Follow TV Tropes


Aggressive Play Incentive

Go To

"It pays to drive aggressively—earning a KO increases your Max Power!"

Conflict-focused games often have to overcome the players' natural tendency to minimize risks to their positions, which manifests itself in common player tactics like Fishing for Mooks, Hit-and-Run Tactics, Tactical Door Use, and other forms of Whoring. All of these tend to be repetitive, keep the player in a single boring corner of a level, and ultimately "optimize the fun out of a game"note , so to counteract such defensive strategies, game designers can instead reward and incentivize aggressive play that is more in line with the core fantasy they want their games to facilitate.

Compare Anti-Hoarding and Anti-Grinding, which similarly discourage players' natural tendencies to hoard resources and to grind aimlessly, respectively. Chain Lethality Enabler is a common subtrope. An opposite approach to the same effect is Wizard Needs Food Badly, where the player is constantly pushed to capture more resources, lest they suffer a Game Over.

Video game examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action RPG 
  • Assassin's Creed: Odyssey has an Amazon set of armor for Kassandra which, when fully equipped, heals the player for a percentage of any damage they deal. Ergo, if one is low on health and surrounded by enemies, they just have start pumelling the guy next to the Eagle Bearer.
  • Bloodborne was designed to counter the Soulsborne genre's tendency to rely heavily on defenses while you wait for an opening to strike back. It achieves this by almost entirely removing shields and vastly reducing the usefulness of armour, replacing them with the Rally mechanic, which heals most of the damage the Player Character takes, as long as they inflict enough damage themselves in a short time window after taking a hit.
  • Diablo III attempts to steer the series' gameplay away from potion rationing by instead making enemies randomly drop red orbs that immediately restore HP. This change incentivizes players to get into the thick of the enemies and to kill them quickly in order to get healed. Health Orbs can also trigger secondary bonus effects, depending on gear enchantments. Killing enough enemies in a short period of time also triggers orbs that grant double damage and an experience bonus, further incentivizing players to kill as many enemies as possible.
  • Mystic Towers: The good Baron has food and water bars, which steadily drop over time, and if they should run out, his health will quickly plummet. Water is available in unlimited quantities if you can find a fountain, but food is more limited, and the closest thing to a renewable source of it is... the monsters that you're there to eradicate. Better get hunting! Exploring the tower helps, too, since you can find quite a bit of Inexplicably Preserved Dungeon Meat lying around, but of course that means facing wandering monsters, automated shooting galleries, invisibly poisoned floor tiles, and falling bomb traps. On the bright side, as long as he has sufficient food and water, the Baron has a Healing Factor.
  • Torchlight II has a meter storing energy used for heavy attacks which accumulates when you deal damage but dissipates gradually, encouraging players not to hold back their strongest attacks.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Aerondight, the definitive Infinity +1 Sword of the game, rewards the player for aggressive-but-perfect combat by increasing its damage by 10% for every hit you land on an enemy. Those hits build up a charge, up to a maximum of 10 charges for a total of 100% bonus damage. At that point, the sword lands a guaranteed critical hit, and any enemy killed with that critical hit results in the sword's base stats permanently increasing. It rewards an aggressive player by making them more capable of being increasingly aggressive.

    Fighting Game 
  • Guilty Gear gives you a Negative Penalty, rapidly lowering your Tension Gauge and temporarily making it take longer to build back up, if you fail to take any offensive action for a long period of time. On the other hand, playing aggressively enough (such as performing a Wall Break in -STRIVE-) gives you a Positive Bonus.
    • BlazBlue and Persona 4: Arena also have a Negative Penalty for doing the same, only it causes you to take greatly increased damage instead. BlazBlue: Central Fiction also introduces the Active Flow mechanic, which is similar to the Positive Bonus in -STRIVE-
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Mortal Kombat 3: The Trilogy version adds the Aggressor bar, which fills up during the fight and grants a temporary bonus to damage and speed once full. If the opponent blocks your attacks, your meter fills up faster, meaning that a turtling playstyle will give the opponent the Aggressor bonus more often.
    • Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X have a 3-stage meter which can be consumed to perform an EX Special Attack, a Combo Breaker, or an X-Ray Attack. Like in Trilogy, you gain an extra meter if your opponent blocks your attacks.
  • Soul Series: In the GameCube version of Soulcalibur II, equipping Link with the Soul Edge gives him absurd damage at the price of steadily draining his health over time, forcing him to get in the thick of it and end the battle as fast as possible.
  • Super Smash Bros.: In Coin Battles, players drop Smash Coins whenever they get hit by an attack. Whoever has the most Smash Coins at the end of the battle wins. This means that even in a free-for-all, you have to get up close to the fight to collect coins — you can't just stay away from the chaos and spam long-range attacks and/or wait for your opponents to defeat each other.

