Let’s talk about Anthem’s gear and progression livestream

This was genuinely fascinating and it’s the first set of concrete information about the grind that makes me feel like Bioware might actually be on the right track.

If you haven’t watched the livestream yet, the VOD’s over here. Excellent stuff overall, and the short version is that Bioware is leaning more towards Diablo’s loot system than Destiny’s.

Diablo vs. Destiny

Simply put, Destiny doesn’t really allow you to create nuanced character builds. If you’re a Commander Titan, you’re probably running Ursa; if you’re on one of the other Sentinal subclass trees, you’re probably running Doomfang. Barrage Hunters are wearing Shards of Galanor because why would they wear anything else? And a Tether Hunter is probably on Rigs. Basically, on any given class and subclass, there’s probably just one item you’re using; if you’re lucky there may be a second viable option.

Diablo 3, on the other hand, has tremendous amounts of character customization. It’s possible to build around specific skills to devastating effect, dramatically changing the way a class plays. Anthem seems to be leaning pretty heavily into the ability to create multiple, viable builds with each of the different Javelins.

Hardpoints on the Javelin

Each Javelin – the Colossus and the Ranger were demonstrated; but it’s safe to assume that this applies to all four suits – has a series of five hardpoints that allow for customization. They accommodate two weapons, three pieces of gear, and a set of components.

For the Colossus, the three pieces of gear were a Heavy Assault Launcher, an Ordinance Launcher, and some support gear. Weapons are your bog standard guns, drawn from the archtypes that you’d expect from any game featuring firearms. Components, however, are where things get really interesting.

As with a lot of Anthem-related things, Warframe is a good comparison

To really understand components, think mods in Warframe. Items with stats on them that, if slotted correctly, offer synergy with your abilities and really allow you to define a playstyle – examples include damage boosts, faster cooldowns, more damage, larger item pickup radius, and the ability to hover in the air for longer.

Multiple components can be slotted into a Javelin, with each one improving one or more of the suit’s abilities, allowing for more nuanced customization than just the perks on the weapons. And on top of the randomly-rolled perks that come with each piece of loot in the game, higher item rarities come with unique perks, similar to Diablo’s legendaries.

Item rarity and the loot chase

There are a total of six item rarities in the game (Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, Masterwork, and Legendary). A single item can have up to four perks – called Inscriptions in Anthem – depending on item rarity, and Inscriptions start showing up from Uncommon items onwards.

Masterwork and Legendary items will have a perk unique to that item, in addition to the Inscriptions that are on them. So with one fixed perk there, and up to four random Inscriptions, different versions of the same item could be viable in a collection of different playstyles.

And this seems to the heart of Anthem’s two-fold loot chase – first to get an item that you want, and second to get a version of the item that fits neatly into a build you’re working on. And although crafting exists in the game – I’ve no idea to what extent since that hasn’t been demonstrated yet – the bulk of your items will come from going out into the world and killing all of the things.

So, basically, all of the looting goodness of Diablo but with the gorgeous, shooty, explodey, combo-filled world of Anthem.

This is all good stuff

In any looter shooter, the item grind is the meat of the experience and it seems like Bioware’s thinking correctly about making rewards genuinely exciting and meaningful. I certainly wasn’t expecting this much depth on the customization front but after the gear and progression livestream, I’m actually eager to play the thing. If nothing else, it looks like it’s aiming to improve on all of the fronts in which Destiny has failed so spectacularly for the last four years – and I, for one, really hope Bioware delivers on all of the interesting things that they’ve shown.

Much like Mass Effect Andromeda, everything we’ve been shown is exciting, but it remains to be seen whether or not the final product delivers on the hype machine that’s slowly chugging to life.

Trevor Coelho
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