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The Value and Importance of Cosmetic Progression in Role-Playing Games

Believe it or not, I’ve taken a break from Death Stranding. After putting in almost 150 hours, I’ve finally decided I should probably play something else for a while. If you’re not sure how I’ve managed to play it for that long, it’s all due to the sheer magnitude of what that game requires in order to 100% it. Before I stopped playing, I had already beaten the campaign and I was focusing all of my energy on completing every single premium delivery with a delivery grade of Legend. Harder than it sounds, especially when there are literally hundreds of deliveries and miles of traveling between stations.

Square Enix

Right now, I’ve been playing Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Illusive Age – Definitive Edition on the Nintendo Switch. The game was released last September, and I’m just now getting around to playing it. So far, I’ve really been enjoying myself with this one. I had been craving a good JRPG, and XI is really hitting the spot. I’m actually not writing this blog to talk about the game though. Instead, I want to talk about something this game is making me realize about my own desires and opinions when it comes to video games, especially role-playing games.

See It to Believe It

Square Enix

Most RPGs rely heavily on gear progression throughout the game. Defeat a powerful enemy, and you’ll probably get rewarded with more powerful gear than you had before. It’s a popular method of game progression that can be addictive to a lot of players. For example, I currently have a piece of armor that gives me +5 defense, but I defeat an enemy that drops a piece of armor that gives me +6 defense, and I can use that to replace my weaker, +5 defense armor.

In most old-school RPGs, the appearance of the player-character, along with any other characters the player may control, wouldn’t change with the addition of new gear. However, something that has become increasingly popular in modern RPGs is the addition of cosmetics, either on gear or separate outfits, allowing players to visibly see the growth and progression of their character as they play through a game.

Square Enix

I love this aspect of gear-grinding. It brings me so much joy when I can don my character with my hard-earned gear and witness him/her looking more and more like a hero as I make my way through a game. That’s why it pains me to see that some modern RPGs still do not utilize cosmetic progression to its fullest potential.

For instance, Dragon Quest XI occasionally supplies you with cosmetic gear, which is often fun to use. But “occasionally” just isn’t enough for me. I want to be able to see my character change every time I put on a new piece of gear, even if I look like I let my Mom dress me for a while. It’s just another way of the game letting me know that I’m getting somewhere. Yeah, I know my stats are changing, but I want to see those stats manifest themselves in the form of a shiny new breastplate.


In my opinion, there’s no reason all RPGs shouldn’t be making cosmetics a central part of their progression. After all, what’s better than not only feeling powerful, but looking powerful as well?

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