A war-deciding clash that may be a Final Battle
and takes place before The End
. A Decisive Battle is a chance for an organisation to turn the tide of a war in their favour
. Whether it's of a greater scale than the clash(es) which end the war for good is neither here nor there. It can lead directly to the final conflict(s) or even set up the (premise of the) main story to be told.
Distinct from Space Battles in that not every battle in space is a Decisive one and not every Decisive Battle takes place in space. However, these scenes use many of the same methods - lots of extras, CGI, and miniatures for distant shots with close ups of the main actors, extras and stuntmen doing all the physical work. So this usually takes up a lot of the budget as the producers try to provide a thrilling and awesome setting for the audience to enjoy and tense up about. Historical battles can be an exception as many require little post-production work to look decent, though they can always use a bit of sprucing up. As they are drawn from Real Life
they certainly can qualify for epic-ness depending on the battle and its circumstances.
The same clichés are also present as in the Space Battle
as well, not all of them need to be used:
- The enemy will have a secret weapon which they plan to unleash to destroy all the heroes or to turn the tide of the battle
- It will be a pivotal point in the war and change the fortunes of one side and the fate of the world.
- The good guys will usually be vastly outnumbered, under equipped or at a disadvantage, however both sides can be equal as well.
- The battles make use of thousands of soldiers or vehicles taking part to show the scale of it (in most productions made after the late 1990s they will all be computer generated).
- Several or all of the main characters will be involved as well as several minor characters and background characters at once to show how everything is united in a common goal.
- The enemy will either be overconfident to the point they see no need in a backup plan or to send everything at the good guys, or they will charge everything in knowing they will win.
- When it looks like the enemy have all but won the battle, reinforcements show up save the day and win the conflict.
- The heroes will have a time limit in which they have to win, they will always achieve this with only a few seconds left.
- Someone will make a Heroic Sacrifice or perform a Heel Face Turn or Face Heel Turn.
These battles can overlap with the Final Battle
trope and the Space Battle
trope. Although this depends on when they turn up in proceedings and what the genre is.
- The Battle Of Chibi in both actual Chinese history and Romance of the Three Kingdoms: the combined yet still vastly outnumbered armies of Shu (led by Zhuge Liang) and Wu (led by Zhou Yu) against the massive naval fleet of Cao Cao's Wei. This battle is considered the one that finally establishes the three-way power struggle between the titular kingdoms, and is rightfully featured heavily in any adaptation of the novel.
- Two are featured in Lord of the Rings.
- The first is only alluded to in the books but shown in the films, that being the siege of Mordor where the Last Alliance of Elves and Men were able to defeat Sauron. However, Isildur's refusal to destroy the ring ultimately led to the War of the Ring at the end of the third age.
- The other battle was the Siege of Minas Tirith in which Sauron attempted to topple Gondor and ensure his domain over Middle-Earth, but reinforcements from Rohan and then from Aragorn with several Dunedian and soldiers from south Gondor ensured that Mordor's army was routed and the king returned. This led to the Final Battle outside the Black Gates which allowed Frodo to destroy the ring.
- Several in the Command & Conquer series.
- In Red Alert, the turning point of the war comes when the player manages to destroy the Iron Curtain. This leads to the Allies turning the war from defensive to counter-offensive.
- In Red Alert 2, Tanya destroying Soviet nuclear weapons in Europe, allowing European nations to freely provide support to the US without fear of nuclear armageddon.
- Tiberian Sun has two: Unifying of Nod, which leads to Nod launching their major offensive and later the destruction of Nod's missile and Banshee facilities, leading to a GDI offensive that wins the war.
- The Battle of Temple Prime in Tiberium Wars was supposed to be the decisive strike that would break the resurgent Nod forces wide open, in a deliberate Call Back to Tiberian Dawn, where the final GDI level also involved a strike at a Temple of Nod at Sarajevo. Although the attack is successful, it has unforeseen consequences... (unforeseen except to Kane, of course).
