Who Does It Best?: Costumes VS Transmog

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!

It’s Wednesday and there are no new episodes of Heroes Reborn for the rest of the year. So, I thought I would take the time to create a gaming-centric discussion.

There are a lot of MMORPGs out there, and each one provide players with an assortment of options to customize their characters. However, there is one facet of character customization that has only recently been receiving greater attention by the developers. This aspect of customization is incredibly important to players and their ability to create a unique identity for their character, or a personal identity within their community. I am, of course, referring to the capacity for players to modify the appearance of their characters without affecting their effectiveness in combat.

Today, I will review the cosmetic options provided by several MMORPGs. I will provide a short overview of each feature for those who may be unfamiliar. I will weigh the pros and cons for the design of each feature. Then, I will choose one of the features listed here that I believe possesses the best model overall. In the end, I will be finding the answer to the question: Who does it better?

World of Warcraft (Pre-Legion)

Feature Type: Transmogrification

The Transmogrify feature was released during the latter portion of the Cataclysm expansion. This allows players to replace the appearance of their currently equipped gear with that of items in their inventory. The interface used here is similar to the standard character window, but the items equipped to the transmog window don’t affect stats. There are only a few rules and stipulations (which you can find here), but the Transmog feature possesses a decent amount of flexibility even given its archaic design.


  • Players can alter the appearance of their characters without sacrificing the power from their ilvl 8700 items.
  • There is a miniscule gold cost to the player to transmog anyone one item.
  • Creates a viable reason for players to run through the old, worthless, and otherwise unviable dungeon content that still exists. This will equate to nearly 80 dungeons once Legion releases (as seen here).
  • Veteran players can rock the Tier sets they earned from the better days of World of Warcraft.


  • Players must possess the actual item that carries the appearance they seek to transmog onto their gear. This creates a significant level of inventory management for players that have played the game for years, or for players that have a knack for collecting or hoarding (or both?).
  • There is no way for players to have multiple preset transmog appearances that can be easily swapped between.
  • The colors of the gear cannot be modified in any way possible. What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG).
  • The art design used for more recent portions of the game has taken a severe nose dive. There is a clear sense of laziness behind the more recent armor sets that appears to be the result of the art team knowing their latest efforts will be transmogged away by the more epic armor sets of yore. This laziness is bad to the point that there is little, if any, distinction between PvP and PvE gear anymore.
  • The game outside of transmogrify has been fairly lame for the last 6 years, and hasn’t done anything to truly merit the attention it still receives from players. Though, the transmog system will be significantly better once Legion (or its preceding patch) is released, but the rest of the game will still be shit.
TransmogCostumes - WoW

The Transmogrify interface from Pre-Legion World of Warcraft. The highlighted slots are the items that have had their appearance altered.

Guild Wars 2

Feature Type: Transmogrification

The Wardrobe feature in Guild Wars 2 is a system that allows players to alter the appearance of their characters in one of two ways. First, there is the system of transmutation, which completely replaces the appearance of an item a character has equipped with an appearance the player has unlocked. The second method is through Outfits, which are full body costumes that can be acquired through the Gem Store. This features doesn’t just provide different options for modifying a character’s appearance. It also gives players an assortment of new cosmetic-specific goals to complete as they play through the game.


  • Altering the appearance of an item does not affect the present bonuses to stats, or the slotted runes.
  • All of the appearance options available to a player for any item slot is clearly displayed in the wardrobe interface.
  • There are up to 3 channels on each item that can be recolored using any dye the player has unlocked.
  • There is no cost to applying an Outfit to a character.
  • There is a massive number of item appearances and dyes for players to collect, craft, or buy.


