Unique Item Design

Hello Travelers of Eterra! My name is Mitchell and I’m the lead on unique item design. I’ve also designed the crafting system and generally worked on a bit of everything in our code. One of my favorite parts of RPGs (ARPGs in particular) is figuring out how unique items can interact with other systems, so creating unique items that have interesting interactions with the systems of Last Epoch is something I’ve really focused on.

The goal of unique items is to give players more interesting choices when gearing their characters. With magic items, it is most optimal to focus on the most important stats for your character. Uniques either give an abundance of these stats, making them something to hunt for or give an interesting tradeoff by forcing the choice between mechanical power and raw stats.

There are two main categories of unique items in our design philosophy, power uniques, and mechanic-changing uniques. Power uniques are the simplest to explain, and often the simplest to design. Power uniques are about providing more power, mind-blowing right? This can range from an early leveling unique like Taste of Blood to the powerful “chase” uniques that have not yet been released. The purpose of these uniques is simple; they can be swapped in for a similar magic item, probably be an upgrade, and add a bit of flavor.

The mechanic-changing uniques are where the real fun is at, both for gameplay and design. Mechanic-changing uniques are all about changing the way the game is played. Some affect moment-to-moment gameplay like Beast King and Humming Bee, while others change how you build your characters like Urzil’s Pride and Mourningfrost. The purpose of these uniques is to change how you think about the game, in the ideal case giving a lot of power if you build your character correctly to utilize it, along with a significant tradeoff.

Mourningfrost is a good example of this idea. It increases the amount of movement speed gained from each point of agility from 3% to 5% and adds 5 points of cold damage to attacks and spells. These significant bonuses come with the two downsides; agility no longer grants any additional attack or cast speed, and you have 10% less maximum life. Mourningfrost is best utilized by builds that stack a large amount of agility, but completely change how a high-agility character plays.

What unique items in the demo have you found most interesting?


Love a lot of the points you make there, Sarno. Homogenization is a word that I probably use too much when talking to the team and they’re surely sick of hearing it - but I want you to know first hand that we are very much against homogenization in all regards - the skill trees, passive system, character classes, choice for number of active skills, class-specific gear, are all reflective of our efforts to ensure that we don’t end up with players all looking and feeling the same.

As for items, I think we can comfortably keep some distance from a very large amount of the player base only gravitating towards a certain item for a slot via the available power level of our magic items. There will undoubtedly be very powerful unique items but we want a very well rolled six affix magic item, which can roll with modifiers for particular skills and other more interesting stats than your traditional “more health”, “more crit”, "more agility"to ~80% of the time be a better choice.

I know Mitch didn’t cover set items in this write-up but that will also factor into this equation and flirts with providing issues in balance and homogenization even more than unique items. We want sets to be very powerful when all pieces are collected which will shape builds and likely metas during certain seasons of our game’s future but we can’t allow them to be drastically more powerful than 6-affix magic items rolled well supporting your build - if at all.

There will be a lot of interesting gear in Last Epoch - it is the heart and soul of hack and slash ARPGs and our team is very well aware of the challenges that come with a good loot system. We appreciate you guys providing your feedback and take all of it into account. Please keep it coming!

Interesting read and discussion! I’m all for unique items being truly uniques, providing with mechanics and skills you cannot have in other ways,( and maybe with synergies with other uniques on top) that come with drawbacks that force you to make a choice, a meaningful one! The mechanic-changing uniques, as you call them.

Power uniques should be limited to levelling only - or at least mostly - imho.

And I like the set items too; I’d make them class restricted, though.

I agree with the sentiment already presented. Uniques should suit their namesake: Through differentiation because of unique mechanics that exist only on that item, or activation of some existing mechanic that would not normally be an option (i.e. cross class skills/abilities/bonuses). Stat sticks are boring as heck, as demonstrated so well by D3: Gee whiz. I’m a magic wielding necromancer, but this 2H Claymore that has +INT and +VIT is better than the Crossbow (kek) I’m currently using, so I’ll equip that instead! /s

The elation from finding an item akin to hitting the ‘Jackpot’ on the virtual slot machine (item table) is directly commensurate to how build defining/changing the item can be. While I definitely see value in having unique items accessible throughout a character’s progression (i.e. twink uniques/levelling uniques should exist), I think that’s where D3 got it right and PoE got it wrong.

