If you've played MMORPGs long enough, then you know that one of the most important aspects in almost every game is personal achievements. One such personal achievement that players are always after is improving their avatars aesthetically. No doubt, in your quest to find the best gear, you may have come across certain pieces of equipment that you thought looked better than others. Unfortunately, as you reached higher levels, or as new expansions were released you found that the once beautiful arrangement of steel or linen you donned became vastly inferior to new pieces of equipment. Lord of the Rings: Online offers ways in which you can continue to upgrade your armor, while wearing what you want to wear. Whether you're a fan of the washed, torn robes you had at level 10, or the feathered hat you got as a quest reward, the outfit system will offer you hundreds of possible combinations to customize your character.
Book 12 introduced several new additions into the game, and they were mostly intended to further customization, and allow players to make their characters look the way they wanted them to. Maybe you thought the mutton chops were a good idea on the character screen. Now you're level 30, and suddenly they're not as pleasant as you once thought them to be. Worry not! A quick visit to the barber will get things fixed up right away. The barber was one of the additions made in Book 12, and for a few silver, he can get rid of your untidy long hair, or give you a fresh shave. The barber is in fact so skilled with his tools, that he can even re-arrange your scars! The barber will come in handy for people seeking a different level of customization. Not only can it fix several mistakes you may have made during character creation, but it can serve as a tool to constantly update your avatar.
Another change made in Book 12 was the addition of the outfit system. The outfit system allows you to arrange your clothes the way you want to, without altering your attribute bonuses. So now, you can equip that amazing cloth cap you got as a class quest reward, or that incredibly powerful vest you got as a random drop from a monster, but at the same time, be displaying something entirely different. How does this work exactly? At level 20, you will receive an in-game notice, as you normally will when a new option becomes available to your character. This notice will inform you of two additional tabs found on your character screen, that will allow you to equip items merely for cosmetic purposes. The two tabs are seen as top hats on your regular equipment screen. Now you can put on your robe and wizard's hat, and look like a real Lore-master, while having all the benefits of your equipped vest and cloth cap you obtained recently!
How exactly do you take advantage of the outfit system? You are able to equip any piece of armor you receive into one of the cosmetic slots. There's one for each piece of appearance-altering equipment: helmet, shoulders, body piece, legs, boots, and gloves. Simply switch to one of the two outfit tabs, and start dragging and dropping items into the equipment slots. Note that if you double-click a piece of gear, you'll be equipping it, not adding it to your outfit. You can also toggle certain parts of your equipment or on off, so that they're not displayed at all when you're wearing a specific outfit. You can toggle off your shoulders, helmet, gloves, and boots. Once you're satisfied with the way your outfit has been setup, you can begin wearing it by clicking the "show outfit" option located in the same outfit tab.
The outfit system does not restrict itself to armor found from monsters or instances, however. Several cosmetic items can be obtained from outfitters found all over Eriador, or can be bartered for using special trade items that you may find along the way. Items such as corsair's hats and eye-patches, though rare, can replace the head slot item in an outfit, while more common items found at outfitters such as backpacks can replace the cloak slot in an outfit. Even though these cosmetic items range widely in rarity, the one thing that remains certain is this: there are unique and varied selections for someone who wants to spend hours working on their outfit, or only a few minutes.
Whether you want to look similar to your kinship mates, or you want to completely stand out from everyone else, the customization options that the Lord of the Rings Online offers are absolutely endless. Not only can you use anything from your end-game armor to a low-level robe in your outfits, but you also get unique items available from traders, drops, or outfitters. Not to mention that fact that there is no need to stick to the default colors that the outfits or armor originally come in; you may dye any piece of armor to one of the many colors available. Have a matching color scheme, or have a completely different color for every piece of armor.
With the ability to keep your facial features, your hair, and your clothes up-to-date, role-players and regular players alike will have a system available that is simple to use, and is enjoyable. Many MMORPGs these days offer hundreds of ways to customize your character at the character creation screen, but eventually, your character's ability to stand out diminishes as you reach end-game levels where nearly every person of your particular class is wearing similar armor. Being able to customize your character a hundred ways when you create it means nothing if it's going to look like everyone else in the end. Why even give players the ability to control how crooked their nose is, if it's going to be covered by a full-plate helmet at level 50?
Sometimes, after having played many MMORPGs for a while, we forget what originally attracted us to the genre: having choices, having freedom; being able to explore a fictional world from one end to the other, possibly dying many times in the process. Having options on where to quest, where to explore, where to hang out and role-play with friends for a while. The Lord of the Rings Online successfully brings many of these freedoms back, while constantly adding more choices for players. Now you can carve your own destiny in Middle Earth wearing whatever you want to wear, not just what's level appropriate. Should you also decide you don't need to visit the barber for a shave today, and fight the rising darkness with a full beard instead, then it should be your choice, right? Thanks to the game's many customization options, now it is.