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Useless Useful Stealth
Many Role Playing Games that are mainly based on combat also have a "stealth" mechanic that can ostensibly be used to get past monsters without fighting, thus enabling another choice of strategy. However, this stealth often turns out to be close to useless, for the following reasons:
  • There are many enemies that players must kill to complete key objectives, such as bosses, that are harder to kill than enemies that you can stealth by. Hence, if your character or party is powerful enough to kill the bosses (as is necessary in order to progress in the game), it is also more than powerful enough to kill the grunts, so it is unnecessary to stealth by them.
  • Stealthing by enemies leaves them in place, so if you were to stealth by them and later end up in a situation where you had to run away, you would be sandwiched between two sets of enemies.
  • Stealthing by enemies prevents you from getting the experience and loot rewards that you would have received had you killed them, so it leaves you handicapped for later in the game. Rare are the games that actually reward you for sneaking past enemies or otherwise going through areas undetected.
  • Stealth is simply unreliable or difficult to use effectively, due to either game mechanics or interface limitations.
  • If you do have a party with varying degrees of stealth rather than just a single sneaky character, then your chances of the entire group being able to go undetected for any length of time are limited by its least stealthy member(s) anyway. Unless you split up, of course, which comes with its own drawbacks.

Similarly, Real-Time Strategy games often have a few units with stealth capabilities. These are typically useless for anything but scouting, because:
  • They're overpriced and underpowered.
  • Counter-stealth defenses are often cheap, easy to build, or so ingrained into even a beginning player's routines that only a computer player deliberately hamstrung by the programmer wouldn't use it.
  • There's no strategic benefit to infiltration. Things that are expensive to build are generally hard to destroy, and a lone infiltrator can only do so much damage before being spotted and killed. Base structures usually aren't highly interdependent anyway, so there are no "weak links" that can be targeted to cripple a base.
  • There's no tactical benefit to ambushes. Game mechanics limitations such as Critical Existence Failure or lack of "morale" mean RTS units generally suffer no drawbacks for being surrounded, taken by surprise, caught in bad terrain or out of cover, sniped down or attacked at point-blank range, and (like base structures) there usually isn't a particular unit that can be taken out first to gain an advantage. (Except hero-type units, in games that have those, but heroes generally have too many hit points to be killed quickly.)
  • In addition, since The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, they are often useless against AI opponents. They may be restrained by the same attack rules, but The All-Seeing A.I. knows where your stealthed units are.

If the game is benevolent enough, it may never actually force you to use stealth, becoming an Optional Stealth.

See also Stealth Run.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Action Adventure  

  • In Overlord, there is a temple guarded by ghost elves that attack anyone they see. Your advisor instructs you to avoid being seen and the level is built with a stealth mechanic in mind, including doors behind which you can trap the patrolling ghosts in certain rooms. However, it's far easier to just take a group blue minions and kill all the ghosts. They don't even count for the Karma Meter.
  • In the original Wizards And Warriors for the NES, the Cloak of Invisibility only turned your character invisible to you; the enemies could see you just fine.
  • In Spider-Man, there's an unlockable alternate suit which allows you to become invisible. This is extremely useful in regular levels (as they're all beat-your-way-to-the-end). However, the invisibility trick doesn't work with bosses.

     Action Game  

  • The WWII-based tactical squad game Hidden & Dangerous had a stealth mechanic that was absolutely worthless, which was probably due to the fact that the game in question was so damn buggy.
  • Played with in Batman: Arkham Asylum. While most of the trope applies, the game was designed around stealth-as-a-predator rather than stealth-as-hiding. Thus being sneaky is a very pro-active task in the game and is always useful, barring a handful of encounters to break up the gameplay.
  • Cloe Walsh's stage in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. Right from the start, you are encouraged to hide from the stage's spotlights and guards, but getting caught only means that you have to fight all the guards instead and they each go down in 2-3 hits. Plus, the poorly implemented stealth mechanics make it far more difficult not to get caught. On Bitter difficulty though, the guards are much stronger, so stealth is encouraged.
  • Being a Hideo Kojima series, Boktai makes much of its stealth elements, but it was only a necessity in the first game where being spotted meant being spammed by Klorofolun which clung to you in huge numbers, slowed you down, and would kill you in seconds. As the games went on and became more action-oriented they fell directly into this trope: the stealth elements are there but you'll rarely use them when the game doesn't force you. One change made in Lunar Knights is particularly annoying: instead of knocking on walls with A to lure monsters to that spot, you have to whistle by blowing in the microphone. It's hard to run for cover in time with a DS in your face.

    Adventure Game 
  • Averted in the first four Quest for Glory games, where playing as the Thief class often means you can sneak past or trick your way through every combat in the game. With the fifth game, stealth won't work with the tasks that involve killing monsters/notable bad guys, but you can still safely sneak past or knock out most of the outer guards without worry about sandwiching.
  • Deadly Premonition allows the player character, York, to hold his breath. Somehow, this makes him invisible to the zombie-ghost-like enemies. However, he can't do it for long and he slows down to a crawl while walking that way, so there is practically no situation that calls for you to sneak past an enemy you'd be better off just killing.

     Fighting Game  

  • Any fighting game that includes an invisibility, such as Mortal Kombat, will end up being completely useless against A.I. opponents.
  • The cloaking device from the Super Smash Bros. series is fairly useful against human enemies, but its secondary effect is much more useful against both humans and computer players. While cloaked, your character still takes knockback, but doesn't take damage. Just don't lose track of yourself and fall off a cliff.
    • It's generally not that useful against human opponents either. Being a fighting game, the stage has very limited space, and thus there's not much room for you to hide.
    • In SSB:M, your character name and a little arrow still appears above your head, even when cloaked.
    • Your character still makes all the same noises, meaning you can't even mask your attacks either.

     First Person Shooter  

  • Deus Ex progressively conforms to the trope. In the beginning, the player has few weapons or enhancements; at least some stealth is essential, if only for sneaking up on enemies for a nonlethal takedown in one hit. Minimising bloodshed is also rewarded by positive interactions with some NPCs. Later in the game, enemies become more difficult to stealth by (but you can become entirely invisible to either humans or robots), and while they also become more dangerous, the player has been gaining enhancements such as regeneration and ballistic protection that let them survive combat, better equipment (or improving equipment they've had since the start), and improved skills. Plus, by this point in the game, you're fighting definitive bad guys. In fact, later attempts to stealth can often backfire: when a player gets into trouble and has to retreat, they can easily run into lethal crossfire if they haven't been killing as they go. Averted, naturally, for no-kill runs.
    • Stealth was useful to take out unaware guards with single headshots, without alerting his mates. But stealthing by without killing them was a dangerous game.
    • The sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War, kind of plays this straight as close combat weapons become virtually useless at the end as the two classes of tough enemy introduced late in the game explode and release poison gas on death respectively, making that unique new sword you just found virtually worthless against most major threats. Stealth is also of little use against armoured enemies as they have too much HP to be killed in a single sneak attack, even if you hit their ridiculously small weak(er) point, and are often placed so as to be harder to avoid than enemies in the first game. However, using cloaking, radar invisibility, and running past them at full speed is an acceptable speedrun tactic, but doesn't work in cutscenes.
      • Stealth is actually very useful later in the game, as long as you're trying to sneak past them and not trying to use sneak attacks. Unlike the first one, you can have both invisibility and thermal cloaking, making you invisible to humans and robots. You can also use the silent stepping biomod, so they can't hear you running either. Stealth makes it entirely possible to run past an entire squad of armored enemies and mechs without them even realizing you were there.
    • The prequel, Human Revolution, brings back stealth as a viable alternative to brute force. In fact, the game emphasizes three types of gameplay: combat, hacking, and stealth. Unlike the first game, all vents are unlocked and can be used at will, although some are protected by laser grids. The game also allows the player to hug walls and hide behind covers in a Splinter Cell-like manner, which is invaluable to both stealth and combat. In fact, stealth is encouraged, as Jensen is not particularly tough in a firefight. You also get extra XP for using vents and performing non-violent takedowns, which knock out any non-boss human target instantly. Some levels pretty much require stealth, as sneaking into a police station is generally more preferrable than trying to shoot your way through.
      • This, however, helped turning its boss fights into the Scrappy Mechanic: If you've been stealthing through levels using only your trusty stun gun, punches, and that stealth enhancer augment, the boss fights are going to chew you up and spit you out. Thankfully the developers stated that the boss fights where that way due to lack of time, and in the Updated Re-release you can now deal with bosses in a stealthy manner.