  • The new item appearance is applied directly to a character’s equipped gear. The Wardrobe interface doesn’t simply apply an appearance that can be removed later like with WoW’s transmogrify feature. This is a permanent appearance application.
  • The appearance of dye colors on some items doesn’t match what appears on numerous other items.
  • There is no way for players to have multiple preset wardrobe appearances that can easily be swapped between. Outfit don’t really count in this regard.
  • Unlocking the appearance of an item binds it to a player’s character. Bound items are entirely fucking worthless because they cannot be sold to a vendor or on the marketplace, or salvaged for crafting materials.
  • The cost to change the appearance of an item is Transmutation charges, which can only really be obtained through the Gem Store. The average cost to change all 6 armor slots is 180 Gems, which roughly equates to $2.25 anytime you want to change your whole appearance. Add both weapons slots (assuming you have access to weapon swap, and aren’t dual-wielding) and that brings the total cost to 240 Gems, or $3.00, each complete appearance change. It may not seem like much, but it adds up. It also makes this feature less enjoyable for those of us who don’t have the cash to be splurging on random costume changes.
TransmogCostumes - GW2

The Wardrobe feature from Guild Wars 2. The highlighted slots represent the items that will have their appearances changed.


Feature Type: Costumes

The Holo-Wardrobe has always been one of my favorite features in WildStar. Housing is cool, but my experience with my first MMO has left me with a hole that only WildStar’s Holo-Wardrobe feature has been able to fill.

The Holo-Wardrobe is an appearance altering feature that allows players to change their character’s appearance anywhere in the world, as long as they aren’t in combat. Since the release of the Free-to-Play update, the Holo-Wardrobe has seen a bit of an overhaul that has yielded some interesting new functionality. This feature now functions more similarly to the Wardrobe feature from Guild Wars 2, instead of like WoW’s garbage Transmogrify feature. Players can create an assortment of costumes for their character using a combination of appearance options and dyes they have unlocked while exploring the world. There is a lot more to this system than just that, but I shall list those things below.


  • Players have access to at least 6 costume slots that can be customized and swapped between.
  • Costume slots are earned through leveling.
  • Costumes don’t affect stats.
  • There is no cost to changing the base appearance of a costume using options that have been unlocked, or to swap between costumes.
  • Each appearance option, except for weapons, has up to 3 dye channels that can be recolored using any dye the player has unlocked. There are a number of inexpensive, common-quality dyes that can be purchased very early in the game.
  • Players are still capable of selling or salvaging items they have used to unlock an appearance option.
  • Each armor slot on a costume, except for weapons, can be hidden. Yes, you can run around in your underwear if you so desire.
  • A character’s default appearance can be swapped into just like a Costume.


  • While there are some awesome armor sets in the game, there are just as many that are ugly as fuck. The helmets are often the worst part of a set. Playing a Warrior, I have seen very little distinction between many of the “leg armor” items, because a lot of them just look like simple pants that occasionally have armor plates on them. This is not the case for all sets, but it is more common than it should be.
  • While each item has up to 3 dye channels available, this doesn’t always mean that the portion of an item a dye channel recolors makes sense, or will always recolor something you will be able to see in the Holo-Wardrobe interface. The Soldier Path chest piece is one of those with at least one questionable dye channel.
  • The cost to fully recolor an entire costume can be pretty extreme. The cost is based on how many dye channels are recolored, and what colors are used. Rarer dyes will cost more, even if you have already unlocked them. If a player recolors every dye channel on an entire costume, the resulting cost will be between 2 or 3 platinum. This isn’t a small amount by any means, especially considering how little gold (the next step down from platinum) WildStar’s content provides. I once did a 90 minute Malgrave Trail Adventure and only acquired 15 gold from the whole thing, which is the amount you receive from completing a “random adventure”. I didn’t even receive any currency from killing the mobs throughout the adventure. THAT’S BULLSHIT!
  • None of the appearance options are defined by preset monikers. Instead, they are defined by the name of the item the appearance was pulled from. This runs the risk of players unlocking duplicates on a regular basis.
TransmogCostumes - WildStar

The Holo-Wardrobe feature from WildStar. The interface received an update when the Free-to-Play patch, dubbed “Reloaded”, was released.

City of Heroes

Feature Type: Costumes

In City of Heroes, players had the capability of creating a super powered hero of their very own using the in-depth character creation feature. You could choose a base character model, adjust the scale of that model, and then create the costume that character would likely don during their super hero outings. Now, once a player had created their character, they would periodically acquire additional costume slots while leveling. These costume slots could be edited in the very same fashion as when the player created their character. I won’t get started on the number of options that were available, because it was immense, but know that players were only limited by their imaginations.


