Follow TV Tropes


Ability Depletion Penalty

Go To

A common trope in many Video Games that feature some kind of ability, with or without a respective stat meter, be it a Sprint Meter, Overheating, Nitro Boost, etc., you're encouraged not to deplete the ability entirely and stop just short of doing so or risk some sort of negative effect. The penalty depends on the developer's taste, you might be locked out of using that ability for a brief period or the delay before it starts to regenerate is longer than it is normally but the effects can be more than just those two.

The effects vary across a lot of other Video Game Tropes when those abilities are depleted, running out of your Sprint Meter may cause your character to become fatigued, moving even slower than their regular running speed, Overheating (or depleting the recharging cell on) your weapon may cause it to temporarily become inoperable for a period of time, or depleting a Nitro Boost means you will be unable to activate it for a few second while it regenerates (or even until the meter has refilled completely). In games with Regenerating Shield, Static Health, there might be a longer delay if the shield had been completely depleted before it starts to regenerate along with the expected ramification of becoming vulnerable.

This can be a way for developers to discourage spam from a variety of methods or at least discourage players from recklessly spamming an ability without keeping an eye on how much they are able to use it before it starts to hamper them.

Compare with Cooldown where the ability is always locked out after use. Often overlaps with Overheating where the character, ability, whatever is weakened or even incapacitated if you exceed the limit. See Break Meter when the point is to deplete a meter on an enemy in order to inflict a penalty against them. Cast from Hit Points may count, although everyone knows what happens if you deplete the meter that those abilities cast from. If the weapon or tool simply has a limited number of uses before breaking, that's Breakable Weapons, though one of the penalties of this trope could be the item in question wearing down faster than usual.


    open/close all folders 

  • In Crimson Glaive Sigma, using up all the energy in your Jet Pack will disable its hovering ability until it recharges back to full.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In games that include Epona, pressing the A button spurs her to a full gallop, which is regulated by a line of carrots (implying that feeding her carrots acts as an organic Nitro Boost) or spur icons. The meter will refill gradually when partially depleted, or all at once if fully depleted, but only after Epona slows noticeably for several seconds, which is enough to lose you the Racing Minigames in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. The recommended technique for maintaining a high speed is to keep at least one carrot on screen at all times.
    • Skyward Sword introduced a general Stamina Meter used for sprinting (which lets you run a short distance up walls to reach somewhat higher ledges and go up steeper hills), climbing, spin attacks (but not regular attacks), carrying heavy items, and keeping yourself afloat in sand. Drain the meter completely and Link can't do anything but move around slowly until the circle refills, including actions that don't normally run off the meter.
    • The meter returns in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom in improved fashion. It now depletes much more slowly, doesn't come into play as often, can be augmented and recharged more easily, and Link's regular jogging speed (which does not reduce the meter) has been increased. There is also (in BOTW only) a Good Bad Bug where by whistling for your horse and tapping B you can run indefinitely. If you do deplete it, however, Link moves slower than normal walking speed until it's fully refilled.

    Action RPG 
  • CrossCode has Elemental Modes that imbue your attacks with elemental boosts and let you access new abilities, but most attacks done with an elemental mode active will increase your Element Load, represented by the element icon getting more yellow. While it decays on its own with time, and even faster in Neutral Mode, accumulating too much Element Load will lead to Element Overload, which forces you into Neutral Mode for a good amount of time.