  • In the Call of Duty series past the second game, the player may opt to use smoke grenades to cover movement. While not really a stealth item, this trope is averted in the fact that if you throw one to obscure your movements, it actually works. This is one way to approach machine gun posts. Of course, smokescreens are a double edged sword, as the enemy also uses them against you during Hold the Line segments.
  • In Command & Conquer: Renegade, Nod players can use the Stealth Black Hand, which is fairly cheap and comes with a decent all-purpose laser rifle. If weapon drops are enabled, they can use sniper rifles... And of course, the Stealth Tank, which has overrun many an unaware GDI player. The base defenses detect stealth, though.
  • Semi-averted in Unreal - the invisibility pickup can let you sneak by Titans without being detected (that said, half the times you encounter them are unavoidable Boss Battles - natch) but the Skaarj will almost always know you're there. Then again, this might be justified as Skaarj are far more intelligent and alert than Titans in terms of programming and backstory both.
  • Hiding used to be an effective strategy in Left 4 Dead, until tanks gained the ability to detect players who should be invisible.
  • In the Mac port and many other ports of Wolfenstein 3D, the enemies only have a forward-facing sprite, making it impossible to sneak up on them, unlike in the PC version.
  • Strife gives you a punch dagger and a poisoned crossbow to make stealth kills on living targets. However, most areas have alarms that you can't avoid triggering and/or robots that can't be killed with stealth.
  • In the Command Post level of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, it is nearly impossible to avoid setting off alarms in the houses, as the guards always know you're coming, no matter how stealthy you try to be.
  • Averted in Dark Messiah: Heroes of Might and Magic where stealth is a viable approach throughout most of the game, at least when in dark poorly-lit areas.
  • The Alien vs. Predator games are built around averting this trope for the Alien and Predator when fighting humans. Marines have enough ranged firepower to drop you very quickly in open battle but suffer heavily from The Guards Must Be Crazy: Staying hidden and taking them down one-by-one is pretty much mandatory. Played straight when the two fight each other, as both Alien and Predator can see through each others' stealth (and the Marine never gets to be stealthy. Ever.).
  • BioShock actually has a viable stealth mechanic, but 95% of players won't even notice, since your character is tough enough and ammo/health is plentiful enough for you to simply Rambo your way through the game. Combine this with the fact that you can't die in this game. This is in sharp contrast to System Shock 2 (which was on turn built on the Thief engine), where your character was much weaker and ammo/health was much less plentiful, pretty much forcing you to stealth through much of the game simply to survive.
  • BioShock Infinite mostly thrives on frantic wide-open encounters with lots of enemies, making stealth useless as either enemies are scripted to spot you, or you can get as far as a free shot on the first enemy. However, it averts the trope HARD in one of the latter stages, where you are required to navigate a hospital-cum-asylum. The place is littered with lunatics who will ignore you... UNTIL one of their trumpet-headed overseers spots you, screams and sends potentially dozens of lunatics at you. This is also the only part of the game where ammo drops are in extremely short supply, so even if you showed up with two fully loaded weapons, after the first wave of lunatics you will undoubtedly be running low. All of this combines to make sneaking past the trumpet-heads a very viable option (possibly the only one on higher difficulties).
  • In the small but loyal fan community of the original Doom, most players see the "partial invisibility" powerup as more of a burden than anything else. This is because monsters fire much less accurately at invisible players, which sounds like a good thing, except that's it's usually harder to dodge projectiles when they're scattering all around you than when they're flying predictably towards you in a straight line (to the point that the sphere seems to make enemies more adept at leading their shots rather than making you harder to hit). Also, partial invisibility doesn't really make it harder for the enemies to actually SEE you and thus start attacking (and even if it did, your gunfire alerts them anyway). This is abused in some user-made levels where the player is required to pick up an invisibility sphere, just to make a fight harder.
  • The Spy of Team Fortress 2 manages to avert this, but Spy is still inarguably one of the three hardest classes in the game to play well, up with Scout (Fragile Speedster, excellent close-range damage, mediocre medium-range damage) and Sniper (Glass Cannon like the Spy. Excellent long range damage (including the One-Hit Kill headshot, but average medium and mediocre close-range damage). The Spy can do truly horrifying amounts of damage to Sentry nests with Sappers and to enemies (especially the feared Heavy-Medic combo), so the difficulty is worth it. The Spy combines various kinds of invisibility with disguising as the enemy team's players for maximum effectiveness. All forms of disguise hide the spy from sentry guns. The Spy's disguise options are as follows:
    • Invisi-watch allows the player to go invisible at will. Features: invisible, strategic latitude, ammo recharges invisibility. Drawbacks: Doesn't last a long time. The barest outline can be seen at close range. Can be decloaked by: fire, any projectile, jar-based karate, Milk, bumping into an enemy, or just running out of invisibility.
    • Dead Ringer allows the player to appear to have died, while really simultaneously going invisible. Features: invisible, most players don't double-check 'kills', user will not be visibly invisible if touched by an enemy. Drawbacks: can't cloak at will. Can be revealed by: fire, Jarate, Milk.
    • Cloak and Dagger is like the invisi-watch, but favors camping by reducing the amount of invisibility, making one unable to recharge invisibility with metal, and makes standing still recharge invisibility. Makes defensive spying much more viable.
      • However, you'll still be revealed by Milk, Jarate and fire. And if you run while cloaked, the cloak time is even shorter thant the Invisi-watch. Though even if the cloak runs out, you'll still be partially cloaked, which works against distracted (or possibly stupid) enemies.
    • Disguise allows the user to appear as a teammate to the enemy. Originated as a glitch, but became canonized. Lasts forever. Appears as a spy wearing a literal Paper-Thin Disguise to teammates.
    • Note, though, all of the spy strategies have to get around one major factor: spy-checking. Since there's no friendly fire and everyone has lots of ammo, spy-checking comes at almost no cost. It's a de-facto job of the Pyro class to spy-check, because setting someone on fire means they stay on fire, and each time that being on fire does damage, the spy is revealed with a team-colored damage aura. This makes Pyros the spy-paranoia class of choice.
    • There are some items that affect the spy's disguise - trading off damage for cloak, or allowing instant disguising as a victim (Your Eternal Reward), or temporary protection from fire (Spy-Cicle).
    • Pyros who aren't busy guarding sentries are supposed to do this, sneaking up behind groups of enemies and setting them on fire before finishing them off with their almost insta-kill Axtinguisher. Of course, good luck finding people who do this instead of bum-rushing Heavies.
  • Certainly present in most of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. Sure, you can slap a silencer on most weapons, even get a VSS Vintorez which is virtually completely silent...but unless you get a one-hit kill, the rest of them instantly know exactly where you are, which is actually helpful because then they show up on the mini-map. Even if you get a one-hit kill (requiring a headshot) with the VSS Vintorez, after one or two kills the rest are typically moving around too much to get a proper shot off. Stealth is reserved mostly for getting into a good position, seeing how many guys you're up against and getting the first shot or grenade off. Besides, sneaking past is (usually) not an option and really not recommended, since you get most of the best hardware, plenty of artifacts, and your main income from looting corpses. Shooting one guy and sprinting past the rest into the next area, however...

