There are lots of different types of swords. There's katanas
, swords that should be logistically impossible for any human to wield
, and many more. Yes, the sword is certainly a unique and varied specimen, and no two kinds have exact the same method of wielding.
Except in games.
You see, when a game has loot and upgradable weaponry, it won't do to carry around the same dinky sword for the rest of your journey, so you're bound to get a new one. But in a game filled with oodles of weapons, developers can't always be inclined to make each and every one specifically different from the next. A sword's a sword, right?
In other words, a lot of games have the tendency to give you a "better" or "new" version of a weapon that you already own, but while it may statistically be more powerful, it looks and plays almost exactly the same as your previous weapon. You'll be amazed by how much more powerful your Ultimate Warrior Blade is in comparison to your Trainee Sword, but then you'll realize that when you swing it around in-game, it's pretty much exactly the same.
While this can be occasionally justified by the character simply gaining swords of the same style as their previous ones, in games where you control a party of characters, and more than one wield the same type of weapon, they will be able to interchange between each other. We'll ignore the fact that The Hero
wields a katana, while The Lancer
swings around a broadsword; you can just give them both an "Iron Sword" and be done with it.
This tends to be much more common in older or sprite-based games, before developers really could finely detail weapons to look differently. However, even in modern games, just because a weapon has a slightly different hilt or a chip on its edge doesn't mean it'll swing any different from your last one. It's also common in Tabletop Games
. Games that allow weapon appearances to be transferred or customized deliberately play this trope straight due to Rule of Cool
and Rule of Fun
See also Every Japanese Sword Is a Katana
and Slice-and-Dice Swordsmanship
. Check out our Useful Notes
, European Swordsmanship
pages for some thoughts on the differences between actual swords.
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Hack and Slash
- Blatant in Devil May Cry 2: you get a normal sword, a BFS and a fencing sword, but only the look and damage differs, the combos are exactly the same. That's one of the reasons this episode is considered the black sheep of the series.
- Averted in the Dynasty Warriors series; most of the large character roster has unique weapons, and move sets to accompany them. Even some very similar weapons can play very differently!
- Averted in the Onimusha series, by and large. Protagonists tends to wield several different swords over the course of a game, with the swords having different appearances, speeds, combos, animations and magical attacks depending on the blade. In both games 2 and 4 there are multiple sword wielders in the parties, but they wield different sorts of swords and can't swap weapons with each other. The fourth game features a huge number of weapons, and characters will have different attack patterns depending on which weapon they have equipped. Of particular note is Jubei from game 4, who will go all the way from an acrobatic attacker leaping into battle to a nearly stationary Iaijutsu Practitioner who draws, attacks, and sheathes her sword so fast it can barely be seen depending on which weapon she has equipped.
- Zig zagged with Chrono Trigger: Every character has their own weapons, so Crono (who uses katanas) can't use Frog's braodsword and vice versa, but every weapon that each character is able to use is wielded identically. Even when that sword is a mop.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind:
- Averted, since each weapon (and thus different types of sword) had different values when they're used for hacking, slashing or thrusting. Played straight in Oblivion where every sort of sword (apart from a few token katanas) was basically a variation on a basic crucifix sword made from different materials.
- Gets played even straighter in Skyrim, where a character good with a one-handed sword will be just as good with a one-handed mace. The same also works for two handed weapons-good with a warhammer? Great, here's a greatsword, you're just as effective! (However, some perks can be taken to make the player character better with one type of weapon or another, providing a slight subversion)
- Practical non-sword example: staffs, halberds, and spears all use the same wielding/attacking animation. However, halberds and spears have better damage values when thrust and staffs do better damage when swung.
- In Radiant Historia, both Stocke and Marco can wield swords, and despite the fact they are clearly two completely different types of swords (a longsword and a short one-handed blade), they both can equip any and all types of swords. This also applies to armor, since Stocke, Raynie, Marco, and Rosch can all equip the same types of armor. The first three are somewhat understandable, but Rosch fitting into the same pieces of armor is a tad ridiculous.
- Also subverted in one very specific instance, a blade called the Sand Sword that is so bizarrely shaped none of your party members can use it, but one NPC won't use anything else.