D3 scales the unique drop so it feels like a ‘valuable’ drop because it can immediately be used to improve/increase the character’s play or power.

On the other hand, while it is nice to see a leveling unique drop in PoE, potentially stirring thoughts on my next build, it feels very unsatisfying when all I can do is throw it in my stash instead of it immediately being of value to my current character. Taken to an extreme, you get the existing market/economy in PoE, where there are only a handful of end game chase uniques that are popular due to the build meta, and pretty much every other unique becomes worthless.

In my utopian ARPG, Uniques would be in a class of its own, with a mod/effects table that doesn’t have much overlap with other items mod tables. Of course, there should be some tangentially related stats to retain the flavour of the base item, but the unique should possess/grant access to things that aren’t available on any other item in game.

Regarding rarities, magic items in almost every ARPG eventually get outclassed by their rare/unique counterpart simply because access to more mods means more power/versatility. I believe that is the one thing that D2 did right, and no game since (that I am aware of) has repeated: restricting Tier 0 mods to only the magic pieces. Anything with access to additional mods would only be able to roll T1/T2 at max, all things being equal. Lore-wise, I would equate this to having an item crafted/made by it’s creator with such focus/expertise in it’s one thing, that it surpasses everything else. A magic item is a specialist in the field, whereas a rare item is a jack of all trades, but master of none.

Lastly, I’m a big fan of item sets. Nothing feels more gratifying that questing for all the pieces that comprise an item set, and to be rewarded by having the set impart additional bonuses and visual effects. Again, from a lore standpoint, players going through the pains of researching, hunting, and then finding all the pieces of a set should be rewarded for their efforts. Admittedly, I’m not sure at all how to balance something like set items, because if the benefits a complete set bestows outclasses everything else, then it becomes a ‘must have’ or ‘meta’ item, artificially constraining build variety/play styles. But if the rewards are just ‘meh’, it may not confer a suitable reward commensurate to the cost of acquiring the set.

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I like this idea. :slight_smile:


Things should have a purpose - a reason to exist, and a better reason than “the blue item exists to make the yellow item look good by comparison.” Path of Exile sort of tried this, albeit in a very shallow and disappointing way.

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Some great discussion going on here!
One thing worth noting regarding magic items, in Last Epoch we don’t have a distinction between magic and rare items. All non-unique items with affixes are magic items.

I think this line from Garr0t best defines the idea of pure “power” uniques:
“The elation from finding an item akin to hitting the ‘Jackpot’ on the virtual slot machine (item table) is directly commensurate to how build defining/changing the item can be”
By having some generalized uniques that are simply powerful, there are more builds that those uniques are going to be impactful for. Design-wise we are definitely skewing more towards the mechanic changing uniques (including some very powerful ones), but there is definitely a place for power uniques in the ecosystem

I love the ideas put forward already and its exciting to read that others share my views on games that have done gear right (Diablo 2) and games that have done it wrong (Diablo 3).


Finding an item that can make epic changes to not only your character but your experience of enjoying something new and funky, is so awesome and not many games do it anymore.


I do have one question though: would you limit how many uniques could be equipped at once? This is not a concern, either way. If you can make it so the uniques are super interesting then players will find ways to incorporate different uniques for various results. However, making sure a unique doesn’t directly affect another negatively could be challenging…or simply a choice a player would have to make?

when it comes to crafting, I remember an anime; The Kings Avatar. There’s this weapon is a unique and also grow with the character, but the char itself is considered the weakest because it didn’t evolve into any other class, it just stay there for the sake of this weapon, called Silver Equipment, it grows together with the user, along level up. to evolve this weapon, you need to collect rare materials; do some side quest, rare quest, boss invasion. but the the it reach ultimate level, its considered the most OP weapon in the game.