  • In Crimson Glaive Sigma, hitting an enemy bullet just as you perform a (double) jump will turn that bullet against enemies, allow another mid-air jump and refill the bar storing energy used in most weapons, allowing a faster, riskier playstyle with minimal reliance on your basic Alpha Gun.
  • Hollow Knight encourages the player to get up close and personal, because not only do ranged spells typically inflict less damage than melee, they also cost Soul — which can be recovered by making melee attacks. Soul can also be used for healing, further rewarding the player for focusing on nail attacks (since the Soul gain will pay for the inevitable lost health).
  • In Metroid Fusion a powerful species known as X Parasites have infected and copied all life on the BSL space station. Destroying enemies causes their constituent X Parasites to return to their normal form; this encourages moving close after killing foes, since Samus can absorb X Parasites on touch for health and ammo, but if she's not basically on top of her victim as they revert, the X Parasite can potentially escape, or even reform into a new enemy.

  • In Final Fantasy XIV, the Frontline Player Versus Player mode discourages turtling tactics with the "Battle High" system. Every takedown and assist fills a meter that increases damage dealt and health recovered from abilities. This enables a coordinated and aggressive team to steamroll more passive and dispersed teams. The Rival Wings mode has a similar mechanic called "Soaring" that also increases the rate at which the Limit Break gauge is filled.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2: The Luster class's Voltage mechanic grants a stacking damage, damage resistance, and Critical Hit Rate buff; raising it high enough also grants immunity to status effects and a replenishment of the single-use Last Chance Hit Point. The counter increases each time you hit an enemy and resets if you don't hit anything for a few seconds, encouraging staying on the offensive as much as possible.

    Party Game 
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Lights, Camera, Pants!: While the main objective of "Hook, Line, & Cheddar" is to collect cheese from the fishing hooks which are worth 20 points each, the minigame rewards aggressive play by allowing players to wedgie their competition, which is done by holding the fishing hook down and releasing it beneath their opponents, taking them out of the game for a brief period. Double Wedgies (hooking two players) are worth 50 points and Atomic Wedgies (hooking three players) are worth 100 points. The higher values mean that more often than not, players will be tempted to go after wedgies as much as possible, turning an otherwise standard minigame into an aggressive free-for-all match.

    Racing Game 
  • Burnout: The foundational element of the series is rewarding the player with a speed boost for perilous driving techniques during a race, such as driving in oncoming lanes and "near-misses" with traffic cars. Starting with 3: Takedown, the game encourages you to crash into opponents' cars in any way you want to increase your boost gauge, which allows you to boost, and there are also certain cars in 3: Takedown, Revenge, and Paradise that encourage you to take down rival cars to extend your boost gauge up to 4 times, allowing you to boost longer.
  • Crazy Taxi can be played by taking minimal risks and simply dropping fares off, but a player will not rank up the arcade leaderboard that way. Using risk-taking mechanics like Crazy Drifts and Crazy Throughs will rack up multipliers that are necessary for the highest scores.
  • F-Zero 99 encourages aggressive play by fully restoring your energy meter and increasing its length whenever you KO another player. A few knockouts will greatly extend your energy meter, allowing you to use your boost more often and survive much longer.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Age of Empires I: The third mission of the trial "Rise of the Hittites" campaign has just one patch of gold ore — across an ocean and solidly in enemy territory. The only way to collect some before it's all gone is to move quickly, ignoring fortifications and non-critical technological advancement in favor of aggressively disabling your immediate neighbor (without time for a thorough cleanup) and launching the first ships you can build to establish a foothold.
  • Red Alert 3: The Imperial faction can pump out refineries considerably faster than the Allies or Soviets, and can often have a revenue stream twice that of their enemies if the refineries are allowed to go unmolested. Against The All-Seeing A.I., it tends to backfire since they know erxactly where your units are at all times, and don't even need to have units in the vicinity as spotters for their support powers.
  • Total War: Warhammer: The gameplay style of Warriors of Chaos revolves around offering up a constant stream of victories to the Chaos Gods. Hunkering down in fortified cities is the way of the weak, pathetic southerners, after all, not proud men of the North. This makes the Warriors of Chaos one of the more difficult factions to play as, since it's very easy to get into a spiral of winning a Pyrrhic Victory and then not having enough troops to win the next battle, which pisses off the Chaos Gods even more than not fighting.
  • Warcraft III: Melee maps are dotted with neutral hostile creeps that drop items and gold on death along with experience for the Hero Unit, meaning a player who gets their hero early and periodically heal/reinforce can gain an advantage over those who choose to wait and send out a larger force. Against the AI, it's also a good idea to attack their base directly before they can build up defenses.