     MMORP Gs  

  • EVE Online features cloaking modules for ships, which actually work completely as desired for the purposes of being stealthed. The problem is that the module takes up gobs of fitting capacity that cuts into anything you need to fight, slaps a significant speed penalty to ships using it, and disables the ability to warp or lock onto things. In addition, you can be decloaked just by being near anything, which isn't usually a problem given the emptiness of space.
    • Eve counters this by designing specific ships for use of cloaking modules, by giving them many reductions for the penalties associated with using cloaking modules and allowing them to use the covert ops cloak that lets you warp while cloaked. Some however, still suffer from this trope, such as the Black Ops battleship, the least used class of ship in the game due to being extremely expensive and while having almost no benefits to use except limited cloaking ability (and unlike every other ship with cloaking bonuses, they can't even warp while cloaked). Although the Black Ops do have a use in being able to create jump portals to covert cynosural fields, allowing them to "hot drop" other cloaked ships onto unsuspecting enemies.
    • A particularly fond strategy for some alliance gamers is to warp into systems, find a hole somewhere, then cloak up and go afk. The purpose is to shut down local industry by scaring everyone into thinking they'll be suddenly attacked if they undock, since the chat system registers the presence of the cloaked user in the system. In this case, the cloak is merely a scare tactic rather than strategically useful.
      • This is compounded by most AFK cloakers being in Stealth Bombers, which are capable of taking out most PvE ships singlehandedly (albeit usually with the assistance of NPCs), or fitting Cynosural Field Generators, enabling them to instantly call the cavalry. It's a scare tactic with teeth.
  • In World of Warcraft, as the main goal is to fight and kill enemies, stealthing by them is not very useful. Stealth is generally used as a way of "front-loading" damage at the beginning of the battle, as stealth enables powerful attacks which can only be used once and then you come out of stealth.
    • That's not to say it's completely useless though. Within the large community, tactics have arisen for "stealth runs", which generally consist out of sneaking through large parts of an instance, therefore saving time, to kill a specific target for valuable drops. Since druids are passable stealthers in addition to also being able to tank and heal, even tougher bosses can be done in that manner. Rogues can also use Vanish to stealth in combat for a nearly guaranteed survival in dire situations.
    • To say nothing of PvP, where it is the furthest thing from uselessness conceivable.
    • Once upon the time when the game was new, stealth runs were feasible in many dungeons. Dungeons in the original, vanilla game were huge, taking hours for even a dedicated, competent group to completely clear. Some had potential shortcuts built in, some didn't. So if a group of rogues and/or druids could go for just two or three predetermined bosses, quests or other goals and get that in a fraction of the time it would take without stealthing. However, that has been scaled back more and more in later expansions of the game. Almost every dungeon from the Burning Crusade on has at least one early boss which makes a gate open when it dies, can't be skipped because it patrols a chokepoint, or calls all previous Elite Mooks you haven't already killed them, and/or some guards with All Seeing AIs. Fortunately, almost every dungeon since the original vanilla game is also significantly smaller than original ones, so stealth runs wouldn't save as much time anyway.
    • This is also averted for many quests. A Rogue can do certain gathering quests very very easily by stealthing, using Sap on any nearby mobs, looting the item, and restealthing. You miss out on XP and loot this way, but it lets you get the quests done much faster than they would be if you fight every enemy,note  and stealthing also lets you fight enemies on your terms and control the opening.
    • Additionally, it is possible for the single surviving member of a raid to, on a doomed attempt on a raid boss, go into stealth, and then cast Mass Resurrection (a perk earned for getting a guild to Level 25) to bring back the entire raid or use some Goblin Jumper Cables (if they have the Engineering profession) to raise a healer, enabling the group to get back in the instance and try again more quickly.
  • In Guild Wars 2 Structured PvP (5v5) the rogue's ability to stealth is mainly a kill denial tactic. The rogue's stealth doesn't last too long, but when used when the rogue is nearly dead, it might just last long enough for the killer to get distracted by other players or capping points. It's not that useful for sneaking past enemies, since when there ARE some sort of frontlines to sneak past, such as in Wv W (much large battles- 80v80 or more), a lone player can't really achieve much.
    • The game goes through great steps to make sure that thieves' stealth isn't made useless in PVE by using a unique way of regening enemy health. While most MM Os hard reset an enemy who's lost all of its targets by making it invincible and returning it to full health, it takes roughly three-five seconds before enemy health starts regenerating, plenty of time to situate yourself behind the enemy for a Back Stab (and few stealth buffs are that long to begin with). And even in PVP, it's a favored tactic of thieves to stack power so that the first attack they make in stealth will also be the last.
  • City of Villains has an entire archetype, the Stalker, who gets the best stealth in the game at level one and relies on it as they are designed to be a sneak attack class. Unfortunately, anti-stealth powers become ridiculously commonplace in the late game amongst both players and NPCs. The Rikti War Zone is the worst example, as nearly every group of Rikti has Drones that can see through stealth, making Stalkers aggravatingly difficult to play. Recently, however, a patch increased the power of Stalkers, with increased damage, increased criticals, and status effects on their best attack while also increasing their base HP considerably.
    • There is also the aggravation in that ambushes tend to be The All-Seeing A.I. variety and will home right in on you while you're stealthed.
    • Not to mention that (with the infuriating exception of ambushes as mentioned above), your stealth affected all NP Cs regardless of hostility. Escort Missions meant decloaking so that your ally could actually see you, unless they had enough perception buffs to overcome your stealth (and that, in one infamous case, caused its own problems.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons Online, the Invisibility spell is mostly useless because, unless the player is actively Sneaking, enemies will hear them pretty much automatically. Sneaking slows the character's movement and only works for for characters who invest considerable resources in it. Some enemies, like spiders and oozes, automatically detect sneaking characters. Finally, once an enemy has noticed a character under any circumstances, that enemy will always notice the character once it's within range, even if he breaks line of sight and then successfully Sneaks.
  • Perfect World puts a spin on this; all non-Assassin characters and mobs have an Awareness Level equal to their level if they're not using pots. Assassins have, as an added stat, a Stealth Level, which, discounting other skills/pots, is equal to Character Level+Stealth Skill Level. Any character that has an Awareness Level higher than or equal to an Assassin's Stealth Level can see and target the Assassin, but if it's lower, you're dead. However, making Stealth slightly more (and less, at the same time) useful are the Catlike Tread and Sharp Observer skills: the former increases Stealth Level by 2*Skill Level, and the latter increases Awareness Level by 3*Skill Level.
    • Don't forget the mana cost of stealth that decreases when you level your skill, going from 24 to 15 mana/second.
      • Further complications arise when you take into account the fact that early-game "Sins" can only use stealth outside of combat mode, until they reach Level 29, when they get the Shadow Escape skill, allowing them to activate stealth in combat.
  • In Ace Online, B-Gears gain the ability to stay Invisible, emulating a stealth bomber. Other Gears are able to do this through Stealth Cards as well. In the case of B-Gears' invisibility, it allows B-Gears to be untargetable by opponents. To attack, B-Gears forcefully decloak. However, due to B-Gears' nature to be able to kill almost anything in one hit most of the time, a successful sneak attack is a devastating tactic. Furthermore, anti-stealth countermeasures rely on the M-Gears' Scan ability or the Search Eye semi-rare item, making Invisible very useful to briefly elude pursuit to be able to return later to execute an attack when the opponent least expects it.
  • One of the biggest complaints from Federation players in Star Trek Online in regards to the Klingon faction is the cloaking device. Per canon, the Federation is not supposed to use stealth technology. Since Klingons are primarily a PVP faction, what this ends up meaning is that you go into a match with the Klingon team automatically cloaked and the Federation team sitting ducks, with no way to know where the Klingon attack will come from. This led to the "Fedball" tactic, where Federation players would sit in a sphere shape so as to cover everyone's backs, and hope someone's finger would slip on their cloak button. Naturally, this makes for very boring matches. Klingon versus Klingon was even worse, because both teams would spend the entire match cloaked, so people would end up wandering around fruitlessly searching for an exposed player to pounce on. This has been fixed to some extent with enhanced Cloak detection techniques and a Federation starship with a cloaking device, but it can still be quite frustrating.
  • RuneScape has the Shadow silk hood, a fairly rare and extremely coveted Dungeoneering drop, which hides the player from all non-magical, non-elemental, non-boss humanoid monsters in the dungeon. It doesn't, however, work on non-humanoids (making a strong bat, guard dog, hellhound, demon or *shudder* dragon a player's worst nightmare), bosses or anything that uses magic. To make things even worse, some enemies can disable the hood, revealing the player wearing it to every single monster in the rooms they pass through until it reactivates.

     Platform Game  

  • In Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, it's possible to 'Speed Kill' enemies by sneaking up on them and completing a Quick-Time Event. This can be very difficult to get right, and it's almost easier to go for an all-out fight.
  • In Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction you can use a Holo-Pirate Disguise to sneak past Space Pirate enemies without being detected. Problem is, when using the disguise you walk very slowly and can't jump. Considering Ratchet is a One Lombax Army who can easily dispatch a few pirates, all you're really accomplishing by being stealthy is cheating yourself out of XP and Bolts.
  • The original Toejam And Earl has a sneak button. Its only uses are to walk by the occasional sleeping enemy without waking them up, and to sneak up on Santa.
    • And there are some caveats; if you just drank a root beer (for health), you will burp often for the next minute or so. Also, Toejam or Earl might spontaneously sneeze at any time, though this is rare enough that you can go a whole game without sneezing (much less doing so while sneaking).