    Fighting Game 
  • DNF Duel: Running out of mana puts the Mana Meter in an "Exhaustion" state, which completely halts MP regeneration for a few seconds. Players can't use any MP Skill moves or their Guard Cancel during this time.
  • Guilty Gear -STRIVE-:
    • Nagoriyuki's Blood Gauge has an overuse penalty. His special attacks are very powerful and it fills up the gauge when used and it powers up his sword moves at higher levels, but if you let it fill up completely, he enters Blood Rage. While he gets powered-up normals and a really hard-hitting Overdrive, he can't use specials and it drains about half his life bar very quickly. The animation where he goes into Blood Rage can also be punished, and he has no safe way of exiting Blood Rage early, either. He needs to stop using his special and land attacks or his command grab to lower the gauge.
    • Happy Chaos has this twofold through the ammo counter for his revolver and his Concentration gauge. If he has no ammo, he obviously won't be able to fire his revolver. The game doesn't prevent players from taking up either of his firing stances when he has no ammo, punishing inattentive players who forget to reload. On the other hand, his Concentration gauge is required for aiming in general. If Chaos runs out of Concentration while aiming, he'll do a short holstering animation that his opponent can punish if they react fast enough.
  • Street Fighter 6: If a player runs their Drive Gauge down to zero, they enter a "burnout" state, losing the ability to use any Drive moves until it refills. They'll also get inflicted with a variety of debuffs — everything their character does is slightly slower, the opponent's Drive Impact inflicts more Hit Stop even when blocked, and Scratch Damage from blocking (which normally reduces the Drive Gauge) directly depletes their health.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Any Overheating weapon in the Battlefield series has a brief delay before you can fire it again if you exceeded the limit.
  • BioShock Infinite. If Booker's regenerating shield ability is completely broken, he loses it for a short time and becomes very vulnerable to damage. After that time, the bar will refill on its own and it protects him again.
  • In Crysis, running out of ammo in your gun makes the subsequent reload take longer as you'll have to chamber a bullet manually. That's a second or so in which a gunfight that would end in your favour might instead end with enemies overcoming the Regenerating Health your Powered Armour gives you.
  • In The End Times: Vermintide and Vermintide II, characters expend Stamina to block incoming attacks and shove enemies. If their Stamina is exhausted, they're briefly "block broken" — Stamina regeneration is paused, they're unable to attack or block, and their speed is drastically reduced.
  • In Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2:
    • Both the minigun in the first game and the .50 BMG machine gun in the sequel can overheat and become inoperable for a long period of time if you overheat them completely.
    • Shotguns in the first game can be reloaded one shell at a time, but completely emptying the magazine means you have to cock the weapon again to put a round in the chamber after reloading. In the sequel, this was removed from the shotguns but added to the pistols.
  • The original Star Wars: Battlefront and the sequel not only briefly lock the ability to fire a weapon if it overheats but the Sprint Meter for characters and vehicles can even be depleted into the negatives, preventing you from using those abilities for a moment.
  • Team Fortress 2: If the Spy lets the cloak meter of his invis-watch run out instead of decloaking manually, the sound will play twice and be louder as a result, making it easier for the enemy team to notice him.

    Idle Game 
  • Kittens Game: Shattering time crystals jumps forward in time and generates chronoheat. Having more chronoheat than your chronofurnaces can hold increases the cost in time crystals to move forward by any given number of years.

  • Azure Striker Gunvolt Series: Gunvolt requires EP energy to use his electric powers. If you let him deplete it entirely, he will overheat, which prevents EP energy from recharging for some time. Since most of GV's damage output comes from his electric abilities, rather than his gun, you're left a sitting duck for the duration.
  • Blaster Master Zero II: Running out of energy gauge with the G-Sophia puts it on a forced recharge state, which disables your secondary weapons and makes your primary weapons weaker. Zero III splits the energy meter into two separate meters for weapons and specials.
  • Cave Story: Certain weapons such as the Bubbline or the Machine Gun have limited ammo, which quickly recharges once you don't use the weapon anymore. However, let the ammo run out and your attack just stops, leaving you helpless for a good second.
  • Psychonauts has a longer delay before your Invisibility or Shield abilities start to regenerate if you deplete them.
  • In Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows, Plague Knight's Arcana items use a recharging Alchemy Power meter unlike the Relics, Curios, and Heirlooms of the other three campaigns. This allows Plague infinite usage of his items without it being mandatory to find energy pickups to recharge, but fully emptying his meter causes what the game refers to as a "blow out", rendering him unable to use any Arcanas until the meter recharges back to full.
  • Viewtiful Joe and its sequel have a VFX meter that limits your super power use. Deplete it entirely and the player character will lose their superhero transformation until the first (and longest) bar has refilled, during which time they cannot double-jump and receive double the damage if hit.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Battlefleet Gothic: Armada has the combustion gauge which can be used to double a ships speed or rapidly rotate to get a better angle. Normally this can be turned on and off as needed and recahrges when not in use, however if you allow it to fully deplete the gague turns red and can't be used again until it has fully recharged.
  • Command & Conquer:
    • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun has GDI's Firestorm Defense system where activating the generator would prevent any unit or physical projectile from moving past any built sections, and destroy units and vehicles that were on top of them upon activation. If you allow the generator to deplete entirely, you are locked out of activating it until it completely recharges.
    • Mental Omega, courtesy of sharing a similar engine to the above, has the Foehn Revolt's Blast Furnace that operates exactly the same as the Firestorm Defense generator.
  • Link! Like! Love Live!: If the team's Stamina hits 0 during a Live, you will be briefly stunned, dropping your Voltage level by 3 and locking the ability to play cards or generate AP for several seconds, forcing you to wait for the Stamina gauge to partially refill.