  • Hades:
    • Several buffs activate for a certain number of attacks or seconds after triggering, encouraging the player to stay in combat to make the most use out of the buff. For example, the Achilles aspect on the Eternal Spear increases attack and cast damage up to 150% for four hits after using a special attack.
    • The Lambent Plume, a trinket gifted to Zagreus by Hermes, gives Zag a small bonus to his movement speed and dodge chance every time he kills all enemies in an encounter in 30 seconds or less.
    • One of the Modular Difficulty options the game offers gives the player a self-imposed time limit per each game area, encouraging the player to fight quickly and efficiently.

    Rhythm Game 
  • Crypt Of The Necrodancer: One of the playable characters —Tempo— can One-Hit Kill any enemy, but dies if he ever goes 16 steps without killing anything, picking up an item, or eating food (a limited resource).

    Role-Playing Game 

    Shoot 'Em Up 
  • Blue Wish Resurrection: Enemies drop cubes that award points when destroyed, however the further these cubes have to travel to reach your ship, the smaller they get (from x8 down to x1). As such you are encouraged to get up close and personal to enemies to get x8 cubes and maximize your point gains.
  • Chippy: Overgrowth is a Healing Boss that periodically regenerates its plant pixels, including either two or three protective guns, making it necessary to cut off sections of the boss in short amounts of time.
  • Ketsui: The closer to an enemy the player is upon destroying it (and thus the greater the risk of being shot unexpectedly), the larger the type of chip that will be dropped from the enemy.
  • Time Bandit: The faster the player moves, the more points they get for killing enemies, from 50 points each for constant movement all the way down to zero if the player stands still long enough.
  • The Void Rains Upon Her Heart:
    • The "absorb X bullets with panic attacks" challenges are intended to encourage the player to try using panic attacks (i.e. a weaker variety of the Smart Bomb trope). This shows them that the game won't penalize them for using panics, which helps push them to use them more liberally.
    • The character Alter Defect all but forces you to play aggressively. When she starts off, her only decent means of offense is her short-range feather shots, encouraging you to get up close to the boss. If you try to slowly whittle down the boss's health bar using your single starting helper, you'll find yourself at low health thanks to Alter Defect's gimmick of a continuous HP drain (though it can't finish her off on its own). She does regain HP from comboing the boss, and a full combo will get her an extra helper (making her long-range damage more usable), so you really want full combs — and as long as you manage not to get hit, keeping up the combo is easier when you're aggressive.

