Borderlands Part 15: Loot over Time

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 2, 2017

Filed under: Borderlands 52 comments

There’s an unspoken agreement here between the game designer and the player that major battles need to end with loot. This is a problem in the battle for Angel, since there’s no time for looting after the battle and doing so would be tonally wrong. We can’t very well have the player gleefully popping open chests around the corpses of Roland and Angel or scarfing up loot off the ground while Handsome Jack enacts his ambush.

One of the advantages of comedy adventure is that when the story gets stuck the writer can switch to comedy. That’s what they do here.

Lilith teleports the player away. You appear in an unknown room in an unknown location, surrounded by red chests. After looting them all (because why wouldn’t you?) you find the door and discover that Lilith was indeed able to send you to Sanctuary like she intended. You landed in the back room of Marcus’ shop, which you just inadvertently robbed. It’s a funny moment that helps transition from the previous drama back to the standard shoot & loot gameplay.

It’s also a disappointing reward, because the chests in this game are full of garbage.

You May Already Be a Winner. (But Probably Not.)

Here is the big payoff for the Angel fight. A bunch of worthless junk.
Here is the big payoff for the Angel fight. A bunch of worthless junk.

I haven’t deliberately clocked the chances of getting worthwhile loot, and I don’t think anyone has done any original research on this subject. The wiki doesn’t have anything concrete on loot probabilitiesExcept for the loot chests in the Dragon Keep DLC, because the workings of those are exposed to the player via 20 sided dice.. It says that red chests pay out “better” than grey ones, but you can intuit that yourself just from opening a few. What we don’t know is how much better.

I know trying to figure out the payout rates on games of chance is incredibly susceptible to confirmation bias. It’s one of the reasons that slot machines and lotteries do so well. Once the odds of payout get to be very small it becomes really hard to track them accurately without engaging in literal bookkeeping. It doesn’t take you long to differentiate between a 10% chance of winning versus a 20% chance, but telling the difference between 0.01% and 0.001% is difficult without investing a huge amount of time.

But allowing for my possibly skewed impression, I will say that after 600+ hours of play I’m pretty confident that chests in Borderlands 2 are the worst way of obtaining “loot”.

Sure, opening a chest will have a better outcome than shooting a single bandit. But when you factor in the time it takes to reach a red chest and the relative efficiency of other methods, going out of your way for a red chest doesn’t seem like a great use of time.

Note that when I say “loot” I’m specifically talking about rare and useful items. For the purposes of this discussion, trash weapons to haul to the vendor for money is not “loot”. Loot is items of blue quality or better. (Eridium also counts in my book.) Whites, greens, ammunition, and cash are all useful, but they’re also incredibly common. You can do nearly anything and get lots of this stuff. What we’re looking for is stuff that might tangibly improve your loadout.

It’s easy to get thrown off by probability. Yes, red chests have way better payouts than bandit faces, but you spend way more time shootin’ faces than opening red chests. So rather than think of this in terms of probability, let’s think of this in terms of “Loot over Time”. As in: Will activity X yield better LoT than activity Y?

Of course, this is hard to measure, because you can’t actually spend all your time opening chests. They’re an opportunity that comes along every hour or so. I admit this is all very nebulous and probably not very persuasive. If nothing else, see this is a chance for us to compare experiences on the game and see if our individually biased observations line up.

Here is how I rate the means of obtaining worthwhile loot in Borderlands 2, from best to worst:

Boss Fights

This fight against the BNK3R yielded 2 purple items, two blue items, and five bars of eridium. That's more rare stuff than every single chest I've opened so far in this playthrough.
This fight against the BNK3R yielded 2 purple items, two blue items, and five bars of eridium. That's more rare stuff than every single chest I've opened so far in this playthrough.

This one is a bit tricky because not all boss fights are created equal. The first couple of boss fights aren’t anything really special. Boom Bewm always drops a grenade mod and Captain Flynt always drops the same blue pistol. But this is still early in the game and those fights have different goals than the later fights. Bloodwing doesn’t drop anything, and instead that quest pays out with a handful of chests. Same goes for when you meet “The Firehawk”, the battle for Angel, and the warden bot that holds Roland prisoner. Chests are usually full of trash, so these quests basically pay out in a really inconvenient form of money. And that’s assuming you’ve got enough inventory space to pick up your prize. If your pockets are full at the end of a long murder maze, then these boss fights effectively pay nothing!

