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Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness
In the same way that the Sorting Algorithm of Evil
dictates that you will face opponents of steadily increasing ability, the Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness ensures that you will acquire consistently more useful items and equipment as your progress through the game.
As a result, the quality
of the items that are dropped by enemies
, found in treasure chests
, or sold in shops is directly dependent on how far you are in the game. The First Town
may be a thriving metropolis and the center of world trade
, but it will invariably be home to the game's worst equipment. Conversely, the poor desolate village near the end of the game will inexplicably host some of the game's best items and weapons.
In games in which the weapons are guns with their own ammunition, this almost inevitably results in the character carrying piles of ammo for the weak weapons that were scavenged early in the game. Rendered useless
by the various BFGs
picked up later, there's really no point in switching to that dinky pistol, especially when there are rockets and high-power assault rifles practically falling out of trees. One way to avoid this is if earlier areas can/must be revisited, having better equipment present in the shops initially, but just way out of the character's price range when they first shop there, although this can lead to a Game Breaker
if the player grinds to get the equipment early, unless this is prevented by a mechanism such as level or skill requirements. Another way of having the same effect is for the shops to get new stock at some point in the game but having them only carry basic items when first visited.
This is especially annoying in games which encourage players to invest resources in upgrading or customizing weapons, as they will no doubt discover the BFG 9000 just after they've used a bunch of rare pickups to increase the power of their trusty old BFG 8000. Size is also an issue; if you start with a normal size sword or gun, you'll end it with a BFS
, which will inevitably still
be an Infinity–1 Sword
, unless you grind to get that Metal Slime
to drop the Infinity+1 Sword
The Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness, when put into practice, is best illustrated with a crash course in Elemental Crafting
. It goes hand in hand with Adam Smith Hates Your Guts
: Things like inn stays, healers and other services tend to rise in price at a similar rate to the new and better weapons. It can be undermined by a Disc One Nuke
. A Taste of Power
is a minor inversion that is quickly taken away. Teaser Equipment
is a more direct inversion, but you probably won't be able to afford those
wares. See also With This Herring
open/close all folders
- The Legend of Zelda plays this one pretty straight: the new weapons acquired in every dungeon are usually more effective than similar previous ones, especially against that dungeon's enemies: the bow compared to the slingshot, or the Master Sword compared to the starting one.
First Person Shooter
- Command & Conquer: Renegade. Starting with a simple pistol and finishing the game with a laser chaingun that stunlocks enemies, a gun that shoots Tiberium shards, and a personal Ion Cannon.
- Holds true in Half-Life, where in later levels you have piles and piles of pistol and shotgun ammo, but with better weapons easy to find, they're only broken out for low-end threats like headcrabs and barnacles.
- In GoldenEye, the player begins each level with the same gun (a weak silenced pistol) until later in the game, when you begin equipped with better weapons. As well, guns that Mooks carry tend to be more powerful - the RC-P90 doesn't show up until the penultimate level, for example.
- Perfect Dark Zero: in the beginning your default weapon is a pistol with a scope and detachable suppressor. As you continue in the game, not only do the usual enemy weapons get stronger, but you also get upgrades to that - later you get a submachine gun with the same mods plus a bigger magazine and more power per shot, and even later you get an assault rifle that's even better and mounts a grenade launcher.
- In Quake, the player begins the game with a lowly shotgun and a useless ax as its only backup. As the game progresses you can pick up nailguns, grenade and rocket launchers and a Lightning Gun - roughly in that order.
- Dark Forces had an interesting twist on this. The game stars you out with a simple blaster pistol and your fists, and as you progress you can work your way through everything from a fusion cutter to a plasma cannon with a side of rocket launcher, but many of the weapons share a pool of ammo, so you're seldom left with useless ammo, and each weapon is useful in specific circumstances.
- Averted in Marathon. All of the weapons had their uses - the .44 magnums for sniping faraway enemies, the assault rifle/grenade launcher for mowing down nearby enemies/clustered enemies, the fusion pistol for taking down armoured enemies in a hurry (in 2 and Infinity), and so on. The shotgun and rocket launcher did tend to be Too Awesome to Use, though.
Hack And Slash
- In Diablo I and II, the item spread is carefully controlled by which area of the game you're in; the starting levels will give you nothing but light armor, weak weapons of all kinds, and marginally magical items. As you continue through the game, the range of droppable items increases, so that Dagger of Poking you picked up in Act I will eventually be replaced by the Pointy Short Sword of Sharpness in Act II, the Serrated Flamberge of Wounding in Act III, and the Butt-kicking BFS of Evisceration on the highest difficulty setting.
- Played straight in Diablo II for all plot-related zones, but avoided in hell difficulty mode, where all acts (except act IV) had several optional zones (level 85 zones) where pretty much any item (except for the rarest runes) may drop.
- This goes for most RogueLikes descended from Angband. The deeper in the dungeon, the greater the loot.
- World of Warcraft does this so much that the item level is used as a requirement for some content, which is seperate from the Character Level required to use the item. Because the endgame of each expansion kept introducing more powerful items while player levels stayed the same, the highest item levels as of Mists Of Pandaria are over 600.
- EVE Online has a couple exceptions, but generally this is true. The "meta level" of an item is a rough measure of its quality. The best gear supplied by players is meta 5. The elite gear given to favoured pilots of the major empires is meta 8. If you run into pirate commanders in dangerous space, they drop meta 11-14 gear. Similarly with ships, random groups of crazy pirates will give you fancier ships than major empires with massive space navies.
- Varies even then. Some empire faction gear ranges up to meta 12, and even very high meta level weapons are often inferior to T2 (meta 5) in the hands of a skilled player. A few faction items are actually inferior to T2 regardless of skill.
- This still applies only to the origin of those items. Most high-meta items are traded in high-sec trade hubs accessible to the newest players, making the entire demand side of the economy an exception.
- Defiance has a spin on this: every weapon you find will instantly be attuned to your current level. The in-game justification is that your character has a nanomachine-based AI living inside their body, and she gets better at upgrading equipment as your levels go up. The problem is that weapon levels can only be increased with expensive loot drops called Arkforge, so you have to decide whether your current epic weapon is still better than a common weapon you just picked up that is now about 10 levels above the current one.
- Ratchet & Clank usually gives the player two weapons to start with, and introduces more at increasing prices and power at the shops as one goes through the game. It's occasionally possible to find weapons from previous games in newer ones — nerfed into uselessness.
Real Time Strategy
- Command & Conquer does this, starting both the player and the enemies off with basic structures and unit and slowly giving them more destructive weapons as the levels progress. Expect the first few levels to have nothing but basic infantry, but the last levels to include superweapons and huge tanks.
- Played straight in the first Dawn of War games and its expansion, but averted in the Dark Crusade and Soulstorm expansions: Since every level is a skirmish mode against one or two enemies, you can use any unit you want after building up your base (this however leads to a massive case of Reinventing the Wheel after every. single. level.).
Role Playing Game
- Generically; healing and recovery items that heal on a fixed rate. 30 HP works well early game when you have maybe 100 or 150 HP, but later on when you have 300, 3000, or even more, then why bother using that healing herb or potion? Especially if healing spells heal more. (Many role-playing games have healing spells calculate a formula)
- Holds true in Chrono Trigger, even when two shops are not only in different corners of the globe but in different eons. When you go from the year 2300 to 65 million BC, you'll find armor and weapons that are ever so slightly better than the ones from the technologically-advanced future. Then, when you return to the medieval ages, you will get new iterations that are slightly better still. Especially ridiculous since this applies to guns, crossbows, and robot parts in exactly the same measure.
- The Mystic-populated Medina Village, however, gives you weapons reasonably above your current choices, but at such inflated prices that the grind for cash is not worth it. This is because the NPCs hate you (a subquest can be undertaken to fix this, but by that point you no longer need the swag they sell).
- Parasite Eve presents you with progressively better weapons, and rare pickups which allow you to customize your weapons. The limited inventory conspires to make you use an upgrade right away, only to later wish you'd kept it to use on the next gun. Somewhat mitigated by the fact that you can transfer an upgrade from an older weapon to a new one, though it takes an exceptionally rare item to salvage more than one of these upgrades from any given weapon.
