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Equipment Upgrade

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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).

Super-Trope to:

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. Unlucky players might find that the upgrade will require That One Component. 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)

    open/close all folders 

  • ANNO: Mutationem: At weapon workshops, Ann can upgrade her equipment by trading in dismantled collectibles to be used for parts to increase a weapon's stats and provide a bonus effect.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Devil May Cry:
    • Devil May Cry 2: Instead of spending Red Orbs to purchase specific skills for your weapons just like how it does in the first game, you spend Red Orbs to directly upgrade your weapon's damage in this game, and each weapon's level is denoted by a number below it if it's not yet maxed out.
    • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: Red Orbs are spent to directly upgrade Dante's guns, up to a maximum of Level 3. The upgrade's effect varies depending on the weapon; for example, Ebony & Ivory's upgrades increase its firepower, upgrading Artemis increases the maximum number of locked-on targets, while Kalina Ann's upgrades increase its firing speed.
  • 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 A Link Between Worlds, which both have multiple upgrade sidequests for the sword (after the Master Sword is picked up it can be sharpened and tempered) and fairies who upgrade other equipment. Skyward Sword includes an Item Crafting shop where nearly every secondary weapon and item can be improved using Random Drops from enemies, and improving the Goddess Sword into the famous Master Sword is a large portion of the quest. Of course, every step along that pathway also improves damage dealt. Breath of the Wild lets you upgrade your armor at Great Fairy Fountains provided you have the right materials.
  • 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.
  • Turbo Overkill grants you upgrading stations regularly to gain new weapons or improve the ones you already have.

    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.
    • Bioshock Infinite has "Minuteman’s Armory" vending machines take the place of weapon-upgrades. Unlike Power to the People machines, which gave one free upgrade of your choosing before shutting down, a Minuteman’s Armory provides several upgrades but at a very high price.
  • Call of Duty: Zombies: Nearly every single map has a "Pack-A-Punch" machine that can be found and used to upgrade weapons. The effects of the upgrade vary (ranging from a bigger clip, explosive bullets, or something completely different), but you can always expect a massive upgrade in effectiveness (along with a nice new camo for the weapon).
  • In Left 4 Dead, the pistol, which everyone starts with, can be "upgraded" to Guns Akimbo by picking up a second one.
  • In Medal of Honor: Vanguard, the player can find 50 round magazines for the M1928A1 Thompson and a scope for the M1 Garand, which converts it into an M1D Garand.
    • Medal of Honor: Airborne: Virtually every weapon in-game getting an upgrade, such as the Thompson going from a wartime production version to the gangster version, or the M1 Garand getting a Rifle grenade launcher in addition to adjustable sights and improved firing rate.
  • Overload has upgrades for all of the weapons (a basic upgrade and one of two possible super upgrades) as well as for the ship itself, with the latter including upgrades such as those reducing incoming damage and increasing the speed.
  • 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 the Mann vs. Machine game mode, the robots drop money that the players can spend to improve their weapons, increasing attributes such as fire rate and damage, or adding new attributes such as bullets that pierce through enemies.
  • 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.

  • Subnautica has the Upgrade Station, which naturally allows you to improve pieces of equipment or vehicle upgrade modules, should you have the proper blueprint and required crafting materials. It can turn a simple survival knife into a heated Thermoblade that deals more damage and cooks and sterilizes any small fish you hack with it, add more capacity to an oxygen tank, install electrical systems to your flippers that use kinetic energy to recharge the batteries of your handheld devices, and most importantly, improve a vehicle's depth module to allow it to survive even deeper underwater. Though on that last note, you may want to park your Cyclops submarine within its default listed diving depth before removing that Mark II depth module to improve it to a Mark III.

  • In many MMORPGs, 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). Examples include:
  • Guild Wars 2 uses this as the basis for crafting Legendary weapons. A "precursor" weapon must be located and then combined with three immensely expensive items in the Mystic Forge to generate the Legendary.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The game has had a few variations of the basic numerical upgrade where tokens or a vendor can be used to upgrade an item's level to keep pace with content. The most extensive variants were the Warlords of Draenor crafting system where a single item could be upgraded with player crafted tokens for the entire expansion; and Battle for Azeroth Benthic gear which could carry a player fresh to Nazjatar all the way to raiding level.
    • At different times over the game's history items that add a socket to equipment has been available with various restrictions.
    • In Mists of Pandaria blacksmiths can craft Lightning Steel weapons which can then be reforged with additional Lightning Steel. Each iteration is more powerful and elaborate than the last. Similarly, the Engineering profession has goggles that are crafted at a low level and then continuously upgraded with new components over time.

