Bad Habits of Looter Shooter Design

I see a lot of “common” complaints about Anthem and there is a lot of legitimacy to many of them – the challenge is defining how “bad” they actually are – which is entirely subjective by the user.

There is, however, some common themes I have noticed – and have even complained about them myself about in the loot based games. These three common ones aren’t anything new. These are the same complaints I have had while playing Looter Shooters of the past decade or so. Give or take.

Thicc bois unmite! (I am not the purple one)

Gameplay is repetitive

It’s a staple of the genre. Destiny (and Destiny 2) have you going to the exact same spots performing the exact same actions on the exact same planets/areas you have been to time and time again. The Division was the same city, and the season didn’t change in three years. Anthem has a lush, gorgeous jungle – but not much else. All of these limited backdrops in all of these games are just to kill…

The exact same enemy types

Over, and over, and over. Sure, they get creative sometimes and make small changes to the mob types but overall there are just a handful of enemy prototypes for each enemy “faction” in different skins. (The Fallen in Destiny is just a different recolour of the same enemies). Heck, Destiny 2 didn’t add anything new at all from Destiny 1 that way. And as you kill your 10,000th Corpus Crewman in Warframe you start to realize this is what you get to face for as long as you play. It all feels the same – familiar. And I wonder if that is part of the mindset to…

Get the same, but different, loot

It’s just guns, gears and mods with different attributes. Destiny did a great job here with their art creation (which is separate in Anthem, style vs substance – will see how that difference plays out) but in the end there is a complete list of what is available in look and feel – and you grind out things to try and get a better version of it.

It isn’t a terribly complex formula but looking at the limitations the ones I have played extensively (Division 1, Warframe, Destiny 1 & 2, and now Anthem) the devs either realize there is no need to be exceptional in any of these areas or there are hard limits preventing them from doing anything else. Or they know that people care less about the backdrop of things while looting and shooting as long as the process of shooting feels good.

When people complain that Anthem doesn’t do the above things well, they need to look and see that neither does Warframe. Or Destiny. or The Division. They are common design elements in all of them. This doesn’t excuse Anthem from having these same problems but doesn’t make them the poster child for them either. It’s part of the genre and expectation now – rightly or wrongly.

7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. These issues were the same in another series, Borderlands, but they did improve in one area, the guns. They had a randomization engine that surprised even the devs at times.

  2. OOOOH, my kind of post. (Tomorrow I have an inscription post for Anthem)

    Repetitive Gameplay – Did you play Dragon Age 2? The game took place in the same city, with the same setting, the same enemies, the same…This is Anthem today. None of it is randomly generated, so once you see it at level 1, it will be the same at hour 200. Warframe is a super example – it has 21 mission types. Anthem has 3 (kill, defend, find). Content updates will certainly address this, but the roadmap is more of these 3 types.

    Same Enemy Types – Righto. Enemy types matters less if you factor in mission types. I’ve see the same Scar camp a dozen times now, and know exactly where everything will spawn. Urgoth are coming though! Warframe’s reputation links to the enemies would be a neat addition, e.g. more damage vs Scars.

    Same Loot – The art style for javelins is great. Tons of options. Has next to nothing to do with gameplay (e.g. I can’t “farm” a new helmet). There’s minimal difference in terms of feel/fun when it comes to guns, and components are static stat sticks. Let me rephrase this. Once you reach MW level, you are searching for inscriptions. And inscriptions, in their current state, are not fun. (Side note, it would be nice to see what the customization options look like on my Javelin before buying, rather than looking at an artist’s rendering)

    I agree with you that these are genre-defining issues, further that each game takes a different approach to address. Mechanically, it would seem Anthem is going for the D3 loot model. Both Destiny and Division allow players to improve existing gear. Warframe uses upgrade slots to do the something similar. D3 is just pure RNG. All those games took months to figure it out (2 years in the case of D3).

    1. Pretty much all of this for me too.

      The part I would add that while sure, repetitive mechanics is indeed a genre defining feature, but I feel where Anthem falls over this regard is in how little effort it makes in the window dressing around them.

      It sounds like a small thing, but I think it makes a huge difference. The Division isn’t really any more mechanically diverse than Anthem (it might even be less), but they manage to not make it feel that way unless you really start looking closely with an intent to break it down.

    2. 20 mission types for Warframe is generous. All of the Axis-Frame ones were typically clunky and un-fun, and many of them are just derivatives of themselves. (Stand and defend an item vs move an item to a defence point and stand and defend an item) are largely the same. I put 100 hours into Warframe – lovingly(!) So to count all of Anthem missions you would have to add in go and repair Sentinels and defend with them as a separate type of mission to straight defend, as well as all of the different Shaper relics being a different mission type. You could argue there are double digit options that way, but much like Warframe, they still typically feel the same. Because you are doing the same thing, more or less, fighting things in a class specific way – regardless of the window dressing.

      Still, I agree, not enough. And I’m sure they will add more.

  3. Pretty good summation of why I never really get into these games. I’m not all that interested in the basic gameplay loop so even if it’s executed superbly, with precious little else on offer I’m going to lose interest very fast. Happened with both Firefall and Warframe, both of which I enjoyed for a short while then quickly lost interest in – although Firefall did have more going for it than Warframe in the earier versions, I thought.

    1. It’s the same old MMO treadmill though for the loot, which I do like – although I know you are more story oriented (whcih Anthem does better than both Destiny and Warframe. I think the Division story may have been stronger, though.)

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