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Balance Buff, in its simplest terms, describes improving mechanics within a game in improve how effective they are. This is most commonly seen with characters or weapons, but it can be any number of things from maps to animations. An example would a weapon getting improved stats or a spell getting its casting time reduced. This is seen a lot in online competitive games and is often done to balance the game to keep characters from becoming the lower end of Tier-Induced Scrappy.

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It's important to remember that, as a trope, it should only be mentioned when it has significantly changed the gaming experience in one way or another. If its from one game to the sequel then it should be something that caused mechanics to suddenly stand out from previous games or removed major annoyances from the previous game relating to that mechanic. If it's still the same game but got upgraded with patches then it should only be mentioned if it significantly changed the way the game is played, such as a whole bunch of buffs got handed out that caused the meta game to shift significantly without those buffs being undone or fixed later or if characters or mechanics suddenly rise to prominence in such a way that it almost changes how the game is played. Please make sure to not list a bunch of small changes that didn't change the landscape of the game in some or buffs that later got reverted and thus the game lost the changes to the game in the first place. We don't need The Long List of technical information about what changed or how a character got buffed too far but later got changed. There are other tropes, like Tier-Induced Scrappy, that can cover those kinds of changes and their impacts on the playerbase, this is just for listing buffs that have had lasting and notable impacts on their games or sequels.

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For the inverse of this trope, see Nerf. For instances where a character becomes stronger in terms of storyline role, see Took a Level in Badass.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Action RPG 
  • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories: The PlayStation 2 remake increases the effect of leveling up Riku's Attack Points, making him stronger than the original.
  • Kingdom Hearts II:
    • The animation for using items in battle - such as Potions - is a lot shorter than Kingdom Hearts I, making them much easier to utilize without getting interrupted. Potions also heal a fixed percentage of the target's HP, so they're useful throughout the game.
    • The international version of the game increases the damage of the Reflect spell from the original Japanese version, while the Final Mix version increases it even further.
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days: Guarding in Kingdom Hearts I and Kingdom Hearts II would only provide invincibility for a set time, making it less useful against large groups of attacking Mooks and bosses with long-lasting attacks. The invincibility granted will now refresh if the player is hit while the blocking animation is still playing, making the ability much safer.

    Fighting Games 
  • Super Smash Bros. has given some characters Buffs in each game.note 
    • In Melee, Fox went from an unremarkable fighter to a speed demon, considered by many to be one of the best characters in the game thanks to his incredible combo ability, power, and speed.
    • In For 3DS and Wii U:
      • Bowser went from being one of the worst characters in the series to one of the best, thanks to a huge boost to his overall speed among other changes.
      • Link was often considered to be one of the worst characters in the series, but these games gave him some huge buffs by improving his speed and making his weapons much better in combos.
    • In Ultimate, most characters receive a number of buffs, to try and make them, for the most part, all pretty good. A few characters such as Bayonetta and Cloud have been largely nerfed, but overall the approach to balance appears to give most characters both stronger options and better speed than they had before.
      • One notably buffed character is Pichu, last appearing in Melee. In Melee, it's a Joke Character; while in Ultimate, it's a Glass Cannon.
  • Dissidia: Final Fantasy, the prequel Dissidia 012 gave many characters a quick, short-ranged attack to give them more reliable defenses, as their other attacks were slow to execute and left them vulnerable.
    • Firion was crippled with a very poor pool of aerial spell attacks, a ground attack pool that was mostly slow and easy to avoid, and slow and easy to avoid HP attacks. The prequel let him chaincast three spells at once, gave his ground attacks better tracking, added the ability to change their follow-ups for strategic versatility, and gave him Lord of Arms, an HP attack with high reach into the air around him. This took Firion from a ground-bound Mighty Glacier to a dangerous Anti-Air brawler.
    • Exdeath was built to be a Barrier Warrior who used Guard attacks to defend, then unleashed a counterattack. The problem was his four Guard attacks each outclassed the other, his counterattacks weren't very fast, and he was vulnerable when attacking. The prequel changed the properties of his Guards to give each of them distinct strategic value, his counterattacks execute much faster and have higher range, and he can cancel many of his attacks into Guards. He also got a new HP attack, Maelstrom, which can hit anywhere in the arena and can also cancel into a Guard. This makes him much better at defending himself and gave him ways to pressure an opponent better.
    • Shantotto was a Squishy Wizard who relied on spamming HP attacks that grew stronger as she gained Bravery. However, they executed slowly, had significant end lag, and ironically her Bravery game was terrible so she rarely got enough Bravery to level up her HP attacks. The prequel lowered the amount of Bravery needed to power them up, let them execute faster and reduced the end lag, gave them better range/tracking/absorption, and also improved the same on Shantotto's Bravery attacks, including letting her chain her Stun attack into HP attacks. This overall makes her much more aggressive and more difficult to punish on a whiff.