But there are a few bosses in the game that shower you in loot, and these are the ones I’m interested in. Specifically: BNK3R, Saturn, The Warrior. These fights always drop real loot. Their payout goes down over time, but I’ve never been able to figure out if this is because they’re designed to give diminishing payouts or if they pay less as you gain levels relative to the boss.

In any case, on your first encounter you can feel very confident you’ll get, at bare minimum, a blue item. Purple is pretty likely, and legendary orange isn’t uncommon. If you’re looking for rare drops, then fighting these guys is a great way to go about it. For the cost of a five minute fight you can get a handful of loot that’s statistically far better than the output of two dozen red chests.

Loot Midgets

During the right quest, this room often contains several loot midgets.
During the right quest, this room often contains several loot midgets.

This one needs a qualifying asterisk that it’s only good under certain circumstances. Loot midgets are a rare enemy type and feel more like a joke or an Easter egg than anything else. They only pop out of certain containers at certain times, but when you do find one you have a reasonably good chance of getting exotic or even legendary loot.

The catch here is that randomly looking for loot midgets is not a good way to go about farming them. However, the playerbase has figured out that if you open a particular set of boxes during a particular missionDoctor’s Orders, in the same complex where you fight Bloodwing., then you have an excellent chance of finding loot midgets. As long as you make sure to never complete that quest, and if you’ve got some DLCCreature Slaughter Dome, which was a pre-order bonus that later became available as paid DLC. Having this area available means you can enter and exit the arena, which gives you a save point halfway through the complex, just a few rooms away from where the loot midgets spawn. that gives you a spawn point near the boxes in question, then farming loot midgets can make for pretty good LoT.

Slot Machines

I think these would be more interesting if they took out spins that awarded trash loot. A dud spin is preferable to having to pick up and sell garbage.
I think these would be more interesting if they took out spins that awarded trash loot. A dud spin is preferable to having to pick up and sell garbage.

Money is largely useless in Borderlands 2. Maybe once in a very long while there will be an exotic item for sale in a vending machine, and maybe those items will very occasionally be useful to your particular character class, level, and build. I suppose it’s worth keeping around a handful of money on hand just in case an opportunity like that comes along.

But by the mid game you’ll be swimming in useless money, and the only thing to spend it on is the slot machines. This is a shame, because the slot machines are kinda boring to play. Okay, it’s amusing the first time you get a bad spin and the machines surprise you with a live grenade, but that excitement is long gone by grenade #3, much less grenade #300.

Still, just five or ten minutes of play should net you a nice pile of potentially useful blue items. However, the machines only give out guns and eridium. Since you can’t buy eridium with money directly, this can be a roundabout way of turning excess cash into those delicious bars of eridium. It’s not fast, but it’s something I do when I’m on the phoneSorry mom. or listening to a podcast.

But if you’re looking for shields, class mods, artifacts, or grenade mods, then slot machines are not for you. If you’re hoping for purple or orange items, then you’ll have much better luck fighting bosses.

Be warned that it can take longer than expected to get rid of unwanted cash. I’ve played a lot of the slots at various levels and this basic rule seems to hold: Play the slots until you’re totally broke. Then gather up all of the trash items the machines have spit out and schlep them to the vendor. When you’re done selling it all, you’ll have about half your money back. So if you start with $10k and play until you’re broke, once you’ve sold it all you’ll have $5k, and so on.

This means that you’ll likely under-estimate just how long you’re going to need to play the game. You’ll pull the handle and see that a spin costs you about $500. “Oh great”, you think, “This will just take 20 spins to get rid of this $10k. No a big deal.” But it’s more like 20+10+5+2+1=38 spins.

The other thing to note is that the slot machines are keyed to story progress, not your level. Occasionally the cost of the machine goes up, and it will begin paying out slightly higher-level items. I’m reasonably sure this happens when the population of Sanctuary changes, such as when one of the original vault hunters arrives or departs their headquarters. When the characters change, it seems to update the slot machines as well.

Shootin’ Dudes

C'mon, drop something good you cheap bastard. Make your inevitable death MEAN something!
C'mon, drop something good you cheap bastard. Make your inevitable death MEAN something!

