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Power Creep
On your left: Four useful cards at the time of their releases but with some draw-back (Blue-Eyesnote ; Nyan Nyannote ; Moisturenote ; Gilfordnote ). On your right: One card released later that can do the same as those four, AT THE SAME TIME! with no draw-back! note 

Power Creep is a term used in any kind of multi-player game (including Video Games, Collectible Card Game, and Table Top Games) to describe the process in which newly-added-content can be played along with the old-content, but with the new content being far more powerful/useful in every sense. This process leaves old-content completely worthless, save for a few exceptions and for Cherry Tapping.

This makes sense, at least from a monetary point of view. New-added-content requires people to actually buy it and use it, but why would they use their money to buy some obscure thing they don't know how to use (yet) if they can keep on using their awesome Infinity+1 Sword by paying 5 mana? Easy, make every new content item a Inifinity+2 Sword which requires 3 mana to work. And the same will happen in the next expansion, with a Infinity+3 Sword that only costs 2 mana.

The thing is that this gets out of hand really easy, particularly in a Long Runner. After four or five expansions, with the new Infinity+8 Swords that gives you 10 free mana, there is little point in using the Inifinity+3 Sword that cost 2 mana, and let's not talk about the lame Inifnity+1 Sword that cost 5 mana! (Who'd ever use that, anyway?)

A Power Creep virtually always leads to a Broken Base, with the most "conservative" players stating that the new unbalanced content is an insult to the original game (which might be true or not, depeding on the case). On the other hand, there will always be players who like these new add-ons, saying that it actually makes the game more fun to play.

Have in mind though that as a general rule, Power Creep has a negative connotation. The reason behind it is that, while there may be some few exceptions, it usually shows that the producers were unable to come up with something interesting and balanced, instead resorting to creating an over-powered add on. Power Creep also tends to lead a game beyond its pre-defined limits, with one of two results: it will becomes a competition of mindless speed, or of predictable slow strategies.

This trope is the Gameplay Mechanics counterpart to Sequel Escalation and Serial Escalation, which refers to narrative or thematic elements.

Compare with Revenue Enhancing Devices. So Last Season applies to non-gaming examples of this trope. The complete opposite of Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage, which is a new content which is actually unusable.

This concept is discussed along with ways to circumvent it by Extra Credits here.

Not to be confused with Power Creep, Power Seep.

This trope provides examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Toys 
  • Nerf Brand guns come in Gatling models now. The old ones obviously do not hold up.
  • Figurines from Monster In My Pocket originally had a value between five and twenty five, but by the time the fourth set was out these had ballooned into the triple digits.
  • Perfect monsters were what everyone wanted in the original Digimon V-pets. The pendulums added Ultimate monsters, which were better than the supposedly "perfect" ones. Later editions added Super Ultimate monsters, which were superior to the supposedly "ultimate" ones.
  • The MicroStars series - a set of collectable Football player figurines that could be used in a tabletop football game, suffered badly from this. When the first series of players were released, Gold-base players (the strongest and rarest) would have their five stats total around 50-60 with no stat being higher than maybe 15. By the time the figures stopped being sold in shops, Gold-base players could have stats of 25 across the board...and then there were the new Black-base players who were even stronger (and rarer).