"from wiki

The highest grade equipment that Glory has to offer. It uses equipment and materials to construct the desired equipment. Not many players have access to this weapon grade as it is player-made through the equipment editor.[1] Very few players know how to use it as it requires a firm understanding of how the game works. One misstep could cause the equipment to fall apart, thus ending as a failure. Blueprints can be used to save progress on a Silver Equipment for future use or reference.[2]

They can be stored in the equipment editor. In there, they do not count as an item. Thus, they can be transferred between servers unlike normal items.[3]

Until level 50, Silver Equipment uses normal server uncommon materials. At level 55 and higher, the strongest Silver Equipment uses Heavenly Domain’s uncommon materials, which require a different mold than the normal server’s uncommon materials. The player must make small adjustments to the Heavenly Domain’s uncommon materials and the mold to successfully upgrade the Silver Equipment.[4]

-king’s avatar wiki

a weapon made by the player himself and grow along his/her journey, I kinda like this concept.

Side note, I did not see you linked Hidden Potential until I quoted your post as the link color is identical to the color of the rest of your text :frowning:

I tend to disagree about the approach with Hidden Potential being shallow and disappointing. You are trading 4 stats (2 implicits, 2 explicits) or a flavor unique for 20-25% damage per slot. Depending on how you want to gain some “hidden pototential” it makes you think about your build in the boundaries of this limitation and where you can squeeze in a magic item, so it fulfills it purpose in my eyes.

It’s an interesting concept to give magic items the highest tiers, which makes room for a specialized magic item build (but this is more or less the same approach as Hidden Potential to be honest).
A flavour to that idea could be a class-dependent unique “if all your items besides this item are magic, your minions gain all of the magic item stats as well” (just an example and pretty overpowered with +minion damage multiplying with each minion so the numbers of minions has to be limited [cost-reward “principle”]).

I am highly interested in flavour uniques. Power creep uniques are going a D3 route in my eyes where every character gearing (and skill set) looks identical between different players. Please do not go this way. It leaves no room for creativity.

Diablo 2 have the best item design and Uniques in my opinionfrom all the ARPG’s I have played, Diablo 3 failed so hard with their item design were pretty much the only way to get power is getting more Int/Str whatever boost that class power. PoE items feel more unique and they actually did a good job.

But I love the items that grant “+1 to skills” or “+3 to specific skill” like in Diablo2 this let me make use of pretty much any skill and gives a instant satisfaction when you equip something like this because you know that your character got stronger.

The fact that you can hunt items to make that single skill super strong, for example level 42 Firebolt or lvl 42 Lightning Nova when the normal level is only 20, well is just such a good feeling just shred through all the mobs :slight_smile:

No idea if you guys intend to implement this sort of gear, or if is just some mechanical changes on how skills will work, either way I’m glad you guys managed to get your kickstart goal and hope to see this game grow into something really good and epic.


I have been looking around and have seen a lot of references to how a unique item should work but nothing about what a unique item should be. I feel like the best and only example would be Diablo 1. A unique item has a story and lore associated with it that makes it special and “Unique”, The “Butcher’s Cleaver” or “Leoric’s Crown”, I feel that giving an item a story and a reason for being unique is more important than what the item does specifically.

You can then build your item around the lore instead of a specific mechanic ie: the butchers cleaver gives you some blood lust or leorics crown drives you to madness in some way.

This game has interesting lore and story and it really gives me that classic rpg vibe, take what you do really well and expand it to make these “Unique” items more memorable.

Thank you for your time,

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Yowzer, this is an old topic (I had to google what agility was…).

My preference for uniques is ones the mechanically change skills or stats or something. The Exsanguinious chest piece that constantly generates ward while degening your hp & it’s interaction with your ward retention & hp regen. From PoE I quite like the uniques that change how the stats work ie, give you non-standard effects from stacking them, such as Shaper’s Touch that gives you life per Dex (normally you get life per str), accuracy per Int (normally per dex) & mana per Str (normally per int) as well as some % bonuses to some stats that you wouldn’t normally get from str/int/dex.