Break Meter
I bet that thing is regretting picking this fight about now...

The Break Meter adds another layer to gameplay and strategy by allowing a new route to defeat other than merely depleting Hit Points. It fills as a character is damaged and, when full, the character is "broken" and will be more vulnerable to attacks, be hit with criticals more often, and/or be unable to act. Occasionally, attacks or skills will behave radically differently against a broken enemy, with popular changes including the skill knocking them into the air and/or smashing them to the ground. Sometimes, breaking a character does just that; the character flees the battle.

Sometimes, games will provide special skills or abilities that are geared for causing break damage directly rather than physical damage, and strategies can be made up of getting an enemy to the break point, then wailing away on it.

Arcade Rail Shooters, such as the House of the Dead series, use a similar mechanic during boss fights: underneath the boss's health meter is a smaller meter that, when emptied, halts the boss's attack. Failure to empty the bar in time typically results in taking damage.

The inverse of Limit Break, and an aversion of Critical Existence Failure. Often goes hand-in-hand with a Morale Mechanic, which represents a unit's "fighting spirit." Compare Injured Vulnerability.


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  • In Arcuz II, depleting a boss' break meter by hitting them enough is the only way to deal any proper, reliable damage to a boss or champion Mook. They take Scratch Damage from attacks otherwise.
  • The large Oni of Toukiden can only be damaged after "surface resistance" is depleted; this is a purple bar displayed above their health bar when your Eye of Truth is active. In addition, severing and then purifying a limb leaves that part permanently vulnerable.note 
  • Dragon Ball Xenoverse has a Break Meter for Oozaru/Great Ape battles, which takes more "damage" if you attack while the opponent is attacking. Once emptied, the Oozaru enters a stunned state and you can deal real damage (especially if you grab their tails).