     Table Top Games (Not Card Games) 
  • This can happen even within Editions of Dungeons & Dragons (between Editions is debatable, as a new Edition often means a whole new general game design). In the case of 3.5, Feats and Magic Items from later books in that Edition's print run were much more useful and efficient than earlier counterparts.
  • Pathfinder plays with this trope. Paizo is generally obsessed with keeping game balance a constant - to wit, they have only released 19 Classes (the Core 11 plus 8 Base classes), and 3 Alternate classes, for a total of 22 Classes, and have not released very many Prestige Classes (not nearly the hundreds that Wizards put out in 3.5). Normally, this would mean that, if players wanted to create a certain character build (say, Indiana Jones), they would have to multiclass several time over. HOWEVER, Paizo have come up with a novel solution: "Archetypes" - variations to base classes which can alter that base class anywhere from "slightly" to "radically," in more than a few cases completely changing how the class works (in the case of the Ranger, one archetype completely removes spellcasting and the animal companion in order to make the Ranger an archer and tracker par-excellence, similar to the D&D 3.5 "Scout" class)
    • These Archetypes may even be stacked together, as long as what each archetype alters about a Class doesn't overlap with any others in the same Class. Even if one were to not stack Archetypes, there are effectively over 100 possible 20-level Classes; with the ability to stack Archetypes, however, it's completely possible - and completely balanced - for players to take a single Class from Lv1 to 20 and make the exact character they envisioned and then-some.
    • Effectively, Pathfinder "suffers" from Power Creep in how simple Paizo has made it for players to create exactly the character they want, in a completely linear progression; and it averts Creep, however, by maintaining a constant game balance that hasn't been radically upset since the game appeared back in 2009.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer40000:
    • This is usually a problem with any codex that hasn't seen an update in a long time. The Dark Eldar and Necron Codex were infamous for this for a long time, as they were the oldest codexes not to be updated (the Dark Eldar had, at one point, gone 10 years without an update. That's almost 3 whole editions) and currently the Bretonnia book is suffering from this as well (Their old perk was being able to field a full-cavalry army with a special regiment formation, now they just have the unique regiment formation that, due to the new rules, doesn't actually do much for them and can actually be a handicap).
    • A curious case of this happened with the Dark Angels and Black Templar 4th edition codexes. The Dark Angels, at the time, was part of a new wave of Space Marines; the cost of transports were reduced and they were given the Combat Squad rules as well as Characters who could change the force organization. This later all became moot when the standard Space Marine Codex got most of these (except for the all-terminator army) and became completely moot when the Space Wolves gained Logan Grimnar (who could make all-terminator armies). Black Templars, meanwhile, became the only Space Marine Codex to not have access to any of these perks during the duration of 5th edition. When 6th Edition hit, their codex instead got dropped and merged into the standard Space Marine codex.