  • In Wayward Souls, you can get upgrades by using emberforges found on levels

    Role Playing Game 
  • In addition to scrolls, which work similarly to the previous entry, Ancient Domains of Mystery allows the player to upgrade weapons and armour through the use of Smithing skill. Heavily smithed items can sometimes surpass artifacts in their efficiency.
  • Aveyond 4: Shadow of the Mist applies this for Boyle's staff and Phye's sword.
    • Boyle can increase the magical capacity of his Corrupted Will by trading in Darkness points obtained from collecting Cheekis.
    • Phye's Warmonger grows stronger when it absorbs the blood of demons.
  • Chrono Trigger sees the Masamune upgraded from the Sword of Plot Advancement to Frog's Infinity +1 Sword when its full potential is unlocked towards the end.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Dungeon Crawl features scrolls of enchant weapon and enchant armour, which improve the item's attacking or defensive capabilities respectively, scroll of vorpalise weapon to make a temporary brand (flaming, freezing, etc.) permanent, and The Shining One and Kikubaaqudgha will permanently brand one weapon with holy wrath and pain respectively at the highest piety level.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Throughout the series, equipment including weapons, armor, and accessories can be "enchanted" to provide a magical effect. Weapons, for example, can be imbued with a magical element to increase their damage upon striking. The exact means varies from game to game, though later installments have settled on using a Soul Gem to burn the magical effect onto the item.
    • Skyrim expands the "Armorer" skill present previously in the series into the "Smithing" skill, which allows for the improvement of weapons and armor. Depending on your skill level and perks, you can improve a basic item through six levels of improvement from "Fine" all the way to "Legendary", drastically improving the items effectiveness as well as value.
  • In Eternal Eden Fierro's nun-chucks are improved by upgrading them with Bravestones.
  • Eternal Radiance: The enchanter shops can be used to make scrolls, which can be used to apply bonus stats and effects on equipment. The shop can also remove enhancements from equipment to allow new ones to be applied, or convert the removed enhancements back into scroll form.
  • 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.
  • Get in the Car, Loser!: Non-plus gear can be upgraded into plus gear by sacrificing a certain number of items. The plus gear counts as one rank higher than the original.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lunarosse applies this only to weapons, not armor. Twice, you'll need to get some unobtainium to keep boosting them.
  • Several Might and Magic games allowed enchanting non-magical items (of sufficient value, so it couldn't be done on the cheapest crap or stuff that can't be sold) with a random enchantment. This wasn't necessarily an upgrade in actual power, but it did increase the price of the item (especially with the least power-relevant enchantment — making it antique).
  • In Monster Hunter, weapon upgrades become available once you've unlocked the relevant tier and own at least one required material.
  • Path of Exile utilizes both this trope (in terms of either directly increasing basic offensive or defensive stats or granting random magical properties) and Socketed Equipment to almost infinite upgrade possibilities. A more direct example is Fated unique items, which requires the player to kill the unique boss the Prophecy says you will do with the requires item in your inventory.