     Eastern RPG 
  • Appears in Episodes II and III of the Xenosaga series, where both player characters and enemies can be broken.
    • In II, broken characters could be knocked into the air or knocked to the ground, and would take large amounts of damage when hit. They would recover on their next turn. Characters were broken by hitting their weak points consecutively.
    • In III, broken characters would be unable to act for two or three turns and would be more likely to be hit by critical hits. Only physical attacks and techniques fill the break gauge, with some techs focusing primarily on causing break damage.
  • The Final Fantasy XIII trilogy features this as a crucial game mechanic called "Stagger". By stringing together attacks, characters raise an enemy's "Chain Bonus" (damage multiplier) while trying to keep the timer from running out (which will reset the Chain Gauge to 100%). Once the Gauge hits a certain threshold, the enemy becomes "staggered", at which point the Chain Gauge rises by 100% (and it can still be raised). Ravagers have the ability to fill the gauge faster, but Commandos make the gauge drop slower and also boot enemies into the air with "Launch". Certain enemies also lose resistances to certain types of attacks or may effectively be shut down. In addition, the percentage of Break Gauge also influence the damage it takes. Basically, a Chain gauge of 300%, say, will amplify your attacks by 3 times. Certain monsters that are nigh un-Staggerable (having 999% as its Stagger breakpoint) may not even need to be Staggered as long as the Chain gauge is high enough that you're doing almost ten times the damage.
    • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII has a variation on this. The Chain Gauge is no longer an explicit bar, instead being replaced by a Stagger Wave. The extent to which an enemy is close to being Staggered is represented by a wave; the closer it is to being Staggered, the wave will be larger and colored red. There are many different conditions for Stagger, and some enemies can be Staggered further for additional damage. However, some enemies can only be damaged after multiple Staggers, including the Bonus Boss. Also, the Chain Gauge-based damage boost mentioned above no longer applies.
  • Featured as a prominent battle mechanism in both Mana Khemia games. Broken enemies are stunned for at least a turn, take more damage and suffer critical hits more easily.
  • Lunar Knights has shields as equippable items, so this comes into play. While it is possible to raise the limit for each shield in its own manner, if you take too much abuse while blocking, you will be stunned. In the midst of a Vorn rush, this is the last thing you want.
  • Running out of Hero Gauge in Resonance of Fate does this to the player characters. Hero Gauge is consumed to perform a Hero Action, which bypasses the game's default Real Time with Pause elements and replaces them with stylish aerial Gun Fu. The problem is that the Hero Gauge is also used to replenish health when any one character's HP hits 0. Run out of Hero Gauge, and effects include: decreased accuracy, decreased firepower, takes extra damage, damage during this Mode cannot be healed, everyone cowers in fear, and the BGM changes. Even worse, having the Gauge consumed to replenish health makes the maximum Gauge effectively smaller, albeit temporarily. In short, you do not want to screw things up.
    • A variation of the break mechanic also occurs here. Hero Gauge can be replenished by depleting an enemy's (or their parts') HP. Dealing Direct Damage to an enemy has a chance to break its HP Gauge, which literally splits the HP bar in two, three, and maximum four smaller HP bars. Not only will this cause the enemy to be stunned for several seconds, emptying any one of the smaller HP bars will award a Hero Gauge back, even if the enemy or its part doesn't get destroyed yet.
  • Tales of Graces features Arles Rise (for the player party) and Arles Break (for enemies). Both states gives increased power, greater likelihood of staggering, and access to Blast Calibers.
  • Mega Man X: Command Mission has this as a gauge of the enemy's initial health at the start of a turn, divided into a yellow and a smaller orange part. It always starts out as full each time a character attacks them, however, it depletes quicker the more damage it takes. Once the health drops to the orange part, the enemy will "Break Down" and the party can use a Combination Attack to finish it off.
  • Almost any video game coming from both Idea Factory and Compile Heart will feature this functionality.
    • In Cross Edge, aside from the HP bar, there were three other bars, each one colored green (Break), red (Burst), and blue (Down). Certain attacks from each character would deplete one of these three bars; if the red or blue bars emptied, the opponent was considered Guard Broken, and would take extra damage through the rest of the attack cycle. If the green bar was depleted, the opponent would be hit with an Over Break, and the attacker(s) got their full AP back. However, the enemy is fully capable of throwing these same tactics back at you.
      • In Trinity Universe, as the Chapter 3 tutorial notes, certain bosses have a Soul Barrier which dramatically reduce damage taken from the players. If the bar was emptied through repeated attacks, the barrier would break and the enemy would enter Soul Break, which allows the player to deal more damage, but the boss would have increased offense as well. Some bosses would have a second barrier, which has lead to an exploit of double soul-breaking Lurker bosses to reap massive amounts of Experience.
    • Neptunia simplified it to a single break bar. Once it depleted, the attacker got full AP back, and the broken enemy took double damage.
    • Record Of Agarest War and Zero also had the Break meter but when you deplete it, you get an extended version of a Break Art. Record Of Agarest War 2 also had a Break meter but what it does is that it gives you an Up Orb to be able to use Limit Breaks.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, by wearing down one of an enemy's three different meters — each of which corresponds to different attack directions — you can perform a Fatal Strike, a move that instantly kills normal enemies, deals heavy damage to bosses and boosts the parties stats. Alternatively, you can hold off on using it to perform Fatal Chains, breaking the enemies' meters over and over again to get better grades.
  • Hybrid Heaven has both the enemy and the player have body parts that can be attacked over and over again until that part gets heavily injured, resulting in the character having slower speed or weaker attacks. Attacking the head enough times can also cause the character to be dazed.
  • A large distinguishing feature of the Chaos Rings series. Probably the second game to use the term "break gauge" to describe such a thing. Instead of having a break meter for each participant in battle, there is an overall one for the entire battle, which is filled or depleted as you attack enemies or take damage. When it swings towards the player, you get improved damage from your attacks and take less damage from the enemies. When it swings towards the enemies, the reverse happens.
  • Dark Souls uses a similar mechanic, known as "poise". Heavy armour and certain items or spells increase it, and it grants stagger resistance. Taking hits will stagger a target once its poise is broken. This applies to enemies as well as the player.
  • Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book: Enemies and party members are both vulnerable to Break, and when Broken are unable to act as well as being more vulnerable. The Break Meter fills from being attacked, and special attacks fill it more quickly. The visible Break Meter is a small progress bar which the game does not tell you about under the icons on the Visual Initiative Queue.