     Trading Card Games  
  • Magic: The Gathering has a slang term, "strictly better," for it. Card A is "strictly better" than Card B when they are identical in most parameters, and in the ones where they're different Card A has a clear advantage. As a result, Card A is preferable to Card B in almost all situations. There aren't too many pairs that fit the "strictly better" comparison, which is impressive for a game 20 years and 12,000 cards old, but the fact that they exist at all is proof that Power Creep is happening.
    • Creatures in Magic: The Gathering have crept up in power over the years along almost every possible metric. Force Of Nature was originally the biggest creature in the game, a 8/8 (for 6 mana) that you need to keep paying mana in order to keep alive. Nowadays, Terra Stomper—a strictly better version with a more flexible casting cost, the upkeep drawback removed, and a small perk (can't be countered) added—is still considered too weak to be playable in competition.
    • On the other hand, several mechanics have experienced power seep as the developers decided they were too effective or too cheap. Compare Counterspell to Cancel, or Lightning Bolt to Shock.
      • Indeed, the pattern can most easily been seen as creatures growing in strength, with spells weakening. The infamous Power Nine were early cards considered the most powerful effects in the game (despite all but one of them being fairly boring in effect). Six of them are mana sources, but the other three are all spells. There are no creatures in the Power Nine. While there are many powerful spells and effects from the early sets that were over-powered then, and would still be over-powered now, there are almost no creatures in the same category.
    • Blue's card-draw powers get nerfed periodically and still manage to be metagame-defining.
    • The effect is most clearly seen on creatures. One only needs to compare Serra Angel, a creature that was at one point removed from the core set for being too powerful, to Baneslayer Angel.
    • Wizards of the Coast has also identified complexity creep as an issue. The rules needed to deal with ten thousand different cards make for an imposing document. The spiraling increases in complexity put the game at risk of being impossible for any potential customer to understand. To combat this, they created Type 2 (or Standard), which is theoretically immune to both power creep and complexity creep as only the last two years of cards are allowed, so that power creep/seep relative to older cards doesn't matter.
    • After the general increase in the power of creatures and the scaling back of spells years back, Wizards tries to avoid the level of power creep that other CCGs tend to suffer by temporarily increasing the power of one type of effect, but scaling it back later to focus on another aspect.
    • The generally-agreed-upon theory as to why creatures suddenly became extremely useful around 2003-2004 was that, for the first 10 years of the game's life, creatures were largely a total waste of mana. While a few were actually considered "good," like Morphling and Psychatog ("Superman" and "Doctor Teeth" respectively), the vast, vast majority were considered plainly useless compared to Enchantments, Instants, Sorceries, and even Lands... to the point that most top-tier Type 1 and Type 1.5 decks (now called Vintage and Legacy Formats) were creatureless, or had either Superman or Dr. Teeth as the win-condition. WOTC vastly overestimated the effect that creatures had on the game outside of Limited and Standard, and around 8th Edition realized that they needed to make Creatures relevant. What ensued was massive power creep of creatures that were intensely mana-efficient, so that they would be considered just as useful as other card types.
      • The effects of this have worked just as Wizards had planned - it is now very rare for Modern, Legacy, and Vintage decks to contain no creatures, but at the same time they aren't the bulk of most decks, either, with most decks playing between 8 and 18 creatures.
  • The Pokémon Trading Card Game similarly raises the bar for each generation. In the 1st generation, Stage 2 Pokémon (Pokémon who have evolved twice, like Charizard) were lucky to have 120 HP. In the 5th generation, Basic Pokémon (Pokémon who don't evolve or haven't evolved) get published with this much HP or more in every set, with evolved Pokémon approaching 200 HP. Attacks have since increased in damage and Energy costs too. It has gotten to where Base Set Venusaur's "Energy Trans," which allows free transfer of Energy between Pokémon, was a near Game Breaker in the card game's earliest days but the later Meganium Prime from HeartGold/SoulSilver, which has the same power, was quickly brushed aside for quicker and more powerful cards.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!, as seen in the above image and caption. Yu-Gi-Oh suffers somewhat from Power Creep corresponding with the release of each new anime. The idea is that, to make the new game mechanics and wealth of new cards playable, they have to be stronger than what's already available. Most of the old cards that are still used tend to be "staples". This is sometimes subverted through the Forbidden & Limited List which attempts to balance the game out and can sometimes make older cards useful again.
    • The addition of new ways to Special Summon monsters(specifically, Synchro and Xyz) represent a major form of Power Creep. In the old days of Yu-Gi-Oh!, certain Special Summons(Fusions and Ritual monsters) required their own cards for set-up(such as Polymerization, Fusion Material monsters, or the Ritual Magic Card), and generally could not be as easily deployed. The metagame tended to favor powerful single-Tribute monsters at highest(such as Summoned Skull). Nowadays, the right deck set-up can swarm the field with Special Summoned level 7 or 8 monsters.
    • A common criticism of the game is that, unlike Pokemon and Magic the Gathering, Yugioh lacks any "Standard" format - a format that would only allow players to use cards from the last "n" sets. This has caused a constantly-fluctuating and extensive banned list, as well as older cards completely breaking the new Summon types.
    • For example, Magical Scientist, which was long considered vastly inferior to Cyber-Stein (because MS only allowed you to summon level 1-6 Fusion monsters that died at the end of the turn and couldn't attack your opponent directly, while Stein allowed you to permanently summon ANY 1 Fusion monster), is now considered one of, if not THE, most broken creature in the game, because he can - by himself - summon-spam Fusion monster after Fusion monster, as his lifepoint cost is FAR lower than that of Cyber Steinnote . This became a problem when combined with Catapult Turtle, who can launch the monsters at the opponent directly for damage (and there are enough Fusion Monsters with just enough ATK to kill the opponent before you ran out of life points) or overlay them to form an army of Xyz Monsters. Though he is squarely on the Banned list in Advanced Format, if a Standard Format were instituted, there wouldn't even need to be a Banned List that has him on it.
      • A more positive example is Relinquished. When it came out in the third-ever set, it was pretty good, but it quickly fell off the radar - it was a Ritual Monster, which made it a bit too tricky to Summon to be worth it, and its effect (absorb an opponent's monster and gain its ATK and DEF) wasn't quite as amazing as it sounded. Then there came Preparation of Rites, which made drawing Relinquished and his Ritual Spell very easy... then Mystic Piper, which made it even easier... then Kinka-Byo, which let you repeatedly revive Relinquished and Mystic Piper... then Djinn Releaser of Rituals, which, if used to Summon Relinquished, let Relinquished negate all your opponent's Special Summons and could be used from the Graveyard. Even better, Relinquished's absorbing effect is surprisingly good in the current metagame, because it's technically not a destruction effect and therefore bypasses most traditional defenses. The result is that Relinquished, a card currently fourteen years old, can still perform well in niche decks.
  • One of the (many) Dragon Ball Z trading card games saw this to an extreme degree with its very first expansion. The base set was overall pretty balanced - the more powerful characters had limitations, and sub-par combat cards in the set served as a balancing factor for specialized "style decks" due to the restricted card selection of those decks. Then the first expansion came out, and introduced characters with power levels several times those of the base sets cards, and combat cards that were flat-out better than previous cards with no trade-offs. The second expansion set introduced new versions of the basic characters with power levels so much higher as to make the original version worthless. And it went on from there. While this does follow the course of Dragon Ball Z's story (which is essentially Power Creep manifest), it represents a complete failure of Gameplay and Story Segregation.