- If you're stubborn enough you can eventually obtain the Super Tool Kit which basically gives you carte blanche to customizing. It's really awesome and a desperate necessity if you want to beat the bonus dungeons.
- Shadow Hearts offers an expensive (and bizarre) service that allows you to increase the power of a weapon — it's hardly ever worth it, as the next weapon requires the process to start all over again. Of course, once you've found someone's Infinity+1 Sword, then there's no reason not to tune it up that way.
- All of the Star Ocean games contrive this in some manner or another, despite the fact that the games feature characters from technologically advanced cultures on much less advanced planets; usually they're stranded without access to their best weapons technology. Particularly odd in the third game, where Cliff's muscle enhancing "Mighty Gauntlet" has lower attack power than run-of-the-mill steel gauntlets simply because it's his starting weapon.
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, NPC weaponry is determined by player level. So if you're level one, bandits will attack you with cardboard swords and arrows with suckers on the end; if you're level thirty, they will have ludicrously expensive glass swords and incredibly rare Daedric armour. This is rather like your average mugger not using a knife or pistol, but an attack helicopter and rocket launcher.
- To make it less believable, the Daedric armor is virtually impossible to get otherwise- It's worn by the top ranking demons within the hell hierarchy.
- Even stranger, the area the game takes place in is supposed to be the center of the Empire that controls the known world, and the city you start in is its capital, yet the merchants only carry the weakest, most pathetic weapons imaginable. Things like chainmail and silvered weapons are only discovered/developed as you gain levels, apparently.
- Super Mario RPG tries to explain this by implying that the best armours in the game were stolen by the treasure hunting Heel Face Turned master thief, Croco. Indeed, at the end of the game, Croco does sell some of the best purchasable armours. Amusingly, the very last consumables-selling shop in the game is plain 'ol Toad, carrying the best consumables in the game for no adequately explained reason. Perhaps he got them from Croco?
- The exceptions are the best weapon and armor, the Lazy Shell and Lazy Shell Armor, respectively. They are non-purchasable "secrets" that you can first get about 3/4 to 4/5 of the way into the game, but still before the final stretch. In the tradition of hidden items, they're basically late-game game breakers, especially if you put the armor on the Princess. Along with an item that prevents one-hit kills, this basically makes her into an unkillable healer.
- The Princess's best weapon is... a frying pan that you can purchase in Moleville, the town where you find the third star. Granted, the store won't carry it until late in the game - the shopkeeper is a treasure hunter - but one still wonders about it.
- For no adequately explored reason, in the Pokémon games, the best Pokeballs, most powerful potions and strongest Pokemon can only be found far away from your starting town. A particularly bad example is from the first games: Victory Road is extremely close to your home, but is blocked by a Broken Bridge. On one side, the Pokemon are about level 8. On the other, they are around level 40. Of course, the starting town is practically the middle of nowhere, and on the other side of that broken bridge is a huge mountain obstacle course. But still.
- The issue with the shops was at least fixed in Generation IV by what you could buy being determined by how many badges you have. Still doesn't explain the crazy level dissonance.
- The issue with levels is played on a very weird way in Gold, Silver and ESPECIALLY Crystal. When you arrive at Kanto, you are in the world of the previous game, and the level of the wild Pokemon matches up. But, for some odd reason, there are wild evolved Pokemon. So, you go to Route 1 and find wild level 6 Raticate. Meanwhile, trainers are still high-leveled like the ones you were fighting against late into your adventure through Johto, no matter where in the region you are - so, while looking for those level 6 Raticate, you could be jumped by trainers carrying teams at levels 30 and above. The Gen IV remakes fix the issue of low-leveled evolutions, but also add more trainers to Kanto's routes and generally bump their teams' levels up to 40+.
- Lampshaded in the spoof Pocket PC RPG Arvale. When you travel into the past, the protagonist incredulously says to the shopkeeper "How come you've got weapons that are so much better than those in the future?" The shopkeeper says "No idea. Bet you want to buy them, though, don't you?"
- Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is an special headscratcher. The last town in the game (literally at the feet of the final dungeon) is a speck of an island completely surrounded by sharp rocks, and and as far out into the ocean as you can get. There's no plausible explanation as to why the town even exists, much less why it carries absurdly powerful items (or why they're made of Phlebotinum not found elsewhere in the game).
- Another head-scratcher is when the merchant selling said merchandise explicitly states that these are the strongest items in the world, despite the players (and presumably everyone else) needing to invent the world's first airship to even get there in the first place.
- Monster Hunter uses this trope in a particularly interesting way: almost all the weapons and armour in the game are made from bits of the creatures you vanquish (dragon bones, wyvern scales, Giant Enemy Crab shells, bioelectric organs, etc). The tougher the monster, the stronger the resulting weapon will be.
- A variant exists in Tales of Hearts, where a single magical weapon is your equipment for the entire game and can be "Soma Evolved" into more powerful forms that grant you better stats and abilities, rather than buying new weapons or armor. However, most of each level's abilities require ingredients from areas that are sorted more-or-less in order. A similar system was used to limit the Item Crafting in Tales of Vesperia.
- Justified in Mana Khemia, because you're a student at an alchemy school, and you supposedly learn more if you create your own equipment using alchemy.
- Justified most of the time in Tales of Phantasia. The present-time, where you begin, is a generally peaceful and safe age, where the only things most people worry about are roving monsters. Also, you visit only one city with shops in that age. The Past and Future, on the other hand, are both in the middle of a war with Dhaos. The sorting algorithm makes sense as you travel through the Past, since the further you go (and the better the weapons get) you're also getting closer to the war-front, and the nations that are actively involved in the war and would need the better weapons. It makes sense that better gear is available in the future, but all reason having to do with the order obtained and where it's found goes out the window, where out-of-the-way villages nobody really cares about sell freaking Lightsabers.
- Mass Effect 1, oh so very much. All items come in up to 10 levels of increasing quality, and ALL dropped items will be within a certain level bracket, depending on your own level. It doesn't matter where you are: Enemies simply level up with you and will always have appropriate gear on them, the same goes for merchants. It also means that gear given to you by Earth military at the start is pretty much the worst equipment in the galaxy, despite being an elite officer on a highly important mission.
- Dragon Age does something similar, scaling the materials your equipment is made out of with your level, though some shopkeepers seem to gain access to the higher-end materials much sooner than others. Still, if there's enough Dragonbone around that virtually everything in the game can be made of it towards the endgame... why weren't they making stuff out of it to begin with?
- Vaguely justified with the weapon styles and gems in Jade Empire, since you start in a tiny village, before moving to a small town and then the capital before heading off to the temple at Dirge, at which point the hideously powerful gems you find are specifically pointed out by your companion. With the martial arts styles, magic styles and support styles the game averts this trope: the styles you learn while the game progresses are not necessarily better, just different. Three of the four martial arts styles you acquire are ones you would've had right from the beginning if you'd chosen a different player character.
- Persona 3. Officer Kurokawa steadily and gradually acquires better and more expensive weapons and armour from his 'connections' as the months of the year pass by, with no explanation as to why he didn't just bring out the high-grade stuff from the get-go. He also suddenly acquires the new weapons for your newest party members, even if you haven't had said party member join you yet and he had no idea said party member was going to join you at all.
- Persona 4 at least justifies this trope with the better weapons coming from the town smith, who makes the weapons from crafting materials you bring him from the TV world. Thus, as you unlock new worlds and meet stronger foes, you get better materials he can make better weapons from.
- Subverted and later played painfully straight in Evil Island. You start with nothing but a bronze knife - which you will hold on through most of the first act since you've landed in a Stone Age world. Near the end, when you'll have to face the final boss you will be able to buy best weapons and armor for free.
- Freelancer takes this to an almost ridiculous extreme, with the Liberty race having absolutely pathetic ships, and the pirates of all people with the best two ships in the game.
- The pirates are at least given some justification (both Hispania-descended factions are specifically noted to be master shipwrights if you find their homeworlds). Why there are civilian ships outclassing the military ships of Liberty, on the other hand...
- Justified for the most part in the MechWarrior series, since you generally get new guns and Mechs via salvage. Meaning in order to grab a Mad Cat, for instance, you had to be able to beat one, first.
