Andi - Guys, here’s a thing. When I play games that allow me to get new armour and loot, if I can’t see this new stuff reflected on my character it completely ruins my experience. I have to see my hard-earned wares on my avatar. Failing that, I have to, at the very least, be able to stamp something of my personality onto something. Do either of you suffer from this affliction, or is it just me?
Sean: Absolutely. I actually spent a while thinking Planescape: Torment was crap because I couldn’t make any visible changes to the main character. Equippable, visible armour is some powerful shit.
Andi: It’s my only beef with the otherwise perfect Phantasy Star Online. There was enough scope in the character customization to make a fairly unique avatar, but it was SOUL DESTROYING when you were playing online and you stumbled across someone who looked exactly the same as you. Turning up to the wedding wearing the same dress, and that.
Sean: Yeah, it didn’t matter how ace your armour and shield were - the only thing you had bragging rights for was your weapon. We can’t be alone in getting annoyed at this stuff, either - there’s been a growing trend in games, particularly MMOs, that let you keep the appearance of older pieces of armour when you find something newer with higher stats. Developers know how annoying it is when you get a better piece of armour that looks like shit, or doesn’t quite fit your current outfit. And yet I feel fucking ridiculous even typing that out.
Andi: Aye, Fable did that really well. No armour stats, just what you thought looked rad. Bonus points to a game if you can customize your stuff too. Didn’t they fucking charge actual money for black dye or something ludicrous like that?
Owen: Not enough games let you wear a wedding dress. Sorry, what were you saying?
Owen: Videogames! Have you guys started forging high rank armour for your Monster Hunter mannies yet? You can colour the detailing, and there are a load of subspecies variants which feature different colour plates and scales. Beautiful.
Andi: Oh god don’t say things like that I’m already cripplingly addicted to Monster Hunter. I need to push on to High Rank. That might be the extra bit of motivation I need. Monster Hunter is the best game for it, because you literally wear your success. Kill a monster enough times to get all the necessary parts and you’re wearing a suit of armour that screams ‘I BESTED THIS MONSTER LOADS TO GET THIS’ at other players.
Owen: Yes, Monster Hunter is a game in which you literally eat your enemies and wear their skin. I've been taking a break from it recently to play some old Megaman games which - oh! - do the same thing. Capcom!
Andi: I even think it is awesome when you get a costume change during the game. Uncharted was excellent for this. Drake changed his clothes! Like a real person would! THE FUTURE.
Sean: Is this when Nathan Drake transitioned from the half-tuck to the full-tuck, or something else?
Andi: Probably. ALSO SOMETHING ELSE. Loads of JRPGs are guilty of not having armour reflected on the characters. Although that isn’t the most annoying thing about JRPGs, it still does my head in.
Sean: I think the people behind your average story-heavy JRPG are reeeally precious about the look of their characters, and costumes play a huge part in that. Which I guess makes sense when you have to consider that your most rabid fans are going to want to cosplay as your characters, or put an unofficial manga together where someone spaffs all over Lulu from Final Fantasy X's prominent tits.
Owen: You've spoiled the ending now.
Andi: Okay, so let’s finish this up because it is clear I’m not alone in this and we’re talking about spunk now.
Sean: So most games are still kind of shit at making realistic but customisable faces, right? And even when they’re not, most games work at too fast a pace for players to get a decent look at each other. So more often than not, we identify each other by the stuff we’re wearing. And as well as being a representation of our aesthetic leanings, armour in videogames is often something you have to earn, so it’s a mark of your effort or skill as well as an aesthetic statement. That is why it is proper bullshit when you can’t do custom armour. What’s your favourite suit of custom armour in a videogame, boys? Mine has to be the armour I gave my male human Infiltrator on Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode. White plates with black joints, all covered in hot pink leopard spots. Stealthy as fuck.
Andi: Despite what I said earlier, my pick has to be my dude on Phantasy Star Online. Ranger. Blue and white armour. Purple hair. Some wanky mid-length hair cut. That’s my dude. I got a massive kick simply by remaking the same look I had back on my Dreamcast on PSO2 and seeing it in fancy new graphics. I’d like to do it again when the European release hits, but the game appears to be NEVER COMING OUT. I'm also quite fond of my Black Iron armour/Mask of the Father combo in Dark Souls. I didn't customise them in regards to colours and stuff but that is MY suit of armour. My combo.
Owen: At this precise moment in time, I have no choice but to say my high rank Hunter set from Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Partly because it turns me into an omniscient man of the wild, and partly because it offers barely any protection whatsoever - perfect boastwear for the dodging connoisseur.
Andi: Excellent. Armour - let us customise it or piss off.