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Elaborate Equals Effective

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Who says awesome has to be impractical?

Many games rely on the concept of Evolving Weapon, alias weapons that can be upgraded and get stronger. Sometimes, they not only get more powerful, but they also become visually fancier and more elaborate, usually to better illustrate how they improved. Alternatively, the weapons you pick up become more and more elaborate as you proceed in your quest/in the game, again in order to underline their greater power. It probably makes sense, as a beautifully decorated katana with a runic blade is far more appealing than a simple iron shortsword.

Note, however, that usually the "elaborate" part boils down to just the appearance of the weapon. While the weapon itself does grow stronger, the use/attack animation/whatever is still the same.

Goes well with Bling of War which may follow the same concept of looking nicer as it gets better. May also be stretched to various Mooks who get better-looking equipment as they get stronger and stronger.

Don't confuse with Evolving Weapon. See also Ace Custom. Also, before writing remember that this is mostly about the concept of the weapon looking more elaborate as they grow stronger. Speculations and discussions about how the decorations should influence the effectiveness of the weapon are pointless.


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  • The Dynasty Warriors franchise has this, with the various weapons becoming bigger and more decorated as they're acquired. Good luck finding all of them!
    • Samurai Warriors follows a similar concept: the stronger the weapon, the more elaborate it will look.
    • Hyrule Warriors also has this trope. Each weapon type has 3 different tiers, with 3rd tier weapons being the strongest. Each tier looks far more elaborate and decorated than the last. Special note goes to Zelda's rapier. The level 1 version is a fairly plain rapier, the level 2 features a wing motif in the cross guard, the level 3 features an elaborate golden guard in the motif of the royal family crest that is larger than Zelda's head.
  • And again with Sengoku Basara, which however subverts this in some cases with Yoshihiro (his giant sword becomes an equally big spiked club then an axe), Musashi (his Oar&Bokuto combo becomes a pair of plain katana) and Sasuke (from three-bladed Fuuma Shuriken to circular chainsaw-like blades.) Dulcis in Fundo, some weapons (expecially in the first game) turns out to fit the Joke Item category. Averted from the Third game onward, in which the Infinity +1 Sword is the player's standard weapon, colored gold.
    • Furthermore, the manga of the first game has this: Yukimura, Shingen, Mitsuhide and Nouhime are seen using more and more elaborate weapons token from the actual game.
    • In a subtle way, it extends (at least in the first two titles) to foot soldiers and officers: they are armed with either swords or spears, but officers and elite troops will wield bigger, more elaborated variations of these weapons (huge katanas, falchions or broadswords for the former, naginata, cross-spears, poleaxes and lances for the latter) depending on the faction. It's telling that the sole armies to not follow this pattern are the Imagawa and Hojo armies, and Itsuki's Ikki rebels (in their case, the normal soldiers wield hoes and sticks, while elites and officers gets katana and spears).
  • In God of War this happens with the Blade of Chaos, the Blades of Athena and the Artemis Sword. Is otherwise averted with the other weapons.
  • Used in the first three Onimusha games with the Oni weapons, bequeathed by benevolent demons. Your default blade is a plain katana, the other magic weapons grow bigger and more elaborated with each level you aquire by pumping Red Souls in them.
    • The fourth game avert this, as the weapon design is unchanged.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time the main swords used by the prince gets more and more elaborate, starting from a boring palace sword and ending up with the royal Infinity +1 Sword that annihilates all mooks in one blow.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask your sword starts out pretty plain looking. When you upgrade it once, it now has two blades and a more decorative hilt. Upgrading it a second time, the sword now has a gold-colored diamond pattern along the blade and a fancier handle still. There's also an unlockable fourth sword that's technicolored and has black roses etched onto the blade, and also a sword Link uses in one of his transformations has two blades that are shaped as a double-helix.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is about the creation of the Master Sword. You start with the basic Goddess Sword, and throughout the game it gets refined by three sacred flames, evolving each time, until it eventually ends with the Master Sword.
      • The shields also become more elaborate as they get upgraded. Each gets a new, more detailed design on the front, and in the case of wooden and iron shields, extra metal bands.
    • Zigzagged in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Weapons generally go from simply-designed to elaborate as they get stronger. But the Royal Guard weapons, while described as stronger than the Royal weapons from which they were modified, also have much lower durability. And the Master Sword is considerably less flashy-looking than most weapons but is also one of the most reliable.
  • In [PROTOTYPE 2] Heller's Shapeshifter Weapons become larger, fancier and more menacing when upgraded to second and fourth (final) levels.
  • In Genji, Yoshitsune's standard swords (those found in normal gameplay without item forging or unlocking secrets) will slowly look better and better, with the tip broadening a little, culminating in the Douji Killer sword, which is so elaborate and evolved that it doesn't look like a katana anymore. The same goes for most of Benkei's clubs or spears.

