As the technology used to wage warfare has advanced, all new weapons and tactics have risen to use them. In the process, previous methods become far less prominent, and often eventually disappear altogether. Most modern navies have all but abandoned battleships, and the only blades today's soldiers carry are knives.
But in the future... what if technology takes a sudden and (un?)expected turn? The advent of military-grade lasers and fire-control systems that are decidedly not Point Defenseless
makes missiles useless and taking aircraft into battle suicidal. All those modern aircraft carriers and missile cruisers suddenly become obsolete, and the battleship is king of the seas once more. What if personal-scale Deflector Shields
make swords and spears viable weapons again?
This occurs a lot in Speculative Fiction
, where some discovery or advance in science or technology has the net effect of rendering the last 20 to 200 years of military tactical development moot, forcing a return to the methods of an earlier time of warfare, often still with high-tech weapons. This overlaps with Retro Upgrade
Anime & Manga
- Mobile Suit Gundam introduced the Minovsky Particle, which when scattered across an area did a number on detection and guidance equipment, forcing both land and space combat into visual ranges.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has "Neutron Jammers", which prohibit fission reactions and jams radios. The result: no nukes, everything runs on batteries, and, you guessed it, close-range combat.
- CoDominium: To keep the the status quo, the titular Soviet-American alliance has banned most research. While their Space Navy hasn't suffered (being needed to colonize and police the stars), the restrictions has caused a regression in ground combat. Improvements to computer countermeasures, railguns, and man-portable missiles have made aircraft obsolete. Improvements to body armor has limited effective sizes of ammunition. 21st Century warfare resembles early 20th century combat. In addition, the colonial worlds lack industry, so very few can build tanks or artillery. Very often battles are infantry only.
- Hammers Slammers: Thanks to accurate targeting and Powerguns, aircraft has practically disappeared from the field of battle. Artillery fire can be interdicted by powergun blasts, but shells still manage to get through. Nukes are rendered useless thanks to "nuclear suppression fields".
- In the Childe Cycle's first book, Dorsai!, long range countermeasures have actually reduced the effectiveness of many weapons. Civilians have better, more advanced firepower than most soldiers. As a result, many troopers rely on simple, effective weapons.
- Dune has "Holtzman fields", which radically changes war. Artillery is obsoleted, most projectile weapons can't penetrate the field, and even Lasguns can't be used due to "explosive pyrotechnics". As a result, ground combat is relegated to sword combat.
- It latter happens again when Leto II bans Shield technology.
- In the Legacy of the Aldenata, the invading Posleen have point-defense strong enough to neutralize our missiles and aircraft. Necessitating the revival of battleships on sea and "land ships" on land with a lot of armor and big guns.
- Mutant Chronicles: When the Dark Symmetry (a cosmic horror force) is released, advanced computers become evil and electronics become unreliable. As a result, warfare regresses.
- In Warhammer 40,000, melee combat is back again on the battlefields, but for no single specific reason given. The closest pick would likely be the protection given by power armours.
- It also has to do with the fact that infantry combat in the setting mostly takes place in cities or other cover-rich environments near to strategic objectives. A combat zone that lacks one or the other of those attributes quickly ceases to be a combat zone when the factions' respective navies show up.
- The old Manhunter universe had swordsmen who specialized in fighting aboard spacecraft, where guns are impractical because of the tendency of stray bullets to punch holes in the hull and/or destroy necessary equipment.
- Command And Conquer Tiberium Wars has GDI revert back to using tanks, since it was just more cost-effective. It turns out Mecha and hover tanks are too expensive to maintain.
- Likewise Nod ends up abandoning subterranean burrowing vehicles due to environmental changes.
- Averted in the Dune II and Emperor Battle For Dune games. Unlike the books (shield technology makes many projectile weapons obsolete), the various factions operate tanks, artillery, and machine guns just fine. Dune II has benefit of being set on Arrakis, where Shields are avoided to prevent the major local wildlife from going berserk. But in Emperor, all units are still usable even not on Dune.
- In the Big Head Press comic Phoebus Krumm, "S-fields" enable FTL travel but disable all electronics within the field, making space warfare essentially age of sail naval combat.
- In the future of SSDD advances in anti-air defense had made air and missile strikes nearly impossible, and fullerene armor made ordinary guns obsolete. Which meant most battles were fought on the ground, by men in suits armor hitting one another with hammers. "Oh, how far we have come."
- Though, one of the major story arcs involved a war that ended when one side used a Kill Sat to knock out their opponent's AA and launching a bunch of museum piece ICBMs