7 MMO cosmetic wardrobe systems, ranked

Here’s a little thought exercise I’ve been going through lately after having a discussion about cosmetic systems on the MOP podcast. We had been asked which was the best MMO wardrobe system, which I initially thought was an easy answer… and then, long after the podcast was done, started to revise my response. Ultimately, I asked myself how I would rank the systems present in the MMOs I’ve played the most in the last, oh, five years or so, and this is what I came up with going from best to worst.

WildStar

There’s a lot of factors that go into a truly great cosmetic wardrobe system, and believe it or not, WildStar checks off most of those boxes. It’s got great armor design, plenty of cosmetic pieces, a system that remembers loot you’ve collected, multiple outfit slots, two dye channels, fun dyes, and an accessible system (which is a change from launch, which required you to talk to a specific NPC). I adored being able to create and wear different outfits based on my mood, and I was often torn on which one I liked the best because they were all pretty awesome. WildStar usually get a lot of props for its housing, but I think its wardrobe deserves praise too.

Guild Wars 2

Initially I had put Guild Wars 2 at the top, but upon further reflection, I had to acknowledge that there are two big flaws with its wardrobe system: It makes you pay to change individual slots (via transmutation charges) and it doesn’t allow for multiple saved outfits. Apart from that, it’s pretty brilliant, with several dye channels, loads of colors, expressive pieces, and all the buttflaps you can stomach. Finding and obtaining skins is an enjoyable metagame for GW2, that’s for sure.

RIFT

On paper, RIFT has almost the full package. It remembers skins, has multiple outfit slots, is ridiculously easy to use, involves weird cosmetics, and so on. Other than the dye cash shop and the smaller color range, I’d say it was almost perfect… except that I just don’t like about 90% of RIFT’s armor designs. They’re not bad, per se, just not what I want to be trouncing around in, and there are strangely few store outfits that even slightly tempt me to purchase. Probably shouldn’t complain; better armor art and I might have gone broke.

The Secret World

TSW’s strength in cosmetics is that it’s a rare MMO that uses modern outfits rather than fantasy/sci-fi ones (for the most part) and is thus a fashion that is more identifiable to players. People in TSW just adore dressing up their characters, sometimes the more outrageous, the better. Wonderful array of choices are offset only by a lack of dyeable outfits (although some pieces come in multiple colors) and no multiple outfit saves. It’s nice that there is a convoluted fashion to even equip cosmetic weapons, but it really should’ve been more like the regular outfits in accessibility.

Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO sits squat in the middle of this list with plenty of strengths but plenty of weaknesses as well. On the plus side, it’s another MMO with a community that does a lot of dressing up, and the game has done a lot to make this as robust as possible. Dyes, multiple outfits, varied designs, cosmetic weapons, etc. But on the minus side, the wardrobe itself is a little creaky and unfriendly, especially when compared to how many MMOs these days are saving EVERY new design whereas LOTRO has a hard limit. And you have to manage it by hand. Plus, the dyes aren’t that great, with only one color channel for (most) pieces and the dyeable area often being small.

World of Warcraft

For a major MMORPG, World of Warcraft suffers from a kind of lackluster system. Admittedly, the fact that it has one and it’s gradually improved is far better than launch, but seriously, transmog is pretty sad when you compare it to the field. No dyes, no multiple outfits (I’m not really that keen on just changing gear’s appearance rather than having a separate and toggleable cosmetic outfit), no way to do it on the fly, new gear overriding older transmog looks and requiring more money for new transmogs, and no quick check boxes to turn off helms and capes is all in dire need of addressing. To its credit, WoW has fabulous and fun armor design, which goes a long way to smoothing over the issues presented here.

Star Trek Online

Let’s throw in a couple of Cryptic efforts to be well-rounded. STO never really impressed me with its outfits. Sure, you could mix-and-match uniform elements, there were some (but not many) colors, and you had a small handful of outfit slots. But generally you aren’t collecting new looks while you play (most uniforms are simply bought through the store), and the interface is a little unwieldy. Sometimes it’s just more interesting to let your gear do the visuals for you, since they can be more detailed and futuristic.

Neverwinter

At the bottom of the barrel, Neverwinter does the absolute bare minimum to qualify as an MMO with a cosmetic system while making it as unfun as possible. Two cosmetic-only slots for specific items, no thank you. It’s a system that you learn about in the tutorial and then promptly forget going forward.

Now I know that there are plenty of other MMOs out there with great wardrobe systems, like EverQuest II, but I wanted to rank ones from games that I was most familiar.

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10 thoughts on “7 MMO cosmetic wardrobe systems, ranked

  1. Ravanel Griffon April 18, 2017 / 9:50 am

    GW2’s dye system is pretty awesome, but the transmutation charges are a big bummer to me, as well as a large array of very revealing armour for certain classes. In fact, that I couldn’t dress up my female characters in an appealing but non sexualized way was one of the main reasons my interest in the game ceased.

    Even though LOTRO’s dye system is less sophisticated, the ease of changing and storing outfits and the huge range of available skins makes me spend a lot of time there, and even writing outfit posts for my blog. So if I look at practice rather than theory, LOTRO’s system would rank much higher for me personally.