Not really a very good way of making loot. Occasionally a guy will drop some trash loot for you to pick up and sell. Very occasionally that loot might be slightly worthwhile. Like, maybe you’ll find a blue. Still, if you’re looking for gear then your goal should be to shove past these idiots to reach the next boss, where you can be almost guaranteed something good.


You get NOTHING. Good DAY sir!
You get NOTHING. Good DAY sir!

The chests in Borderlands 2 are overwhelmingly filled with trash. Finding good things in them is so rare that after hundreds of hours I’ve come to dread the sight of red chests. It means I’m about to have my pockets filled with stupid white and green items to sell. Sometimes you’ll find a blue, but if you want something blue then you’re better off taking all that trash, selling it, and spending your money on the slots. (Assuming you’ve got the patience for that.)

The contents of a red chest seem to be roughly equal to an encounter with a cluster of bandit huts: You’ll get 2-4 items of common or trash quality, some ammo, and if you’re extraordinarily lucky, maybe some eridium. Generally red chests require you to hop over some boxes so you can follow some power lines to throw a switch so you can bypass a forcefield and reach a chest. After going to that trouble it’s pretty disappointing to find a box of trash. Again, if you want good loot then ignore the red box and just push on to the next boss fight.

The most frustrating chest in the game is this one:

Oh boy! I can't WAIT to open Roland's magic mystery box and sell the contents for useless money!
Oh boy! I can't WAIT to open Roland's magic mystery box and sell the contents for useless money!

It’s right inside Roland’s base, behind a locked gate. You might reasonably assume this is a really well-hidden secret and waste a bunch of time jumping around on the roof and hunting for hidden buttons to open it. Don’t do this. The game is being a jerk. This isn’t a secret.

You need to wait until the point in the game where Roland dies. After you do the quest to tell all his friends that he’s dead, the gate is unlocked for you and you’re finally able to loot Roland’s special chest. When you do, you discover that the super-secret stash that’s been tantalizing you for hours is just a bunch of vendor trash. Gosh, thanks Roland. You cheap, dead bastard.

I’ve played all the classes, some of them multiple times and sometimes with friends. In the ten or so times I’ve opened this chest, I’ve never found anything interesting inside of it. It’s a completely ordinary chest in terms of loot, which is baffling since this particular chest can only be looted once. The other chests reset when you restart the game, but Roland’s chest remains barren. If there was anywhere the developers could have felt safe putting some really good gear, it seems like Roland’s one-use-only chest would be it.

I understand the team didn’t want to repeat the problems of Borderlands 1, where players could effortlessly farm chests. But I don’t think filling 49 out of 50 red chests with garbage was the answer. I’d rather all chests be single-use like Roland’s, but they ought to have far better odds of rewarding good stuff.

Right beside Roland's chest is this washing machine, which randomly had an eridium bar in it. Which means this washing machine is going to have better and more interesting loot than Roland's Box Of Disappointment.
Right beside Roland's chest is this washing machine, which randomly had an eridium bar in it. Which means this washing machine is going to have better and more interesting loot than Roland's Box Of Disappointment.

The loot chests in this game are a skinner box where the red button never delivers a reward. After a while, you lose interest in the button. As it stands, the excitement and allure of loot chests is just gone for me. When I see a room full of chests I feel resignation, not enthusiasm.

I don’t think that’s how things should work in a game with such a huge focus on looting.



[1] Except for the loot chests in the Dragon Keep DLC, because the workings of those are exposed to the player via 20 sided dice.

[2] Doctor’s Orders, in the same complex where you fight Bloodwing.

[3] Creature Slaughter Dome, which was a pre-order bonus that later became available as paid DLC. Having this area available means you can enter and exit the arena, which gives you a save point halfway through the complex, just a few rooms away from where the loot midgets spawn.

[4] Sorry mom.

From The Archives:

52 thoughts on “Borderlands Part 15: Loot over Time

  1. DanMan says:

    I put over 200 hours into Borderlands 2. The only way I was able to get that much time out of it was by cheating. I’m not ashamed of cheating in a single player (sometimes coop) game that has this much grind to it. The only thing I did to cheat was installed a loot chance modifier.

    I don’t know exactly how the system works, but the cheat system let you put in numbers and the higher the number, the greater your chance of finding that level. White was something like 200 (ammo also counts as white, so if you’re cheating, DO NOT put this to 0). Orange was something like .2.

