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.

RIFT, I want to love you, but you’re making it hard

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It’s been a good long while since I talked about RIFT here, and that isn’t because I’ve been so enraptured by Starfall Prophecy that I couldn’t bear to rip myself away to jot down a few words. Morelike, it’s been weeks of logging in to do minion quests and then getting quickly frustrated with the combat and then logging out. Rinse and repeat.

I swear, if it wasn’t for one of the warmest and friendliest guilds I’ve ever been a part of, I probably wouldn’t log in at all these days. Genuinely great guilds aren’t always easy to find and I do enjoy the companionship that they provide. So I keep making an effort to love this game, but RIFT seems bound and determined to make it hard for me to do so.

The core problem isn’t the story of Starfall Prophecy, which is — to me — somewhat interesting and occasionally surprising. It isn’t the smaller scope of the expansion. The problem is that, as I’ve said before, the mobs make standard questing onerous and a chore. Every time I play I feel the urge to rant about how simple it would be to fix this: decrease the mob density and cut mob health down at least by a third. Packed-in mobs with huge hit point pools equals no fun for anyone.

It’s not the first time that RIFT started in with the mob HP inflation; the past two expansions were guilty of this too. But it seems really, really high here and mobs take wayyyy too long to kill. My highest DPS build on my Cleric — a primary Defiler build — takes about 20 seconds to down a single mob, and that’s after putting about 10 DoTs on it. 10. Every fight, I have to punch about a dozen separate buttons, and my hand does not thank me for that. And that’s my hardest-hitting build — the build I actually like takes a half-minute or longer for a single mob. And it’s not that the mobs are too difficult otherwise, just that they have enough hit points to rival other MMOs’ raid bosses.

Early on in RIFT, it was a sheer joy to play these classes because no matter what your build, you could have a lot of fun mowing down packs of mobs and gradually improving your spec. Now, as I’ve said before, this might be a result of the increasing difficulty of balancing the game as players get access to more powerful and diverse abilities and equipment. But wouldn’t you think that making the basic questing experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible would be a priority? That the devs would err on the side of making mobs too easy to kill rather than too tough?

I know there are greater issues with this expansion and that Trion is still dealing with a lot of stuff. But for me, this has pretty much killed all enthusiasm and interest I have in playing Starfall Prophecy. I have a choice of many MMOs at any given moment, and most of them have found a far better balance with high-level mobs than what’s here. I don’t often call for nerfs, but for the love of all that’s holy, Trion, nerf these mobs and nerf them now. I can’t be the only one who has gotten turned off from the expansion for this issue.

My guild was talking about how in the next patch, you pretty much HAVE to have a 61-point build or otherwise you’ll lose a massive chunk of your DPS, which takes hybrid builds off the table. RIFT has been going down a depressing path as of late where most everyone plays very specific cookie-cutter builds to be able to quest/raid/DPS decently, so one of the game’s biggest strengths — the flexibility of make-your-own builds — is all but gone. It’s aggravating and I just don’t know how much more I’m going to hang onto this game when it obviously doesn’t want to hang on to players like me.

Here’s hoping that Trion Worlds might one day remember what used to make this game really fun to play and return back to that instead of pushing down this path.

RIFT: We regained our faith, and we had fun doing it

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For someone with a general dislike of the overuse of dragons in MMOs and RPGs, I’ll take the solace provided in getting to harpoon one multiple times through the heart. Thanks RIFT!

We made art, built workable ballistas, forged big harpoons, and cast magic spells that made people explode on contact. ~ Veist

Last week I finished up Gedlo Badlands — zone two out of five in Starfall Prophecy — and came away from the experience feeling strangely thrilled. Oh, I’m not changing my mind on how I feel about desert zones in the least; Gedlo Badlands is extremely dull to look at and quest through, from a landscape perspective. And my guild heartily agrees that the mob density is stupid high.

But! But. But the writers managed to craft a story that was definitely odd and engaging, one of a tribe of kobolds looking for redemption, fighting against the rise of a dragon, and forging a culture in the midst of a wasteland. There were prophecies galore, a tour of public displays of art, and in the end, an epic showdown.