- The later a plane is available in an Ace Combat game, the statistically better it usually is, with the Game Breaker superfighters almost always endgame or New Game+-tier except for Old Save Bonus. At the same time, however... (see below under Exceptions)
- Justified in Civilization, considering that you play as a civilization and you have to research bows/crossbows/muskets/rifles/Giant Death Robots.
- In Vietcong, this only occurs in the campaign, where the player starts with just a knife. Averted for the rest of the game.
- Resident Evil 4's wandering merchant sells you progressively better weapons as the game progresses. A particularly annoying example, as he also sells you upgrades for your current weapons. So, you spend 80,000 ptas upgrading your shotgun so it can carry 9 rounds and has a power level of 8, then the riot gun (which uses the same ammo) becomes available for 40,000 ptas, carries 10 rounds, and starts with a power level of 9.5.
- It does compensate for this somewhat by making the earlier weapons better than the later weapons when they're fully upgraded (or at least gives them some advantage). For example the "Broken Butterfly" revolver ends up more powerful than the semi-automatic "Killer7" (both use the game's rare-but-powerful magnum rounds) and the bolt action rifle ends up more powerful (albeit slower) than the semi-automatic sniper rifle.
- And the first shotgun's exclusive upgrade (what you get when it's fully upgraded) is WAY better than the exclusive for the striker. Sure, a 100 round magazine is practical. But doing full shotgun damage at every range...
- Also, when you sell your old weapons, you get much more cash for selling an upgraded weapon than one you never touched, allowing you to recoup your costs quite a bit when switching to the newer guns.
Third Person Shooter
Turn Based Tactics
- Jagged Alliance 2 plays this straight: your opponents all start out wielding pistols while your mercs brandish SMGs. The availability of weapons on both sides gradually go upwards. (Unless you decide to attack Meduna directly, which is guaranteed to go badly for you, even with Unusable Enemy Equipment turned off, because merc M P5s against enemy M249s will not end well.)
- 3D spiritual successor to Jagged Alliance, 7.62 High Caliber, plays this just as straight. Everyone except intentionally high level characters (like rebels and government soldiers/cops) starts with pistols and cheap, low capacity shotguns. Even the enemies that start off with more equipment simply have better shotguns or submachine guns. Assault rifles come just before the midpoint, and their automatic fire (and often having folding stocks or otherwise compact dimensions) makes them a general jack-of-all-trades weapon that outclass SMGs entirely, relegating them to backup. Sniper rifles come after that, followed by rocket launchers and grenade launchers (though you can find them very rarely before they show up in shops). Because you're adventuring on a single map, the increase is represented by NPCs gaining new guns and merchants having better selections.
Wide Open Sandbox
- Crackdown half-follows this trope by starting you out with an assault rifle while basic street thugs cart around machine guns on the first island, rocket launchers on the second, and homing rocket launchers on the third...
- In S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, the outpost where you start is separated from the outside world by only by a half-hearted military cordon and some Insurmountable Waist Height Fences, so of course you can only find shotguns and light pistols there. Deeper in the Zone, various factions employ a wide variety of high-quality military equipment, and at its heart, the insane, isolated Monolith faction somehow have access to military exoskeletons, rocket propelled grenades, and the best rifles in the game.
- Averted in the sequel, Call of Pripyat, in which some of the best weapons can be found in the first area (if you know where to look) or bought from a gun dealer (if you have the cash). Also, in stark contrast to the first game (where you had nothing but a knife and a weak pistol at the start), you start the game armed with an assault rifle and some grenades, in addition to your knife and sidearm.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas tries to keep this in effect. The weapons you can't get in the starting city are the M4 (better assault rifle) and some of the heavy weapons, which can show up in later towns. The gun shops unlock according to a pattern as well ... although there's nothing stopping you from sidequesting your way to an arsenal.
- To be fair, you're locked out from purchasing the better weapons from stores legitimately until you hit a certain point in the storyline, but there's still hidden weapon spawns where you can pick them up (with the bonus of them being free!). Experienced GTA players know where the good drops are and will often stock up on ammo (the only way for them to respawn is to save the game and advance time forward) by saving at the nearest safehouse and making a few "gun runs". Of course, that then begs the question as to who's constantly dropping weapons worth several thousand dollars in the back of an alley...
- Bully releases weapons slowly. The slingshot isn't a bad weapon for most (and the rest) of the game, the (inaccurate but explosive) bottle rocket cannon and the (painful) spudgun come up only much later.
- In The Godfather: The Game, while you may acquire the full stock of level 1 weaponry quite early, the upgrades for the better guns are available only in later-visited parts of NYC and cost more. Ultimately, upgrade for upgrade, the starting .38 snubnose still pales to pretty much everything else.
- Scarface: The World is Yours uses this. Handguns go up from a weaksauce .38 through a .45 to the mighty Desert Eagle, the SAW gives you the best More Dakka deal compared to the AK or the M16...
Non-video game examples:
- Falling Down with Michael Douglas is the film example of this trope, to the point where it's inspired at least one GTA: San Andreas mod and this video. He first walks into a store and antagonises the owner until he pulls out a bat, then takes the bat off him. He goes into gang-land and beats two of them up with the bat, pocketing their butterfly knife as they flee. The gang come back with a drive-by, miss, crash and he pockets a duffel bag full of guns. He walks into an army surplus store, gets bum-rushed by the owner, kills him, and takes a rocket launcher he was keeping in the back.
- The Green Martians in John Carter of Mars have this as part of their honor code. The order is fists, dagger, short sword, long sword, spear, pistol, rifle. Choosing a weapon higher up on the ladder than your opponent is considered highly dishonorable.
- Dungeons & Dragons expects you to pass out treasure like this. In 3rd Edition and 3.5 in particular, the game is actually balanced on the assumption that you are strictly following this, screwing things up for those who want a game where magic items are rare and precious. The random treasure tables are even weighted to try to cause this.
- A simple solution is to treat player characters who are under-geared (compared to their counterparts in other games) as being lower in level for the purposes of awarding experience and designing challenge, while characters who are picking their teeth with spare magical daggers are treated as higher level.
- 4th Edition takes this even further. All magical items now come with levels. Any player character with the Ritual Caster feat and the Enchant Magic Item ritual can automatically turn money into any item of his level or lower (most of the time you are assumed to be able to turn the same money into the same item in a shop anyway). Similarly, you can convert obsolete items into a fifth the money the item cost. As in 3.5, the game assumes you are following this suggested approach, making magic just a sufficiently advanced technology.
- In First, Third, and Fourth, even your fists might be subject to this, especially as a Monk.
- Third forced characters to have a certain level before creating certain items, as does Pathfinder. Earlier editions left it up to the GM to decide when and what a player could create and could require the player to undertake any manner of quest to find what he needs to make an item. A classic example is needing "a thief's courage" as an ingredient for making a Rope of Climbing. This let the GM set the slope of the Sorting Algorithm, but still played it straight.
- Pathfinder takes the exact same approach. New characters created above 1st level are even given a budget for their starting gear with a maximum on how much they can spend on any one object, preventing them from buying an item outside what the magical item tables should give them. Then there are adjustments to the rate at which said items appear based on how fast the GM wishes the game to progress, but not the order they should show up in. Sometimes a very powerful item may show up early, but it's unlikely, and a good GM is always careful about what he lets sneak into his game.
- Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, and Deathwatch all play this trope straighter than an arrow. A Low Rank PC in those games not only has no access to many weapons, but he doesn't even earn the ability to learn to use them effectively until high level. It's most pronounced in Dark Heresy, where a starting character is limited mostly to the crappiest gear in all three games. In Deathwatch, the players are each a Super Soldier in Powered Armor with a gun that's an automatic grenade launcher. They still need to advance to get the weapons they'll need to take on the strongest enemies in the game. Rogue Trader starts its heroes with some excellent gear (for normal humans) but there are still items starting players just aren't going to have.