    Once I had beat the game once and was going through New Game +, I literally just turned off greens and bumped the blue/purple/orange up just a little bit. It really felt like they took their loot chance numbers from MMO style games, but I really didn’t feel like it fit with the kind of game they actually built.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      I actually wouldn’t mind doing that…what’s the modifier called?

      1. DanMan says:

        I believe the app we used was called Cheat Engine

    2. Phil says:

      There was a ‘trainer’ that a friend (also named Dan) and I used to get the slot machines to always spit out legendaries, I think. It also let you upgrade weapons you had to your current level. We abused it quite egregiously later on.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        I’d be interested in an article from Shamus on “cheating” in videogames.

        1. Anitogame says:

          *shrug* Precisely nothing wrong with it unless it’s multiplayer. I wrote a post on this subject ages ago, but don’t have it any more alas. Talked about the origins of cheats and how they’ve developed and turned into garbage like loot boxes now. Originally, all they were was developer codes for testing stuff that were left open to the gamer… if they could find them (in some ways, things haven’t changed much, people still paid even back then, it was just in the form of premium rate phone hot lines instead of DLC/Microtransactions).

    3. Urthman says:

      Does this end up feeling any different from just turning down the difficulty of the game?

      1. DanMan says:

        Yes because the higher level guns do different things. Turning down the difficulty makes you live longer and makes everything else die faster.

        There’s one thing when you have a shotgun that kills a guy in one hit. It’s another thing when you have a shotgun that vomits acid on a guy and explodes when you reload it.

        As far as memory serves, I believe white guns only ever shoot bullets. Green guns can have an element type, but it won’t do any of the “cool” stuff. Blues is where secondary effects come in to play, then purple and orange have very unique abilities

        1. Nick-B says:

          The gun manufacturers themselves mostly determine the type of gun it is. This affects the specialties of the gun more than rarity. In fact, rarity only sets how strong the mods that roll on a gun do. It’s possible to have a white gun that does more damage than a purple one, if the purple rolled really low.

          And elemental effects are just a random bonus. You can have white elemental rifles, and non elemental purples.

          Orange are pre-set unique guns, that have the same mods as another gun with the same name, but the VALUES are random. These can have unique abilities not found elsewhere. They are also infuriatingly obscure, giving a small bit of text rather than informing you what the special ability is. (I do have to admit some lower quality (blue/purple) guns can also be unique like this and have special abilities, but they are usually dropped by specific foes.)

      2. Abnaxis says:

        IF ONLY this game had difficulty settings…

        1. Anitogame says:

          Or even just an option to turn bIsBulletSponge from True to False.

  2. Destrustor says:

    Another good method of loot farming is in Tiny Tina’s DLC;
    Use a high-level, new game+ character to go kill the raid boss of the DLC in the game’s base difficulty. Level 50 or so is generally enough. The boss area requires you to pay 20 eridium to enter, but the boss fight usually pays out 60-80 bars, and you can save and quit inside to reset the fight without having to pay the entrance fee again.
    You end up making hundreds of bars of eridium in less than an hour, along with an immense amount of chests to loot. I usually only bother picking up blue and rarer loot to sell, because the main goal is the eridium.
    With an endless supply of eridium , you can then go back to your current difficulty, go to flamerock refuge, and pump all that eridium into Tina’s slot machines, which always seem to pay out in better gear than the sanctuary ones. They can give out shields and grenades as well, as well as generally better random gun effects, and one of their worst “good” rolls is an avalanche of money (several hundred thousand per jackpot, far more than any other source in the game.)
    You then have more money than you can ever even care to try wasting in the sanctuary slots, and can generally be assured to have better-than-average gear than what you’d get anywhere else.

  3. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    Then there’s the golden chest in Sanctuary, opened with golden keys that Gearbox would give codes for rather frequently, that always contained purple gear. After opening it a few times, you were pretty much set for hours.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Indeed. I wonder why Shamus hasn’t mentioned that. Those keys are widely available in the wiki.

      1. Anitogame says:

        One of the earliest forms of loot boxes heh. Though hey, at least they were given away for free just for getting involved with various community activities and the like.

        1. Idonteveknow says:

          And you could literally just edit an ini file to add more keys to your game.