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The ending caught me off guard, too, as the kobold tribe were all (SPOILER) promoted to ascended status. I couldn’t help but feel proud and happy for these ugly underdogs that they finally were elevated to a higher status.

I actually almost missed it because of very long speeches that I thought I could just tab-out of. Cyrill isn’t that great of a character (particularly in comparison to a certain other king), but at least he shows a bit of creative thinking and a desire to grow as a person and understand other cultures.

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It’s time to move on to zone #3, which is a Very Green Swamp. My companions this time around are Tasuil (who is apparently bored of being a leader in the forest) and Red Eye Girl. Oh, she has a name and a backstory, but I missed both of those and now am saddled with an NPC who I know virtually nothing about.

Here’s the thing that I wish developers would understand. They are saturated in the game all the time and know its lore back and forth, particularly thanks to having design documents and lore bibles lying around. And sometimes I get the feeling they think we pick up on all of this just as easily and deeply as they do. Yet we don’t — or at least, I don’t. If I miss something or don’t remember something, the story is broken for me and I have to muddle through either not caring, or hoping that someone will fill me in later on what’s going on, or have to research it outside of the game.

What I truly wish developers would do is give us some sort of ongoing in-game journal that would summarize what my character has experienced or at least let me reference past conversations. Single player CRPGs are usually great at in-game journals, yet so few MMOs have them. What gives? Do the devs just assume that player-made wikis will compensate? That’s pretty lazy if so. I’d rather get my lore info in-game than out of it.

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Anyway, I had a brief interlude back in the town of Alittu, which I still consider to be a rather beautiful and strangely high-tech hub. This lady up here looked really shifty with her body language. I think she’s about to steal some art.

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The dark tower constantly looms over all, a sober reminder that if Ahnket gets her way, this comet would come roaring down on Telara and force an extinction-level event.

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To the swamp! First stop is a market where the bad faerie folk are selling unicorns and elves and bunnies to the highest bidder, usually for a sacrifice. I’m just trying to get excited about exploring a swamp. Those are often fun biomes, right?

Looking back at the 6 MMOs I played the most in 2016

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Seeing as how this will be my final MMO-related post of this year, I thought it only fitting to look back over 2016 and recall my exploits in MMORPGs. While I did dabble here and there in various titles, such as Firefall, ESO, and Trove, for the most part my year was dominated by six titles — none of them surprising, but all fun and influential in my gaming career.

One of the best things that happened for me in terms of playing MMOs was getting a new computer that could actually run them well. That’s been such a boon.

(1) Final Fantasy XIV

At the beginning of the year, I had made a resolution to find a “home MMO” and settle my butt down to mostly focus on one title. Initially, that became FFXIV, as it was fairly new to me,, had a lot of positive word-of-mouth, and offered a lot of content.

I had a good run in that MMO, I think, although around April I decided that I had run out of steam and was losing the will to play it. That was unfortunate, because I was finally nearing Heavensword content and had found a really great guild, but alas. In retrospect, there was a lot I ended up respecting and liking about the game as well as a lot of irritating issues. I think my biggest gripe is that it never quite clicked with me even though people kept urging me to stick it out because, I quote, “It gets really good later on!” I shouldn’t have to wait more than four months for a game to get really good, and my patience wore out. Maybe I’ll go back some day. I’d like to think so. That Red Mage looks pretty cool…

(2) World of Warcraft

WoW got its hooks back in me early and kept them there, pulling me right back into this old favorite. The first half of the year was spent plowing through Warlords of Draenor, building up my expansion, and prepping my roster of characters for the new expansion. The second half was all Legion, all the time, and it’s been a really good ride so far. Found a terrific guild, got a pair of legendaries, built up my Death Knight to a great place, and still have a good amount of content on which to chew.

(3) RIFT

The announcement of Starfall Prophecy got me back into RIFT, and it’s been a reliably second-tier MMO interest since then. Again, discovering a wonderful guild — perhaps the best I’ve been a part of in MMOs — was a major factor to my stickiness, but having an expansion’s worth of content and a new house to build certainly kept me busy. I have just so much left to do here and no real desire to leave.