    Shooter Game 
  • Bounty of One: Natoko's unique item Dark Revenge (as well as any character who picks it) makes him attack up to 3x as fast if he's near an enemy, but down to 3x as slow if he's too far from any, making him a highly-damaging Close-Range Combatant. He also comes with slightly increased speed, giving the player incentive to get close to rush down enemies.
  • Control: Defeated enemies drop Elements, small blue motes of light that restore Jesse's health, and as such reward an aggressive close-quarters fighting style.
  • Doom's "Nightmare!" difficulty mode causes all enemies to respawn after a random amount of time. This makes a slow and careful approach completely unviable, as the player will waste their finite health and ammo dealing with the infinitely-respawning enemies.
  • Doom (2016) and Doom Eternal use a number of mechanics to entice players to aggressively chase demon enemies throughout the levels instead of taking potshots at them from cover. These range from the obvious Glory Kills, which require players to get into melee range but restore some of their Hit Points (or ammo and shields in Eternal), to the subtle, like the ranged enemy AI typically backing off as the player approaches, putting the latter in a hunter mindset.
  • Hotline Miami's scoring system rewards quick and opportunistic play, with extra points granted for being seen by the enemy and quickly switching weapons on the fly.
  • Hyper Demon has a score counter that ticks down when not killing enemies. The faster you kill, the more it goes up.
  • REAVER rewards with some health when close-by enemy has died. In addition enemies drop health pickups which also restore specials, incentivizing players to move around to catch the health pickups.
  • In Risk of Rain 2, enemies slowly get stronger all the time, making blasting through the stage without caring about your safety the best option.
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron: Grimlock's levels play differently from those of other characters, as he's primarily a melee fighter who regains health as he kills enemies. In addition, each kill fills up his Rage Meter, which allows him to transform into his nigh-unstoppable Tyrannosaurus Rex mode when filled up. Grimlock has no ranged weapons: he must keep pushing forward or eventually even his endurance can give out under sustained enemy fire.
  • Trepang2: Focus does not regenerate on its own, in direct contrast to the Cloak meter; you have to go out and kill people to gain Focus. Kills also give you more stamina, allowing you to overcharge it to double its normal amount, allowing you to get one kill and quickly turn that into plowing through an entire squadron at high speed.
  • Turbo Overkill: The enemies drop health when killed. In higher difficulties, other health packs are gone. In addition, one of the leg augments allows you to gain armor when killing the enemies with a chainsaw, requiring the player to get up close.
  • ULTRAKILL has a healing mechanic which rewards the player for being close to enemies when they get killed or damaged; your robot runs on fresh blood, so you want to be right there where the bloodshed is.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine: Brother-Captain Titus heals from killing enemies in melee combat, which encourages the player to aggressively attack foes with his chainsword rather than play more cautiously and use bolters to keep the distance open.

    Strategy RPG 
  • The Disgaea games generally encourage Level Grinding to beat back otherwise impossible odds and spending numerous hours in its Item World to perfect your equipment, gear, and Innocents. In most of the games, defense becomes useless after the main story; pumping stats to such points that One-Hit KO becomes the strategy employed by players and their foes. Disgaea 5 however averts this with its tweaking of the Evility system and its Carnage Dimension. Carnage Dimension maps/foes are tailor-made to discourage Min-Maxing and will annihilate players too reliant on the old ways.
  • Fire Emblem has employed many of these over the years, such as treasures that must be recovered before thieves can escape with them, villages that must be visited before bandits destroy them, and neutral units on the field that will be killed by enemies if not rescued quickly enough.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Heroes of Might and Magic V: Players who use the Stronghold faction are encouraged to behave aggressively through their unique Blood-Rage mechanic. Troops gain blood-rage points for attacking and killing enemies and lose them for taking non-aggressive actions such as "Wait" or "Defend". Blood-rage points provide a small amount of Damage Reduction against enemy attacks and trigger creature-specific buffs if you accumulate enough in a single battle.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: When fighting native life-forms on land, the attacker has a 3:2 morale advantage against the defender, encouraging players to attack mindworms. Furthermore, a successful attack results in a player receiving financial reward (in-game, this is described as harvesting planetpearls from the remains of the life-form). In addition, a player with a high enough "planet" rating is able to attempt to capture native life forms if the attack is successful.
  • XCOM:
    • After XCOM: Enemy Unknown was criticized for rewarding overly cautious play, the XCOM Enemy Within expansion added a new resource called meld that comes in containers that self-destruct if not recovered quickly enough.
    • Its sequel, XCOM 2, adds a fairly strict time limit to many missions.