  4. TheAngryMongoose says:

    I think the slot machines really come into their own when you consider this is a coop game. Right in the middle of the main town, where you wait for players to connect, load out, buy stuff, sell stuff and pick up the correct quests, there’s a convenient place that lets you feel like you’re making a little progress in the game without abandoning your friends.
    To be fair, I feel there should have been three slot machines.

    We also made a game of trying to time a grenade on a team mate. It gives you an extra reward and means a little skill is involved.

    1. Exasperation says:

      Also, some of the slot machine payouts get better with more players – when you pick up eridium, every player (in the area? I don’t know the exact details) gets the same amount. So if you have 4 players, the slots will pay out 4x the eridium as with one player. This actually also means that the Lootsplosion machines in the Tiny Tina campaign (which cost eridium to play) have a positive expected value with 4 players.

      PS – the normal slots in the Mr. Torgue campaign are much more convenient to farm than the ones in Sanctuary, since they’re positioned in the same room as some vending machines to sell your trash loot at.

  5. Abnaxis says:

    Did you ever level goliaths for loot?

    The idea is, when you head-shot a Goliath it goes berserk. While berserk, it will attack both friend and foe–and when they kill one of their friends, they gradually level up.

    It takes for-freaking-ever, and often the goliath will wind up getting himself killed, making most of the time leveling him a waste, but the rewards are pretty nice if you get yourself a fully leveled one. I think every single time I’ve had the patience to do it I get at least a blue and a bit (at least 2) of eridium, and purples are quite common. Also, I think I remember reading somewhere that killing a leveled up goliath gives roughly double XP versus the XP you would get killing the same goons he levelled with, so there’s that.

    It’s boring as all-hell, though, and a pain in the ass to get the goliath to swap targets (a lot easier with Zer0, but still). I usually reserve goliath-wrangling for the more-powerful-to-begin-with badass goliaths, loot-goon goliaths (leveling him up doesn’t help chest drop rate but he still gives much loot), or one-armed bandits, because their increased power makes them level faster and die less.

    You can do something similar with varkids (indeed, that’s how you fight the most powerful enemy in the game if I understand right) but varkids are a lot more random-chance level-uppers so I never have the patience for it.

    1. Galad says:

      Oh man, one of the most fun memoriea I’ve had was, being in a large melee battle for a while, until I culled it down, and only a dozen or two dozen enemies were left, and a Goliath. I’d end up cheering for the Goliath to beat them up, even sniping down enemies that hurt it a lot. Just for the fun of it, not really for loot.

    2. Nessus says:

      I loved sniping the helmets off goliaths regardless. Far from being a boring way to play, I actually found it saved a lot of tediously grindy combat areas. I’d very frequently come upon areas that were overstuffed with enemies to the point where it looked like it’d be a boring slog to fight through (seriously, BL devs: not everything that isn’t a bottleneck has to be a mini horde mode arena. There are SO MANY other ways to distribute combat/enemies). Spotting a goliath or two was always a joy, because I could snipe their helmet off from a distance, enjoy a show while casually sauntering my way to the “arena”, and by the time I got there the herd would be thinned enough to make the area exciting instead of a quagmire.

  6. shoeboxjeddy says:

    It’s actually good that the vending machines give you trash loot because there’s badass ranks for picking up hundreds of white and green items that might be hard to get otherwise at high levels of play.

  7. Anitogame says:

    “Not really a very good way of making loot.”

    Which is a shame, because in the first game this was a super reliable way of doing it. Largely thanks to enemies who were tearing you up with some amazing gun DROPPING the damn gun when killed, meaning you could get sweet-ass legendaries just by killing regular mooks.

    I despise the changes in 2 to more of an MMO super low drop chance boss farming experience.

  8. Cedric says:

    Shamus’ experience sounds just the opposite of mine. My brother and I had an understanding that we alternated the chance to loot red chests because they almost always had at least one blue or better item, except of course for the worthless Roland chest. For us only the grey chests had as poor of a drop rate as is being described.

    1. Exasperation says:

      Same here; I don’t think I’ve ever gotten any item better than a blue from BNK3R, either.

      1. Anitogame says:

        Not hugely surprising. Most of the orange level/legendary loot drop rates are <1% with maybe a few hovering around 2-3%.