    Survival Horror 
  • 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.
  • In The Persistence, you can'' spend Fabchips to upgrade equipment (up to three times), but doing so uses the same currency you need to buy new equipment after each death. So while you can invest your currency into upgrades, doing so will mean going for a while under-equipped and risk a reset.
  • Custom parts as a way to upgrade weapons have been a recurring element throughout the Resident Evil game series, appearing in multiple games.
    • Resident Evil 2 was the debut of the mechanic, where you could find hidden component packs that let you upgrade Leon's weapons. The VP-70 can be upgraded to fire in bursts with a stock, the Magnum gets an extended barrel, and the shotgun is converted with a barrel and stock. The VP-70 and Magnum upgrades are actually fairly realistic; the shotgun, not so much (the parts also somehow change the weapon from a pump-action to a semi-auto).
    • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis only has one upgrade, but it's a doozy: Infinite Ammo that can be used on any available firearm.
    • 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 0, a special duralumin case can be found containing a set of parts that can be used to upgrade either Rebecca's or Billy's handgun, with slightly different effects depending on which gun it's used on.
    • 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).
    • Resident Evil 5 would use the same upgrading style as its immediate precursor.
    • In Resident Evil: Revelations and Resident Evil: Revelations 2, Custom Parts are an enemy loot item that can be used to power up different weapons in different ways, such as increasing damage output, magazine size, or other traits.
    • In the 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2, as well as in the 2020 remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, unique weapon customizing mods can be found scattered throughout the game, each of which has a distinct gun it applies to and a distinct effect.
      • In the RE2make, Leon has access to: a gunstock that gives his pistol a 3-shot firing mode, an increased magazine for his pistol, a muzzle brake that drops his pistol's recoil, a lengthened barrel that also comes with an extended magazine tube that allows it to hold more shells, a stock that boosts his shotgun's fire and reload rates, an long barrel with a picattiny rail for his magnum to boost damage and lower recoil, a red dot sight for his magnum, and a regulator for his flamethrower that slows its fuel consumption. Claire comparison, gets: expanded magazines for her pistol and submachine gun, a speed-loader for her 5-shot revolver, a reinforced frame that lets her 5-shot revolver use high-powered handgun rounds, a stock for her grenade launcher that increases its accuracy but also gives it a leaf sight, a suppressor for her submachine gun that diminishes its recoil and makes it a silent weapon, and a high voltage condensor that lets her spark shot build up a fresh charge with greater speed.
      • In the RE3make, there's a total of ten mods, with two of the pistol mods only being accessible if you defeat Nemesis. Mostly, these mods apply to Jill; whilst Carlos seems to be the only one who can take the assault rifle mods, Jill also has access to both an assault rifle on Assisted difficulty and the area where a player can find the Tactical Grip and Dual Magazine mods, so it might be worth leaving these for her if playing an Assisted game. The mods consist of a laser dot sight, extended magazine, and "moderator" (silencer/critical hit booster) for the pistol; a tactical stock, semi-auto barrel, and shell-holder for the shotgun; a scope, tactical grip, and dual magazine for the assault rifle; and a lengthened barrel for the magnum.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • Jak 3: Wastelander has a menu where you could buy some extra upgrades for your weapon, such as increased ammo capacity, increased damage, lower ammo consumption per shot etc.
  • While weapons in Ratchet & Clank usually go with Evolving Weapon variety, there are usually ways to upgrade them this way as well:
    • Early-Installment Weirdness is in full effect in Ratchet & Clank (2002), so the only way to upgrade your weapons here is to find 4 (out of 40) Gold Bolts, have handful of cash, then find a place where these upgrades are hidden. Only 10 weapons out of 15 could be upgraded this way, and 5 of them only during New Game Plus. The upgrade usually added some useful secondary effects to the weapon, such as splitting arcs for Tesla Claw or increased capacity for Suck Cannon.
    • Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando started to use experience system for weapons, but for some weapons you could get secondary upgrades for 4 Platinum Bolts (out of 40 again): either Lock-on Mode, Acid Mod (damage over time effect) and Shock Mod (arcs of electricity jump to nearby enemies).
    • Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters had upgrades that could be bought at vendor each of which added a specific secondary effect.
  • In Warframe, Orokin catalysts and reactors can be installed on weapons and warframes (and companions) respectively to permanently double their mod capacity. Once you reach rank 30 with them, you can also install a forma to change the polarity of their mod slots, potentially giving more room for more powerful or numerous mods. After completing The Second Dream, you can install lenses on rank 30 equipment to turn excess Experience Points into points used to unlock unique abilities.

    Non-Video Game Examples 
Live-Action TV
  • Lasers are powerful weapons in the Air Wolf and are one of the few things capable of harming the mighty prototype attack copter. So in Season 4, the Airwolf gets a laser weapon added to it.
  • The title character of The Mandalorian starts out wearing a helmet made of blasterproof beskar steel, but the rest of his armor is dingy and battle-scarred. In the first episode, he accepts a job paid in beskar ingots and takes his down payment to his tribe's Armorer, who forges it into a pauldron that deflects a few blaster bolts on the job. In the third episode, he collects the full payment and has it made into a full suit of armor and some "Whistling Bird" micromissiles.
  • Red Dwarf: Rimmer gets his light bee upgraded in “The Promised Land”, allowing him to become a Diamond Light Hologram.
  • The advanced combat motorcycle prototype Street Hawk starts off with a particle beam. It's a powerful weapon but has issues. So unusually early, the second episode has the Street Hawk get cut-down M-60 machine guns and missile pods added to its arsenal.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons has had rules to enhance magic items with bonuses to ability scores, Armor Class or energy resistance.
  • The One Ring:
    • Adventurers can spend Experience Points to add special qualities to their equipment, like reducing its encumbrance or increasing a weapon's damage, to a maximum of three qualities per item.
    • A rare few adventures, like specially trained High Elves or dwarves with access to the Forges of Erebor, can spend downtime to add enchantments to items, like enabling a sword to harm ghosts.



Video Example(s):


ASW-G-08 Gundam Barbatos

Throughout Season 1, Barbatos dons different armor pieces due to the modular nature of Mobile Suit Frames allowing for the Gundam to incorporate pieces and equipment from other Mobile Suits.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / MidSeasonUpgrade

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