- Paranoia plays with this trope. New player characters are given R&D gear which is as likely to kill the user and most of the sector it's in as it is to kill the bad guy. They are expected to test this equipment, never sure if they have a portable tactical nuke or a fully automatic Boston cream pie launcher. Players also are issued lasers which are Color-Coded for Your Convenience along ROY G BIV lines. Red is crappy, and all later color armors stop it. Violet tears through all the other colors and violet armor would pretty much stop everything else dead. Obviously, player characters start as Red and have a life expectancy that would make them jealous of mayflies. Now report for brainscrub for learning this, traitor.
- If a war lasts long enough, research and development can come up with better weapons as the war progresses. The most extreme example would be World War II, with nuclear bombs being developed mid-war. Even the regular small arms fell to this; weapons like the (in)famous Thompson and PPSh-41 SMG's were retired either during or immediately after the war, because designs that came about along the way did their jobs just as well, but at half the cost and a fraction of the manufacturing time.
- Inverted in Advent Rising, giving you powerful weapons starting off, and weaning you down to be able to fight enemies with nothing more than your body... and your mystic powers. You can still use weapons, it's just not as much fun.
- The first No More Heroes played this straight- each new Beam Katana you acquire pretty much replaces the last. But the sequel Desperate Struggle thankfully removes it - you get a variety of different weapons (some of which are obtained for free) which all have strengths and weaknesses, and are useful in different situations. You can also now switch weapons at any time, and Travis stylishly carries all of them hanging from his belt.
- The best weapon in the Assassin's Creed games is the hidden blade for anyone that's skilled with counter kills. Once you get that, all other melee weapons are useless. Later games have had to make bosses immune to counter kills just to prevent the player from beating them in one attack. Since the hidden blade is the trademark weapon of the series, it's always one of your first weapons.
Beat Em Up
- God Hand subverts this. On the one hand, there are moves that have versions dealing more damage. On the other hand, newly purchasable moves are not always better. For example, some may deal more damage but are slower and more easily punished, or have less area-coverage, or less reach etc. Fortunately, there is a practice mode that allows you to take them for a spin prior to committing to a purchase.
First Person Shooter
- Half-Life 2: Episode One is a textbook inversion. The first weapon you get to fight with is the super-charged gravity gun, which then discharges, and you acquire progressively less powerful weapons throughout the game, all the way to the crowbar.
- The superb accuracy of the pistol in the original, combined with doing more damage-per-shot than the SMG it shared ammo with, meant it never lost its usefulness until the very end.
- The gravity gun itself was a very powerful tool/weapon that you get reasonably early in the game.
- Episode 2 gives you a healthy cross-section of your arsenal within the first few minutes, without the usual few rooms demonstrating the strengths of each. Developer commentary says this was intentional, expecting players had gone through the main game and Episode 1 already and knew their preferred weapon by now.
- Many historically based First Person Shooters avoid this trope. Different guns may have different pros and cons, and you might find a BFG down the line, but the military generally tries to give you the best equipment it can from the get go. To do otherwise would be stupid. The Medal of Honor games, for example, usually give you the mighty M1 Garand as your first weapon.
- These sorts of games can still play it semi-straight by giving you standard-issue weapons, whereas elite soldiers or special forces might get better kit. A modern-day shooter might start you off with a basic M16 or M4, but over time you could get more accurate sights, an M203 grenade launcher, or a full special forces mod kit, or even an XM8, at least in games made before the M8 project got Screwed By The Military-Industrial Complex.
- While Doom is generally known as the grand-daddy of this trope (and the FPS genre as a whole, pretty much), Doom II surprisingly averts this. There are actually quite a few BFGs (as in a BFG, not The BFG), including the super shotgun, within the first third of the game and even a rocket launcher in the very first level if you know where to look. Furthermore, most levels aren't particularly ammo-biased, due to the fact that there are only four types of ammo in the game for eight different ranged weapons. Frequently, unless playing on ITYTD or Nightmare level, where all ammo is doubled, a player may get into an ammo crunch and use weapons that aren't geared for the task simply because the cautious or paranoid player has hoarded up ammo for that particular gun. This often leads to a strange phenomenon where Chaingun and Shotgun ammo run dry but Plasma and Rocket ammo are in near-redundant abundance.
- Present to an extent in Halo. The first game starts you off with just a pistol, and works you up to an assault rifle and various energy weapons, then grants sniper rifles, rocket launchers and shotguns at about the time when they start being necessary for survival. Not fully in force because the weapon types retain their various strengths and weaknesses, no one completely eclipsing another in all situations.
- Using the Plasma Pistol's charged shot followed by a burst from the pistol, battle rifle, or DMR, all of which can be acquired in the first level of their respective games, does away with almost all Legendary-difficulty Elites and remains useful to the last.
- The regular pistol, which you start with in nearly every level as well as most multiplayer matches, can be used to easily outdo most other weapons (including the rocket launcher at any range other than point-blank) thanks to a handy zoom function, good damage per shot and a reasonably high rate of fire. Though it's entirely understandable why the pistol was nerfed for the next two games in the series, many players still miss their trusty pistol from the first game.
- At the meta level, averted. The two-weapon carry-limit and the weapon balance (apparently the pistol's OPness was an accident right before the ship date) were meant to avert this trope.
- Averted in Deus Ex. You gain a lot of the better weapons early on — the GEP gun (rocket launcher) and sniper rifle, which remain among the most useful weapons all the way to the end, can be obtained as you begin the first mission. As well, a great many of the seemingly weak weapons you get early on prove to be very useful for the entire game's run. You do gain a few more powerful weapons (a nanosword, flamethrower, plasma rifle and assault shotgun)... as late as a mere third of the way through the game.
- This can be partially explained by the game being skills-based; the effectiveness and usefulness of these weapons will be considerably affected by your skills in using that type of weapon, the types of weapon your augmentations complement, and the upgrades you apply to each weapon. Upgradeable weapons are so important that they were the primary means of character-building in the sequel.
- The other thing to consider is that, unlike many other games, enemies don't really get any more powerful as you progress - there are merely more of them, positioned more intelligently and better able to respond to threats. An MJ12 soldier at the end of the game will still go down with a single bullet to the head, if you can get away with it.
- Averted in Unreal. You have every weapon just past the half-way point (and it's a long game by FPS standards), and weapons that are useful to start with generally retain their usefulness. The Dispersion Pistol, your Emergency Weapon, also gets upgrades throughout the game to make it keep up (so much that, before being patched to weaken it slightly the fully upgraded version was a total Game Breaker, one hit killing anything when aided by the Amplifier).
- While Marathon mostly follows the trope, the normally dinky fusion pistol can easily take down enemy machinery and is the only weapon which can hurt a player with the invincibility powerup.
- Most of the weapons had their own uses throughout the game. The Magnum was one of the most accurate weapons, had pretty high damage, and could be dual-wielded for great firing rate; the Assault Rifle also did a good deal of damage rather quickly, part of its use in that each hit would briefly stun weaker badguys, as well as shoot explosives; the Combat Shotguns, per pellet, did the same damage as a Magnum shot, and since it shot around 20 of them, was able to be dual-wielded, and could be reloaded quickly in one hand, it would have beat the Rocket Launcher in kill-everything potential if you could have found more than a few rounds for it; the Rocket Launcher kills everything everywhere, period; the Flamethrower also pretty much killed anything everywhere, granted they weren't armored; the SMG was pretty much if the Assault Rifle traded its grenades for faster firing rate and better accuracy. The only weapon that didn't seem to fit was the Alien Weapon, which was mostly useful because it was somewhat accurate, had a lot of ammo, and didn't manage to kill you whenever you used it too close to something.
- Averted in the Blake Stone games. For almost every enemy except the plasmoids, bosses, and the tough-ass camouflage-clad security guards, the starting rechargeable pistol is your best bet. It gains strength based on proximity to your foe, uses no ammunition, and it is freakin' silent. An awesome, awesome little gun, though the shooting sound effect will leave you on the floor laughing the first time you hear it. It is, quite literally, a "bloop." There is nothing like hearing Blake's pistol followed by a blood-curdling death scream. Made all the more funny by every enemy having a single death animation. That's some silenced pistol there, causing giant green plant beasts to explode and limbs to fly every which way with that one unassumingly horrifying little sound: "bloop."