- Happens in Warcraft series.
- In Warcraft II: the Tides of Darkness the Horde was close to defeat the Alliance in the battle of Lordaerons capital city, but the Alliance won and started to turn the tide of the war because of the conflict between Doomhammer and Gul'dan. The Alliance were then able to drive the Horde all the way back to the Dark Portal. This is not how it is in the game itself (the Alliance campaign never has the Horde reach Lordaeron's capital, while the Horde campaign has the Horde win the battle even after Gul'dan's schemes ends with a several clans destroyed or too far to assist), but how things were described in later games and media (to explain how both campaigns were canonical, but the Alliance campaign was more canonical).
- The battle at Blackrock Spire after the failed siege is probably a better example. While the Alliance has indeed pushed the Horde back to the Spire, the Horde still had a chance to strike. Orgrim Doomhammer hoped that killing the supreme commander of Alliance forces, Lord Anduin Lothar would cause the Alliance forces to lose faith and be crushed. For a moment, it nearly happened. Then Lothar's Number Two Turalyon took command, captured Doomhammer, and routed the Horde.
- In the FireEmblem series, being a series of strategy RPG games all about warfare where death is (mostly) permanent, losing any battle means game over, but at least once a game there are battles where victory turns the tides of the conflict on a larger scale than your own survival, even when it's not the final battle itself.
- In Shadow Dragon, there's a series of them for each major obstacle Marth faces on his journey, but an important one halfway through the game is in Chapter 12, where he liberates the ancient capital of Archanea and the focus of his army's efforts shifts from gathering their strength to an all-out offensive campaign against the Dohlrian empire and their allies. Also notable is Chapter 23, featuring the battle against Gharnef and his powerful dark magic to reclaim the Falchion, the only human weapon effective against the Final Boss Medeus.
- For the sequel New Mystery of the Emblem, there's Chapter 20, which is the final battle against Marth's former ally Emperor Hardin. However, the decisive part of the battle boils down to whether you collected all the spheres of the Shield of Seals and are able to restore it after reclaiming the Darksphere from Hardin. Succeeding allows you to play the rest of the game, while failing to do so leads to the party getting tricked by an illusion and being convinced that the war is over, leaving a resurrected Gharnef to revive Medeus behind the scenes.
- Blazing Sword has an example different from the others in that the conflict throughout the story remains fairly small, as causing a large-scale war between the nations of the continent is the Big Bad's ultimate goal. Even so, Chapter 19 still fulfills this role, as Eliwood's party finally finds his father Elbert, only for him to die protecting them from Nergal, the true villain of the game. The story then shifts from finding Elbert to stopping Nergal's nefarious plans.
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has a few at key points in the story. Chapter 8: where Eirika and Ephraim fight off a trap by Grado's forces and are finally reunited after the start of the game, allowing them to plan their counterattack against Grado and splitting up again to do so, Chapter 15: where the twins join up once again and the end the result of their campaigns have utterly destroyed the Grado Empire's forces, reducing them to being known as "The Remnant" when fighting them in all subsequent story battles, and Chapter 19: where before marching to the final battle, Eirika and Ephraim must fend off an assault by the enemy to protect the final Sacred Stone, the only thing capable of sealing away the Demon King for good.
- Path of Radiance has one that lasts through Chapters 26 and 27, featuring Ike and the Crimean army's offense against Daein's final defenses standing between them and King Ashnard. The final part of Chapter 27 also features the climactic battle against the Black Knight, not only representing the peak of Ike's journey throughout the game, but also where he gets Ragnell, a weapon so powerful that it allows him to almost handle the rest of the game on his own from this point, provided that he's gotten strong enough to do so.