    First Person Shooter 
  • From Team Fortress 2 the Engineer's Sentry Gun and Dispenser are the most obvious, and all of the pickup or craftable weapons are more decorative than usual. Downplayed in that, rare exceptions aside, non-stock weapons are side-grades or purely cosmetic model/texture swaps rather than straight upgrades.
  • BioShock is a perfect example. As you upgrade your weapons at "Power to the People" stations, the look of your gun gets more and more elaborate. The Tommy Gun getting a wired barrel upon getting the recoil-reducing upgrade is one example.
  • Zig-zagged in Unreal: getting powerups for the Dispersion Pistol evolves it from Ranged Emergency Weapon to Hand Cannon in five distinct steps. The "elaborate" part is played straight, as each upgrade adds more bells and whistles to its design, but "effective" is subverted, as the increase in power and ammo capacity never catch up with the drawbacks of decreased firing speed and increased ammo consumption per shot.
  • The Borderlands series does a form of this for the rarity of weapons, though it's more notable in 2 and 3. Common tier weapons are usually filthy and look quite ramshackle, befitting their poor stats. But as the weapons increase in rarity, their weapon skins get more and more fanciful, and widgets (smaller attachments and sights) get added, increasing their visual business. Legendarynote  and Unique/Aftermarket weapons go on step further with custom paint jobs and abilities, and in the case of 3 sometimes unique weapon parts or animations.

  • In MapleStory, this is extremely evident. The very first weapon that a player receives upon choosing a class usually looks the most dull and unappealing (albeit looking relatively realistic). As the player grows stronger and obtains stronger weapons, their designs just keep getting flashier and more extravagant, to the point where it sometimes obscures the character's face!
  • In World of Warcraft more powerful weapons tend to be more exotic-looking and elaborate. The same goes for armors and shoulderpads, often to a ridicolous extent.
  • Level 50 weapons in Final Fantasy XIV suddenly become elaborately designed works of art compared to the simple weapons you were using up to level 49.
  • Warframe has the Prime frames and weapons. All finely decorated with shiny energy bits, gold trimmings and other fine materials (the weapons look like they're made of ivory or porcelain), yet much more effective than the basic variants, be it in terms of mod capacity and polarities, innate bonuses or raw capacities. Justified as they are relics from the Orokin era.
    • Similarly for Corpus faction weapons that have "Vandal" variants and Grineer "Wraith" variants, while not as ornate as Prime weapons they have fancier paintjobs and boosted stats compared to the regular variety. Also there are a few weapons that have Prisma variants which are occasionally supplied by the Void Trader.

  • Afterimage: Early-game weapons generally have bland or simple designs (in fact, the first weapons that you can pick up for every weapon type are made of wood, look basic, and offer no substats). Rarer weapons usually have higher attack, more stats, and more intricate, or fancier designs. However, this can also be zig-zagged depending on the weapon comparison. For example, Deathmatch is a Blade weapon with the highest Attack stat (165) within its weapon type, but it looks like a standard Japanese katana with a brown scabbard compared to the more sinister and fantastical-looking blades that are a tier directly below it (with 160 Attack), such as the Bloodbath, or the Heart of Sun.
  • In Alice: Madness Returns weapons can evolve and get a better design. There's also a secret downloadable weapon with a different design for each one of them.
  • All your arsenal in the Ratchet & Clank series will improve in both strength and design, but only up to a certain level.
  • In Jazz Jackrabbit 2 all your ammo (except for the electrical gun) can be upgraded if you break the right crate. The new ammo is more powerful and looks a little better in design.
  • The Nail, the primary weapon of the Knight in Hollow Knight, has four distinct forms. It starts as a simple wedge of steel with a handle and some faint cracks; the first upgrade removes the cracks and adds a V-shaped groove near the handle. The second upgrade adds spiral grooves throughout the blade, imitating a drill bit. But the final form, the Pure Nail, has a complex series of whirling shapes, as if the smith took several ingots of steel and somehow braided them together, but is fundamentally the same blade that you started with.