Non-video game examples:

    Board Games 
  • King of Tokyo: Occupying Tokyo is a risky strategy because it makes you the main target for the other kaiju's attacks while making any healing dice rolls worthless. The payoff for this is that every round occupying Tokyo without backing down earns you 2 points and any attacks you make while occupying will hit all other kaiju.
  • Risk strongly ties your number of reinforcements each turn to the number of territories and continents you own, as well as giving you bonus cards for successfully taking territory — which can only be done by attacking, not defending. Furthermore, attacking lets you roll three dice against the defender's two, improving your odds of victory. Slow and steady rarely conquers the world.
  • Root encourages attacking other players over playing defensively by how its combat is resolved: players roll two dice, and the attacker deals the damage equal to the higher roll, while the defender takes the lower (the only exception are the Woodland Alliance faction, who take the higher roll even if defending because they are Famed In-Story as guerilla fighters).

  • Dungeon Crawler Carl: Each floor of the World Dungeon remains open for only a limited time, and any players who haven't reached a stairwell in that time are killed in the collapse (and their bodies reclaimed as raw materials). And naturally, each floor contains stronger monsters and hazards than the one before, so going straight to the stairwell immediately will leave crawlers underpowered and unprepared for further floors. The only way to possibly survive is to "get out there and kill, kill, kill!" to quickly level up.

  • The shot clock in basketball was introduced as an Obvious Rule Patch to save the professional game. Before its introduction, team strategy had devolved to camping with the ball in home territory and trying to score by provoking fouls from the other team in their efforts to steal the ball away, which audiences found extremely boring. The shot clock forces the team in possession of the ball to attempt a basket within a 24-35 second timer (depending on the league), or else turn over the ball to the other team.
  • Association Football has seen multiple Obvious Rule Patches over the years, intended to encourage more attacking play and prevent time-wasting:
    • Up until the late 1980s, the standard league format awarded two points for a win and one for a draw. This led to many teams playing for a draw, especially towards the end of a match, rather than risk losing that one point. As a result, wins are now worth three points, encouraging teams to push for the winner as the benefits of doing so outweigh the losses if their opponents score instead.
    • The offside rule originally required there to be four defenders between a player and the opponent's goal when the ball was played. Over time, this was reduced to three, then two, giving the attacker more of an advantage.
    • Goalkeepers cannot handle backpasses, and cannot retain possession for more than a certain period of time. Prior to those rule changes, teams would see out the end of matches by repeatedly backpassing to the goalie.
  • The National Hockey League have implemented a few rules changes over the years to encourage more offensive styles of play. Perhaps the most notable was the removal of the Two-Line Pass rule, which originally prevented teams from passing it across more than one of the five end-to-end width lines in a single pass. Its removal allowed players to make long stretch passes to get behind the opposing lines, singlehandedly brought an end to the so-called "dead puck" era, and paved the way for the modern speed-heavy game that it is today. Add on three-on-three overtime rules and the delay of game penalty being added to unsuccessful coaches challenges, and the number of goals being scored on a per-game basis has never been higher.

    Tabletop Game 
  • The three-player mode for Star Wars Miniatures rewards players on the basis of points value of the total enemy forces each player destroys instead of using a "last player standing" method of determining a winner; this way, players are encouraged to attack both enemies, rather than stand back while the other two opponents fight and then wait to pick off a weakened victor.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: Once a Barbarian has triggered their Barbarian Rage ability (which gives them bonuses to dealing damage and reducing damage they take), they must make an attack or receive damage at least once per round in order to prevent it from ending early.

    Television game shows 
  • Jeopardy!: Early in the Alex Trebek era, the rules were changed so that second and third-place contestants, instead of keeping their earnings (as before, and in the Art Fleming era), would receive a fixed amount (currently $2000 for second place, $1000 for third place), substantially more than what they would receive if they played aggressively but poorly, but substantially less than what they would receive if they played conservatively but well.

    Trading Card Game 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Rise of the Eldrazi has a lot of big, scary creatures, many of whom possess the "Annihilator" ability to make attacking with them more advantageous. However, during playtesting, it turned out that less experienced players were hesitant about attacking because they were worried about their creatures dying and wasting the mana they invested in them. The solution was to give one of them, Ulamog's Crusher, a rider dictating that it must attack if able. This helped players see how good attacking with these creatures could be and made them comfortable with playing more aggressively.