        1. Exasperation says:

          Yeah, but I don’t think I’ve even gotten a purple drop off of them, and I’ve fought BNK3R considerably more than a few times. I’ve had good luck on some other bosses, but never that one.

          1. Anitogame says:

            Mm, don’t remember if I had much in the way of purple from it either actually. I found the boss too tedious to bother farming anyway. It’s probably less of a chore if you’re farming it with some buddies… but then you have the problem of WHO GETS THE GOOD LOOT heh. Doesn’t playing co-op actually boost the drop rates a bit? Or am I just misremembering?

            1. Exasperation says:

              I think it increases drops in some fashion, but I’ve never really done co-op (everyone I know who plays it is on consoles) so I’m not sure of the details.

    2. Hector says:

      The Red Chests have a higher proportion of quality loot, but they also have no filler which helps.

      I think Shamus actually makes two key errors in his analysis here. This isn’t to say that BL2 was perfect, just that I don’t think the system is broken in the way he describes. (Well, Roland’s red chest was pretty pointless but there you go.) Most loot boxes are emphatically not worthless and I’ve found some very, very good items in them. Shamus’s experience might be different because of bad luck, but that’s not the game’s fault. Also, there may be negative confirmation bias at play here, where if you don’t feel you’re getting anything good, then you don’t remember that one great shield upgrade you got, or that your pistol actually came from a chest drop.

      Every location in the game has its own level range, which controls the loot range as well. That means if you’ve already looted to about the best you can expect, then getting more loot won’t necessarily help. At that point, however, you’re best off running through the zones and trying to hit the chests as fast as possible, instead of pointlessly grinding against enemies. Additionally, the grey and red chests provide an extremely useful safety for players who might not be finishing every sidequest and might skip some areas. They can always be assured of getting at least a minimal amount of useful drops from the chests. Obviously, though, if you’re already cleaning out everything then the chests have a lot less potential range to boost you. Boss runs are absolutely the best way to get good stuff, although even then you’re probably *not* going to massively upgrade after a few runs. Boss loot tops out at a certain level as well.

      tl;dr version: If you’re expecting better gear for you from a specific chest, it won’t seem very fun. It’s a chance for loot from that zone’s level range, not a personal upgrade device.

  9. Langis says:

    Path of Exile has the opposite problem – to the point where a loot filter is necessary.

    This is the game when clearing tons of enemies fast while killing a boss drops a dozen items, most of them worthless excluding boss only drops. The game’s meta then turns into “how do you clear maps of enemies as fast as possible and how do you make sure the maps have as dense enemy packs as posssible”. It’s really fun, but then bosses are useless and just feel like a useless long risky fight.

    It’s a fantastic game and you should play it.

    1. Felblood says:

      It must be better than it was when I played it a few years ago.

      It was like, what if Diablo II was a really ugly, freemium mobile game that you could only play on your PC?

      1. evilmrhenry says:

        It actually has gotten better, though it’s still balanced around you getting a few buck’s worth of stash tabs.

  10. modus0 says:

    There was a guy that posted on the Official Borderlands 2 forums about farming BUNK3R for the cosmetic head drops; after a ridiculously high number of boss kills (in the thousands), he’d only gotten something like THREE heads to drop.

    Given that there’s 6 characters, and you can get duplicate head drops (or one for a different class than you’re playing), it seems like the only means of reliably obtaining the rarer cosmetics is to cheat, which seems like very bad game design to me.

    1. Felblood says:

      I don’t think it was intended for any sane person to collect all the cosmetics.

      It was more of an “Oh cool, today’s rando has a cosmetic. You don’t see that every day.”

      Sadly, I don’t think modern gaming culture is really prepared for actual scarcity.