- In RuneScape Classic, whose graphics were on the less-advanced side, all melee weapons had the exact same fighting animation: you just bash your opponent with it and that's that.
- The modern game has a wider variety of stances for different types of weapon, but there are still a limited number of animations for slashing, stabbing, or bludgeoning—the stabbing animations for a bronze dagger are the same as the ones for a mithril shortsword or a pair of gardening secateurs.
- A funny example in Neverwinter Nights, where all one-handed melee weapons share the same attack animations, which means rapiers, scimitars, longswords, clubs, axes, knives, and anything else you can wield in one hand are animated exactly the same way. To their credit, however, the rapiers look more like small cutlasses or sabers that could plausibly be used as slashing weapons.
- In Shining Force, giving a character a different weapon swaps the weapon you see in their battle sprite, but otherwise, the animations are exactly the same. The only exception is the Chaos Breaker, which has fancy fire effects.
- The majority of MMORPGs use the same animation for all weapons of the same class even if their designs are wildly different. A one-hander and a two-hander may have different animations but all one-handers will have the same animation with the same being true of all two-handers. Weapons that aren't swords may have even more drastic generalization, such as having a single animation for both polearms and javelins.
- Partically averted by Mabinogi, which not only has different animations for different sword classes; but also certain sub-classes as well. eg. A two-handed japanese style sword has a different animation than a two-handed broadsword.
- Vandal Hearts is this trope and then some. Whatever weapon or armour you give a character, their sprite will still use exactly the same artwork - the artwork only changes when the characters change class. This leads to the potential of giving a character a crappy shortbow, then the character having a huge pavise with a mechanical, belt driven arrow launcher strapped to the side in-game.
- While all basic enemies have the exact same animation for each member, every boss and playable character have unique attack animations. For example, the burly Grog uses a brutish, simple style for swordfighting, while Clint relies on simple techniques and Dolan on finesse. Ash uses big flashy sword attacks, being The Hero and all.
- NetHack has no attack animations to concern itself about and, instead, is super-conscious about weapon type and skill of weapon use. That does not mean that simplifications and over-specificity are not maintained as Acceptable Break from Reality moments - standard long swords and katana sharing the same skill, while broadswords, scimitar, and sabers each have their own skills - but this produces a decent simulation of "all swords are not the same."
- In Dungeons of Dredmor, you no longer incur a penalty for using a weapon that you are not skilled to wield, where it did distinguish between several types of melee weapons in the older versions.
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night does a fairly good job of averting this. Of the approximately 60 bladed weapons in the game at least half of them have significant differences in animations, reach or status effects than any other weapon in the game. That's not even taking into consideration the secondary attacks of some of the weapons that some players might never even find.
- Diablo III plays this arrow-straight with all its characters, but the Monk stands out in particular. No matter what equipment a monk has (bare hands, punch daggers, a sword and shield, dual maces) they always attack with their fists - only occasionally hitting enemies with a sword pommel or the back of a shield. Even more amazingly, the Monk has access to special staffs - that they'll keep on their back the whole time they're fighting enemies! This was partially fixed in a patch, and the Monk will now use fist-weapons and staves for certain attacks. The cosmetic nature of weaponry is thrown into even sharper relief with the Reaper of Souls expansion, which adds the ability to change the appearance of equipment without chances their performance or underlying stats.
- In Gothic 3 there is the same combat animation wherever you use two-handed swords or halberds. Protagonist even hold one hand in the middle of blade, just like in any pole weapon.
- Averted in both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, where swords are divided into many different types, such as the longsword, large swords, greatswords, ultra greatswords, piercing swords, curved swords, curved greatswords, and finally Japanese swords. The distinction is important as every single one has a different moveset, attack power, recovery time, etc. In Dark Souls, sometimes not even weapons belonging to the same type has the exact same moveset; the Claymore and Bastard Sword has a different strong attack, as does the Zweihander and Greatsword and even the nearly identical Uchigatana and Iaito.
- A particularly strange example is the Silver Knight Sword, a particularly rare, and long longsword that drops from Anor Londos Demonic Spiders, the silver knights. Its light attack is the curved Falchions swishing slash, its heavy attack shares less in common with the normal longswords stabbing/disemboweling moves as it shares with the standard scythes extremely fast and delayed vertical slash, followed by a similarly wide angle horizontal slash, both hits inflicting massive damage.