- Subverted with some weapons in the Turok series, especially after the first game. However the ammunition for the next few weapons above the starter weapons is much more common than your starting weapons' alternate fire modes. You don't get the BFGs (and there are many) until the last 3 or 2 levels in every Turok, however. Made slightly more annoying by the fact they tease you about getting them with the hub system, but you usually need abilities/gear from the previous hubs to fully complete the more 'advanced' hubs, or at the least find the weapons.
- Duke Nukem 3D totally ignored this, hiding almost every weapon in almost every level at least once (ignoring the fact that the last four don't appear in the shareware portion that is). Most are in secret areas though. Notably, the devastator, which has the best DPS in the game, is located five feet from the starting position of the first level of episode three, and if you know where to look in the first level of episode one you can get two RPGs and an ammo pack before meeting your third enemy.
- Command & Conquer: Renegade manages to both play it straight and subvert it. You start the game with just a supposedly weak pistol... which is silenced, has unlimited ammunition, and can take out almost all infantry you encounter with a single headshot, allowing you to save the other, limited ammo types for when you actually need them. If you're a good shot, it can be the most effective weapon until at least halfway through the game. Most of the Tiberium-based weapons are also patently useless despite their incredible power and relatively generous ammo, because except for the chemical sprayer they're all introduced at the same point mutants who are healed by exposure to Tiberium take over for most of the basic mooks.
- Serious Sam - The Second Encounter avoids this trope too. Chainsaw, sniper rifle and flamethrower are some of the best weapons in the game, yet they're often the first three weapons you can find at the start of each chapter, found sooner than the double shotgun. The rocket launcher is also very often available in a secret area close to the start of each chapter.
- Bioshock goes both ways with this. It gives you the Tommy gun and shotgun during the second stage (the first being a very brief intro stage) and the rocket launcher during the third, the actual rocket launcher and chemical thrower only appear once in the whole game, and you can often find ammo lying around (and pick it up!) before you get the weapons themselves. Weapon upgrade stations appear starting at the end of the third stage, and you can decide which upgrades to get first. However, higher-level plasmids only appear later on in the game.
- Modern online multiplayer FPS games with RPG-like unlock systems may or may not use this trope. It depends largely on personal preference, how the unlocks interact with one another, and exactly how the game is balanced (and, later, patched). Of course, the players generally expect that the later unlocks will be better: both the high-level ones that are fretting about the unlocks being underpowered, and the new players who are fretting over being ineffective compared to players with unlocks.
- As per the above, Team Fortress 2 averts this; the starting weapons are just fine even compared to unlocks and randomly acquired weapons; most alternate weapons have some kind of downside to balance their utility, where the stock weapons have no deficiencies. This means that a new player with no items can still be effective against a veteran player with every weapon in the game, and very few items (consisting mostly of esoteric melee weapons) are straight upgrades.
- Averted in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2; despite the game featuring a level-up system where you unlock new weapons as you score points during the campaign, the weapons with the highest overall stats are the default ones you start the game withnote . Additionally, a lot of the later-unlocked weapons can be grabbed off of dead terrorists if you want - the AK-47, for instance, is both the last assault rifle unlocked with Assault points and the most common enemy weapon in the first mission.
- TRON 2.0 Zig-Zags this. Your first (and fallback) weapon is the iconic Deadly Disc. This is actually very effective against most kinds of enemies and uses no energy. Other weapons, like the LOL (sniper rifle), Ball Storm or the Prankster Bit can come with a massive energy cost, making them only good for a few shots before you have to refuel. In the case of the Prankster Bit, firing it at too close of a range is just as likely to kill you as what you're shooting. Most players, as a result, fall right back to the disc or one of its upgrades like Sequencer (splitting your disc into multiple parts and firing them) or Cluster (disc with shrapnel).
- Perfect World kind of halfway subverts this. You can buy all weapons and armor from level 1 to 6 (that is around character levels 1-mid 40s) in your starting zone, but you can't use them. As you grow in levels and add attribute points, you will be able to use the stronger weapons/armor. Then Twilight Temple becomes available, you get godlike gear, and the merchants in any part of the world are all but useless.
- Star Trek Online averts this completely at the endgame. You have basic phasers as a Starfleet player or disruptors as a Klingon player, both of which require the lowest skillpoint cost to be fully effective. Each weapon type has a 2.5% chance to cause a special debuff on a target: phasers cause a target's shields/weapons/engines to fail for 10 seconds, and disruptors cause a target to lose damage resistance for 10 seconds. Later you will get access to plasma beams/cannons that have a chance to cause cause (minor)damage over time, tetryon weapons that can do extra shield damage, polaron weapons that can drain enemy ship power and antiproton weapons that simply do more critical hit damage. Each of these special abilities only has that 2.5% chance to activate on a successful hit and all weapons do the same damage when fully skilled. However, the skillpoint cost of plasma/tetryon is higher than phasers/disruptors and polaron/antiproton weapons cost even more skillpoints. This means phasers and disruptors are still viable options at endgame.
- Torpedo weapons get similar treatment. Photons have the highest damage per second but low volley damage, quantums are the opposite. There are also plasma torpedoes which can hit for massive damage but can be shot down, transphasic torpedoes which are a lot weaker than photons but 20% of their damage bypasses shields (this does not make them better than photons at all), chroniton torpedoes slow down a target for a few seconds but do poor damage, and tricobalt torpedoes do insane massive damage but have the longest cooldown time (30 seconds, as opposed to 6 seconds for photons) and tricobalts can be shot down too. All the torpedo types above photon and quantum cost a great deal more skillpoints, making the first two the most effective torpedo types at endgame.
- Guild Wars averts this, in part due to its low max-level barrier. There is no physical restriction preventing a level 5 character from wearing armor with the maximum protection. However, as all armor is class-restricted (and possibly personalized), the character will generally have to craft their own at the appropriate towns. These towns will generally be unreachable until the character reaches the appropriate level, or is run there by another player.
- Can be played straight or averted in the Mega Man and Mega Man X series, where you could beat the bosses in any order. You could get the Metal Blade early in Mega Man 2 by beating Metal Man as the first boss, and most later weapons won't come close.
Real Time Strategy
- Greatly averted by Battle Realms. All units have one or two Battle Gears, which modify the unit's ability or damage, making 1st tier units just as important as 3rd tier ones. For example: Lotus Staff Adepts are a tier 1 unit and, while though, aren't really that strong a unit, but they gain the Battle Gear Dark Canopy, which covers other allied units in an anti-missile shield. Wolf Brawlers, while a good 1st tier tank, are quickly overshadowed by 3rd tier Berserkers. However, they gain the Zen Counterpunch, which allows them to deal huge damage against Heroes and other Zen Masters.
- Nethack has no skewing of randomly generated items at all. Players have found legendary weapons such as Grayswandir lying on the floor in the first level.
- This doesn't necessarily work out for the player, since monsters can be smart enough to use randomly-generated artifacts themselves. Given enough playing experience, every Nethack player will eventually encounter the Gnome On Level One With A Wand Of Death.
- Ancient Domains of Mystery also averts this to a level. Even though most artifacts are found from quests or on NPCs, most artifacts can be randomly generated nearly anywhere. Most of the more powerful items, however, follow the games danger level. Luckily, the Nethack experience of low level monsters wielding deadly weapons is averted in that in ADOM, monsters can not use held items.
Role Playing Game
- Faxanadu has an exception as well along similar lines. A very powerful magic and shield are available at huge prices near the beginning of the game.
- In Tales of the Abyss, the city of Chesedonia is a relatively early destination in the game, and true to form, it sells fairly on-level weapons. However, there is also a vendor with overpoweringly powerful weapons available, albeit at ludicrous endgame price levels. The rest of the game upholds the trope reasonably well.
- Later on in the game, when you'd have enough gald from reasonable grinding, the good stuff will all be unavailable due to the war, and as an added bonus, even the most insignificant items will be ridiculously expensive. When do you get to finally buy the equipment? When you're ready for them.
- It can be subverted in a New Game+ by bringing over the gobs of gald you obtained in your previous save. This is very useful for taking on the Nintendo Hard difficulty.