    Role-Playing Game 
  • Each turn in Bravely Default games, a character can "Default" to both defend and store a Brave Point (BP), or "Brave" to spend their BP and take multiple actions in a single turn, up to a total of four. Even if a character doesn't have enough BP, they can still go into the negative, but they'll be unable to act until enough turns have passed for their BP to go back to zero.
  • Dark Souls: Running out of stamina makes you unable to do any actions that require it (sprinting, rolling, attacking, etc.) until you're regenerated enough. If your stamina is depleted while you're blocking, you will be Guard Broken, causing you to take more damage during the recoil animation, as well as leaving you vulnerable to a well-timed riposte.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: A creature's Fatigue regenerates continuously and is drained by activities like jumping and attacking. Low Fatigue normally only penalizes their attack damage, but, if they hit negative Fatigue, they collapse on the ground until it rises above zero.
  • In the God Eater games, running out of stamina (most commonly by running or dashing too much) will leave you immobilized for a few seconds while you catch your breath and your stamina refills.
  • Final Fantasy XV has a stamina meter, sprinting too much and completely draining it will cause Noctis to walk slower than normal until it fully recharges. Using up all of Noctis' MP also sends him into "Stasis", where he loses the ability to link combos and any attempt at using warping techniques results in him staggering with a headache instead.
  • The first Mass Effect game has no ammo system, shots just build up heat that decays over time. Overheating a weapon leaves you unable to use the weapon until it is completely cooled down, so it's recommended to take short pauses in firing to avoid this. The stamina gauge for sprinting works in the same way.

    Simulation Game 
  • MechWarrior:
    • The series features Overheating as a staple gameplay mechanic and your 'Mech will shutdown after reaching a certain threshold, leaving you helpless but unharmed until your 'Mech starts back up on its own. You can override the auto-shutdown with the expected consequences if you continued to exceed the shutdown limit.
    • Starting since 3, you can flush hot coolant out of the system to quickly expel heat but this also means you're losing reserve coolant that's used to convect and radiate heat off your 'Mech, resulting in a reduction in heat efficiency as you flush coolant.
    • Since 4, any rapid fire weapon such as the Rotary Autocannon or the Clan Hyper-Assault Gauss rifles in Living Legends, for example, will temporarily jam if they are fired for too long.note 

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Helldivers 2 has a laser cannon, where the I.C.E. needs replacing if fired for too long but is still functional if allowed to cool just before the limit.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising allows you to dash during ground combat by flicking and holding the circle pad in any direction but Pit (and other playable characters) will tire out, slowing them down until they choose to stop and catch their breath. The Tirelessness power lets you prevent this from happening as does Lightweight (along with making you faster but more vulnerable).
  • Vanquish encourages not fully depleting the overheat meter by reducing movement speed while it is depleted.
  • In Warframe, letting the heat gauge on a Railjack's armament reach peak capacity will disable it for the duration of cooling down. A perk you can learn by spending Intrinsic Points on your Gunnery skill lets you cut that time down by quickly pressing the reload button.
  • World War Z (2019) has a stamina meter for melee attacks. There's speed and damage penalties if the meter runs out, although some classes have perks that may mitigate some of these penalties.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • Rebel Galaxy has a delay penalty to depleting your afterburner or your active Deflector Shields. Weapons that overheat are also locked out until they cool down completely.
  • Starbound: Depleting your Energy Meter locks you out of using any ability that consumes energy until it recharges.
  • Terraria:
    • The speed of mana regeneration is proportional to how full the Mana Meter is, so a character with no mana has almost no regeneration until they rest for a while. The Mana Regeneration potion grants a buff that always regenerates mana at maximum speed.
    • The Thorium Mod has the exhaustion meter for infinite throwing class weapons. If it fills up then the damage from those particular weapons are severely weakened and although continuing to throw won't reset the duration of the debuff, you will have to wait for it to expire, after which the meter is reset.
  • Valheim: Stamina runs out very fast, and having depleted stamina means you gain less experience per hit (1% instaed of 1.5). And since total experience is drained with every death, and death is a very common occurence...
  • The Way of the Samurai series:
    • In the first three games, each of the player's swords has its own heat meter. When the player uses attacks or blocks enemy attacks, the heat meter will increase based on the power of the relevant move, and in the case of player's attack, whether it landed or was blocked, before depleting when the player takes a moment to avoid using the sword. If the heat meter ends up reaching full, one segment of it will be removed, limiting the amount of attacks that can be done or blocked in quick succession. If all segments are removed, then the sword will break, leaving the player with what effectively amounts to a blunt knife. Enemy weapons also have their own invisible heat meters, so a defensive player can trick them into breaking their own weapons.
    • Way of the Samurai 4 removes the heat meter, giving weapons a more basic durability meter, but it adds the stamina meter, which depletes as the player performs their attacks. It also governs their Regenerating Health. As such, it is best for the player to keep items to restore stamina on hand, as if the meter ends up completely empty, their attacks will become sluggish, and their health will not regenerate. An empty stamina meter is also bad news if the player is caught committing a crime, as if attacked by an alert cop when the meter is empty, they will arrest the player. Like the heat meter of previous entries, enemies have their own stamina meter, which is visible. Depleting an enemy's stamina can be helpful in weakening them, or even sparing them if the player wants to be merciful, which is sometimes required for sidequests and opening a couple plot branches.