     Real Time Strategy  

  • Averted in Achron. The units need energy to cloak, but being cloaked drains the energy so slowly that it doesn't matter most of the time. Each of the three races has one unit that can cloak and while those units are not the most powerful, they still pack quite a punch, especially the Grekim Tier 2 bomber unit. They all can attack without giving up their cloak and the enemy units can't see or attack them. They are still balanced because there's three units on each race that can detect cloak (one Tier 1 infantry unit, one Tier 2 aircraft and the turret equivalent).
  • In Warcraft and WarCraft 2, Invisibility spells are useless against computer opponents due to The All-Seeing A.I..
  • The Command & Conquer series has some stealth units of questionable advantage. Stealth tanks are decent at scouting (as long as the gunner isn't stupid enough to shoot random enemies nearby), even against the AI. However, later games feature "gap generators" that reform the Fog of War around them. They might hide what's there, but there is the minor detail of a large (and often mobile) unknown region, which not even the computer falls for.
    • Slightly more useful is the spy, which can disguise himself as an enemy unit and infiltrate buildings for a variety of effects. Though more useful against computer opponents, who can't detect spies unless they wander into a dog, the spy's abilities range from cutting the power in the enemy base for a while — effectively halting production, disabling automated defenses, and buying you extra time to deal with any superweapons they've built — to stealing tech and money. Of course, the enemy AI has disturbing luck sending a tank to "scout" (read: flatten) the exact location your invisible unit is, even if they are across the map. Play Command & Conquer: Generals for the most blatant examples.
    • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, the Spy exchanges the skill to steal technology and unlock new units for a truly useful ability of bribing enemy units to fight for you - a reasonable area of effect and costs $1000. No delay either, making his disguise ability incredibly worthwhile in combination.
    • Stealth tanks can actually be useful in Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, as vehicles take increased damage when attacked from the rear. However, combat in that game is so quick and chaotic that by the time you've maneuvered the tanks around to the back of an enemy column, the fight is likely already over. Besides that, though, stealth tanks are very useful units for a number of reasons: they're very fast, they fire a lot of missiles with every barrage (Heroic & Elite stealth tanks fire even more), and they are extremely effective at Anti-Air, which makes them ideal for ambushing unsuspecting aircraft. And harvesters.
    • Somewhat averted in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun: Stealth was a mechanism with a pretty strong influence on tactics, at least in multi-player. One rather basic-yet-cheeky technique for a one-on-one quick win was to build an engineer-laden Subterranean APC and shoot straight for the opponents' Construction Yard/War Factory; this in turn would be quickly countered by concrete/walls/MSAs, but these themselves would take resources/concentration away from army building to do thoroughly. Late-game, similar cheap-ish flame tanks could be used to wipe out power (and thus radar/base defense), whilst the battle rages elsewhere, or used as a distraction for an opponent who you know will be looking out for them. And not to mention the expansions' stealth generator/arty combo...
  • Their predecessor Dune II had a supposedly invisible unit — Ordos saboteur — in the last two missions. Slow and unarmored, like a single light infantryman, it carried enough explosive to take out any single building. Or so its designers intended. Unfortunately, saboteurs were only invisible to the human player, but computer-controlled units saw them and shot on sight. Fortunately, player's units in "GUARD" mode and turrets also counted as computer-controlled and shot enemy saboteurs too. The only time where invisibility did matter, was when you tried to give orders to your saboteur, but couldn't find where to click to select him. All game guides called Ordos saboteurs and palace (that built them) useless and Ordos the weakest side in the final missions (Harkonnen and Sardaukar had nuclear missiles and Atreides got heavy Freemen infantry for free).
  • In Total Annihilation, the "Shooter" kbot can cloak and has a powerful sniper laser. But once you fire it once, you are exposed and the laser takes a long time to reload. You're toast if you are in the enemy's base. There are a few high-value targets that you'd want to kill, such as the Commander, which can be an instant win if killed. Too bad that it takes more than one shot to kill him with a Shooter. And once you de-cloak after firing, the commander can D-gun you. (The D-gun is an instant kill weapon that only the commander has.) Cloaked fusion generators, on the other hand, are pretty useful.
    • Averted, however, by stealth fighters and jamming units, which have their uses. Besides, most units are expected to be built more than once, and there's nothing (apart from the bad pathfinding...) to stop 10 Shooters from simultaneously attacking the enemy commander.
    • Also, the commander can be cloaked, which in the later game is Useful Useful Stealth against any enemy that favours assassination.
    • TA: Core Contingency had an Eraser, which was a submersible sonar jammer. Because of how sonar works in that game, it was undetectable and prevented detection of nearby submarines, allowing free naval attacks. The only way you could kill it was using nuke spam in a general area and hope it hits.
    • Core Contingency also introduced stealth K Bots. As in, unarmed K Bots which could cloak themselves. These things were the absolute definition of useless: you were ostensibly supposed to use them to scout, but even that is pretty useless when they still show up on radar even when cloaked!!!
    • One thing to note is that you can safely expand a base while under enemy bombardment with a cloak train on your farthest-back kbot/vehicle facility, if there is one. Since the opponent typically glances at the front of your base to see how well he is penetrating, or the middle to see what you're preparing as assault units, and presumes your away-structures are making the same thing, you can sometimes build cloak/jammer combos to cover construction vehicle movement to another area. It's a good tactic since TA is far more about macro than micro, meaning it's a decent last-ditch tactic for a 'total annihilation' game as it's heavily micro. (ie commander death does not end scenario) It also has a greater chance to succeed if your moves during the stalemate are blatantly predictable so that you keep his main force locked in one area. While the computer cheats, it seems to only cheat with your main base. Until the last building falls it won't 'know' you have a second unless, again, it runs into it by accident.
  • Spiritual Successor Supreme Commander also features cloakable units, but they suffer from the same weakness. Some units can give radar stealthiness to nearby forces, but nothing becomes actually invisible. So all it takes is a lonely enemy scout passing over your base or advancing units, and you can expect a Rain Of Death real soon.
    • Plus the highest level of radar tower overcomes both cloaking and stealthing. This all makes life hard for the Cybran Nation, the faction that prefers unconventional tactics like stealth.
    • The cloak and stealth defeating radius of that tower are much smaller than it's normal radar range though, and those radar towers are rather expensive to maintain. And thanks to the huge maps and the large number of weapons that can fire beyond visual range, there is an advantage to only being noticed once you're right on top of the enemy. Cybran fighters and bombers especially benefit from their stealth capabilities, since their high speed means they are unlikely to be spotted en route, and can be attacked by AA enemies for only a short time while they are within visual range.
  • In StarCraft, stealth and detection are frequently factors in victory: Without a detector, stealth units are invulnerable, even when attacking, unless an area effect goes off nearby. The Zerg get a flying (but slow) detector from the very beginning, so they're relatively immune to stealth attacks. But the other two races have to constantly be on the lookout for cloaked units. The Terrans get the ability to scan an area of the map, temporarily revealing any cloaked units, as well as missile turrets and a midlevel detector flying unit. The Protoss get a permanently cloaked detector that is relatively cheap. As for cloaked units themselves, the Protoss have the Dark Templar, which if even two of these find their way into your base without detection, you can kiss your workers goodbye. Terran Ghosts aren't as useful (at stealth, anyway—the Lockdown ability is still killer), particularly as the metagame evolved, but cloaked, flying Wraiths have some utility when going up against small numbers of Protoss Carriers. And the Zerg's Lurker can only attack while burrowed (an immobile form of stealth), but it is damaging enough that those without detection usually can't effectively fight them. Most Zerg can also burrow but not attack.
    • Stealthed Ghosts could stand next to your base and tell the nukes where to hit you unless you found out where they were fast enough to kill them before the nuke launches. And the Protoss had a stealther that could fly alongside a fleet of Carriers (making them invisible too) to make a slow but powerful death unit.
      • Note that the stealth-granting Protoss unit cannot, itself, become stealthed, not even with the help of another stealther. Given that the stealth-granting unit can also teleport friendly units from elsewhere on the map to itself, it's a popular target.
    • Against the Zerg, however, this trope is played straight. The Zerg have Overlords for detection, which are always mass-produced (as you need more of them to build more units). They also fly, so they can go anywhere. Using stealth against a Zerg requires them sucking badly or you executing a deliberate campaign of Overlord slaughter and immediately hitting them with your stealth units (Corsair/DT).
      • Completely flip flopped in StarCraft II where the Overlord's all-around functionality has been split up between the Overlord itself (an air transport that also independently spreads the Creep) and its Tier 2 evolved form the Overseer, which is a Detector with a handful of caster abilities. While Zerg will inevitably have more detectors than other factions, their utter immunity to cloaked units from the first game isn't as foolproof now. This led to some amusing moments in multiplayer when players used to the Overlord being the default detector would either have their cloaked units flee or take terrible, terrible damage when playing as Zerg due to forgetting this change.
      • On the other hand, the Zerg also got a bit more of their own brand of stealth, with Roaches and Infestors being able to move while burrowed
  • In Dawn of War and its first expansion, Winter Assault, Infiltration was a toggleable ability that made your units go invisible but stop shooting. Had its uses, but not exactly many of them. Dark Crusade onwards, units can now fire when infiltrated. Not just the lightest ones, either. Some sides merrily fight with invisible versions of their mainline combat units, arguably the best anti-vehicle unit in the game, or, with the help of an item, their whole army...
    • Its sequel even has commander units dedicated to stealth. The lictor can take upgrades that make it more powerful when away from your army and has an ability to pluck single high value units and reel them in for a beating. Combined with the ability to highlight enemy commanders on the map this makes it a powerful assassin unit able to infiltrate behind enemy lines and pick off lone high value targets or pull one out of the middle of an army for your troops to easily target as a nasty surprise.
    • Even before Dark Crusade's update to Infiltrating units, there were a couple of very powerful ways to use it. Assuming you played a faction whose Infiltrators had a decent sight radius, it was usually possible to sneak in close enough to spot enemy buildings for artillery fire. If you destroyed the last HQ building the enemy had, it was an automatic win, regardless of how many builder units or how large an army remained. A Vindicare Assassin and a trio of Basilisk self-propelled guns usually spelled the doom of your opponent.
  • Company of Heroes. While sniper unit's combat prowess is questionable, their ability to act as artillery spotters is anything but.
    • Many units have an 'ambush' ability, that when active, cloaks them. When they attack, the first shot is much stronger than normal. In addition, ordering a cloaked Stormtrooper Squad to attack allows them to face and aim, only revealing themselves when they open fire. This is useful for ambushing other squads, as the targets have to turn and aim while already under-fire, which will usually result in a slaughter if the Stormtroopers aren't horribly outnumbered (and if they are, you could instead introduce them by throwing bundle grenades to even the odds a bit). Often times soldiers from the ambushed squad will run for cover before returning fire as well.
  • Spy units in the Seven Kingdoms real time strategy game and its sequel are extremely powerful to the point where you can defeat another human kingdom using only spies; spies do not work on any of the non-human factions. When disguised as an enemy unit they will respond to orders given to them by the enemy player so they cannot be detected by their simple lack of responding to orders. When inside an enemy fort they can try and convince enemy soldiers to join them, assassinate the fort's general, or even the enemy king. They can be promoted to generals by the enemy who does not know they are a spy whereupon they can at a command seize the fort and claim it and a portion of the soldiers therein, dependent on their loyalty, for the player who owns the spy. Finally, if the enemy king is killed in any way a general is picked to replace him, if that general is a spy in disguise then the entire enemy kingdom comes under the control of the player who sent the spy, defeating that enemy instantly.
  • Inverted in The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring. The Elven Archers and Haradrim Slayers both are permanently invisible and are some of the highest damaging units available, so often there isn't reason to build a balanced force. Especially with the elves, which can outrange most other units and even towers. The detection units for both sides are largely useless in combat and die quickly.
  • Used and averted with one of the heroes in The Battle for Middle-Earth 2, who possesses the ability to attack while invisible. For you, this results in the computer sending troops to right where he is to attack him as though he were totally visible. For you, it involves painstakingly searching the area in hopes that one of them will accidentally trip over him.
  • Averted in Allegiance. Of course it's a multiplayer-only game, so AI cheating and limitations don't really play a role. Still, it is essentially a Real Time Strategy game with human players directly controlling each of the individual units, and some of the most feared ships in the game are stealth-based. A good team can sneak stealth bombers into an enemy sector to strike when the enemy has no chance of successfully defending, and competent players can use stealth fighters to quickly take out the miners that are the back-bone of every team's economy. Even units that are not designed to be stealthy can take steps to lower their chances of being detected, and this often adds greatly to their effectiveness. One of the most feared factions in the game (when in the hands of a veteran commander) has stealth as their hat. Trying to keep your forces stealthy and to keep enemy stealth units from sneaking up on your team are significant elements in the strategy in the game.
  • Nearly all Romulan and some Klingon ships in Star Trek: Armada have cloaking devices. This also includes the Romulan most powerful unit the D'deridex-class warbird. True to Trek canon, cloaked ships can't fire weapons or use shields. While this is seemingly offset by allowing the Romulans to spring ambushes, if they happen to be detected, they will be destroyed before they have a chance to decloak and open fire. Also, scouts are cheap and cloak-detecting systems for them are one of the first upgrade options.
  • Cloaking devices are much more useful in the Star Trek: Starfleet Command games, but other ships can still be set to scan for cloaked targets which will sometimes result in a temporary reveal. Additionally, while it's easy for a cloaked ship to sneak up, decloak, and open fire, it also leaves the first ship vulnerable, as it takes a second or two for the shields to come back up. Even the Scimitar (from Star Trek: Nemesis) in a special mission of the third game acts like a regular Romulan ship when cloaked (i.e. lowered shields, can't fire), even though the fact that it could do both was kind of the point of the movie.
  • Outside of Stealth Based Missions, cloaking is pretty much useless in Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, as the goal in other missions usually involves fighting and destroying the enemy.
  • Homeworld and its sequels have several ships capable of cloaking. However, this cloaking is temporary and is mostly useless, especially since it's very easy to research cloak detection. The Kushan in the first game have the Spectre-class cloaked fighter, which wasn't particularly powerful and was really only useful in taking out lone resources collectors (for which regular, cheaper fighters would work as well). The Cataclysm stand-alone expansion features the Assassin-class ion array frigate, which can also cloak. However, it's also incredibly slow, meaning that the cloak will run out before the ship can get within range and align its Wave Motion Gun for the shot. The Somtaaw have three stealthy ship classes that are actually a little more useful. The Leech-class breaching pod is unmanned and is small enough to avoid being picked up by standard sensors. It can then attach to a larger ship and slowly drain its HP, until the ship suffered a Critical Existence Failure, or just bring back the drained HP as resources. It can still be detected by scouts, but it's nimble enough to find holes in sensor networks. The Mimic-class infiltration craft can use holographic projectors to impersonate an enemy ship or an asteroid, get close to the enemy and suicide-bomb them. Two Mimics can combine into a corvette-sized Martyr, which can impersonate even larger ships or asteroids and has a bigger bang.
    • Stealth could be really useful in the campaign, during one specific mission in which you had to destroy an entire fleet of enemy beam ships guarding a hyperspace jump suppressor. If you had three stealth generator ships, you could keep only one powered on and switch out their cloaking when they began to run out of energy, meaning you were permanently cloaked. Your permanent (but very micromanagey) cloaking field would conceal a fleet of salvage ships, with which you could steal the entire enemy fleet essentially undetected. Fifty free beam ships for your next mission.
  • Averted in Dark Reign. An Infiltrator inside an enemy base can do all sorts of useful things, like steal plans for units and buildings, spot for artillery fire or superweapons, or see the location of every enemy unit and building.
  • In Populous: The Beginning you can train Spies that will change their colour and sneak into enemy bases and then set fire to buildings you've selected. Problem being is that if there are any spies guarding your enemy in a tower they will be spotted instantly, destroying a building with fire doesn't have you instantly spotted but if anybody sees you (which is likely as villagers are always running about) expect that spy to die soon and they're not immune from Priest conversion so if they run into any or come across one in a tower it's no good. The only reason you build them is stick them in a tower yourself to spot any AI sent spies and to steal balloons and boats from the enemy.