- Tales of Symphonia does something similar. You can get access to the Infinity Minus One Weapons around the halfway point of the game. However, the city you buy them in, Luin, was destroyed earlier. So you need to shell out 343,500 gald to allow the weapon shop to sell the Infinity Minus One Joke Weapons. And even then, each one costs 40,000 gald. Technically, you can have the 4th best weapons in the game (below the Devil's Arms, Colosseum Weapons, and the non-sidequest Infinity Plus Ones, the former 2 requiring a bit of effort to get) half way through the game if you have the cash.
- In all Tales games, the healing items never become worthless. Obviously we'll always use status-removing and reviving items, but as for healing items? They don't heal by a set amount; they heal via percentages. So you can buy lemon and pineapple gels (Which restore 60% of your HP and TP respectively) early in the game but at that point it's usually much more practical to just stock Apple and Lemon Gels, which only restore 30% because they're way cheaper. You might get Melange gels but they're pretty expensive. As for the special stuff like the items that work on the whole party, restore 60% of HP and TP, those you almost never get early in the game and are often rare and have to be found.
- Though usually the case in Final Fantasy games, it is conspicuously absent in Final Fantasy X, where the strength of a weapon is determined entirely by which upgrades have been applied, and therefore the "best" weapon for a situation is the one which has the customizations best suited to the current battle. Excepting the Infinity+1 Sword, the overall "best" weapon therefore is the one with the most unused customization slots, and therefore the one that can have the largest number of useful upgrades attached to it as suits the player.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, where better weapons are obtained through crafting. It is possible to get the characters' best weapons early on in the game... but finding the materials needed is a different story. Disc 1 Lionheart is achievable, but it involves losing a one-time rare card (you can get it back with a side-quest). Of course, neither leveling nor weapon upgrades are an important way of increasing your combat power.
- Shot to hell in Final Fantasy XII. Most weapons are available in shops, but odds are you don't have the gil to buy the weapons, because of the Loot system.
- Final Fantasy II manages to play it straight gameplay-wise but avert the strange implications story-wise: the big city where the heroes come from does carry the good stuff, but at first you can only afford inferior weapons because the small rural towns are the only ones not overruled by the Empire. Later you can liberate the capital and get access to the good ones.
- In Rune Factory 3, if you have the gold you can purchase very powerful weapons early on. However, your Rune Points drain very quickly when you use them, making the weapons Awesome, yet Impractical. Your Item Crafting skill also combines with your weapon skill to determine what quality of weapons you can create.
- Final Fantasy V provide several weapons and armors with different effects that provide various tactical advantages with the class system. Why go for raw power when there are weapons that enhance spells, deal instant death, have high critical hits, or deal status conditions in a game where they work often?
- Subverted in Albion, an RPG about a sci-fi space pilot from Earth who crash-lands on a fantasy jungle world populated by cat people and druids. No, really. You can obtain a pistol early on, an extremely powerful weapon, but ammo for it is limited and only found in small quantities in a very few places in the game. As a result, once your clip runs dry, you end up relying on local swords and shields for most of the rest of the game.
- Star Ocean: The Second Story also averts this in a minor way, as all the ingredients for the game's most powerful sword for the male lead (outside the Bonus Dungeon) are available for crafting approximately 2/5 the way through the plot. With careful skill building, luck, and some save/reloading you can have this weapon just before the plot really takes off. The other characters are not quite so lucky, and will need to wait until later, but can still make better weapons that the shops generally sell.
- The PSP remake shuffled this Disc One Nuke back into semi-proper order by rearranging when you could acquire the necessary skills to make it, playing it straight once more.
- In The Legend of Dragoon, while the characters' weapons follow this trope exactly, the best defensive items in the game can be purchased at a town no more than 1/8 way through the game. They are so expensive that you can't reasonably afford them until much later (unless you spend an eternity grinding), but they are there. Also, the consumable items you use through out the game do not appreciably change as you progress.
- Healing items are often like this in games where the healing is percentage-based instead of straight numbers; they never go out of style because they're always just as effective as before. Similar to Tales Series, which also uses percentage-based healing.
- Wild ARMs 3 managed to avoid this problem by having your characters only ever have one weapon. Instead of buying new weapons, you pay to upgrade and customize your existing one. This model has been adopted for all the ARMs (guns) in the series, although regular weapons that appear still play it straight.
- And then played entirely straight in Wild Arms 5. While the ARMs themselves don't change, the parts do, and these follow the trope to a T.
- In Fallout 1 and 2 you can find enemies wearing gauss weaponry (the strongest slug throwers) and plasma weapons (the strongest standard energy weapons) early on. It's even occasionally possible to find the crashed spacecraft and it's alien blaster (the best energy weapon) within moments of leaving your initial location, though it's rare.
- Further averted in Fallout 3, where you can acquire the Combat Shotgun, Chinese Assault Rifle and Sniper Rifles at level 2, and enemies carry for the most part random equipment. The only thing you won't find many of until the end of the game is plasma weaponry as they're only carried by Enclave troops who don't start appearing until after the Waters of Life quest is completed, then they spawn all throughout the game world.
- The first main quest after the tutorial gives you a Fat Man in reasonable condition with 5 nukes. The problem is that only a handful of vendors sell mini-nukes, and they only sell up to 3 and they start selling them around level 14 (most first time players will be level 2-4 at this point). While there are mini-nukes in set places that you can go find a) there are no clues on how to find them and b) some of them are in really dangerous places. So the game gives you one of it's most powerful gun and a really good reason to use it (the tall mutant) but ensures that you can't just use that gun all the time.
- You can get the game's most badass Small Arm(Lincoln's Repeater) right from the start. Even if you haven't leveled the skill, it is BRUTALLY effective, and pretty much any Small Arms build's standard weapon.
- It was specifically stated in an interview by a Fallout 3 developer that they could hand the player powerful weapons right from the start, as they needed ammunition to be used further. While unmentioned, even powerful melee weapons will require you to keep them repaired, and since you probably won't find too many of one kind in the beginning of the game to allow you to repair them with, getting good equipment repaired at a shop costs... a lot. Not to mention, the most powerful melee weapons in the game don't stop your enemies from shooting you to bits while you are currently out of range. In other words, all those bottlecaps (currency) you save by not buying ammunition? You're probably going to be spending them on stimpacks and other health-restoring items, no matter if you have the best armor in the game.
- It is possible to get
the best Plasma Rifle arguably the best weapon in the game note earlier on by finishing The Replicated Man quest in a certain way Spoiler , but you won't find parts to repair it with until after the Enclave show up.
- Played straighter with power armor though, as to use power armor you need to find a suit and receive training. While a few vendors sell low condition helmets or suits the only way to get training is to complete a large part of the main quest. Futher exacerbated by the fact that Tesla armor (barring the DLC only Hellfire armor and the unique T51-b) the best armor in the game is only avalible in the last 2 main quests or at an enclave out post once you are over level 16. The only armor that comes close to power armor level of defense, Ranger armor, can be acquired straight away but requires you to do a very hard side quest found in the middle of down town DC, a place low level players fear to tread.
- Fallout New Vegas zig-zags this a bit depending on your weapon choice. While at the start there are no power house weapons at all, most enemies until Novac only use 9mm pistols, dynamite, cleavers and varmit rifles, you can get your hands on some pretty decent guns if you know who to talk to and to do their petty quests. At the Repcon facility you can get your hands on dozens of plasma defenders (the best energy pistol) or rebar clubs (a powerful heavy melee weapon) with ease and use them for most of the game. The good vendors whoever are all in new vegas (excepting the NCR quatermaster at hoover dam) and getting there before level 8 can be a big chore, and even then most of their high end guns are more than you can afford. The best explosive weapons are nigh impossible to get until level 20, requiring either a lot of running around for the boomers or a trip into a deathclaw nest.
- All the DLC for Fallout 3 and New Vegas avert this hard by giving you one of the best weapons they have to offer straight away (the Gauss rifle, The Auto Axe, all the alien weaponry, the Holorifle, the .45 pistol and smg's and the Red Glare are all either given to you within 5 minutes or available to take off of someones corpse from the word go) though the very best and unique varients are often given as a reward at the end of the DLC or require some obsessive side questing within the DLC
- Unlike the other Fallout 3 DLCs, Broken Steel's enemies (and the overpowered Hellfire Armor and Heavy Incinerator) don't appear until after you hit level 20, or after you complete the main questline (whichever comes first). It's still entirely possible to complete the main questline at a relatively low level, averting this trope.