- Radiant Dawn has a major one for each part of the game. Part 1 has Chapter 5, where Micaiah and the Dawn Brigade join up with the lost prince Pelleas and the forces he's managed to put together to become the Daein Liberation Army, spending the rest of the Part freeing their country from Begnion forces. Part 2's in in its Endgame, where Ludveck's rebellion enters its final stages and marches on Elincia at the castle while the Royal Knights were engaged elsewhere, the fate of Crimea resting on the outcome. Part 3 also has one in its Endgame, featuring the final clash against the Laguz army (led by Ike,) and the Daein army (led by Micaiah,) deciding whether the laguz army can advance into Begnion, only for the medallion to awaken due to the chaos, and unleashing an apocalypse, petrifying most of the people of the world. Part 4's is also the Final Battle, featuring Yune's chosen (Ike, Micaiah, and Elincia's armies,) against Ashera's chosen (Lekain, Zelgius/The Black Knight, and Dheginsea's armies, as well as Lehran and Ashera herself) to decide the fate of the world.
- Fire Emblem Awakening has a major one in Chapter 9, where Chrom and the Shepherds infiltrate Plegia to rescue Emmeryn from Gangrel's Execution ceremony. Unfortunately, their plan to rescue her fails, and they are held at sword point to make a Sadistic Choice to either give up the Fire Emblem or watch Emmeryn be executed. However, before Chrom and Robin can make their choice, Emmeryn chooses to sacrifice herself. However, this turns out to be very important, as Emmeryn's selfless display ends up having the opposite effect that Gangrel intended her death to be: the majority of the Plegian soldiers quickly drop their arms and desert the army, allowing the Shepherds to easily wrap up the war in Chapter 11. Chapter 18, near the end of the Valmese war section of the game, turns out to be one of these in hindsight: The majority of the Valmese forces fighting for Walhart were being held in check by Yen'Fay, and with his death, the armies quickly defect from Walhart's side and join Chrom's at the end of Chapter 19, suddenly reducing Walhart's side to merely the forces he has with him in his castle. The final major one that isn't the final battle occurs in Chapter 23, where Chrom and company try to stop Validar from carrying out Grima's resurrection. They succeed, only for Validar's Heirophant to appear and reveal themself as the Robin from Lucina's future, who is possessed by Grima, as the ritual was carried out without interference in that timeline. They then carry out the ritual on their own body, reviving Grima in the present day.
- Several happen during the Dominion War:
- Operation Return sees the Federation reclaiming Deep Space Nine and the annihilation of the Dominion's reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant.
- The Second Battle of Chin'toka marks the Breen's first major engagement in the war, wiping out an entire fleet with unstoppable energy-dampening weapons.
- In World War II there are several examples of battles which helped turn the tide in favour of the allies. The battle of Stalingrad was the big one note , with 200,000 German combat-troops (and 200,000 Rumanians+Italians) and all their heavy weapons being killed or forced to surrender - this being a full 1/8 of the Germans' entire combat-strength on the Ostfront (1.6 million), and 1/9 of their entire combat-strength. While this may not sound like much, take our word for it that Germany would take at least six months to replace those lossesnote and there was no way in hell that the Soviets were going to give them that kind of time (after Stalingrad they went on to liberate the entire Caucasus and eastern Ukraine in four months, killing or taking prisoner another 100,000 German and 100,000 Rumanian+Italian combat troops). Before Stalingrad, some thought the Germans could win the war. After Stalingrad, even the Germans themselves knew that they would losenote .
- Another turning point would be Unternehmen Zitadelle, the German Summer Offensive of 1943. Not only did it fail, but it had no chance of succeeding because it was a great big trap just like Stalingrad. The Soviets let the Germans think they could pull it off so that they would try it. Again, like Stalingrad it wasn't the battle itself that destroyed the Germans - it was the eight months of non-stop campaigning throughout the summer, autumn, and winter that completely annihilated Germany's panzer forces and rendered her totally incapable of any kind of offensive actionnote . Before Zitadelle people thought the war might last another five-six years. After Zitadelle, people thought the war would be over within two-three years.