  • Diablo II too has this with armor: the more powerful the armor, the more parts of your body will cover. A slight exception is the strongest one, the Ancient Armor, which leaves the character with a "top level" armor type all over his body except for the left shoulder, which looks like as if armorless.
    • Diablo and its emulators (Torchlight, Hellgate: London, etc) have weapon types and models that repeat over several series. Later weapons are more elaborate than the first ones, but after that it blurs into subjectivity whether they're more elaborate or effective. However Legendaries have unique and more elaborate models that tell you at a glance they're more powerful. Then there's an inversion with some idiosyncratic uniques; they might do something cool, but aren't more effective for regular use than something of equal or even lesser tier.
  • Drakengard has the weapons become more elaborate as they level up.
  • Subverted in Dragon Quest VIII and IX: some weapons can be upgraded in their "super" form (for example the Zombie Killer becomes the Zombie Buster and so on). However, the upgraded weapon looks just like the original, or it gets a different color pattern.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, the effectiveness of a weapon can usually be easily judged just by looking at it. A standard, realistic iron or steel weapon will invariably be less powerful than the iridescent green Glass weapons, the gold-inlaid Ebony weapons, or the spiky, dark-grey-and-red Daedric weapons. Artifact weapons are often, though not always, even more impressive.
  • In Fable III your starting weapons gain certain decorations as you level them up, befriend villagers, amass wealth, kill zombies, etc.
  • Most Final Fantasy games from the PlayStation era onward would feature this in some form.
  • Golden Sun plays this straight by making the weapons' unleash abilities (critical hits) become fancier and more flashy as you find better weapons while the weapons themselves look very plain. This is due to sprite limitations. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn plays the trope straight.
  • In Grim Dawn, your starting equipment is rather poor-looking, usually consisting in ragged patchwork of cloth and metal for armor, shields made of scraps, weapons made of sawblades or metal splinters tied to a handle and so on. As you find better equipment you get better looking robes, armor, shields, melee weapons and guns. Unique weapons are either better-looking than normal or seemingly obtained from an enemy's body part.
  • The Kingdom Hearts games feature this trope with its Keyblades, though unusually for this trope, the evolution of the designs aren't gradual, but instead tend to come in leaps. The designs start a simple default weapon that looks like a stylized skeleton key, then you get the basic upgrades, which are whimsically designed "keys" based on Disney or Square Enix properties. Then you get to the Infinity Plus One Swords which are covered in intricate filigree. Compare the default, generic Keyblade, which very much looks like a key, to the Ultima Weapon, which vaguely resembles a key, but looks more like a very elaborately-designed sword. Keyblades in Kingdom Hearts χ can be leveled up individually and play this trope more traditionally, with the Keyblades getting more ornate as they level up.
  • The higher the enhancement bonus of a weapon in Neverwinter Nights, the more impressive it will look.
  • In Persona 3, fused weapons and special weapons are much more fancy than regular ones. They're also much more effective due to bonus status effects, which you get to choose on the fused weapons (including lessening or negating your party's weaknesses). Each Infinity +1 Sword is the greatest, most elaborate fused weapon of its class.
  • In Postknight, most weapons and equipment start off plain and simple, but as they are upgraded by a blacksmith, they get additional decoration and fancy designs which somehow improves their stat bonuses.
  • While the fact that the weapons are displayed only in sprites, Secret of Mana displays this trope through its upgradable weapon system. In some cases this involves changing one weapon into a completely new one (as an example, the standard Boomerang can be forged into a Shuriken after progressing through a certain number of tiers).
  • Tales Series revels in this trope. Its protagonists often start with sticks, and eventually upgrade to very elaborate weapons.
    • The best example would be Devil's Arms and their expiesnote  in other games. They are usually covered in spikes, jewels, and other decorations, and sometimes seem to be alive - and yet they are by far the strongest weapons, being able to power up almost indefenitely.
    • Tales of Berseria has a subversion - while for the most part stronger weapons are in fact more elaborate, the single strongest set, the "Unnamed" equipment, has a very simple design. Velvet's weapon, for example, goes from a straight grey blade (tier 1), to a mass of red-and-black strings in a vaguely blade-like shape (tier 19), to... a straight grey blade, but slightly more narrow (tier 21). That being said, lower-tier weapons raise stats other than physical attack, and might have more usefull skills, meaning their actual usefulness depends on player's build.
  • In Titan Quest this is applied mainly with the armor, shields and helmets of various kinds. For example the stronger version of the Corinthian Helmet (a typical greek helm) is the same helmet but now bigger and with a different color and crest. A number of monster-specific and rare pieces subvert this trope by being either rough and jury-rigged (the former) or elegant and stylized (the latter) compared to top tier normal items.

