This is a gameplay trope
where a weapon or other piece of equipment can be altered in order to conform to a higher standard, making it more useful to the player
(or to put it more simply; upgraded). This might be done through a temporary Power-Up
, a permanent Upgrade Artifact
as a reward for a Side Quest
, or through a specific "weapon upgrade" mechanic. The upgrade could be linear (e.g. "Weapon v1 is upgraded into Weapon v1.5") or branching (e.g. "Armour A can be upgraded to Armour Aa, Armour Ab or Armour Ac"), which might itself be spiced up with a Mutually Exclusive Powerup
or two. The upgrades could be optional or required to progress
(or a mixture of the two). Conversely, they could be automatic, and used to reward the player
as they progress.
In this context, "upgrade" only means an upgrade in terms of gameplay
, not flavour or story. So, switching out different pieces of equipment, even if they're upgrades In-Universe
, doesn't countnote
(e.g. if the Player Character
always uses the same sword, but can equip different accessories for it instead of different weapons). Conversely, something which wouldn't strictly be considered an upgrade in Real Life
can still be treated as an upgrade by the game's mechanics (e.g. picking up a second pistol to "upgrade" a Little Useless Gun
into Guns Akimbonote
From the player's perspective, upgrading their equipment can be used to reward them or give them a sense of progression (especially if the game uses Equipment-Based Progression
). It can also be used to make older gear with a specific purpose useful later in the game without giving the player a Disk One Nuke
(e.g. infinite ammo for a weaker weapon so it can serve as an Emergency Weapon
or a damage upgrade for an elemental weapon so it isn't outclassed by later ones, preventing Elemental Tiers
). This is helpful when the Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness
is in effect, but enemies have specific weaknesses to different weapon types. It can also be used as part of a Double Unlock
(first you have to quest for the Penultimate Weapon
, then you have to quest to upgrade it into the Infinity–1 Sword
Compare Item Crafting
and Just Add Water
(which involve creating
equipment, although either or both of the two can overlap or co-exist if lesser equipment is used as an "ingredient"). Temporary upgrades overlap with Power-Up
. If the equipments' models change, you can expect that Elaborate Equals Effective
. For upgrading your character via equipment, see Equipment-Based Progression
Examples (only list examples which don't belong on a subtrope's page)
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- Cave Story has (in addition to each weapon being an Evolving Weapon) a sidequest which allows the player to upgrade the Polar Star into a powerful charging weapon with infinite ammo (assuming they didn't trade it away).
- Tomb Raider (2013) features weapon upgrades on two levels; individual abilities and improvements, which can be bought with "salvage", and upgrades which unlock new abilities to buy, which are found by collecting "parts" or given to you at plot-specific moments.
- In Bastion, weapon upgrades can be bought after finding the right amount of the relevant collectable for that weapon (which follow a "Something [adjective]" naming pattern). Each weapon has five stages with two upgrades that the player can switch between after unlocking that stage.
- The Legend of Zelda often has sidequests where equipment can be upgraded. The best examples being The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which both had multiple upgrade sidequests for the sword (after the master sword was picked up it could be sharpened and tempered) and fairies who would upgrade other equipment.
First Person Shooter
- In BioShock (and BioShock 2), you could find "Power to the People" stations. Each station allowed one upgrade to be applied to an existing weapon (e.g. larger magazine, more damage) with a corresponding change to its model.
- The Engineer class in Team Fortress 2 is based around placing and upgrading various buildings to support their team (most notably the sentry gun; an automated gun which goes from a knee high machine gun to a dual minigun/rocket launcher platform).
- In Unreal, the very first weapon acquired in single player mode is an energy pistol with constant ammo regeneration. It can be permanently upgraded several times with missable power-ups, its projectiles changing colour and becoming more damaging at the cost of a slower rate of fire and ammo regeneration. Still, that gun is so weak that in multiplayer, players wield a different pistol by default.
- In Left 4 Dead, the pistol, which everyone starts with, can be "upgraded" to Guns Akimbo by picking up a second one.
- In Elsword, you can get numerical upgrades (+1, +2, etc) to attack/defence for any piece of weapon or armour from a blacksmith. The success of the upgrade is determined by chance, with better upgrades being less likely to work (and purchasable items increasing it). Upgrading equipment also increases the bonuses from socketing them.
Role Playing Game
- In Disgaea, all items (even consumables) can be upgraded by going inside their "item world" and clearing levels of it (as well as rescuing "innocents" - NPCs which raise the items' stats).
- Final Fantasy X. In addition to customisable weapons:
- The Infinity+1 Sword for each character had to be upgraded twice (by finding its corresponding Upgrade Artifacts and taking them to the right place) to unlock its full potential (with the added bonus of upgrading one of Yuna's Aeons).
- "Brotherhood", the sword Wakka gives Tidus near the beginning, is upgraded part way through the game, when Wakka talks to his brother on the Farplane.
- In Dragon Age II, rather than changing armor, your party members merely improve on the stats provided by their outfits by picking up upgrade components.
- In Eternal Eden Fierro's nun-chucks are improved by upgrading them with Bravestones.
- In Monster Hunter, weapon upgrades become available once you've unlocked the relevant tier and own at least one required material.
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep's "meld" system fits the trope in spirit by allowing more powerful abilities and moves to be created by combining other moves with each other.
- In God Eater Burst, All non-clothing equipment is subject to Elemental Crafting. In order to make the upgrade for a given piece of equipment available you must have the materials needed to craft it.
- Chrono Trigger sees the Masamune upgraded from the Sword of Plot Advancement to Frog's Infinity+1 Sword when it's full potential is unlocked towards the end.
- In Resident Evil: Code: Veronica, the pistol you find near the beginning of the game can be upgraded if you find the parts for it and take them to a workbench at the right point in the game.
- In Resident Evil 4, all of Leon's guns can have various upgrades purchased from the merchant (most even have a "special" upgrade which becomes available when all the others have been bought).
- Dino Crisis gives you three weapons — a handgun, a shotgun, and a grenade launcher — and each of them has two enhancements, usually boosting their damage output and rate of fire.