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The Best Video Game Rewards Money Can't Buy

In modern gaming, love them or not, microtransactions are simply a part of life. The days of old fashioned unlockable items and levels have been replaced with pay-to-win mechanics and DLCs that squeeze a little more staying power out of games and a little more cash out of players' pockets. 


There are occasional pre-order bonuses and purchasable gizmos and accessories that make parting with your hard-earned cash a little easier, sure. However, nothing quite beats that feeling of discovering a new hidden nook or awesome weapon within the base game. This list covers those moments when it just honestly feels good to master your games of choice, as well as instances where the tools made available within those games are just plain better than anything you could plunk down money for. At the end of the day — and at the risk of sounding like we're telling you to get off our lawn — sometimes the reward is sweeter when you work just a bit harder for it.

The Mayan Armor turns you into a man of steel - Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

There are plenty of cool artifacts in Ubisoft's pirate action spectacular Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, but there's one piece of gear hidden in the game that you'll be so glad you sought out: the Mayan Armor. Finding this incredible garment takes some doing: you have to sail all over the map and solve 16 ancient puzzles. Once you do, the location of the armor will be revealed on the in-game map and will be found on the other side of a rather impressive secret door. 


So, the feeling of satisfaction in finding this armor is already intoxicating enough, but the very best thing about these new duds is their ability to deflect bullets, essentially rendering Edward unkillable by his many musket-toting enemies. Compare that to the purchasable outfits found through the Illustrious Pirates Pack. Sure, those clothes look pretty fancy-schmancy, but they aren't about to repel actual projectiles. In other words, the Mayan Armor is definitely worth the work required to get it. Better to be alive than illustrious, don't you think?

An alien gun is a better reward than a coat of paint - Far Cry 5

Did you know there's an actual alien gun in Far Cry 5? And that it's completely awesome? An NPC named Larry will send you on a side-quest involving a series of crop circles and artifacts of extraterrestrial origin (one of which is hidden inside a cow carcass). After gathering all of these artifacts, the side-quest "Out of This World" culminates in Larry being beamed up to god knows where. Where he once stood will be the mighty impressive Magnopulser gun.


Compare this fun side quest and the violent spectacle of using the Magnopulser in combat with the mundanity of Far Cry 5's purchasable "Prestige" weapons. These weapons are acquired with the in-game currency, which you can buy more of with real world money. They're also exactly the same as the standard weapons, just with an extra coat of paint. You want a shovel with a smiley face? Be our guest, but you'll ultimately have a better time hunting down and implementing some goofy science-fiction death with the Magnopulser. 

EXPcalibur is an appropriately legendary reward - Dying Light

The EXPcalibur is a fantastic melee weapon that exists as an Easter egg in 2015's zombie action game Dying Light. This Arthurian piece of equipment can be found sticking out of a burning dead body in the Slums area of the world map. Simply hold down the action button for a little over a minute and your character will yank this sword right out of the stone. Though the weapon has a low durability rating, it has incredible power, literally flinging zombies around like rice at a wedding. Also, patient players who wait until the flames go out on the corpse can snag the blueprints necessary to build an EXPcalibur of their very own when the freebie wears down (provided they have the right materials, of course).


Admittedly, Dying Light does feature some pretty great weapons that can be obtained through purchasing one of the game's DLC packs. Still, the feeling you'll get from retrieving this mythical weapon can't be matched by the simple act of purchasing some guns, no matter how flashy they may be. 

The Soul Saber beats nostalgia - Final Fantasy 15

Though the settings and characters change between most Final Fantasy installments, the weapon known as the Soul Saber (or Sabre, depending on the game) has become something of a recurring element. In Final Fantasy 15, the Soul Saber is rewarded to the player after a side quest called "Cursed Legend," in which our heroes must take down a level 85 enemy. This version of the Soul Saber is worth the hassle though. Its enchantments make it deal stronger blows to the enemy, the lower the protagonist's stamina is. Basically, when you're surrounded and worn down, it's a sure-fire weapon to get you out of a tight spot. 


Compare this powerhouse to any of the DLC weapons for Final Fantasy 15. Sure, it's cool to wield weapons from the series' history — like Lightning's Blazefire Saber from Final Fantasy 13 — in the new game. However, for sheer combat power and the feeling you get after seeking out this weapon and slaying a powerful enemy to seal the deal, the Soul Saber is the way to go.

Will Smith would be proud of the Loud Locust - Saints Row 4

Remember the Noisy Cricket from the Men in Black films? It was a tiny little hand pistol given to Will Smith's Agent J when he joined the team. Despite it's diminutive size, the weapon packed a wallop and was easily the weapon you'd want to have if you were in that movie. Well for those of you suffering from Cricket envy, Saints Row 4 has you covered. 


There are some really fun and powerful DLC weapons in Saints Row 4, but the gun called the Loud Locust is definitely worth the search, as it takes you on a pretty entertaining ride before you even get the weapon. It involves shooting down the "Employees Only" door in Steelport's Let's Pretend store. Beyond that door, there's a shooting gallery with the development team's faces on the targets. Destroy them and pick up the Loud Locust in the same room. This weapon is not only ridiculously powerful, it's also hilarious to use in battle. The wild kickback from the Loud Locust and its quick recharge alone make it simply more fun than any of the weapons you can buy.

Mist Armor is a godly reward - God of War

2018's God of War opens with protagonist Kratos and his son mourning the loss of Faye, Kratos' wife and Atreus' mother. It makes sense, then, that the game's Digital Deluxe Edition came with a set of armor for the Ghost of Sparta and his son that reflects their period of grieving, called the Death's Vow armor. The only problem is that this armor ... kind of sucks?