- Dark Souls II goes further with Santier's spear. Unlike other weapons, it gains a different moveset when broken instead of becoming unusable. The end result is an unbreakable weapon with a moveset based on the spear, halberd, curved sword, and twin-blade. It has 500 durability, so it takes a while to break down.
- Golden Sun: an intriguing example, in that the weapon's appearance changes depending on which character equips them. For example, equipping an axe on Isaac gets a double-headed battle-axe, give it to Garett and it becomes a huge woodcutter's axe. A mace can be a simple ball-on-a-stick or a Sauron-esque flanged mace or the ever-popular big-black-ball-o'-spikes. Ivan's Simple Staff looks like his Orphan's Plot Trinket but Mia's has a crystal ball on top. And so on.
- The third game moves further away from the trope in that every weapon has the same appearance and closer to it in that many weapons now share the same unleashes (special moves). This is partly because every weapon has more than one unleash though so many weapons still have unique moves or combinations of them. Every weapon takes time to master for each character as well, unless it is a duplicate one one they have already used.
- Dragon Quest IX: Zigzagged: every weapon and armor piece has its own icon and appearance on the 3D character model. However, upgraded forms of a weapon and armor (through alchemy) have the exact same icon and appearance.
- Tales of Phantasia averted this to a surprising degree for a Super Famicom game - Cress's weapons are rated on both thrusting and slashing damage, so while he performs all special attacks the same way no matter the weapon, the resulting damage was very different depending on the weapon's suitability. Some could only do one or the other damage type in any useful amount, while others were balanced. Cress also used more than just swords, so you have to worry about issues like reach - spears might be able to hit two enemies with a good thrust, but that up-close enemy might not even get touched because it's inside your reach.
- Averted in Bravely Default, as the game splits swords into three categories (Swords, Katanas, and Daggers) that have varying proficiency requirements. While a Knight can pick up and use a Katana if they want, but they wouldn't get nearly the same mileage out of it as a Swordmaster would, and visa versa. Even within a category, specific blades may have additional effects based on their design. The main-gauche, for example, grants a twenty point bonus to Evasion due to the shape of its hilt and its function as a parrying dagger.
- On that note, Nostalgia plays this straight with regards to every weapon class. Most notably with guns, which vary from match-lock pistols to 1930s-era submachine guns; gun-wielding party member Pad handles them all with the exact same animations.
- Dungeons & Dragons started with sets of weapon given to the classes and ended with much the same. AD&D1-AD&D2.5 rules, though, acknowledged that a character could be proficient in wielding, e.g. glaives but not halberds or knives but not daggers. To avoid going too far this way — because, again, there are lots of minute variants — AD&D2 halved non-proficiency penalty for closely related weapons and Complete Fighter's allowed proficiency in tight groups ("fencing blades" or "spears") at the cost of two or broad groups ("pole weapons", "small throwing weapons") at the cost of three. Groups overlap with each other, styles add diversity on top of this, giving different tactical advantages/disadvantages to Single weapon style specialist and Two-handed style specialist using the same bastard sword (or a club).
- Third Edition (and Pathfinder) additionally have items grouped into "Simple" (most anyone can pick up and use them), Martial (these require general training), and Exotic (these require specific training). So while a professional soldier can probably handle both a short sword and a long sword, he won't automatically know how to wield a katana in one hand or a spiked chain at all.
- Averted in RuneQuest. Your skill is in a specific type of sword and if you switch from ,say, one scimitar to another there is a temporary penalty to simulate getting used to the balance of your new sword.
- Almost played straight by Shadowrun, swords come in three varieties: one-handed, two-handed, and katanas. In Fifth Edition, it's reduced to just one-handed swords and katanas, and polearms all share the same stats.
- GURPS groups various similar kinds swords all together in the Basic Set to play this straight. In the Martial Arts and Low-Tech books however weapons are only grouped together if they are completely identical, like a Japanese yari and a generic spear.
- Almost averted in Warhammer 40,000, where weapons are visually different (combat blade, chainsword, powerfist) to adhere to the WYSIWYG rule. However, a sword could "count as" a power weapon, daemon weapon, frost blade or something else depending on who's carrying it and what the owning player wants it to be. Warhammer itself plays it a lot straighter, with a sword (for example) able to represent a generic hand weapon, one of many magical weapons or even a Runefang as the player wants to use it.