    Video Games 
  • Kingdom of Loathing has the "Item of the Month", purchasable in the cash shop (or with loads of in game money) which serve as the game's source of revenue. These items are usually the most powerful thing you could put in the 'slot' that it occupies, with several slots only being usable by these items. The items need to be worth purchasing for even old players, and so a small amount of this can certainly be seen as time goes on. However, a fair amount of the power creep owes to the very idea of what these items were allowed to do, as early items were just mildly buffed versions of existent items, or else just a bit more versatile or fun. Later items are much more powerful, in general, than early items because of a change in design philosophy to make these items much more unique, which usually translates in practice to more powerful.
    • The developers are somewhat keen on averting this, however, although the limited availability of these items doesn't help matters. Some particularly popular old items have been 're-released' in different forms. In some cases, they provide the same 'important' option as before, but with some minor differences. New players can more easily obtain the useful item, and old players (who are generally obsessed with gaining every advantage they can) will find a way for the slight differences to give them a reason to use both. On the other hand, there have been instances where the new versions are almost complete upgrades, obviating the need for the old versions.
    • Kingdom of Loathing, however, is for the most part a single player game. As such, it manages to avoid a lot of the problems generally caused by this trope. Players without a single Item of the Month can happily play the game, and still share quite a few strategies with those who own every single one, since the only real competition is indirect, and there's no need to worry about those who have been around longer and spent more money ruining the fun of those who aren't willing to spend money themselves.
    • Many of the boss drops in the expanded Sea quest are unambiguously better than anything that came before them. The Stick-Knife is one of the most ridiculous: its +200% Spell Damage property is equivalent to the highest-end magic staffs, but the Knife is not a magic staff, comes with additional powerful add-ons that staffs don't have, and can, unlike staffs, be dual-wielded.
    • The game also has the unusual problem of "adventure creep." Its Anti-Poop Socking mechanism limits the turns available per day, but there's no hard limit, and many items allow you to gain extra turns—rare or expensive ones tend to be more efficient. Some things directly increase the free chunk of turns you'll get the next day, or allow you to do certain things more times per day...as you'd expect, this leads to people spending more and more time on the game, and the developers aren't sure if this is a good thing or not.
  • League of Legends is a Free To Play Multiplayer Online Battle Arena that updates frequently, usually accompanied with new characters. Accusations of this concept happening to the game are frequent and its developers' have made it clear they are seized on avoiding letting the issue pop up. Nerfs regularly happen in updates to the point that some players accuse the developer of releasing characters Purposely Overpowered to cause players who like winning to flock buying them with Microtransactions and then Nerf them in the next patch to placate their fanbase after raking in cash for a few weeks. That being said, numerous characters have been newly released with players responding loudly and surely that they're completely underpowered.
    • A particular example where the developers think have failed to avoid the trope are many melee-range "fighter" characters being "overtuned". In a game where being melee-ranged potentially means up to five enemy players can attack you at once while you won't be in range to attack back those with range themselves any more than one at a time at best, some developers have noted they believe new fighters created responded to that by making characters that tend to naturally have sustained healing potential, movement-hampering crowd-control effects, high durability, good damage, and low cooldown "gap-closer" abilities to quickly place them next to targets (compared to movement-speed increasing abilities that still force the user to run up to targets and are countered by slowing effects) with little chance for the ranged characters to avoid them without the help of allies or having some ability like the gap-closer but used by the character to widen the gap instead. In other words, the only obvious drawback to them is they are not ranged, especially when earlier examples of fighters tended to have some clear lack of one of these aspects. A sentiment among some of the game's players similarly believe "gap-closer/gapcloser"s as a concept is overused by newer characters, numerous popular characters have them, and this has caused a "mobility creep" in new releases.