Non-Video Game Examples:

  • Dungeon Engineer: As a magical genius loci, running out of Mana knocks Ike out for a little while until it regenerates.
  • The Scholomance: The protagonist can normally transfer Mana to and from her storage crystals at will, but when they're completely drained, she needs to take time to re-enchant them or else they become permanently ruined. She also destroys several outright by draining them in a desperate battle.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Battletech: A mech starts receiving penalties based on the amount of heat obtained. If the amount of heat is too high or if the shutdown avoidance roll fails, the mech will power down and be vulnerable to aimed shots.
  • Chronicles of Darkness:
    • Spirits have a pool of Essence points that they spend to fuel their supernatural abilities. If they run out completely, they fall into slumber until they somehow regain a point. A spirit at zero Essence also suffers permadeath if its Hit Points are exhausted.
    • Changeling: The Lost: Changelings are physiologically dependent on Glamour, to the point that their digestive systems shut down if they run out.
    • Beast: The Primordial: Satiety measures how well-fed a Beast's supernatural half is. A ravenous Beast suffers the physical symptoms of starvation and cannot use their Mind Rape powers. Starvation also cripples a Beast's ability to feed; only the greatest effort on the Beast's part will restore even a single point of Satiety to a Beast without any.
  • Dark Moon gives players up to four dice, which may either be black (strong) or weak (red). They are also used for voting, thus spending one of the two types of dice means the player won't be able to vote according to the die color in event of a hidden traitor accusation.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • 3rd Edition:
      • In 3.0, some psionic abilities function only while the character has a minimum number of power points remaining. In 3.5 these abilities instead function only while the character is maintaining "psionic focus" (a type of psychic charge which can be built up, then expended for certain benefits); however, a character cannot retain psionic focus while their power point reserve is completely empty.
      • In 3.5, Reserve Feats give the character a supernatural ability that's usable at will, so long as they have a spell of a specific type and minimum level available to cast. If they exhaust all their spell slots or castings of that spell, the ability goes offline until they're replenished.
      • The Helm of Brilliance grants its wearer several passive benefits and a limited pool of light- and fire-based spells. The passive benefits are permanently lost when the last of the spells is expended — bad luck to anyone who needs to light a room badly enough to forfeit their fire resistance and ability to create flaming weapons.
      • The Jaunter Prestige Class grants a number of "Travel Power" daily uses, and a +1 bonus to armor class — but the latter only as long as they have one remaining Travel Power use.
    • 5th Edition: Many Magic Wands' powers draw on a pool of charges that regenerates over time. However, each time the charges are completely emptied, there's a small chance that the item is permanently ruined.
  • The One Ring: Adventurers spend Hope points to boost their dice rolls, rally in the face of danger, and activate special abilities. At zero Hope, they're spiritually drained and must flee any struggle or conflict until they regain a point.
  • Pathfinder: The Monk and Ninja Character Classes have a daily pool of ki points to enhance their powers. Some of their passive Magic Enhancements don't cost ki points but don't work when their ki pool is empty, like the Monk's armour-piercing blows and the Ninja's leaps.
  • Classic Traveller Book 4 Mercenaries. Certain weapons with automatic fire capacity (e.g. light machine gun and very rapid fire gauss gun) have a maximum number of bursts they can fire safely in a single combat round. If they exceed that limit, each additional burst fired increases the chance that the weapon will overheat and jam. If this happens, the jam has to be cleared before the weapon can fire again.

    Real Life 
  • In a closed-bolt firearm fed by a detachable magazine, reloading while there are still cartridges in the magazine means that there is still a round in the chamber. As such, the gun is ready to fire simply by inserting the new magazine. If you empty all rounds and then reload you will need to manually rechamber a new round to begin firing, which is slightly longer. This mechanic is sometimes present in shooter games that show their work.