  • Not exactly a weapon example, but many military units from Battle for Wesnoth becomes more and more detailed and well-armed as they gain levels.
  • Not exactly ingame, but those ads for Urban Rivals that show the character going from vaguely Harry Potter-esque mage to firebird-with-a-sword might count, there's also a thin redhead soldier gaining muscles and facial hair until he has a giant beard and flamethrower bagpipes.
  • Seen in Age of Empires, especially with the swordsmen in the first game and the infantry in the second game (starting from a club wielding militian to a chainmail-wearing warrior with shield and longsword to a full-plated guy with a giant sword).
  • Mortal soldiers from Age of Mythology. For example, an early Greek Hoplite will be a random guy with a big spear. As you buy and research more technology, he'll start gaining more armor, helmet and a shield. Also the colors indicated the general quality, with golden weapons and armors at the top.
  • An old 4X space game, Spaceward Ho! includes designing your own ships. The various aspects of the ship (speed, gunpower, etc) are scalable and the higher the number, the more awesome the ship ends up looking.
  • In Clash of Clans, buildings and troops get fancier looking as they are upgraded. A good example is the walls going from wooden stakes on their first level, to electric pylons at their highest level.
  • The weapon and armor upgrade icons in Warcraft III are increasingly elaborate as they get better, the last one glowing for Alliance and Horde weapons.
  • In the sequel of Dungeons a perfect example is given with the Ghosts' evolution line: they start with the Fright, a cute girl in a tattered gray dress carrying a knife, to the Banshee, a young girl with improbable hairstyle, a longer gray dress and a sickle and finally the Black Death, a stunning gothic beauty with a gorgeous black dress, bone wings and a giant scythe. More noticeable as the base pattern (a ghostly girl with a weapon) is kept.
  • The Mobile version of Dungeon Keeper applies this trope to units (except Immortals), rooms (Except the Guard Post) and doors. Rooms become more decorated and better looking as they power up (the Graveyard starts as a dirt hill with a single tomb on it and slowly evolves into a giant stone crypt), while units will start to look more and more menacing and even gain accessories (Trolls get bigger, fiery hammers along with leather aprons and iron masks, Wizards gain more elaborated robes and staves, Mistresses get skimpier outfits with spiked bras and domino masks and so on).

    Third Person Shooter 
  • In Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, when you buy a upgrade for one of your guns, the upgrade is reflected by the gun's appearance changing. For example, when you buy the upgrade to increase the clip size, the gun will have a larger magazine.
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising, the basic-looking weapons of each class are generally more balanced as far as that class of weapons goes,note  while more stylistic weapons are more specialized. The Three Sacred Treasures are absolutely beautiful and all around lethal note  and the Great Sacred Treasure is a whole 'nother kettle of Feyesh.note 
  • Warframe runs the gamut. Event-exclusive Wraith and Vandal weapons, as well as Syndicate weapons, just get a fancy new paint job. Prime weapons, on the other hand, get decked out in all kinds of gold ornamentation. While most of them still resemble their vanilla counterparts at the core, a few (such as the Latron Prime and Paris Prime) are nearly unrecognizable. All of the variants mentioned feature statistical improvements over their standard counterparts, although the exact nature of the upgrade varies from weapon to weapon.