  • There have been complaints that the co-op portion of Mass Effect 3 is feeling the effects of this, with accusations that each expansion's new weapons and character classes are deliberately overpowered compared to the vanilla ones in order to encourage spending more in-game credits/Microsoft Points on equipment packs.
  • Pokémon is a variant case. While a form of power creep is occurring, for the most part the actual Pokémon species are not being obsoleted, as the base stat totals have actually remained fairly consistent across the generations. What has happened is the addition of passive abilities and new moves whose presence can render older strategies obsolete. However, these are often retrofitted onto existing Pokemon rather than being exclusive to new ones. Generally those that suffer the most are ones who don't really change across the generations and get "left behind". Wobbuffet, for example, which hasn't changed even slightly since Generation III, is no longer considered a Game Breaker and has been unbanned from standard play (although it's still considered a significant threat). Other Pokémon that had dominated standard play in the past have sometimes been reclassed by the competitive community into lower tiers, thrown down into the little leagues so to speak, to keep them viable, a recent victim of this being good ol' Snorlax. On the other hand, some Pokémon have managed to remain viable in standard play throughout all the generations, such as Alakazam. And some that had been considered worthless their whole existence receive shiny new moves and get thrust into the limelight.
    • Alakazam is actually kind of a strange case. It was one of the very best Pokémon of the first generation, but then steadily got worse as new generations came along and were increasingly hostile to Psychic-types. Then Generation V came and gave it Magic Guard, making it immune to passive damage. This alone made it one of the best Pokémon in the game again. Smogon talks about it here.
    • There is some manner of Power Creep however... or perhaps Power Seep. Around Gen IV, there was an obvious divide: Gen I and II Mons had the vastly-superior stats, and were full of glass cannons, Mighty Glacier pokemon, etc. Gen III and Gen IV, however, had the better movesets and abilities. The result was that Gen I and II monsters went largely untouched competitively. Gen V, however, was a paradigm shift, with the release of Hidden Abilities - special alternate abilities which could only be gained in the Dream World. Suddenly, old boys like Dragonite (which had been living in other Dragon-types' shadows since Gen III) became THE powerhouses of Gen V, (in Dragonite's case: its Hidden Ability halves all damage when it's at full health, effectively removing its double-weakness to Ice, which ALL legal dragons up until then shared, thus making it extremely powerful AND bulky).
      • Gen VI only thrust Gen I and II monsters even more to the forefront by introducing Mega Evolutions - once-per-battle boosts that raise certain pokemon to Mewtwo-levels of power, sometimes changing their Types (such as Mega Charizard X now being a Dragon/Fire type), and sometimes with radically new and/or useful abilities (Mega Charizard Y, for instance, has a Sunny Day effect upon entering the fight)... though at the cost of a (very useful) Held Item slot and you're limited to 1 Mega per team. (Ironically, Mewtwo is one of these pokemon, who immediately jumps to having the bar-none highest stats of any and all pokemon, including Arceus...think about that for a moment.
      • Gen I and II Pokemon STILL have, on average, worse movepools than their Gen III and IV counterparts, though their better stats and still-passable pools make up the difference. Gen V and VI pokemon are more balanced all-around, having better stats than Gen III and IV but worse than I and II, and better pools and abilities than Gen I and II but worse than III and IV. Notably, Gen V and VI pokemon seem to be based more around "gimmicks" with intended strategies in mind (such as Thro having high HP and Bide innately - an old strategy possible with Blissey in Gen II but removed with the franchise-wide hard conversion to Gen III), whereas Gen I-IV Pokemon were very much mix-and-match in their move pools.
  • Hits the later MechWarrior games. In MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries, the mechs added by MekTek when the game became Freeware are often blatantly better in many roles than the vanilla mechs. In Living Legends, the later added mechs are better overall than the older mechs due to superior chassis characteristics and often better variants - though the older mechs were buffed to competitiveness in the final update. Power Creep will be a game mechanic in Online, which takes place right at the time when Lost Technology is being rediscovered, and when the Clans invade with their superior technology - the old mechs with 3025 tech will be curb-stomped by the later 3049 or 3050 series of mechs.
