One of the things that I like about Lord of the Rings Online is that, in order to claim at least some sort of adherence to the spirit of Tolkien’s mighty work, they needed to keep the game’s armour and weapons towards the more subdued end of the General Garishness Scale as we can see in Figure A.
Dragon Age: Origins on the other hand is hard to place on the scale because it has, on the whole, a fairly sombre design philosophy with regards to armour and weapons, but has the occasional Warcraftian eyesore whose effect is only magnified by the fact that it keeps such sober company. Take the longsword version of Starfang, one of the better swords in the game, which appears to have been designed by the car stylists from The Fast and the Furious. With its vivacious eggshell blue neon glow from hilt to tip, I think it’s safe to say that it stands out against the more traditional steel on offer, but not in a good way to my mind; it has what I can only describe as veins of glowing neon blue running the length of its blade and it does seem to resemble a giant blue penis in sword form, as though Dr Manhattan had detached his wang and altered its molecular structure in order that you could beat Darkspawn to death with it. Now there’s a fanfic crossover idea.
I suppose that swords in these fantasy games are a bit like lady’s pleasure devices: most want a subtle, discreet unit that doesn’t draw attention to themselves and can be slipped in and out of a body without any more fuss than a modest breathless gasp on the part of the recipient; other people, and I’m not entirely sure that they aren’t either mythical or the sole preserve of fans of adult entertainment films, want a humungous intimidating thing, that glows and sparkles and which could have someone’s eye out from over six feet away, the primary design goal of which seems to be to scare the living crap out of pet cats sneaking around under the bed, or a partner who accidentally stumbles upon it whilst looking for their slippers there.
I don’t really understand the whole ‘the bigger the better’ and ‘if it glows it must be special’ idea behind items in these games, I’m sure the heritage of it lies in fantasy literature and Dungeons & Dragons, and it has since evolved as a cheap and easy way to allow players to quickly identify those with the biggest eRogenous Zone from some distance – half a continent away in the case of World of Warcraft – but all the neon and flashing lights and ridiculously inflated proportions seem tacky and uncivilised to my mind, doubly so when it appears in otherwise sober games like Dragon Age: Origins or Lord of the Rings Online where the starkness of contrast is at its most pronounced, like finding a Constable watercolour titled 37DDs Outside Las Vegas Casino.