     Roguelike  

  • In ADOM, being stealthy tends to be rather more simply annoying than either productive or counterproductive. Most of what it does is make monsters that you'd have easily killed anyway not come to you, so you have to actually go up to them and bop them in the head.
    • Stealth (and Invisibility) can be very useful, however, if you go through a dungeon that is comparatively dangerous at the given point in the game (Small Cave, Dwarven Halls come to mind). Avoiding monsters that could otherwise one-hit kill you (sometimes with ranged attacks) is very useful. Cavern levels are also easier when the enemies do not see you, because you do NOT want to be swarmed by monsters, even weak ones. You want to pick them off one by one. And finally, the Backstabbing skill works only when stealthy/invisible on hostile characters, and it can give a very nice damage bonus for certain characters.
  • Averted in DnD-derived roguelike Incursion, where stealth is one of the best tools avaliable to stay alive. Stealth in this game is also much more useful than the ones in other roguelikes.
  • Dungeon Crawl uses stealth as part of a healthy assassination-based gameplay. You'll still be killing as much of everything as you can, you'll just be doing it by stabbing monsters while they're sleeping.
  • The 7DRL kusemono has you sneak up to angry mutant ants and stab them to kill them, but also lets you go around them to get to your actual goal pretty easily. Thus, a fairly well-executed aversion of the trope.
  • Interestingly, Elona does have some use for stealth. Stealth's usage is not readily apparent, as it looks like the enemy always spots you, however sometimes it is just the AI guessing. Certain powerful units like dragons and blades will move up right next to you then turn around and walk away until they get a * over their head, meaning they have just spotted you. Their 'hearing' is about 8 squares, so it's possible to dodge them, fight whatever is following you out of their 'hearing' range, then continue normally. The fact there are no real concrete indicators of have-they-or-haven't-they until the * makes this somewhat useless, however, as you might begin attacking them only to realize they hadn't seen you yet. Many times you get ambushed by dragons, it's because you just announced your presence to them in a really stupid way because you thought since they were approaching you they already knew you were there!
  • Angband variant Steamband has something one can choose at the beginning of the game called Wonderland Mode. This is Disc One Nuke coupled with Nintendo Hard pure bragging rights as in order to complete your game you will have to climb back down normally. You start with your new character at the level before the last, but can't go down and face the final enemy. Instead, you must make your way to the top floor then go back down, collecting completely out of depth loot as you go. How might a level 1 character survive you ask? On every floor in wonderland mode every single enemy begins the level ASLEEP even the ones that CAN'T be put to sleep. Hitting an alarm trap or accidentally awakening one monster can lead to a full-on death stampede especially if near enemies that can pass through walls like Ghosts and Vampires. Still, even this can have its use. If you pick up something that fires a particular elemental bolt, you can wake up monsters weak to it intentionally, then fire and rebound it off a wall to kill wildly OOD monsters while near a staircase (as where you find the rod-equivalent determines its strength) catapulting you 20 levels ahead. Averted with loud and noisy PCs like golems and steam-mecha. They might not have the hit dice to go toe-to-toe but they certainly have the strength to take out something 10 levels higher than them, playing one of them turns this into Glass Cannon mode instead. Slap down some of the british soldiers or Nemo's men, then smack around a couple vampires, then mangle some martians, and you'll have a fighting chance from then on. (note that some post-30 monsters are such heavy sleepers even mecha can't wake them!) Also if you're lucky and find a ____ of return, you can leap straight to the top, but if you find two you can't cheat. Reading a second moves you to level 1 only instead.
  • Averted/played straight in the Angband variant Sil: Stealth can be really good, but heavy armor and singing a Song of Power give large negative modifiers to your stealth score. So a character with stealth gear and leather armor might sneak around almost every monster in the dungeon, a heavily armored warrior who uses Songs will drawing attention from monsters which are in another room!
  • FTL: Faster Than Light has the Cloaking system, which is one of the best means of avoiding attacks at your disposal. However, the special options it grants for events usually just mean you're going to skip a fight, which you almost never want considering you have a limited number of (useful) encounters per sector.