  • An appearance customization system not dependent on the gear players find out in the world, because there weren’t any.
  • There were numerous options available in character creation, and likely even more once players gained access to the Tailor NPCs.
  • More layers to appearance customization than just selecting a chest piece and applying a new color. This includes way more options than I will list here, but you can find the information at this link.
  • All of the color, tint, and shade options are available at character creation and beyond (including the typically overly rare black).
  • Capes. Wings. Jetpacks.
  • There were several preset costumes to choose from at character creation and costume creation. This helped players find a good starting place for their character’s costume.
  • There was a currency cost to make changes to costumes that varied based on what changes were made. However, the cost was negligible because the currency was extraordinarily easy to obtain, and there was no economy to speak of.


  • The official City of Heroes: Freedom servers have been inactive since November 30th, 2012. BTW, it’s Monday as I’m writing this post. November 30, 2015. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!!
  • The closing of the game left CoX players, who really enjoyed the super hero based MMORPG experience, with little choice in venue. Neither DC Universe Online nor Champions Online were truly sufficient replacements for the original super hero MMORPG, City of Heroes. The only other choices out there were the abundant amount of Fantasy MMORPG out there, including World of Warcraft – a game that would make any gear acquisition and personal achievements made by its players meaningless with its first expansion… and every expansion to follow.
TransmogCostumes - CoH

The character creation screen from City of Heroes: Freedom before its timely demise.

Now, to Choose a Winner…

Based on these four absolutely wonderful games, I must choose one that provides the best cosmetic options for their players. Now, this is based on my own opinion, of course. However, I am looking at what each feature offers players, how the feature is implemented, and how much it costs the players to use. These are all valid things to look out for, and they will inform my choices.

Unofficial Winner

City of Heroes

The super hero MMORPG, City of Heroes, had the best character customization system available in the genre, and it was a great game on top of that. Throw in an awesome community of gamers, and you have yourself a winner. Unfortunately, since the game hasn’t been active for 3 years (3 years exactly as I am writing this post), I can’t very well dub City of Heroes the official winner. So, it shall be dubbed the unofficial winner.

Champions Online does have a slightly upgraded version of City of Heroes’ character creation mechanic, but the game as a whole is complete garbage, and shall be granted the title Official Loser. At least, World of Warcraft shan’t be alone. SPOILERS!!!.

** Official Winner **


I do declare WildStar to be the winner!

Just like Guild Wars 2, it takes quite a bit of playing to unlock a suitable number of appearance and dye options in WildStar. However, unlike Guild Wars 2, once players have unlocked a good supply of options they can apply them to their 6 costume slots. Through the Holo-Wardrobe, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of the same restrictions put on players regarding the type of appearances that can be used. For instance, if a Warrior wishes to apply the appearance from a cloth helm to a costume, (I’m fairly certain) the game will allow that. Games like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 wouldn’t allow that.

The only problem that I have personally faced while playing WildStar is how some of the major content offers so little currency for the time spent to complete them. I mentioned the situation with one Adventure already, but I feel like even the Daily Tasks that can be acquired at max level don’t provide half as much gold as they really should. This is a problem that could be modified with a patch, or by doing some testing of different types of content, or even by looking up money-making guides. The biggest reason why WildStar beats out Guilds Wars 2 in the end, though, is that it doesn’t force its players to pay real money to interact with the Holo-Wardrobe.

One last thing. I know the Transmogrify feature in World of Warcraft is getting an overhaul with the release of the Legion expansion, but it is still going to retain the WYSIWYG appearance style that it possesses now. Additionally, WoW is still going to have 90 100 levels of worthless content to chug through unless you pay $60 to skip all of it. Wait – that makes the many levels of worthless content extra worthless. Hence, World of Warcraft is being given the title of Official Loser.

What did you think of my choice? Which of these methods do you prefer? Did I miss any games? How would you like to see a Costume/Transmog feature implemented? Join the discussion below.

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Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you’ll be back for the next one.

War Fist out.

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