  • Team Fortress 2 sometimes gets hit with this with the unlockable weapons, though few are straight upgrades to the stock weapons. The Heavy's Sandvich is almost a must have now because they can heal their Medics with it, the Sniper's Jarate is usually much more useful then the SMG and gives the character a team player tactic, and the Red-Tape Recorder (replacement for the Sapper) makes the Spy an absolute nuisance to the Engineers.
  • Found all over the place in the Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario series. To elaborate:
    • In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, the weakest enemy has 4 HP, the first big boss has either 30 or 50 HP depending on which one you count and the final one has 1200 HP. In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, the weakest enemy has 8 HP, the first boss has between 96 and 288 HP depending on which you count, and the final one has 2417 HP. Bros Attacks, Badge effects and gear have also got progressively more powerful as the series has progressed. Averted with Battle Ring/Gauntlet bosses (the ones in Bowsers Inside Story are stronger) and Partners in Time's later bosses (which are harder than those in the last two games).
    • This is easy to spot in Paper Mario, with the first game's weakest 'real' boss having 10 HP, Thousand Year Door's having either 12 or 20 HP, Super Paper Mario's having 20 or more HP and Sticker Star's having 90 HP. The final bosses also have 99 HP, 150 HP, 200 HP and 500 HP respectively. The power of most attacks also went up in each game.
    • Though all of these are cases of Power Seep when compared to the forerunner to both of those series, Super Mario RPG had numbers similar to other RPGs of the time and even now: the players HP caps at 999, enemies can have upwards of four digits, the strongest attack does 9999 damage.
  • Maplestory takes this trope and runs with it. Character power levels in the newest version are astronomical compared to those in the original but to their credit Wizet often overhauls old classes to the point where they can at least keep up with the latest big thing.
  • This has been a problem with Star Trek Online concerning PVP as the game keeps tossing more and more starships with stronger weapons and abilities. The worst of the bunch is the Romulan Scimitar warbird. Outfitted the right way, you could essentially one-man an Elite PVE match and dominate PVP. In the same vein, people use this as to dump the Galaxy-class and Galaxy-X-class ships as this as they focus more on tanking than actual DPS, leading to them thinking of it as "useless".
  • In Warframe, this has become the trend, and if anything it is accelerating. One of the first major instances was the Acrid, a clan-only weapon that could stack such massive Do T on enemies that they'd dissolve in seconds. Next was the Soma, a crit-based assault rifle that beat the full-on machine guns at their own game. On the Warframe side, we have Nova, which could nuke entire rooms, and after the release of new mods, could do it for the same amount of energy as a basic ability (those mods made abilities in general more powerful, she's just the most obvious case). The Dragon Nikana, which came with Melee 2.0, has basically rendered 90% of the weapons made before pointless. The most jarring example is Rhino Prime and Boltor Prime. Rhino Prime has all the tanking ability of the original... without the loss of speed. So now you have a frame with the best shield/health (and 2nd highest armor) totals in the game and good defensive abilities, which can run as fast as most frames, or even faster with the old Vanguard helmet. Boltor Prime deals more than twice the damage of the original, when earlier prime weapons got a minor boost in damage over their original forms. It's also accurate enough that even when using the accuracy-killing "Heavy Caliber" mod, it is still entirely useable at standard engagement ranges, allowing its power to be increased even more.
    • On top of this, older weapons have lost their original selling points as the game mechanics changed. Armor Ignore, Armor Piercing, and other weapons that relied on unique damage types to be useful are no longer effective in the new system, because they don't have the raw numbers to keep up with newer releases.
  • Played straight between the first two Fallout games, where all the weapons in the original title were reused for the sequel. The presence of the heavily armored Enclave soldiers meant that classic heavy weapons like the Rocket Launcher, Flamer and Minigun were superseded by the accurate, devastatingly powerful Bozar as a reliable endgame loadout. Energy weapons received a similar treatment, with the rare Pulse Rifle receiving a special 80% Damage Threshold reduction perk that former standbys such as the Laser and Plasma Rifles lacked.


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