Basically, the armor offers low-level protection that's not much better than the base clothing you'd normally start the game with. It's also rendered pretty much obsolete once you get far enough into the story to start crafting and upgrading your own armor. For the best protection the Nine Realms has to offer, you can't do much better than the Mist Armor, which grants different major stat boosts depending on which version you craft.

This armor can be pieced together and upgraded by searching through the game's world map and braving the deadly randomized Niflheim maze. Basically, it's a long and arduous quest, but the feeling of accomplishment (and utter power) from piecing this bad boy together is tops. It truly is a godly set of armor.


The Umbra Sword is its own reward - The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion

The Umbra Sword is a recurring weapon in the Elder Scrolls series, but the one that really feels like it's worth the hassle is the version found in The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. In that game, an ancient Daedric being named Clavicus Vile (he sounds nice, right?) charges the protagonist with retrieving the Umbra Sword from the ruins of Vindasel, slaying a creature that also calls itself Umbra. Once you've retrieved the sword, whatever you do, don't deliver it to Clavicus Vile. Yes, the helmet you get from him for doing so is pretty great, but the Umbra Sword boasts the highest base damage of any one-handed weapon in Oblivion. In other words, it's simply too good to give up.


Oblivion had some admittedly fantastic weapons available through DLC quests, like the armor-disintegrating dagger known as Mehrunes' Razor. However, the Umbra Sword is not only stronger, but it feels like it carries more weight, in more ways than one. You literally have to double-cross a god to hang on to it. The bragging rights alone make the Umbra Sword the superior blade of choice.

Stick with the standard Devil Arms - Devil May Cry 5

Devil May Cry 5 added Devil Arms to Nero's already impressive arsenal: detachable mechanical arms with a variety of awesome effects. For instance, Ragtime slowed time, while Rawhide deployed a chain whip that would make Simon Belmont green with envy. There's an Arm for every situation and you'll definitely feel like a badass for practicing with them, but Capcom sweetened the pot by including some special arms only available to those who purchased the Deluxe Edition of the game.


Though many of the extras that came with the Deluxe Edition are great, the much-touted bonus Devil Arms just aren't worth your time or moolah. As fun as it sounds to to play as Nero toting around Mega Man's Mega Buster, it's not quite as impressive in execution. The other bonus Devil Arms fare even worse combat-wise, especially Sweet Surrender, which acts as more of a healing kit than a weapon. Oh, and don't even get us started on the ridiculous banana arm (at least that one is free and clearly just a silly joke). In the long run, you're much better off learning to master the excellent arms available in the base game.

Use any weapon besides the Gearbox Guns - Borderlands 2

The Borderlands series is all about insane firepower, with weapons that can shoot everything from energy bursts to acid bullets. That's why it was intriguing when Gearbox announced that pre-orders of Borderlands 2 would come with a set of golden Gearbox-branded guns to give new Vault Hunters a leg up in the game. These were later released as a separate purchasable DLC, as well as included in the Game of the Year Edition of Borderlands 2. Unfortunately, players figured out pretty quickly that the Gearbox Golden Guns just weren't all that impressive. Like, at all.


The thought of including a few neat guns to help in the early parts of the game is a nice one, but unfortunately these guns are rendered obsolete almost immediately. Again, part of the appeal of the Borderlands series is finding all of the various bonkers weapons littering the world. Pretty much as soon as you kill a bandit and they drop a shotgun, it'll outshine (and outshoot) any of the Gearbox weapons. Heck, you're likely to find better weapons in a skag pile.

The RPK can stay in the tunnels - Metro: Last Light

Post-apocalyptic first-person shooter Metro: Last Light is a game with no shortage of ways to battle enemies. One such weapon is the RPK, which was a machine gun that was originally released as a DLC. It's not a bad weapon, with a pretty high ammo capacity. However, it has more than a few shortcomings, including quite a bit of recoil and a lower rate of fire than some of the game's other automatic weapons. 


The later definitive edition of the game, Metro: Last Light Redux, would simply include the RPK as a standard weapon in-game. This is fitting when one considers how solid some of the other standard weapons were already. In particular, the Shambler was a devastating shotgun that doubled as a melee weapon, and the Kalash 2012 was both accurate and had a higher firing rate. Basically, with the kinds of weapons available to you in the tunnels of the metro system, shelling out even a bit of spare change for the RPK just didn't seem quite as enticing as it may have once.

Easy Fatalities are a joyless reward - Mortal Kombat series

Fatalities have been a staple of the Mortal Kombat franchise ever since the original title burst onto the arcade scene like one of Liu Kang's fireballs. They were the kind of thing that kids would discuss in low tones on the playground, a secret to be traded around and celebrated by the folks who had figured out how to pull off these grisly finishing moves. 


That's why it was kind of a bummer when Mortal Kombat X included the option of "Easy Fatality Tokens," which could be purchased with real money and applied to the characters in-game. This would change the combinations required to pull off Fatalities to simply two buttons. As Ars Technica pointed out, this is basically the equivalent of paying for "an instant headshot in Battlefield without having to go to the trouble of precise aiming." It removes the need for skill and much of the fun. The mechanic would make a return in Mortal Kombat 11.

So yes, you can pay for the ability to make Fatalities easier to pull off, but should you? You simply cannot buy the satisfaction of mastering your characters of choice.