(4) The Secret World

Back in February I seriously splurged and bought a Grand Master membership, which I really don’t regret doing. The constant buffs to currency/AP are wonderful, the extra cosmetics and mounts nice, and having a monthly allowance of points is terrific. I did take a long break in the middle of the year due to my disinterest in City of the Sun God, but I finally rallied to complete that and move on to Transylvania. I’m hugely excited to see what might come for this game in 2017!

(5) Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online has been an on-again, off-again journey. I get really excited about it for two or three weeks, then let it go for a month. I did come back for some fun adventures, although getting bogged down in Delta Rising was death to my interest. Recently I’ve jumped past that and gotten excited to go through the more recent episode arcs.

(6) Lord of the Rings Online

Early in the year I spent some time getting through the Battle of Pelennor Fields, after which I took a very long break until just recently. However, over the past month I’ve been logging in every day or two to advance my Captain through Update 19 in anticipation of the Mordor expansion next year. It’s great to be back and I hope I won’t leave any time soon.

Stay tuned next Monday as I post my hopes and aspirations for the new month — and the new year! In the meantime, let me know in the comments what were the most important and influential MMOs to you in 2016!

RIFT: I won’t lie. You’ve seen some messed-up stuff.

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A surprising number of RIFT missions involve the phrase “let’s step into the hallucinogenic water and see what we see.” Thanks for the nightmares, Trion World!

(But seriously, this is my favorite unicorn picture of all time. Just don’t drink the toxic desert water.)

The journey continues for my Rogue through Starfall Prophecy’s Geldo Badlands. I’m not warming up on the landscape, but the story is surprisingly interesting. I guess that the writers were given the challenge to make stock fantasy cannon fodder like goblins and kobolds actually interesting and in-depth. There’s a lot about culture-comparison between this primitive land and Telara, as well as a group of goblins called the “Gaping Chest Wound Clan.” I would be proud to be part of that clan.

Here’s one of their members:

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Doesn’t he remind you of Young Frankenstein’s Igor? With more tusks/antlers?

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The writing and dialogue is sharp, surreal, and often laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe you don’t think of MMOs as actually being funny, but RIFT never quite takes itself as seriously as its contemporaries. I respect that.

Part of the reason why things are looking up is that I did a build adjustment and switched from Ranger/Assassin over to Ranger/Marksman. Much better synergy, plus I’m rocking a pair of legendaries that really help out now. The 61-point legendary in Ranger took me a little bit to realize how good it was — essentially it keeps giving you a full combo bar for 10 seconds, meaning that you can keep spamming finishers for 10 seconds. With that, I can burn down most anything insanely quickly.

I also appreciated this response from Linda Carlson on my last post about the TTK and mob issue: “Just to prove we do pay attention to feedback and make changes where appropriate and possible: Dev put up a change to PTS on Tuesday of last week that would reduce the damage done by NPC’s since they found a bug in the MPC that was giving them too much power. Warning, devspeak: ‘As such, the TTK did not match up to what the sheet dictates.’ This should address one of the major concerns in this article.”

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No story here other than I was very proud of this screenshot. Love the sunlight coming through the wings.

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Our guild held its weekly trivia night on Wednesday about a rather bizarre topic (and no, I’m not going to share). I ended up placing second, winning a maid’s ensemble. Attacking things in pumps and with dual feather dusters is the only way to rock this expansion!

RIFT: The casualty of build-your-own-character MMOs

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Gedlo Badlands continues to abide in RIFT. It’s half encouraging, half a buzzkill to quest through, so my progress has slowed considerably. The boring desert landscape does nothing for me and the mob density is out-of-control in spots. Fortunately, there have been a few weird and interesting quests (the ones to admire — usually with combat — kobold statues littered around the place was pretty out-there), and the chatter from my companions has been quite entertaining and informative.

But let’s go back to the mob density thing, because it actually is a pretty serious issue tied to another problem with this expansion. Mobs are simply too tough to kill quickly and hit you too hard — and I think I know why.

This is reminding me of The Secret World, and the one thing both of these games share in common is the ability to create your own build that isn’t always perfectly balanced. There’s bound to be some builds that are better, some worse, and some that are theory-crafted to be the most ideal for serious players. So if you were a dev, what would you aim for with mob health and power when you created a new expansion? If you make it too easy, the whole thing becomes a challenge-free cakewalk. It’s probably easier to assume that most players are using the theorycrafted optimal builds with an above-average set of gear, and create enemies around that level.