     Role Playing Game  

  • Knights of the Old Republic suffers from all of these. Most monsters that you can stealth by can easily be attacked and killed a few at a time - but if you stealth by them then if you are exposed you could be in the middle of a lot of enemies. Also, stealth is only possible in "solo mode" where you are only controlling one character at a time and it is very easy to accidentally switch back into normal mode and expose yourself.
    • The sequel makes it somewhat more useful with the addition of high-end Jedi classes that focus on Sneak Attack, as well as several sections where the protagonist doesn't have allies with him/her anyway.
    • Stealth can be extremely useful in large bases with security computers. Stealth to the computer, hack and overload circuits/gas rooms/override droids/slaughter everything in the base, then all that's left is to mop up any survivors.
    • There are also specific puzzles that force you to use Stealth for things like eavesdropping to get a password. Note that these are pre-scripted cut-scenes that only check if you have the skill — you still gain no benefit from pumping points into it.
    • The character it comes in handy for is Mission in the first game, and only in a couple places. The rancor in the sewers is usually too strong for your low-level characters to take on directly (especially if you're postponing leveling up until Dantooine), and her low hitpoints on the Leviathan level make stealth an attractive option if you choose her for the breakout. She also gets sneak attack bonuses that are devastating if played right.
    • Stealth is also useful for clearing minefields because of the way party AI is handled: normally, if there are enemies behind the mines, your companions will charge straight ahead and blow themselves up on the way.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 falls squarely into this trope. Most of the enemies are simply cannon fodder that your party should have little trouble dealing with, and in the event you're up against a challenging one (i.e., a red dragon), stealth isn't an option anyways. It's egregious if you take the Shadow Thief line of quests; for one mission, for which you're encouraged to remain stealthy to break into a house, it makes zero difference if you just barge in waving your sword, and you might even get complimented more for doing so.
    • Unless you use Hide in Plain Sight, an ability that hide in front of enemies, and by hide in front of enemies, we mean "step back to disengage form combat, hide under the enemies nose". While hiding you can't be targeted, leaving you vulnerable only to area of effect attacks and letting you attack for sneak attack.
    • Stealth is doubly useless in Neverwinter Nights 2 due to the fact that the game pits you against a disproportionate number of undead opponents - which are immune to critical damage inflicted by sneak attacks made while in stealth mode.
    • It does, however, have one very useful application: If you play an evil assassin and join the King of Shadows at the end, you have to fight your entire party singlehanded. Hide in plain sight, Death Attack, lather, rinse, repeat.
    • Stealth is further undermined by the extremely generous rest system, which can be used almost anytime you are not in direct combat. Spellcasters are much, much more effective than normal because they are no longer required to conserve spells for more difficult encounters. Normally, you wouldn't use a ninth level spell to take out a couple Mooks, but use lower level spells and hold the ninth level spell until you found a more difficult foe. In NWN2, you can spam ninth level spells in almost every encounter by resting after each fight, which only takes a couple of seconds. The only major downside is that if you are buff heavy, you have to recast them after every fight.
  • The stealth section on St. Marguerite Island in Shadow Hearts: Covenant is a rather funny example of this. It's a Let's Split Up, Gang for Blanca, who must sneak into the heart of the base to free the rest of the party; if caught by the guards, he fights them. But by this point it's almost a given that Blanca can take out any number of guards by himself (especially with the right Crests), so there's no point in hiding — and if you do use stealth, you miss several items that are only reachable if you kill certain guards.
  • The Elder Scrolls both uses and averts this with the Stealth skill, as well as spells for Invisibility and Chameleon. A basic Invisibility spell has always made you invisible to everything but the undead (and sometimes, Daedra), until you try to manipulate or attack something. Chameleon operates by giving your character a percentage of transparency and it sticks for as long as the spell lasts, even if you do stuff; less than 100% Chameleon, however, and enemies are liable to see you if you move around a lot or hit them. 100% Chameleon can double as invincibility and almost break the game.
    • Immensely averted because none of the games feature an experience-based system (except the first, which has no stealth option), very few enemies must actually be killed to complete quests, and almost all great items are available very early through the five-finger discount. It makes money near-useless for anything but buying spells, which cannot be stolen.
    • In Daggerfall you had a Stealth skill that somehow governed whether enemies would react to your presence. Sometimes an enemy would wander around despite you; sometimes an enemy would not turn if you approached from behind; despite it, enemies were still more than likely to rush towards you. There were spells like Invisibility True (constant invisibility until the time ran out) and Shadow (conceal yourself in shadows better?), but any lesser concealment spell was useless in practice unless you stood still. The combat ability that made Stealth worthwhile, Backstabbing, required a Stealth check, but, despite doing more damage on the first stab, stronger enemies would then notice you and pommel you like normal. Other thief skills were based on separate skills, and the really powerful, bothersome enemies - the undead and the Daedra - could see an Invisible opponent.
    • In Morrowind, the Sneak skill, now set to a button, was tremendously useful. If proficient enough with the Skill, one could pickpocket (no longer a skill), and open and loot locked containers right in front of characters, though striking someone still brought their attention to you. Pickpocketing was now dependent on the Sneak skill, however, and backstabs were no longer given bonus damage. As for spells, Invisibility (True) was removed from the roster but could still be substituted by a costly 100% Chameleon spell. The Shadow spell was also removed.
    • Oblivion turned a proficient stealth-based character into a Game Breaker, averting this trope until it was suddenly demonstrating the trope again. While Invisibility (normal) and Chameleon work the same as in the predecessor game, stealth-based characters using the Sneak skill now had the chance of remaining undetected regardless of what they did in the game world! The only enemies this didn't work on were animals (which makes sense, as they can most likely smell you no matter how well hidden you are).
      • This becomes incredibly apparent in the Arena, the entire questline of which can be won legitimately without even moving from the battle starting area.
      • This trope is usually applied when you're trying to stealthily kill enemies. If they're in a group, every other enemy will immediately know that you're there and where you're hiding no matter what you used to kill them. It's understandable if you stabbed them or used a spell, but not when you shot them with an arrow while hiding in a bush half a mile away.
    • Skyrim attempted to balance Oblivion's stealth system by adding levels of detection. Being closer to an enemy and/or in the light would make you more easily detected, while distance and shadows made you harder to detect. This stopped you from being able to sit in front of enemies undetected and also helped you stealth kill enemies without them all seeing you. A glaring oversight to the balancing was that if you killed one enemy with a bow from the shadows, his buddy still might not detect you and not even flinch at his friend falling over dead.
  • In Chrono Trigger, guards snuck up on grant mid-tonics when looted, which come in handy for the next few bosses. This is the only reason to even bother.
    • Later, the party is captured and stripped of their possessions, meaning they need to sneak around the air ducts of their prison until at least one party member gets a weapon back. Unless, of course, you had Ayla in your party, whose fists can't be disarmed.
  • One of Live A Live's seven character quests falls into this, at least at first — Oboromaru can sneak past any enemy in the stage except its final boss, but doing so means you have to face the final boss with no or very little experience (since there are few enemies you can fight without breaking stealth), and your only reward for doing so is an Infinity+1 Sword that's not as helpful in the boss fight as having levels would be. However, if you get Oboromaru back in the game's final quest, you can level him up and have the sword... except that when you're that early in the game, you don't even know the final quest exists.
    • And besides, he can get a better Infinity+1 Sword in said final quest. And another in his chapter by beating a Bonus Boss. Talk about Bragging Rights Reward.
    • However! The leveling limitation only applies to humans. There's a bit of grinding involved, but it's relatively easy to clear Oboromaru's chapter at lv. 16note . This is absolutely necessary to beat a couple of Bonus Bosses in the chapter.
  • The original Paper Mario had sleeping enemies in one dungeon that would wake up if you walked past them at full speed. However, they are easy to avoid even awake, and depending on your timing, weren't even that much of a threat in combat anyway.
  • In Baldur's Gate 2 invisibility does work pretty well until you encounter a creature that can cast True Sight. Which it will immediately cast to dispel your invisibility, showing that the computer does know you're there anyway, it just isn't allowed to attack you.
    • An exception is the overpowered Staff of the Magi, which basically grants an infinite uses of the spell Invisibility. The staff's version of the spell is also the only kind of stealth (besides the hide in shadows skill the thief classes get) which work successfully with the somewhat buggy "Cloak of Non-Detection". Combining the two items on a single character averts the trope so entirely it's better classified as Game Breaker. Enemies will cast True Sight (in some cases infinite times) and stand there twitching, trying to attack you because they can see you but are at the same time forced not to attack you.
    • Perhaps the best example of this trope, however, is the Cloak Of The Sewers. Despite the fact that it allows you to turn into a rat, and the game is (surprisingly) full of plot-irrelevant rats running around (they can be killed for 1xp and never have any drops), all NPCs instinctively know that this rat is different, to the point that trying to sneak past a band of high-level thugs in the sewers as a rat results in them trying to shake that rat down for 500 GP, and unleashing spells fit for fighting an army if it refuses.
  • Interplay's Lord of the Rings allowed you to use the `sneak' skill to get into a lot of inaccessible places. You could walk around the wall of a haunted mansion, and a sneaking NPC could slide in from some unknown place offscreen and you were in. You could also get into the town of Bree at night, when they locked you out, just by walking along the wall away from the guards. Unfortunately, it was not so good for avoiding fights. Sneak into the mill without the One Ring, and the Orcs quickly slaughter your wimpy characters. Also, the sneak command didn't work against certain obstacles or guardians, since there wasn't any way to move offscreen and get a guy inside, or if the force of a character's personality was so great that the whole party had to stand directly in front of them and not go anywhere until they said "none shall pass!"
  • The first person RPG Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines averts this by the grace of several factors - one, XP is only awarded for fulfilling quests, not killing random enemies. Two, if a stealth route is available, it usually comes with bonus XP. And if all else fails, the game allows for one-hit stealth kills in the form of a brutal Neck Snap (or Back Stab, or having the enemy Impaled with Extreme Prejudice).
    • If the stealth in Bloodlines hadn't been as smooth as it was, the Nosferatu would have instantly become the game's Scrappy due to the fact nobody but other vamps and certain NPCs can see them without running away in fear and disgust. They're actually quite fun to play.
    • On the other hand, Obfuscate IS pretty much useless in the Absurdly Spacious Sewer level - the Tzimisce creations will instantly see through it if they look at you.
  • Using stealth to bypass enemies in the Dragon Age series isn't a terribly bright idea. However, there are plenty of other uses for stealth:
    • A rogue who strikes while stealthed gets an automatic backstab, inflicting a multiple of base damage or insta-killing enemies outright.
    • The fight against Kolgrim is traditionally considered fairly difficult. Stealthing past the warriors and assassinating the Mages (pretty easy for any Rogue, even in straight combat) is an option that makes it almost trivial. Kolgrim is tough, but without the Mage support he can't do that much damage.
    • A rogue with the second tier and higher version of stealth can use items while stealthed without being seen. This includes grenades. That's about as broken as it sounds. A rogue soloist with a huge supply of grenades will never take damage again, except from certain bosses who see through stealth.
    • A rogue with enough stealth levels also doesn't break stealth when disarming traps. At least in Origins, enemies love to camp out in rooms full of traps and a sneaky enough rogue can make such fights a great deal easier by clearing the floor of traps right under the enemies' noses.
  • The infiltrator class in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 has a cloaking skill. It's useless for sneaking past enemies entirely because in most encounters you are required to kill every enemy before the next door unlocks. However, the skill is useful for outflanking enemies, escaping close-range attackers, and lining up headshots without worrying about enemy fire. The later is particularly deadly, as higher levels of the ability also add a damage bonus to your attacks.
    • It also isn't very practical for sneaking since you're usually accompanied by two squadmembers who don't have the ability.
      • It is somewhat more useful in Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer since you can actually operate on your own. In particular, it can be used to interact with bonus objective objects without any enemy noticing. However, some enemies outright ignore stealth if all other teammates are down.
  • Alpha Protocol is an interesting case, in that it gives you (normally very viable) stealth options that you can level up, but the game also has mandatory boss encounters where stealth isn't a viable strategy and fighting will be much harder if you've not put any levels into suitable combat skills.
    • On the other hand, you can use stealth to sneak into melee, beat their endurance down, then shoot them in the head with Chain Shot.
  • Fable features an early story mission where stealth is required. From then on out it has practically no use whatsoever. Sure, once you get a high enough level in Guile you'll be able to steal items from stores and pick locks, but the former is negated when you learn you have to remain unseen as you hold down a button to steal said item (hard to do when you have countless yokels following around remarking on how famous you are,) and the latter becomes a problem when you learn that most citizens of Albion stand in front of their doors all night.
    • Made worse given that (unless performing a Pacifist Run as part of a boast) it's easier to simply snipe the guards rather than sneak past them.
  • In Persona 3 and Persona 4, Shadows roaming the Eldritch Location du jour manifest as blobs that claw their way across the floor. Players are encouraged to approach them from behind and sneak-attack them in order to get a free round at the start of the battle (though Shadows can gain their own advantage by striking from behind as well.) Since the line of sight of map-roaming Shadows isn't that great, sneaking past them is relatively easy in order to avoid wasting resources on minor foes.
  • Radiant Historia eventually gives you the ability to vanish and completely avoid enemies. Not only are you missing out on money and experience this way, you're going through MP faster than you would by fighting. Generally not worth using during the main story, but can speed things up greatly when backtracking through locations during sidequests, especially since how annoyingly persistent enemies tend to be in following you when they spot you.
  • In the Pokémon games that let you catch and raise Pokémon, there are trainers that will force you into a battle if they see you. You have the option of fighting them right away for money and experience or avoiding eye-contact and battling them at a later time.

