The equipment donned by our favorite heroes and heroines can be equally as iconic or interesting as the person wearing it. While the looks, personality, and backstory of these characters often compliment what they are wearing, that isn’t always the case (dreadful example later). In this list, we’ll be separating the characters from their gear, and highlighting some of my favorite gear sets in RPGs!
To make things more interesting, I’ll be limiting myself to one set per franchise, as a series like Final Fantasy could easily overwhelm such an article. Feel free to share your own favorite RPG armor sets in the comments below! Just keep in mind that this is about the gear itself, and not the characters wearing it.
Giantstalker Armor – World of Warcraft
One of my most beloved memories from my 16 years of playing World of Warcraft was the slow acquisition of my very first tier set. While no longer a system used in the retail version of the game, tier sets were once some of the most sought after equipment in raids not only for their combat potency, but also for their looks. In the early days of the MMO, tier sets had an immense level of prestige attached to them simply because the genre was still new, and people were really bad at the game – myself included. At that time, I was the Hunter that accidentally pulled things with my pet, so I can say this with authority!
Anyway, as a Hunter, I was obsessed with their Tier 1 Raid Set – Giantstalker Armor. Although I wouldn’t complete the set until many years later – the shoulder piece in particular would evade me for many moons – it has remained one of my favorite gear sets in the game, with the Warrior’s Battlegear of Might being a close second.
Blue Mage – Final Fantasy XI
I’ve been fascinated with the fantasy-based Middle Eastern aesthetic/setting ever since I played The Magic of Scheherazade on the NES. It is a theme that I feel is criminally underrepresented to this day, particularly in the realm of RPGs. This is exactly why I’d go on to become attached to the Mystic Knight / Sorcerer job in Final Fantasy V, before completely falling in love with the Blue Mage design in Final Fantasy XI. This look ropes in the best bits of the rogue and mage archetypes, while morphing into an all-out battlemage when accompanied by their iconic, curved swords and magical capabilities.
Mask – Final Fantasy Legend II -> Clifford – Atelier Ryza 2
If you grew up watching the Indiana Jones movies like I did, then you likely were a fan of the simple-yet-effective attire of the whip-wielding treasure hunter. Naturally, when you’re later introduced to a mask-wearing treasure hunter in Final Fantasy Legend II — totally isn’t the hero’s dad and totally isn’t inspired by Indy — you dig that, as well. The cycle then continues when Clifford Diswell is announced for Atelier Ryza 2 – once again, a masked treasure hunter that feels like a modern progression from what started my adoration for treasure hunting attire many years ago. Only time will tell whether Clifford himself will be as badass as the treasure hunters that came before him, though.
Jade – Dragon Quest XI
When it comes to female protagonists and their gear, I, for one, prefer believability and functionality over “looking good.” Neither view is inherently wrong – there is a time and place for everything – but I’d argue that my stance plays into the immersion factor more than what would otherwise be possible. What I really appreciate about Jade’s gear is that it is both believable AND charming while not overly sexualizing the character. The set completely fits the martial artist archetype…though the maneuverability provided by those high boots is likely up for debate — face-kicking potency, however, seems pretty high!
Alex / Et Al- Lunar: The Silver Star
A band of coming-of-age youths embarking on a grand adventure is not by any means unheard of in the realm of RPGs. However, I’ve often found that their starting gear often does not match their task at hand. This is exactly why I love Alex Noa’s look in Lunar: The Silver Star, as it fits the youthful, inexperienced vibes of that style of narrative quite well. The attire of Alex, Luna, and Ramus – the three starting party members – collectively give off Hobbit-esque Lord of the Rings vibes that I just adore.
Bonus: Cid – Final Fantasy VI
Remember when I said that a character’s gearset often compliments the personality/backstory of the character wearing it, but not always? Well, prepare yourself for an atrocious example of the latter. The iteration of Cid found in Final Fantasy VI is an interesting one, as he works as a scientist for the antagonistic empire but isn’t completely loyal to their cause – particularly when it comes to the use of bloodshed over reason. He’s an important figure in several bits of the story, and should have an appropriately iconic look, right? Well, his gear may be iconic…but not for good reasons…
In the original Amano artwork, Cid looks like he’s just wearing some sort of lab coat with mage-like clothing underneath. Nothing crazy. Cid’s in-game sprite, however, is akin to a hot dog, twinkie, or some kind of writing utensil depending on your own perception. For me, Cid will forever be a hot dog and I’ll never understand why the artist looked at his work here and said “well done.” If his design was deliberately done, perhaps out of spite, then this is brilliant work!
There are plenty more armor designs out there that could have made the list – but I want to hear from you! What are some of your favorite gear sets in RPGs? Let me know!