As Hive Leader pointed out, the high time-to-kill (TTK) for most builds is putting the experimental, personal approach to class creation out of business in Starfall Prophecy. With my Rogue, a Tactician build takes just shy of forever to kill anything, the Blademaster has limited success (whereas it used to be a powerhouse), and if I want to get anything done quickly, I need my Ranger going. It’s frustrating to feel like I have to play just one thing to quest, but my other options have far too high of a TTK on mobs to stay interesting.

That’s a shame, because I love being able to create my own builds. But if in the end, there’s only one or two builds that are superior to the rest, is it really a choice any more? It’s just “play with or without extreme aggravation.”

I also kind of wonder if gear carries a fair share of blame here. I have serious doubts that the new planar fragments are doing anything to de-complexify gear; if anything, it’s making me twitch to think that I’m missing something with my outfit and running around with sub-par stats.

My recommendation? Don’t nerf mobs into the ground, but they do need to be tweaked down a bit to allow for more build diversity, especially when it comes to the baseline questing experience. Also, quests really should be doling out more gear upgrades instead of just currency, PA, and XP.

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On a different note, our guildies were oohing and ahhing over the Fae Yule-decorated dimension that one of our officers put together. I think it’s all in preparation for a party, but we couldn’t help getting a sneak peek at it all. I’m absolutely envious.

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There was even a giant waterslide up top. Not a facsimile of a waterslide — one that actually works. You take an elevator up and then sliiiiiide your way down into a pool. It’s pretty awesome.

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I love this lounge area. I kind of want to live in this dimension forever now.

RIFT: The Gecko Badlands is kicking my posterior

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Look at that! One zone down in Starfall Prophecy, a gaming speed record that puts me on par with a diseased tortoise. But hey, progress is progress, especially when it comes with an adolescent dragon being nominated as Forest King or somesuch. Hey, still better than the presidential candidates we had this year, am I right? (what, too soon?)

Scatherran Forest was a really pleasant zone in which to quest. Great music, lush visuals, and a pretty engaging storyline (weasel and unicorn silliness even so). I took my time, did all of the side and carnage quests, and came out of it entertained and level 66.

My one big complaint is that the loot kind of stinks so far. I’d say about 70-80% of quests only reward XP and money, very occasionally breaking form to hand up gear upgrades. That really robs a lot of excitement over quest turn-ins. And I barely got any drops for the zone entire. Heck, I get more daily loot from minions than I do from questing and fighting — and that doesn’t feel right to me.

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This has to be one of the most fru-fru collection of good guys ever in an MMO. I’m kind of cheering them on, especially Sir Bearington. He’s not just your average bear.

I was disappointed to see that Shyla and Tasuil weren’t going to accompany me to the next zone, Gedlo Badands (or as my head insists on calling it, Gecko Badlands). Instead, we get the king who looks like he’s heading out on a heavy metal band tour and one chatty kobold who sounds like a Dwarf.

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I do take a break from questing every now and then to visit my tower house. It’s starting to feel very cozy, especially the entrance. I need a lot more materials for it, but I do have a vision for what it will eventually become.

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Gecko Badlands is like night and day with the green forest that came before it. You all know my feelings on deserts, and so far this one isn’t really anything special. Lots of rocks, lots of tan, lots of sand.

What really surprised me is how hard this area is. Maybe my character still needs better gear, but the other night I must have gotten killed about a dozen times just trying to work on the first series of quests. The mobs are tough, tougher than the forest, and their density and patrols makes it quite easy to get in over my head.

I’m mostly running a Bladedancer/Riftstalker build, but after a lot of frustration in this area, I threw together a Tactician build that — with one specific legendary skill that greatly upped my healing — virtually made me invincible. Slowly and surely I can now burn down pretty much any mob I encounter as long as I don’t mind how long it takes. No danger of dying, not really.

Here’s hoping the loot situation is going to improve. I know that the expansion has caught a lot of flak for being rushed out the door, and frankly, I can kind of see it in some areas. It’s still fun, but it definitely needs work. As long as the quests continue to entertain and I have places to go and conquer, I’ll be satisfied.