  11. Philadelphus says:

    I don’t really enjoy these kinds of loot systems (to be clear, my only experience with them is with Torchlight 1 & 2*, but it sound pretty similar to Diablo, Borderlands, etc. [but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong]), and I think it has something to do with how the game progresses:

    You start the game with basically all of your equipment slots empty. You kill a few dudes, oh hey cool! They dropped stuff for my empty slots! Great, you just automatically equip the first thing that drops for each of your slots. Then, in the next ten items that drop for that slot you’ll probably find something better because the first thing you got was basically the worst possible. Then in the next few dozen items you pick up (for a single slot) you’ll probably find something better. Then the next hundred items. Then the next thousand

    Something like 5% into the game, and >99% of the stuff you’re picking up is vendor trash, but you still need to check each and every single item you pick up to see if it’s good or not (even if you’re just checking its color to see if it warrants further examination, that still requires having to memorize the colors, recognize a color, and make a mental judgement on it for every single item). At that point I’d rather cut out the middle man of thousands of worthless items that will just be turned into cash entirely and just got liquid currency in the first place and a small pool of actually meaningful choices to compare at a shop rather than an avalanche of no-brainer choices that still have to be made individually on the off-chance you accidentally sell a high-level legendary that you’d actually want while trying to clean out your (all-too-limited) inventory space. If you have drops in your game, I’d rather have a much smaller number but have them be actually worth considering when they happen rather than thousands of “just exist to be sold” drops that I then have to deal with.

    *which for the record I enjoyed a lot and have scores of hours in, I’m just not a big fan of the loot system.

    1. Asdasd says:

      Yeah, I also find large parts of the minute to minute loot-centric ARPG experience to be tedious busywork. It doesn’t help that the rise of pad-centric game design brought with it successively more fiddly menus.

      Compare this to something like Dark Souls. All weapons have different properties, not only in terms of damage and attack range but even the kinds of swings and lunges that are mapped to the attack buttons. This makes trying out a new drop or purchase more time consuming, especially when having to do the mental arithmetic of how a new weapons’s stats would compare were you to invest as much crafting into it as whatever you currently have equipped.

      On the other hand, the number of unique weapons that might drop is in the tens, not the tens of thousands, so the process of active loot comparison is less frequent and more meaningful, and every new weapon acquired is a cause for excitement.

      (Unfortunately the game has its own problem in that you have no choice but to loot everything from a corpse unseen, which can lead to unwanted inventory clutter.)

      I persevered with Borderlands 2 because of the praise that the writing got, but while I can see how a lot of people would love it, I didn’t like the way the tone careened between wacky, violent cartoon excess and ‘okay but now an allied NPC died so it’s time to feel super sombre and poignant’, with nothing more than a few winks to camera to justify the switch.

      1. evilmrhenry says:

        Even for ARPG games, Borderlands is a bit terrible with the loot system.

        1) You technically need to check every gun, especially in the new game+ mode. That white weapon you picked up could actually be better than the legendary you’re using due to the level scaling. (OK, that’s unlikely, but green and blue weapons are quite similar, and there’s a lot of green weapons.)
        2) It’s not actually obvious if a gun is better than the one you’re using or not without actually firing it a few times. I’ve had to trek down to Marcus’ shop a few time with a backpack full of guns just to sort through my loot. A gun isn’t just a bunch of stats, but has a bit of a “feel” to it as well.

        1. Asdasd says:

          Yes, I’d forgotten that guns, like Dark Souls’ weapons, have a few inherent properties beyond their stated stat values. Acquiring something that on paper is better but just doesn’t feel like an upgrade in your hands is almost the opposite of a reward.

          As for the colour inconsistencies, I believe there’s a relevant Penny Arcade for that. (Try not to think about how this was ten years ago.)

      2. Francis-Olivier says:

        I didn't like the way the tone careened between wacky, violent cartoon excess and “˜okay but now an allied NPC died so it's time to feel super sombre and poignant', with nothing more than a few winks to camera to justify the switch.

        I really isn’t helped by the fact that you are the one doing the majority of the killing but since you are usually justified the game can’t be allowed to reflect on that.

  12. Hal says:

    This is one of the reasons I think Skyrim gets it right in terms of loot. Yes, there’s randomly generated treasure, but you will get gear superior in every way by crafting it yourself, or by getting quest rewards. There’s no grinding (well, maybe to gather crafting materials), no hoping for rare treasure to appear. I find that far more satisfying.

    1. Anitogame says:

      Total opposite here. I hate the boring loot in Skyrim, it makes delving into dungeons supremely tedious because I always know the chest at the end will having nothing worthwhile in it. And that just makes me ask ‘why am I even here?’. New Vegas got it right by having powerful and interesting unique weapons and gear in hard to reach places, or as rewards for quests. Not just a boring loot table of vendor trash.