- Although Valkyrie Profile 2 plays this straight for the most part, you can still find ridiculously overpriced and powerful weapons early on. The only thing is that you can't get the materials for those weapons yet, because the monsters that drop them don't appear until much later.
- Also averted in Star Ocean 3; you can get quite good weapons in Airyglyph, much better than the general equipment level at that point, but they're very expensive and require severe grinding or Item Crafting.
- Mostly played straight, but mildly averted in one case in Earthbound / Mother 2. When you first get to the town of Winters, it's because you begin play as another character, and the store there offers weapons far beyond your current power (And price range). As this character starts off poor, and can't earn money, you cannot afford the items until you come back towards the end of the game. Or, if you are willing to invest an hour or two, repeatedly fighting an enemy who drops an item which can be sold for a small amount of money will get you the weapon (which remains effective for a significant portion of the game) early.
- Kingdom Hearts titles give increasingly powerful weapons as the game goes on. However there are long stretches where it's best to use older Keyblades.
- Kingdom Hearts II seems to try and reduce the gulf in effectiveness between older and newer Keyblades, by making the stat boosts smaller and giving each Keyblade a unique ability that makes it worthwhile. At least one is actually weaker physically than the starting keyblade, but it comes with the coveted MP Rage ability.
- And 358/2 Days continues this trend somewhat - while the earliest weapons don't hold on to their effectiveness for long, mid-game weapons come with some very useful abilities, such as the Magic Bracer. The game's true Infinity+1 Sword is thus an ability that puts the stat buffs of all weapons roughly equal, allowing the player to pick a favored ability set.
- It also zig-zags this with the healing items. Potions are always useful but later on, you have so much more health hi-potions undo more damage, and Mega Potions are always useful because they can restore the whole party's health. Ethers meanwhile NEVER get replaced with better versions, and mega-ethers are a little more rare than mega-potions and just as useful.
- Fable II subverts this as well, allowing you to buy steel weapons at the first blacksmith you find, although they are reasonably uncommon until later in the game.
- While played straight in Oblivion, as noted above (and Morrowind, for that matter), they are also exceptions. While almost all enemy equipment and chest contents are based on your level, items just lying around on tabletops, bookshelves, etc. are not leveled, and some of the most important equipment in the game can be obtained through simple theft, literally within minutes. What's more, due to a quirk of the leveling system, character level and power level don't necessarily have anything to do with each other. It's possible to max out most of the skills in the game (which are what determines a very large part of your overall power level) without ever reaching level 2. Even the weakest knife in the game becomes a lethal joke item when you have the ability to enchant it with maxed out Destruction magic.
- Arcanum averts this. If you're lucky, you may find a decent magical sword in the very first city... Only you couldn't afford it. Also, if you go by the minimal number of subquests, the second city you get to is a Capital with appropriately equipped shops (though you've still got to hoard enough gold).
- It's fairly simple to create a character capable of picking the locks on the chests in shops in the first city at level 1, allowing you access to items long before you would normally be able to afford them. Picking the locks in the capital city is harder but still easier than getting the money to buy the items.
- Phantasy Star, or at least the original game, averts this. As soon as you get to Motavia you can spend a while grinding to your heart's content and get the best armor available for most everyone.
- Phantasy Star IV pokes fun at this trope with the city of Aiedo. It is, technically, the first place you start out in, and its main market (which of course is a world renowned center of commerce that even people on islands in the middle of nowhere come to shop in) sells low-end crap that the player would never bother spending money on because by the time you reach that point, you already have better equipment. However there's a second weapon and armor shop BEHIND the market that sells much better equipment. Each set of shops fulfills the trope in a different way (the former because you do start there, the latter because it's the second-closest town to the planet's last major dungeon).
- In Sonic Chronicles, you can go several chapters without access to a shop, and then when you do find one it sells equipment worse than what you've already got.
- Played with in Nostalgia, where London starts with almost no gear at all. As you progress in the game and reach major trading posts, new gear is unlocked in London, which may or may not be better than what you already have or can buy in other cities. Played straight with every other shop, though.
- Radiant Historia zig-zags on this. Equipment does get stronger in step with the plot, but very gradually. Each shop does generally have a few new pieces to offer, but they tend to only outright obsolete the oldest of equipment. You'll spend more money side-grading your Magic Knight to a lance that sacrifice some raw power for a magic boost, while leaving your Mighty Glacier with the older model that nonetheless has the greater physical attack.
- Averted in Alpha Protocol. Access to new black-market gear is dependent on what contacts you've made, which is only tangentially related to how much of the game you've completed. It's entirely possible to have access to the equipment you're looking for before you complete your second hub.
- Averted (but only with weapons) in Arc Rise Fantasia. Every single weapon in the game is a unique piece that you can only buy (or find) once, and all of them have unique elements that makes them particularly suited for some strategies and gameplay styles, making all the weapons from every store worthy in a sense, so much that the game don't even allow you to sell them.
- Averted in Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, where later weapons are somewhat more effective but not greatly (especially compared to how much they cost), and the truly best weapons are the customizable ones, since you can staple on a variety of stat boosts and traits to fit your play style. Three of your six potential party members start with their customizable weapons, and a couple of the others are easily acquired relatively early.
- Averted in Descent. The starting weapon gets upgraded (up to 4x) and is the most well-rounded and generally useful weapon all the way through the game. The other 4 weapons and the 5 types of missiles are only useful in specific situations.
- In Freespace 2, the starting weapon, the Subach HL-7, deals little damage per shot. However, thanks to its almost non-existent energy-consumption, veteran pilots often prefer it to the later Prometheus S, as it allows them to divert most of their energy to shields and engines. In addition, earlier fighters remain competitive even as more advanced craft are introduced. For example, the Loki, one of the weaker starter ships in the game, becomes one of the most powerful vessels once the Kayser becomes available, as it is one of the few fighters that has a strong enough reactor to support prolonged fire with it.
- The Vasudans' basic weapons is a licensed copy of the Subach, the Mekhu HL-7, and is overwhelmingly better in every way (faster firing, more damaging, and lower energy consumption) and an outright Game Breaker in multiplayer, where it inexplicably gains a massive boost in firepower without reducing its overwhelming rate of fire.
- Ace Combat also subverts this as normal missiles don't get stronger on later planes, while QAAMs and other special weapons are equally effective or not both on early planes and lategame ones.
- Ace Combat Infinity, being more multiplayer-centric than the others, zig-zags this - missile damage actually does increase on higher-tier planes, but how much it does is determined by air-to-air and air-to-ground stats on the plane itself, and those can be increased both through upgrading the plane and attaching parts. So, for instance, a high-tier fighter like an F-22 or T-50 can one-shot enemy fighters, but without a lot of upgrades and parts will only deal Scratch Damage to hardened bunkers that a low-tier Attacker with few upgrades could still take out in one or two salvos.
Stealth Based Game
- The Metal Gear series follows the basic template in giving you progressively stronger firearms throughout the games, but is a subversion in that just about every weapon you get retains its effectiveness until the end, each weapon being useful in different situations. The pistol you get in the first cutscene is just as effective for sneaking and incapacitating guards near the end of the game as it is from the start, and still packs enough stopping power to be useful in later firefights or boss fights that don't specifically require you to use something bigger.
- To give an idea, the first Metal Gear Solid game gave you the offensive weapons in the following order: SOCOM Pistol -> FA-MAS Assault Rifle -> NIKITA Missile -> Stinger Missile.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots generally ignores this, with the most useful and/or customizable weapons all given to you or able to be acquired in the first act, but plays it straight in terms of power with pistols and sniper rifles - you are given or can find the extremely useful Operator and M14 EBR in the first act, can upgrade to the more powerful Mark 23 and railgun in Act 4, and then can buy or unlock the even better MGS3 M1911 and M82A2 after that.