     Shoot Em Up  

  • The Ilwrath Avenger in Star Control has a cloaking device as its secondary ability. Not terrible, but any competent player can figure out where it is because the screen automatically zooms in and out to keep both ships in the picture, and, well, the AI automatically knows. Without speed or weapon range, it's easy prey for almost anything.
    • A savvy player can also locate the Avenger by watching for it to eclipse the background stars. The cloaking device turns its sprite black rather than transparent! And what's more, the Ilwrath player is hampered by his own cloak just as much as the opposition.
    • The cloaking device has two other features which are far more useful than the visual invisibility: homing weapons fail against invisible targets; and attacking while cloaked automatically rotates the Avenger to face the enemy ship despite its normally mediocre turning radius. These effects just emphasize how useless the actual invisibility is due to the aforementioned screen-scaling issues.

     Stealth Based Game  

  • In some sidequest missions in Assassin's Creed I it is necessary to assassinate people without being seen. If you have the stamina for it, you can often just slaughter your way through hordes and hordes of guards to get to your target without any stealth at all. However, this is also averted with some missions that fail you for detection. Also, quite a few of the plotline assassination targets cannot be assassinated without a confrontation that results in them making a break for it and Altaďr or Ezio having to chase them. Starting with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, the devs try to avert this by making a Stealth Run of several missions necessary for 100% Completion.
    • Interestingly, in Brotherhood and Revelations you will only fail a Stealth Run if a guard actually catches sight of the player character. As long as that doesn't happen you can be as unsteathy as you like, for instance by shooting everyone or throwing grenades. In fact, one of the easiest ways to complete many of these is to have mercenaries or your fellow assassins enter open combat and slaughter any enemies that get in your way.
  • Rise of the Kasai averts this for the most part; generally speaking you can just run into combat head first with decent odds of coming out alive, but stealth is the suggested method of advancement, both for an added challenge and the satisfyingly brutal stealth kills. The only time the game truly falls victim to this is when your AI partner decides its time to run headlong into danger, disrupting your attempts at stealth. Its predecessor, Mark of Kri, makes stealth a completely viable method in that your character always goes it solo.

     Third Person Shooter  

  • Army Of Two gives the option to put silencers on guns. This is kind of useless considering that the game is all loud fire-fights. The real point to them is to take advantage of the aggro system - low-aggro parts like the suppressor draw less attention from the enemy, allowing your partner to draw fire so you can flank the enemy.
  • Star Wars Battlefront 2: Bothan spies. It's extremely annoying when they pop out of nowhere and burn you, but since the AI is able to see them while stealthed (though they appear to be less inclined to shoot than they would normally be) they are rather useless to play as.
  • In the first Mercenaries game, Jennifer Mui's special characteristic is enhanced stealth compared to the other two playable characters. Considering that the gameplay in the series is mostly based around Stuff Blowing Up, it's not clear why anyone would value this, and indeed it has no discernable effect on the game. The sequel scraps this in favor of making her the fastest sprinter of the three.
  • Warframe:
    • Update 7 introduced Back Stabs. However, there are enemies that are either outright Kung Fu Proof or otherwise have too much health to be One Hit Killed with them, which thus leads to the attackee in question setting off an alert. Furthermore, there is no exp bonus for doing stealth kills or a full Stealth Run other than an occasional challenge. This is counterproductive to your leveling, since you would normally want more enemies to kill for more exp.
    • Sgt. Nef Anyo is a rare case where this applies to an enemy. He can cloak, but the game still shows an indicator with his position, meaning that you can still use Herd Hitting Attack or melee to harm him.