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition plays it even straighter, with almost every single-handed melee weapon larger than a dagger being lumped together as "Hand Weapons". The supplements (and the fans) have gone some way to avert this, however, so if you have Old World Armoury your axes and maces are no longer functionally interchangeable with swords.
- In Unknown Armies, the GM is supposed to ask only three questions of a melee weapon. Is it big, is it hefty, and is it sharp? Each yes is worth +3 damage, regardless of if the weapon is a chainsaw from a hardware store, a priceless heirloom katana, or a cheap replica sword bought off the internet.
- Spirit Of The Century plays this straight: all melee and thrown weapons are covered by a single skill (called, appropriately enough, "Weapons" — as opposed to "Fists" and "Guns" for the other two obvious choices) and not mechanically differentiated by stats. A character who's good with a sword is going to be just as effective with a club, axe, whip, or thrown knife, and what weapon exactly they do decide to use is primarily narrative detail and a matter of style.
Turn Based Strategy
- Averted in Final Fantasy Tactics. Precise classes have precise types of weapons, and they don't mix.
- Taken to absurd lengths in the Fire Emblem series. Non-magical weapons are broken down into four categories: swords, lances, axes, and bows. Not accounting for all of the different styles and variations of weapons that different classes can wield, any character that can use a weapon type can use every weapon of that type. It's absurd enough when a "Wo Dao" used by Eirika (or a shamshir in the same game) becomes a rapier, but even more ridiculous assassin becomes a pair of knives; whereas swordmasters use them like a katana.
- It is inverted in the Jugdral, Tellius, and Awakening games where each sprite and model show the differences in the weapons no matter which one is equipped. Quite impressive for the sprite-based Jugdral games, but par for the course for the model-based Tellius and Awakening games.
- In Makai Kingdom, each weapon in its category have the same attacks with the same animations (both the Long Sword and the Zweihander can do Slash, Berserker, Moonslash and the rest of the list) but weapons of different categories, even similar ones (katanas, swords, daggers) have different attack lists. You can't use an axe to perform a hammer strike, and so on.
Other Video Games
- Despite its obsessively realistic combat rules, Dwarf Fortress plays this one straight with actual swords, at least for now. There's only three and a half actual types of sword: Shortsword and the scimitar (identical in all but name), the longsword (actually a bastardsword) and the two-handed sword. All of them use the same generic "sword" skill. Of course, dwarves can't actually forge longswords or scimitars without minor modding and can't even wield two-handed swords, but going from a shortsword and shield to a bastardsword that from a dwarf's perspective is as long as a zweihander has no skill penalty.
- Averted for polearms and ranged weapons, however; spears and pikes use a separate skill, as do bows, crossbows and blowguns. There's also a generic "Fighter" and "Archer" stat which gives a bonus to an attack roll made with any melee and ranged attack respectively.
- Zig-Zagged in Soul Calibur. There are several characters who wield swords, and they all have different fighting styles. Even those that wield the same kind of sword, like Sophitia and Cassandra, have slight differences in their movesets. However, in games that have more than one weapon per character, some weapons that look like they should be handled vastly differently will use the same attack animations. Taken Up to Eleven by the Joke Items. Wielding sauage links like nunchaku or a giant squid like a BFS? No problem!
- Assassin's Creed II features many swords of very different styles that can be bought and used by the player character. They have different damage, speed etc. but are used in the exact same way in game, with the same combat mechanics and animations.
- This is also true in the other Assassin's Creed but to a lesser extent: AC 1 features less swords and they are roughly all of the same style, and AC 3 has a wider choice of melee and ranged weaponry with distinct uses and combat styles. Only AC 2 lets you use a rapier and a scimtar in exactly the same way.
- The Otakon LARP keeps the complexity of the game system down by having most weapons distinct in appearance, but having fundamentally similar mechanics. Characters use one of four skills to wield any weapons of the category. Commonly: Melee Weapons, Fire Gun, Thrown, and BFG (Big guns feat). Individual item cards for the weapons list a flat damage, and may include a modifier to the attack skill.