  2. Forrestra April 18, 2017 / 10:16 am

    Although I doubt this would change WoW’s rankings, I wanted to point out a few things:
    – Hiding helms and capes (and shoulders) in the transmog UI is plus not a minus. So you can build what’s hidden and not into an outfit, to be applied all at once at the transmogger. Plus you can assign an outfit to a spec so changing specs will change the transmog outfit on the fly. This even works if you share gear between specs.
    – Like most collections, transmog is meant to give you incentive to go back and play old content. That’s why there are no dyes. It has you play longer rather pay money in a cash shop. That’s just the economic model.

    The system feels very incremental but deliberate. I’m guessing they implement things that easily extend or evolve existing systems, fit into the goal of incentivizing old content, fits into the collection system and acts as a gold sink. Given that I hardly ever put on new gear in places where I can’t use my transmog mount, the clunky parts are far outweighed by how well the system fits into the whole. So it may not be as slick or convenient, but it feels very WoW.

  3. Bhagpuss April 18, 2017 / 10:29 am

    @Ravanel

    I’m curious to know which GW2 classes can’t provide “an appealing but non sexualized” look for female characters. I’m not aware of any class-based restrictions on apparel other than Heavy/Medium/Light and I’ve never had any difficulty achieving understated, respectable looks for my female characters. My Norn elementalist looks like a nun!

    It’s true that if you start as a light-armor wearing human the game dresses you like a cocktail waitress but you can fix that by spending a few silver, or at least I always thought you could…

  4. WoolyDub April 18, 2017 / 11:28 am

    I totally agree with this list and the order. The games on there I haven’t played are WoW and Rift but the rest I agree with.

    I know you only ranked the ones you really played a ton Syp, but ESO has a pretty great system in that you get to use all the costumes you purchase on your entire account. Having to go to a dye station is a total bummer though for a game that isn’t all that old. I adore their achievement based dye unlocks though and that they are account wide. It really showed me how much more I care about using a color that I spent time getting because of the achievement it signifies to the rest of the player base. I was the same when I played GW2. I’d always rather wear armor that I had to achieve rather than cash shop offerings.

    BDO’s system is a bummer. It’s great if you have their cash shop equivalent of a subscription which can also be purchased in the market place with in game coin, but dyes are one time use and expensive. The really nice part about their system is that their dye is second to none in terms of hues, textures, amounts of colors etc. Also their armor and cash shop outfits and armor have tons of channels. I just wish they had more variety of ways to accrue items in game.

  5. Syp April 18, 2017 / 12:35 pm

    Whoops, totally forgot to include SWTOR. OH WELL!

  6. Sylow April 18, 2017 / 12:57 pm

    For GW2 it’s mixed feelings. Once you reached level 80 and start packing your character in all-exotic gear and slowly migrate into ascended the transfusions are no issue at all. You get some of them on a regular basis, they’re more than you need. But while leveling a character its system is indeed annoyin. You constantly get new gear and replace the existing gear, at a much faster rate than you could get free transmutations.

    So while leveling you run around in random ragtag outfit, in a world where there’s many high level characters in well composed and good looking outfits. It didn’t stand out while leveling my first character, where we all looked like that. But later when leveling alts being the one in rags sometimes was quite underwhelming.

    For TSW, the size and variety of the wardrobe is second to none. There’s a huge number of outfits to be collected, and many of them really are special and unique. The biggest drawback are the limitations of the games wardrobe system. While you have great freedom in building an outfit, it can get a bit tedious when you have too many options. Luckily addons came to the rescue there.

    My final score in the Valet addon is 104 saved outfits. Most of which regularily were used, thanks to the formerly very active community. Requiem in pacem.

    @WoolyDub:
    Sorry, i recently looked into ESO. Unlike at launch, it now does many things right. No more instancing troubles, ripping the group apart, no more dozens of bugs and glitches around every corner. Not to even mention the nice combat, which by far beats some other game currently in beta, which seems to want to copy it but falls short by far.

    So by now ESO is a very enjoyable game, which made me buy two accounts. (No MMO sees me without my girl also there. ) But according to what i found, the “wardrobe” there is not too powerful. All they do is sell hats and fixed full-body costumes. There’s no “i take the shirt from costume A, combine it with the pants from B, shoes from C, sunglasses from D and earrings from E”.

    This ability to mix and match, to make a costume really your own goes a long way. For ESO you mix and match armour, which comes with fixed appearance, or use full-body costumes. Maybe i miss something, i didn’t find the time to dig deeply into the wardrobe system. After all it’s a binary thing for me. I don’t care for the wardrobe in a game i don’t intend to stay in. So as long as it was the free trial week and we’d be off again afterwards i didn’t care for the wardrobe. But no MMO has the chance to really become my “home” without also providing a good wardrobe system.

  7. Shintar April 18, 2017 / 2:17 pm

    Actually Neverwinter has three “costume” slots, not two. 😛 More importantly though, you can also change the look of all your regular armour pieces and weapons (though it costs astral diamonds to do so and the “skin” is consumed), and dyes have been around for ages too. I think there are three dye channels per item? I guess you haven’t played that one in a really long time…

  8. Mattexl April 18, 2017 / 3:56 pm

    Syp, it kills me when I read your housing and costuming posts and EQ2 doesn’t factor into the conversation. I know you haven’t played EQ2 and it isn’t really anything you’re interested in, but it has such amazing versatility in both systems I feel like you would absolutely love it!

  9. cmdrsolaris April 18, 2017 / 9:17 pm

    Archeage and Shroud of the Avatar put most of those games to shame.

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