- The somewhat-obscure Nintendo title Ghoul School completely ignores the Algorithm. One of the deadliest, the Spinal Tap, can be located in minutes. Though the weapons have different behaviors which ostensibly mean that each has uses in various contexts, several that are found well into the game have very little practical use. Normally, one of the first new weapons you find is the Towel, which is about 1.5 times as powerful as your starting weapon. In that same area, you'll find the Deweytron, which is long-range, but so weak that even normal monsters can absorb 50+ hits from it. The Deweytron has a cousin named the Digestaray, but it's just a less-powerful version of the Sandwich you may already be using. It goes back to the trope, at least, for the Gamma Gun, the last and most powerful weapon available.
- Used with magic spells in Eternal Darkness, but mildly averted in that the Functional Magic uses a system that works on three word grammar. If you've got a large chunk of the Instant Runes, you don't technically need the rune translation codices or spell explanation scrolls you actually pick up in sequential order in the rest of the game; you can just "make sentences" and build all possible spells by the halfway point. You just won't know exactly what those spells actually do.
- And given that those spells are drawing power from one of four Eldritch Abominations, it's understandable that trying them out randomly wouldn't be too attractive.
- Averted in Dead Rising. The first part of the mall you enter contains a respawning Katana, a MAC-10, and an unlimited supply of Orange Juice (the best healing item). The second boss most will fight (the Monster Clown), drops a juggling chainsaw, the best weapon. And if the character starts the game and immediately runs to the Gun Store, he can stock up on firearms before the That One Boss owner spawns there.
- Although the main character will find it difficult to get the items from the first part of the mall until almost midnight on the first day, simply because you may start there, but you don't stay there.
- Also, Orange Juice isn't the best healing item, wine is, and you can't get unlimited wine until you reach Seon's in the North Plaza. And while the Katana and MAC-10 may be * fun* weapons, they aren't really * good* weapons. The katana is especially bad, having a long recovery time and killing only one zombie at a time (i.e. useless for crowd control) and breaking extremely quickly. And Adam's small chainsaws are pretty much the best weapon in the game, but not unless you triple-book them, which is hard to do until you've leveled up and beefed up your inventory, plus you have to actually go find the books.
- And wine also doesn't heal you as much as a Well Done Steak or a Golden Brown Pizza, but you can't get unlimited ones of those.
Third Person Shooter
- Played with in Max Payne 2, which occasionally switches between the title character and one with a different inventory(Mona). Towards the end Max is knocked out and left for dead. Mona saves him, and when the player regains control of Max, he has pretty much every single high-end gun in the game.
- Averted in Dead Space. Not only are most of the weapons available before the half-way point of the game, but the starting weapon is considered by many players to be the best and most useful one in the game, especially if you take the time to upgrade it to its full potential. It is very possible to go through an entire game with only that weapon, and you can get an achievement for doing so. On top of this the games only spawns ammo of the type of guns you are carrying.
- Some games take this to an extreme by making early weapons nearly worthless against later opponents to the point where your entire arsenal is replaced by more powerful counterparts to every weapon partway through, such as Red Faction (after the mercs) and F.A.K.K.2: Heavy Metal (after the invasion.) Another classic example of this is the need for magic weapons of a at least a certain degree (E.G.: Dagger + x) to damage some supernatural beings in D&D and related works.
- Total Overdose inverts and upholds this trope at the same time. While the Standard FPS Guns appear in typical order of effectiveness, progress through the storyline, sidequests, and other 100% Completion tasks improve the effectiveness of your initial weapon, until your basic handgun is more powerful than any weapon you can collect.
- Prototype subverts this. On one hand, you will indeed have little use for the Claws past early-to-mid-game. The Hammerfists' anti-"heavy" functionality is largely taken over by the Blade. The Blade, being the last offensive power acquired, is pretty much the best all-around offensive ability. Machine guns also come later than and outperform assault rifles. On the other, the Whipfist being the only mid-range power of Alex's means you'll still get mileage out of it even in late-game against strong-up-close Elite Mooks. If you like using Alex's normal attacks and throwing crap around then Musclemass will be a large bonus. You also get to use grenade and rocket launchers pretty early, before machine guns become commonplace.
Turn Based Strategy
- Somewhat averted in the Fire Emblem series. Increasingly stronger weapons do become available as you progress, but since they break after so many uses, you'll generally want to save these weapons for the toughest enemies, so the beginner weapons still have value even late in the game. A minor irritation is that the basic Iron weapons become increasingly hard to find in shops later in the game, even though you still need them as much as ever.
- Most Lords, and a few other characters, start with terrific (but breakable) weapons. Insofar as this trope is followed, it's that the powerful weapons become more available later on, and the powerful Sword of Plot Advancement typically comes late.
- Averted in La Pucelle and the Disgaea series: There's only one shop in the entire game, and the level of the weapons/items available is partially determined by the player's Customer Rank. The more you shop, the better stuff they'll sell you.
- LucasArts game Gladius ends the game in the town of Caltha, which is in the Imperium. Depending on which campaign you're playing, you either begin the game in the Imperium or go there second, and will only return at the end of the game. Even though the player can't fight the high-end battles in Caltha, though, they can buy the items... if they could ever afford them! The prices are sky-high, and since you can't backtrack to the Imperium after you've left, there's really no way to get a hold on these prizes.
- In Front Mission 3, because the Giant Robot parts have different balances of strengths instead of a straight progression from worse to better, it's quite feasible to use upgraded starting equipment in the endgame.
- In Sword of the Stars, while moving up the line of a weapon sub-family eg. UV lasers to X-ray lasers generally results to increased effectiveness, switching from one weapon sub-family to a later-acquired one eg. Particle Beams to Heavy Combat Lasers does not always lead to greater effectiveness.
- Averted in Freedom Fighters. For the most part you'll be using the same assault rifle through the entire game, with more powerful but ammo-limited SMGs being dropped by the occasional Elite Mook. Although the very powerful Machine Gun isn't available till more than halfway through the game, the tremendous rarity of the enemies who hold them ensures that most players will likely switch back to the Assault rifle before too long unless they're particularly conservative with their ammo. Sniper Rifles and Rocket Launchers are only ever found in locations where they'd be immediately useful, and only with enough ammo to ensure that they can't be used much longer than that.
Wide Open Sandbox
- Crackdown lets you take an unlimited supply of specialized vehicles out of the Agency garage - each of which, even in their lowest-powered form (they level up with you, Transformers-style) kicks the crap out of anything anyone else is driving around.
- Averted in the same fashion with weapons. While your starting weapons are conventional and weak, acquiring more powerful guns is as easy as taking one from a dead gangster and returning to Agency HQ. There's nothing stopping the player from driving into a far more dangerous area than he should be in, killing one person and stealing their weapon, then promptly racing back to HQ at top speed where your superiors will provide you with infinite ammo and replacements.
- Just Cause 2 wants to do this, starting Rico with a pistol and his grappling hook, but it quickly becomes clear that the grappling hook is one of the most hilariously powerful things in the game, and the tutorial mission often ends with Rico having yanked a minigun with infinite ammo off its mount and mowing down everything in sight. In the game proper, it isn't impossible for Rico to come across a heavy machine gun or assault rifle in a matter of ten minutes after the world opens up whether by stumbling across an ammo crate or taking off an enemy, and all of the weapons available to him are always capable of killing off Panau's numerous guards and soldiers. And civilians. Similarly, it is possible to end up stealing high-level, heavily armed vehicles that the army just leaves lying around, provided he can get close to it.
- Averted in The World of Darkness, Old and New, for almost all non-magical weapons. A weapon's stats are given at the start of the game and are identical for all users. The skill of the person wielding the weapon makes all the difference in the world, and there's nothing stopping a brand new character from being amongst the best in the world at one or more forms of combat. Supernatural weapons created by the supernatural beings themselves may play it straight, depending on the game.
- Generally this is also true in Shadowrun, Call of Cthulhu, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Traveller, Star Wars games for non-Force-users, Dead Lands, Unknown Armies, and most games following Science Fiction, Modern Horror, or Historical tropes. Players often think this trope is ubiquitous in RPGS because of the overwhelming popularity of D&D. It fits these types of settings much better. Using Star Wars as an example, it's much cooler to think Han's blaster is just a really well-made heavy blaster and the reason it's so lethal is because Han Solo is the Bad Ass using it.