I couldn’t put my finger on what I didn’t like about Anthem until I started playing The Division 2 beta. As yet another loot shooter, Anthem should have been right up my alley. And it’s not just the genre.
Anthem has flying robots, science fiction and a pretty interesting story to boot.
But, it’s just not satisfying to play.
The Division 2 on the other hand, now that’s a game that’s so satisfying, when you’re finished you need a cigarette. It’s all about the two loops; gameplay and loot. As a loot shooter, let’s start with the loot loop as it’s as important, if not more so than the gameplay one.
In The Division 2, loot comes in multiple forms, but most importantly; guns and armour. While you collect all sorts of junk, materials and collectibles, guns and armour are the real prizes. And they come thick and fast.
The Division 2 – Ultimate Loot Shooter?
Whether you’re looting the corpse of an enemy or one of the many, many loot containers in the ruins of Washington D.C., you’re never far from your next loot drop. And like Destiny, The Division 2 has a number of weapon and armour slots to make hunting for loot even more important and addictive.
You may have equipped an amazing primary weapon, but you’ll still be hunting for a secondary and a pistol. The same goes for your armour, whether it’s gloves, backpack, kneepads, holster and so on. With multiple categories of loot and a frequency of drops that occurs at least every fight, the constant feedback of improving damage output and armour stats spurs you on to that next drop. It’s a sweet hit of dopamine and after the first drop, you’re forever chasing the dragon.
When it comes to Anthem, the loot loop is sadly…lacking.
The way Anthem has been designed is anathema for the loot loop. Whatever you collect remains a mystery until you’ve finished your mission which means it’s impossible to know how you’re stats will improve or even, to improve them during your mission. Even when you’ve finished your mission, it’s impossible to know if the loot you’ve collected has been worth your efforts until you enter the forge.
It goes against the whole premise of collecting loot. Think about Diablo. Any loot you collect as you play — and there’s a lot of it — can be equipped immediately with an instant change to your stats quantifiable and viewable. The same goes for Borderlands, Destiny and yes, The Division 2. But not Anthem.
In Anthem, you’re forced to wait and see what loot you collected and it kills the addictivity and the experience.
Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment are clever enough to know that players need instant feedback and they need to see constant improvement; even if only incrementally. That’s part of why The Division 2 succeeds. Even for players like me, who aren’t too thrilled with real-world, political, Unites States “hoo-ra” nonsense.
I never played much of The Division because I didn’t connect with the story, nor the loot. It’s much easier to feel a connection to Destiny’s absurdly named weapons and armour than it is to The Divisions real-life weapons with their boring real-life name. And the same can be said about The Division’s plot. However, with The Division 2, I immediately felt more entertained and interested. Could it be due to Destiny 2’s ongoing mediocrity or Anthem’s destruction of the loot loop?
Loop, Loop eh Doop
Could it be that The Division 2’s rock-solid gameplay coupled with the loot loop was what drew me in? It’s a definite possibility. Destiny and Destiny 2 both managed to draw enormous player numbers in-spite of the poor story elements and loot loop because of the quality of the shooting. Destiny certainly improved in time and the loot loop was tightened, but as Destiny 2 wears on, I find myself less inclined to play.
There are simply too many roadblocks to playing, collecting loot and enjoying the gameplay in Destiny and especially, in Anthem. But in The Division2nearly all of these roadblocks have been removed; aside from those built in the crumbling remains of D.C., that is. And that’s where we come to the gameplay loop.
In The Division 2 the gameplay loop been made incredibly tight, seamless and flowing. Players aren’t forced to endure loading screens, myriad menus, tedious hubs or any other pointless window dressing that these games-as-services tend to foist upon the player.
From the moment you drop into The Division 2’s freeplay open-world, the game is open to you. You can go anywhere (provided your level allows you to survive) and engage in any activity or mission and you’ll be able to simply continue on. When you complete a mission you won’t be forced back to the hub to select another and load again. Instead, you stay where you are and continue to play, able to collect loot, kill baddies and further the story.
This is exactly what players want and need. The fewer interruptions to the gameplay loop, the fewer interruptions to the loot loop and the more we want to play, collect and increase our levels. The Division 2 gives you that opportunity and makes all loot shooters that came before it — especially Anthem — seem outdated by comparison.
That’s to say nothing of the satisfying shooting and quality of the actual gameplay. Cover shooters have been done to death, but none are so stylish as The Division 2. Taking cover and moving from one to another is intuitive, as is fighting, using abilities and perks and exploration. Really, The Division 2 is a masterclass in game and open-world design. And that’s my experience from just playing the beta.
Once it releases in full, I’m almost certain that it’ll be the only loot shooter anyway should be playing.
The Division 2 beta was played on PS4 using a code provided by Ubisoft.