- The final turning point would be Operation Bagration, the Soviet Summer Offensive of June-August 1944. In the first two weeks of it they killed 25k and captured 263k German combat troops (1/4 of Germany's ever-dimishing figure of 1,023,000 combat troops on the Ostfront and 1.2 million in total), and in the two months of it they liberated Belarus and reached the Vistula (killing or capturing at least another 50,000 German combat troops). Worse still, the reinforcement of the Allies' beach-head in France forced Germany to transfer as many as 100,000 combat-troops to the west to hold them back, leaving them with less than 600,000 combat-troops to face the Soviets' 2 million. Before Bagration, people thought the war would be over in two-three years. After Bagration, people thought the war would end that yearnote or in 1945 at the latest.
- El-Alamein was the turning point for the Commonwealth, putting the Germans on the defensive for virtually the rest of the war.
- The battle of Midway was the turning point for proceedings in the Pacific, where the American Navy was able to inflict a large enough blow on the Japanese that they were never able to recover for the rest of the way. It is widely considered the most important naval conflict in history.
- The battle of Guadalcanal, starting just two months after Midway and ending into February of the next year, also counts. While Midway shattered Japan's hopes of conquest, this battle essentially showed that they couldn't defend their Empire in the long run. Both the Americans and Japanese committed thousands men and hundreds of ships and planes in a series of battles in and around the island. The end result was the Japanese Army and Navy losing even more men, planes, and ships that they could never recover.
- The battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf in June and October 1944, respectively. These two Naval battles shattered the Japanese Navy as a fighting force. In the former case, the Japanese Fleet lost virtually their entire complement of carrier aircraft and pilots, while the latter resulted in the loss of several Japanese capital ships in a desperate bid to drive back the American carrier fleet.
- D-Day is perhaps the final and most iconic for the allies, 175,000 soldiers were able to establish a beachhead in Normandy and essentially destroy any remaining hope for an Axis victory.
- The Battle of the Bulge was the final decisive battle that erased any sliver of hope for the Germans that they might still win. Hitler hoped to split the Allied lines by dashing for and re-capturing the port of Antwerp. Despite taking the Allies completely by surprise, the Americans were able to hold the Germans off and then push back hard. While the battle was the bloodiest for the U.S. in the European theatre, with some 19,000 killed, the Germans had anywhere from 67,500 to 125,000 soldiers killed wounded or captured. And 800 tanks and armored guns were destroyed. As a result, Germany's last remaining strategic reserve forces were destroyed. The Western Allies soon invaded Germany itself,advancing rapidly through the western half of the country and with the Soviets squeezing them from the other side, the Nazis were finished within 5 months.
- Most notably, the strategy adopted by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II turned around a Decisive Battle where their fleet would crush the US one in a single, climactic battle. This strategy was epitomized on the massive Yamato-class battleships. The US Navy, on the other hand, ultimately defied this trope between the loss of battleships at Pearl Harbor forcing the USN to rely on its carriers, the island-hopping strategy that intentionally avoided large concentrations of Japanese forces, and the massive industrial advantage the US had over Japan allowing it to replace its losses. It came to a head in the Philippines Campaign in 1944 (At The Battle of Leyte Gulf) when the last effective remnants of the worn-down IJN were torn to shreds.note
- The Spring Offensive in early 1918 during World War One. The United States had just entered the war on the side of Britain and France, and Germany knew it would lose the war if the massive industrial resources the Americans possessed were fully brought to bear. On the other hand, the Russians were no longer in the war thanks to the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and so the Eastern Front was no longer a concern, freeing up nearly 50 divisions. Germany had a manpower advantage, but one that wouldn't last once the Americans came in. As a result, this large offensive was one last push to try to end the war on Germany's terms. From late March through mid April, the Germans gained the most ground since the start of the war before trench warfare settled in (Paris was within 50 miles of the front), but couldn't sustain the offensive nor hold it with their depleted reserves. With the Hundred Days' offensive that August, the German lines eventually collapsed and the German Empire capitulated in November.