      1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

        Completely agree, the only reason I went into dungeons in Skyrim was to find new words of power or for quests. The chests were looted automatically, because I loot everything, but that’s it. They could have been those burial urns for all I cared about them (in fact they were worse than the urns, because those usually had gems or jewellery in them).

        1. Anitogame says:

          Yep. Shamus did something similar in Fallout 4, making his goal in each dungeon to simply find the magazine for that area in order to actually give some sort of goal/meaning to even being there.

          edit: Also, while I have many issues with Fallout 4, at least you could get some fun story/lore stuff from terminals in most locations. Skyrim has its books, but honestly I don’t find those at all interesting, so that’s just one less thing to be engaged with.

  13. IanTheM1 says:

    Due to BL2’s implementation it gets it worse (each rarity tier confers the equivalent of +1 level in terms of damage), but loot games in general have a strange tension where you absolutely want the really amazing legendary drops but at the same time possessing those drops invalidates pretty much all lesser loot. (Big surprise the end-game of basically every loot game ever turns into an endless grind for the very best stuff.)

    And the solution for how to pull those game-warping drops out of your inventory is by having them be passively outscaled by new loot of any color, which isn’t very satisfying.

    I’m not sure what the solution could be, or more precisely what a possible solution is that wouldn’t piss off the hardcore crowd. A smaller gap between “standard” loot and legendary gear’s crazy effects might help, but at the risk of making fancier loot less special.

    Bare minimum, if the only reason you have piles of useless drops is to keep the Skinner box running, then your game sucks and is gross. Doubly so if you acknowledge the problem…by adding a function to automatically filter out worthless loot.

    1. Ciennas says:

      Destiny has a pretty elegant solution: like an old purple tier gun? sacrifice a more powerful gun to close the gap.


      Of course, Destiny effectively declares the white and green drops worthless, and the blue items are effectively power up fodder.

      1. Anitogame says:

        As far as solutions go, yeah, that’s actually not bad. And is something that should’ve existed in Fallout 4. It’s incredibly annoying to be a level 50+ character still wearing garbage low level leather armour pieces simply because they had legendary effects you liked but the pieces themselves couldn’t be upgraded.

        1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          There are mods to take care of that (like one that allows you to transfer the legendary mod from weapons and armour to others so you can avoid the example you gave, or if you’re feeling a bit more cheaty, make the legendary mods yourself).

  14. poiumty says:

    I think the loot chests were the biggest thing that drove me off from this game. In BL1 not only could you farm loot chests, you could farm vendors too since they sometimes sold purples and even oranges.

    So I went with the same mindset into BL2 and found nothing but heaps upon heaps upon heaps of disappointment and displeasure as most chests I opened ended up being duds, and most vendors I visited had greens as their premier item.

    BL1 had almost perfect loot. Or if not that, then really satisfying loot mechanics. BL2 was stingy as hell and annoying as hell too. Man, screw that game.

  15. Rariow says:

    I find the relationship I’m seeing to the different loot colours fascinating. Unanimous consensus seems to be Purple and Orange is basically the only loot worth giving the time of day to. I’ve admittedly not even finished a playthrough yet (got up to Opportunity and stopped), but I’m still excited to see blues, and check most greens I see. I’ve got an Orange I’m using, but I think it’s the only non-scripted one I have. Is this a new game +/late game mentality I’m seeing, or am I doing it wrong?

  16. KarmikCykle says:

    I’m actually replaying Borderlands 2 right now after losing all my game progress to a catastrophic data corruption irrevocably breaking my entire previous Windows install, and it always seems like my inventory is already full from random enemy drops by the time I encounter any chests.

  17. J F says:

    The loot factor in BL2 was one of the reasons I stopped playing- combat is only as fun as the weapons and abilities you have and when you’re sometimes going several levels between finding useful upgrades for what you have combat becomes something of a slog after awhile, especially with most areas being mini-arenas. I feel what hurt BL2 in loot was that items had a greater variety to their stats compared to BL (aside from there no longer being levels of elemental damage) so it was easier to end up with blues, purples, and oranges that would be great except for having a rubbish accuracy, magazine size, or reload making it only usable in situational times. Shields were even worse if you didn’t want to spend over half of each fight behind cover. Being higher level than the mob doesn’t really help your survival if you’re using equipment that is below their level- also in actual arena fights being even 10 levels higher than the mobs doesn’t guarantee success.

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