     Turn Based Strategy  

  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance has Chapter 10: Prisoner Release, which one could ostensibly stealth through, given the advice "stay near the walls and don't get too close to anyone", without mentioning more useful advice like "only a specific type of enemy (soldier) can spot you". The reward for stealth is extra experience (more than you get for fighting and can be assigned to any character, even the Magikarp Power ones) and a rare (but almost useless) Master Seal item.
  • Nintendo Wars: The submarine cannot be targeted once submerged, except by a unit whose only purpose is to kill subs. You cannot see a sub unless you are right next to it, and it blocks your path, wasting time. On the flip side, submersion costs a lot of fuel and the sub must return to base frequently to fuel up. Dual Strike added stealth jets, which can hit land, sea and air units while cloaked but have even worse fuel consumption.
  • In the Total War series, units do get tactical advantages from ambushes, as being charged in the side or back (especially when already engaged) incurs a massive morale penalty. A good ambush can break armies, but it takes a very good commander to do so and it's usually pointless against the AI, who will either rush at you with all his units in a big mob or break into a defensive formation and stand still (depending on its numbers compared to yours); ambushes are very seldom applicable in either scenario.
    • The Peninsular Campaign DLC to Napoleon: Total War introduces the Spanish guerilla units, whom you can use as the British or Spanish. They are weaker than regular troops, but come in full-sized units, can hide, and can be placed anywhere on the battlefield during set-up, allowing for some nice pincers, enfillades and ambushes. You can also hide a regular army in the woods or mountains and intercept a passing enemy in an ambush, which means they will start with all their units in a very awkward, dense marching column you can easily destroy with an artillery barrage.
    • In Shogun 2's Fall of the Samurai Expansion Pack, players are finally given full units of Ninja that can use stealth while running, in two minute bursts. This ability also increases their charge bonus, making them perfect for breaking the enemy's flanks. They also can be deployed behind enemy lines from the start.
  • Stealth appears in Sword of the Stars. While it can be potentially devastating for a first strike, stealth-detection is a universal tech available to all races (in a game where the tech tree is randomized) and is easier to acquire than stealth is. Furthermore, stealth takes up the command section on a cruiser and slows down the ship, in comparison to the detector that is only needed on a single ship in the enemy fleet to reveal your entire stealthed fleet.
    • On the other hand, you can tell which enemy ship(s) have stealth detection command sections. If you kill them first, you can restore your stealth advantage. And with the right techs, your ships can shoot while remaining stealthed. So, not so useless after all...
    • Even without stealth detection, the AI always tries to shoot at the last location your invisible ship fired from, making it important to stay on the move. If you don't, then the enemy will zero in and blast you. You can do the same, by the way (i.e. force-fire at a location).
      • This can be used to do massive damage to an enemy fleet without a detector. All you need is a cloak-capable ship. The enemy AI will send all its ships to fire at the last location your ships was seen. Invariably, the first ship to arrive will end up at the location... and all the other ships will fire at it until it's destroyed. At that point, another ship will take its place. This bug was never fixed in the original game. It's unclear if it exists in the sequel.
  • In Battle for Wesnoth's basic head-to-head multiplayer stealth abilities tend to be impractical. Firstly, most stealth-able units can only be acquired by leveling them in combat, so the enemy knows exactly when and where you got them. The only recruitable stealth units in default play are Rebel faction's Wose - a slow-moving highly specialized unit used against only a few specific enemies (so they're easy to see coming) - and the Undead faction's two Skeleton units, which can move unseen in deep water - a terrain which cuts down their movement rate and defense so much that it's difficult to actually ever take advantage of this ability. And secondly, the abilities themselves only function under specific conditions, either keyed to certain terrain types like forests(in case of the aforementioned Wose), which tend to be mostly isolated and make fairly obvious hiding locations, or a particular time of day, such as nighttime in case of the Shadow unit... which also happens to be the time when it's most advantageous for the Shadow to fight instead of hide.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic IV manages to avert this despite being a Strategy game with RPG elements. Heroes with the Stealth ability can sneak past monsters on the map to claim the treasures and resources the monsters are guarding. Not only does this allow you to gather resources faster (by giving one hero your entire army to clear out monsters, while your stealthy hero goes a different way and sneaks past any monsters they come across), but sneaking past monsters actually gives your hero some experience points.
  • Partially averted in Star Trek: Birth Of The Federation, where all Romulan ships, some Klingon ships, and a single Federation ship can cloak. For the Romulans, this is a big advantage, considering they also have the slowest ships. The entire fleet enters the battle cloaked, which means that they get a free turn. This often means the enemy has no chance. If the Romulans are outnumbered, they can just escape during that first turn without being shot at. Also invaluable during fights with monsters, such as the Borg or the Crystalline Entity. The ships are also invisible on the strategic map. The Federation's heavy escorts (Defiant-class) is a unique class that features the most powerful buildable ship in the game. They're fast, can cloak, and have enough firepower to take out a small fleet on their own. Definitely a Game Breaker.
  • Played straight due to how infantry mechanics work in Battlefront's Combat Mission series, unfortunately. For every casualty/wound you cause, you WILL lose one sniper to all but rifle conscripts. The problem? That one sniper costs as much as that rifle conscript squad, and the conscripts can hold out for a heck of a lot longer and even accidentally kill AFVs with their grenades. (though most of the time if they see a tank that close they flee before getting off a shot) See also: Steel Panthers, which has many of the same problems. Two benefits to snipers there is that it is 2D and not 3D, so the calculation for explosive damage to a unit is far lower for a sniper, as his 'unit' is just one man, and they can disable 'open' or unarmoured vehicles easier with their better accuracy. Gameplay-wise he also remains hidden longer, while in Combat Missions after the first or second shot, the enemy squads converge on the building/hill the muzzle flash came from and fill it full of lead. Snipers are basically only useful in CM for decapitating a battalion by wounding its command unit (which is a 4 man squad so there is still a chance he shoots the wrong guy)

     Turn Based Tactics  

  • Speaking of buggy WWII-based tactical squad games, anybody ever try to use a Scout-class character in Silent Storm? You know, the ones with which you can sneak silently up to within a metre of that oblivious guard, at which point he turns and annihilates you with a heavy machinegun? Every single time? FFFUUUUUUUU-
    • Actually, stealth is very useful if your scout has shurikens or throwing knives and has trained to use them well. These can result in lots of damage to unsuspecting foes with their allies being none the wiser. If your stealth skill is high enough, you can even get close enough to use the katana (if you manage to obtain it in a Random Encounter).
    • Once you get to Panzerkleins, one of them appears to be made for a Scout, implying that you should use it with Stealth. Good luck with that. You're trying to sneak up on an enemy in a gasoline-powered combat armor that sounds like it hasn't been oiled in years. The armor is also 10-feet tall. It's also the only type of Panzerklein with the optional melee weapon. Most people just prefer to put a heavy cannon on that arm or even replace the Scout version with a normal one. Alternatively, don't give your Scout a Panzerklein at all, and use him as a spotter for your heavy artillery.
  • While you typically don't get the opportunity to use stealth in the Jagged Alliance series, similar to the Army Of Two example your meaty healthy gunner guys can draw fire with their machinegun bursts while your medic swaps to a rifle and spends extra AP on aiming. Amusingly, this can even work in an open field if the sniper is BEHIND the enemy soldiers and lying down. They will continue to spray&pray at your SMG squad while not noticing the entry wounds are coming from the opposite side.
  • Fallout Tactics grants no XP for sneaking past enemies and most maps can only be solved by fighting: Sneak is (in the long run) only useful for positioning units before engaging in combat. While this is hardly that useful against your average raider or tribal, once you hit St. Louis and your enemies start toting rocket launchers or M2 brownings that can kill your entire party from halfway off the map with a lucky shot, you will learn to love a high stealth skill on every character you have.
    • In addition, there's also a map involving a hostage situation (Springfield) where stealth (and a great deal of luck) is mandatory to save the town.

     Wide Open Sandbox  

  • This even shows up in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. There are two or three stealth-based missions, in which you can evade detection entirely by hiding in shadows. The game tries to tell you after the first one that you can also use stealth to hide from police, but anyone who's played a video game before that point knows better. In fact, "stealth" kills with a knife outside of missions seem to attract more attention than waving a sword around or even firing a silenced gun at someone.
    • There's also robbing houses, which the player is also introduced to through one of the aformentioned stealth-based missions. It's supposed to be an easy way for the player to make cash without actually playing the storyline, but in 90% of the houses you can try to infiltrate, its occupants are in the front room, ready to discover you as soon as you enter.
  • Grand Theft Auto V gives characters sneaking controls, sneak attacks, and there's even a Stealth attribute that can be improved that increases you're ability to move quietly. It's only used in a handful of mission though. There is an element to stealth in losing the Wanted Meter, but that's really all about staying out of the cops' visual cones. Sneaking around and staying quiet doesn't do much when they always naturally home in on your position anyway or when helicopters spawn above you.

Non-video game examples:

     Anime and Manga  

  • In Gundam SEED, the Blitz Gundam has a Mirage Colloid that gives it near-perfect invisibility. You'd think this would make it one of the most broken Gundams of all time, but it has its downsides: firing a weapon naturally gives away its position (and worse, so does activating the thrusters), and to activate its stealth, the Blitz has to deactivate its Phase Shift armor, which renders it extremely vulnerable. Furthermore, since it's a stolen unit, the people it's used against are the people who built it, who devised several strategies for dealing with it should the tech ever be used against them. As a result, the Blitz's Mirage Colloid doesn't see too much use.
    • Averted in Gundam SEED Destiny, where the Mirage Colloid equipped battleship Girty Lue is used in the first episode to carry out a spectacularly successful sneak attack. They learned from Blitz's limitations and developed a stealthy propulsion system, allowing it to slip into the enemy's capital city unnoticed.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Dungeons & Dragons has had sneaky rogue classes and invisibility spells since the beginning. Whether or not these powers will come in handy depends purely on the Dungeon Master and the kinds of situations he throws the party into. A high-level rogue with good stealth can get a massive sneak attack damage bonus if they aren't noticed, often doing more damage in that shot than the designated heavy-hitters.
  • Mutants & Masterminds allows for impressive levels of stealth, including a "hide in plain sight" feat that can be taken even at the lowest levels and allows one to hide without cover and while being observed. On the other hand, the system is supposed to model Comic Book superheroes who commonly have such abilities. Becoming invisible (or unable to be perceived by other senses) is similarly easy to do. On the flip side of things, there's often heated discussions on the Atomic Think Tank message board about whether the vanilla stealth skill applies to super-senses with or without some degree of preparation for said skills, and it's similarly cheap to buy powers that will counter any and all invisibility effects.


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