okay i've spent hours trying to get that piece of loot i've been pining over, but in the end i'd just get lots of nut sacks... its great that i can say that.
but what appears to be the case is that the levels in the game are tied to specific loot levels. like area 1, may get you gear for loot lvl. 1-6. Area 2 loot lvl 7-12 and so on. now i'm sure the numbers are off, but i can farm normal mode all i want, but not a single drop for gear past level 35 drops, mostly cause i have all the gear below that. but on hard mode it seems to drop more around my level, but i have to play areas 10 or so to get loot near 45.
it's tricky too because you need that loot to survive the levels, but cant get it without surviving the levels.