. In fact, each rung on the difficulty ladder offers both currency and XP boosts – put in the time to eliminate higher level enemies, and you'll be impressively rewarded for your efforts.

Anthem's difficulty needs rebalancing at its most basic level.

4) Here today, Paragon tomorrow

Once you have earned a chunk of Anthem's most coveted loot (which can take a lot of grinding), it can be satisfying to see your Javelin's rating increase. Short of allowing players to have a chance of battling higher level content (which itself has no minimum power requirement, much to the chagrin of high-level players), it's something to show off.

Meanwhile, once your pilot level reaches the cap of 30, it tops out. There's nothing to that level. In Destiny 2, each subsequent level gained offers cosmetic rewards, while Diablo 3 offers a huge incentiRead More – Source