    Fighting Games 
  • Used in Super Smash Bros.: Each character can use a shield to reduce damage, but it shrinks over time. If you keep shielding until it breaks, you are stunned for a short duration... which is more than enough for other players to brutalize you off the screen. A smash attack with the fan automatically breaks any shield, no matter how much is left. Breaking a shield may also send the character into the air, depending on their weight and damage. The effects range from barely noticeable (Bowser) to sky-high (Kirby). Jigglypuff will actually Star K.O. itself if its shield breaks, regardless of damage.
  • Featured in Dissidia: Final Fantasy, which is appropriate since it is both an Eastern RPG and a Fighting Game. Brave attacks may break the enemy, meaning you can get the stage Bravery, which is usually a considerable boost, often enough to make any subsequent HP attack a One-Hit Kill. Meanwhile, your enemy's HP attacks won't do any damage while they're in Break. However, landing an HP attack will automatically end Break.
  • The Guard Libra gauge in BlazBlue fills up as a player guards attacks. If filled completely, that player suffers a Barrier Crush and is paralyzed for several seconds.
    • Revised as the Guard Primer system in Continuum Shift. Every character has a personal number of primers, which disappear one by one as they block specialized guard break attacks. When you lose all of them, you are guard broken and helpless.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 features a fatigue gauge, that, if filled will cause a character to be tired out if knocked down with less than one Ki gauge.
  • SoulCalibur IV introduces the Soul Gauge, which decreases when attacks are blocked. If it breaks, the player is temporarily stunned and open to a One-Hit KO Finishing Move.
    • Soul Edge, the first game of the series, had Breakable Weapons that both reduced your offensive output and made you take chip damage when blocking.
  • Taunting in Art of Fighting reduces the special move gauge, which leaves many characters without an offensive arsenal. Notable in that the computer is actually bound by this, unlike some games.
  • Samurai Shodown is probably the Trope Codifier. Blocking too much or trading hits with a counter swing may lead up to weapon loss.
  • Street Fighter Alpha 3 added a Guard meter that would stun you for three seconds if it was broken. You could also sacrifice some of it for an easy Counter Attack if it was obvious you were going to lose it. This meter also appeared in Capcom vs. SNK 2.
    • In Alpha 3, the Guard meter gets shorter with each successive Guard Break, to discourage turtling.
  • The King of Fighters has had this for the last few games. In Maximum Impact, the final boss's most powerful Super Move instantly breaks the meter if you block it, regardless of how much is left.
  • In the levels of Dragon Ball: Advance Adventure where you battle one opponent in a fighting game engine, both you and your opponent have a Rush Gauge. As long as it's not empty, you won't flinch or take damage from attacks, but each attack that you don't block or parry will deplete it. If you empty the opponent's Rush Gauge through continued attacks or a single counterattack after parrying, you break their guard and knock them back for a significant amount of time, and your attacks will make them flinch until you knock them down to the ground. After getting knocked down, their Rush Gauge will reset. It also refills on its own if you're not being attacked. Scoring a hit with a chi blast will immediately empty their Rush Gauge.
  • One Must Fall features an "energy bar" that depletes differently basing on different injuries sustained (quick weak blows deplete it faster than slow strong blows). Once empty, it causes the player's bot to become incapacitated for a few seconds and open for a devastating combo.
  • ;Jojos Bizarre Adventure Heritage For The Future has the Stand Meter. If a character takes too many hits to their Stand, they are "Stand Crushed" - the Stand disappears and they are staggered. (For extra Continuity Nod value, the Stone Mask flashes in the background when this happens.)
  • In the story mode of the Touhou spinoffs Scarlet Weather Rhapsody and Hisoutensoku, enemies using spellcards have break meters. If you deal enough damage to them, they're stunned until it refills.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors has a single gauge on top of the screen between each character's health bars, with a mark in the center that moves closer towards each health bar as that player blocks attacks from the other. If the mark is not in the center, and one player fails to block a strong attack from the other, either the first player will be stunned until the mark can reset (if it was closer to his health bar), or it will just reset itself immediately (if it was closer to the attacker's health bar).
  • Punch-Out!! has a stamina meter for the player. Every time the player blocks or gets damaged, their stamina drops and once it is empty, the player becomes too tired to attack. This leaves the player open to attacks from the enemy boxer and the player can only regain their energy once they successfully dodged an attack or get knocked down to the mat and get up again.
    • Super Punch-Out on the SNES has an invisible dizziness meter for opponents. The easiest way to raise this meter is to repeatedly counter their attacks (punch them in the right spot during windup). Once the meter is filled, they start to slide around in a daze. Hit them with good timing as they slide back to you to score an instant knockdown.
  • The Mana Meter in the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable fighting games doubles as this. Be wary of blocking after casting a barrage of spells, as having the character's Deflector Shields broken will leave them stunned for a long time.
  • Persona 4: Arena uses system similar to JoJo fighting games - each character has several Persona cards(usually four, but can range from two to six) which can be lost if his/her Persona is hit during attack. If all cards are lost, character enters Persona Break state and for next few seconds can't use any attack that would require a Persona.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Enemies in Brothers in Arms have a red circle over their heads, which loses slices as you shoot at or near them. When emptied, they're Pinned Down and have difficulty attacking.

    Rail Shooter 
  • The House of the Dead included these for its bosses in later games. More than just shooting at it to kill the thing, often times you'd have to shoot at it in order to get it to stop attacking you for that phase.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • In Dawn of War, squads have a morale meter that goes down as the squad takes damage. If this meter is emptied, the squad breaks and its troops become less effective in combat.
    • "Less effective" herein meaning "they die twice as quick and deal next to no damage". Can actually be quite amusing, because their animations don't change. Thus, you can have a whole Space Marine Squad unloading More Dakka into a much weaker enemy squad and doing absolutely nothing.
  • In Pharaoh, your military units have a morale bar that steadily goes down the longer combat lasts, and causes them to run back to their fort when completely panicked, and only move back out when they stop panicking. Ships have a different one depending on how tired the crew is: if they're exhausted the ship doesn't move until they're back at full strength.

     Wide Open Sandbox