- From November 1917 to late October 1918, the three Battles of the Piave. Coming right after Russia's collapse and the German-supported Austro-Hungarian victory at Caporetto and starting before the United States could even start to bring troops in Europe, it was believed it would give Italy the final blow to kick them out of the war, thus freeing the entire Austro-Hungarian military to fight in France and the Atlantic Ocean. Then the Italians brutally defeated the first Austro-Hungarian offensive in November and treated even more brutally the second in June 1918, making clear that the Austro-Hungarians would not be freed up anytime soon and the only thing that remained was to try and fight through winter to negotiate a favourable peace, and the last battle, better known as the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, saw the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapse and opening the southern border of Germany to Italian invasion, that, in the already dire straits they were for both the mutiny of the navy and the contemporary Hundred Days Offensive, could do nothing but surrender.
- The penultimate battle in Nexus: The Jupiter Incident is the largest battle in the game. It involves your task force facing off against constant waves of whole enemy fleets periodically arriving via the wormhole to the Solar System. Not only is the battle incredibly tough, but you must constantly watch that your ships don't get too close to the wormhole lest they be sucked in. You may get some reinforcements, but that depends on your actions in previous missions (e.g. Chief Zatuk's Warcry will only arrive if you kept him alive during an impromptu Escort Mission earlier). The final battle involves just your ship facing off against a massive Vardrag cityship while also fighting the massive gravitational pull of the Nexus.
- In Star Wars, the separate destruction of both Death Stars are this. The first one at Yavin killed a number of the Emperor's best servants, especially Grand Moff Tarkin. However, it is subverted in that the Imperial Fleet was not damaged and a squadron of Star Destroyers was quickly sent to Yavin to quarantine the Rebels. A better example is the Second Death Star at Endor. Its destruction and the preceding space battle resulted in the death of the Emperor, Darth Vader, along with the loss of the flagship Executor and nearly half the fleet engaged. Expanded Universe material reveals that the Executor was the greater loss; while other leaders stepped in to fill the Emperor's shoes and frankly couldn't do worse than he had, the loss of the flagship (and the best and brightest of the officer corp that were serving on her) was a blow they didn't recover from until the war had turned against them.
- In the backstory for A Song of Ice and Fire, and its TV adaptation Game of Thrones, the Battle of the Trident was the decisive battle of Robert's Rebellion. Despite setbacks and defeats at the hands of House Tyrell, Robert Baratheon faced Prince Rhaegar Targaryen at the Trident and personally killed him, shattering the royal armies. This battle made Lord Tywin Lannister, who by then had been sitting out the war, to realize that the rebel cause would soon be victorious and so lead his own armies to King's Landing to sack it as a sign of fealty to Robert.
- The Battle of Trafalgar is considered one of the most decisive battles of The Napoleonic Wars and the greatest British naval victory of all time. Before the battle, Napoleon had been building up the French and Spanish navies for a potential invasion of England, as you cannot invade the British Isles without going through the Royal Navy. Admiral Horatio Nelson lead the British fleet to victory and though he did not survive the battle, nearly half of the Combined Franco-Spanish Fleet was captured with the British losing no ships of their own. Never again would the French be in a position to challenge the British at sea, leaving them to blockade and strangle off trade bound for the continent.
- In BattleTech, the Battle of Tukayyid was a last stand against the invading Proud Warrior Race Clans after the previously neutral ComStar realized the Clan's end goal was capturing Planet Terra, their headquarters. ComStar set up a treaty with the Clans; should ComStar win, the Clans would sign a 15 year armistice with the rest of the Inner Sphere, but if the Clans won Com Star would not oppose them. ComStar unveiled the hidden ComGuard, a well trained army using Lost Technology. Through martial prowess, excellent leadership, and exploitation of the Clans warrior code, the battle was won in favor of ComStar, with only three of the eleven clans achieving even part of the agreed upon objectives. The Battle of Tukayyid became one of the largest and most important battles in the history of the Inner Sphere, appearing in several of the expanded universe novels.