    Visual Novels 
  • Deconstructed in Fate/hollow ataraxia: Avenger's weapons are a pair of really nasty-looking, strangely-shaped claw swords named Tawrich and Zarich. He remarks that the strange shape makes them near-useless in actual combat, though he does manage to put up a decent showing with them regardless.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • In Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV, most weapons get more and more elaborate as they get upgraded. Some just get sillier such as the flashbang which , at max level of upgrades, turns into the Fart in the Jar. Beware the stench. It smells so rancid that it forces all who inhale its odor to vomit.
  • In Maneater, upgrading the body mutations will cause the shark to become bigger and more monstrous looking, with bone mutations growing huge plates of spiky bone armor, biolectric adding trailing tentacles, and shadow adding chitinous black plates that make you look like something from HR Gieger's nightmares.

    Other Media 
  • Played straight in Zoids most of the time. Earlier Zoids tended to be little more than cockpits and guns attached to wheels or sticks vaguely resembling legs. Naturally early Zoids tend to pale in comparison to more modern Zoids which in addition to more elaborate, organic-looking designs, also have more guns, better guns, better armor, and better technology in general. As an example, compare the Garius to the more modern Gojulas. For extra fun, compare both to the even more advanced Gojulas Giga.
  • Parodied in the Webcomic Rusty and Co.: The +1 Trident is actually a rake.
  • Berserk playes with the trope:
    • Before he leaves The Blacksmith, Guts receives a gift, an awesome-looking flamberge with waved edges. Just then, an Apostle attacks, and the sword proves completely ineffective against it. Then Guts happens to find what will become his Dragonslayer: a huge wedge of iron that only needs to be swung into the enemy for decapitations and skull-crushing.
    • The Dragonslayer has another instance of being a subversion, in the story behind its creation. It was made as an answer to a contest for blacksmiths to forge "a sword that could kill a dragon". Most contestants just made the fanciest sword they could to try to catch the eye of the king who commissioned the weapons, but Godot instead concluded that to kill an impossible monster, you would need a weapon that is impossible to wield, so he made just that, with no care for its appearance or practicality.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Played very straight with the orks, although in their case it's more Effective Equals Elaborate: they'll add stuff like steel plates or giant bayonets or extra barrels that makes the weapon much more effective.
    • Master-crafted weapons and armor are much more effective than standard equipment, and is ususally decorated with inspirational imagery.
    • A bad roll on determining equipment occasionally gives standard weapons that are just prettier than normal, with no increase in effectiveness.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Zig-zagged regarding Best-quality weapons and armour, which grant a significant statistical bonus at the cost of a tenfold markup. The game notes that these are custom-made pieces and are often elaborately designed and decorated with gems and precious metals... or they might be understated, yet very effective.
  • Played with in the novel Helsreach. The Black Templars start the battle in their usual ornate, immaculate power armor and weapons, and covered in Purity Seals. By the end of the siege it's noted that they've taken so much punishment that even the paint has been scored off their armor, such that they look like simple gunmetal-grey nondescript marines of no particular chapter.
  • Discworld has the cast discuss this trope. Sergeant Colon is of the opinion that the really shiny and fancy swords kings are usually depicted with wouldn't really be all that useful, and when in real need of a weapon, a king's sword would probably be an unassuming but very sharp blade. He is correct: Carrot's sword is the sword of a king, and it appears perfectly ordinary but is extremely effective when put to use.

    Real Life 
  • In Real Life this is partially played straight: Just compare a stone age spear to a medieval ranseur, or a bronze age sword with a Sengoku-period Katana, or a blunderbuss to a modern rifle. Of course, this can also lead to cases of Awesome, but Impractical weapons if they get too elaborate, and in cases of prolonged conflict and dwindling funds, such as for many coutries involved in World War II, military weapons will usually sacrifice as much unnecessary form as possible without affecting function. Webley even went out of their way to mark such guns with the words "WAR FINISH" lest users get the idea that such a crude appearance was typical for their revolvers.
    • Before the industrial era form and function tended to go hand in hand with form often leading as development was funded by noblemen without scientific backgrounds, who needed new weapons to look dangerous before agreeing to an investment. Once mass production and optimization became important the decorations disappeared very quickly.
    • Also, if you're going to go to all the effort to make something high quality, you might as well pay a little extra to make it look nice. Conversely, if you can't afford to make it high quality, how could you afford to make it look good?