    Role-playing Games 
  • Pokémon:
    • In Gen VI, many Pokemon got a Mega Evolution, a new Super Mode that gives them stat buffs, new abilities, and sometimes different typing. The overall developer intent with this was to take older Pokemon that had been subject to Power Creep, and give them a boost to be more useful.
    • The Poison-type was infamous for being one of the worst types offensively, due to only being effective against Grass, a type that already has a lot of weaknesses, while many other types resisted it. Then the Fairy-type was introduced, and Poison is the only type besides Steel that is super effective against it, giving Poison a much needed boost.
    • Several Pokémon with only a simple Normal type (which is strong against nothing) such as Jigglypuff and Clefairy were updated with the Fairy type and its corresponding attacks, which not only compensated or inverted their weakness against the Fighting type, but also made them good against Dragon and Dark types, two of the most powerful types in the game.
    • Magnemite received several buffs. In Gen II, it got a new second type (Steel) which gave it a lot of new defensive options. In Gen IV, it could learn a new move, Magnet Rise, which negates Ground attacks, one of its biggest weaknesses. It also got a second evolution, Magnezone.
    • The Azumarill family, initially just a bunch of bulky Water-types, has received more buffs each generation. Gen III gave them Huge Power, doubling their Attack. Gen IV's new move mechanics gave them physical Water-type moves to put that Attack to use. Then Gen VI gave them Fairy as a secondary typing, giving them all-around great type coverage and two powerful STAB moves with Aqua Tail and Play Rough.
    • The biggest one that completely upended the gameplay was the physical/special overhaul in Gen IV. In the first three generations, the type of an attack determined whether the attack ran off of Attack or Special Attack. This resulted in many 'mons who had movepools and typing that relied on the "wrong" stat. In Gen IV, this was overhauled such that the moves themselves were designated to either be physical (using Attack) or special (using Special attack), and every type had at least one attack of each type (though many types more strongly favored attacks of one type). Many Pokemon suddenly found their offensive capabilities dramatically improved. Zig-zagged in that this did end up being a Nerf to some Pokemon instead (Alakazam most famously).
    • Gengar was no slouch in Gen I thanks to its movepool and high Special, but it got several needed buffs over the generations. Gen II gave it a worthwhile Ghost-type move in Shadow Ball (though at the time it ran off its weaker Attack instead), Gen III gave it Levitate, making it immune to its old Ground weakness, Gen IV's physical/special move split made Shadow Ball and several other moves more useful on it, and Gen VI gave it a Mega Evolution that also traps its opponent with Shadow Tag. It isn't until Gen VII that Gengar finally received an actual nerf by replacing Levitate with a different ability (Cursed Body).
    • Gen VI and Gen VII increased several past Pokémon's stats slightly. The Gen VI examples were mostly a miniscule ten point increase to one stat. The Gen VII examples were given more substantial boosts (e.g. Farfetch'd's Attack went from a paltry 65 to a passable 90).
    • Gen VII also added abilities to a few Pokémon, increasing their versatility. The most significant was Pelipper, Torkoal, Gigalith and Vanilluxe gaining weather summoning abilities.
    • Between games, certain moves also receive modifications to make them significantly more powerful.
      • Knock Off is a special case: not only was its power increased from 20 to 65 in Pokémon X and Y, but it also deals 50% more damage if its target is holding an item that can be lost.
      • Leech Life is another special case. Before Gen VII, it had a rather weak 20 base power, which was then quadrupled to a much more respectable 80 base power. This, of course, also caused it to be taken away from many Pokemon's movesets until a much later level.
      • The formerly situational Defog gained the ability to remove entry hazards, and it now shares a role with Rapid Spin. Unlike Rapid Spin, Defog doesn't get nullified against an enemy Ghost-Type, although it's vulnerable to being stopped by Taunt.
      • Rock Tomb had it's uses improve from 10 to 15, accuracy from 80 to 95, and damage from 50 to 60. The last greatly improved it's viability for Technician users.
    • Newer generations also tend to be kinder towards pre-evolved Pokemon, with exclusive attacks and items such as the Eviolite so the players who prefer their cute baby Pokemon can still keep up with their evolved brethren. Even the likes of Magikarp and Caterpie have been thrown the odd bone so they can be halfway decent battlers.
    • The Bug-type was, for the longest time, something of a joke type despite supposedly being the weakness of the Psychic-type. This was largely due to a lack of powerful moves and Pokémon — many Bug-types were crutch characters with low stats and a secondary Poison- or Flying-type. Later generations gave the type these missing attributes, as well as more Bug-type Pokémon with high stats and diverse types like Volcarona, Genesect and Araquanid, thus Bug-types aren't as much of a joke anymore.
    • Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! has this for the starter Pikachu and Eevee to counteract them being unable to evolve and end up horribly outmatched by any Pokemon that can be caught later in the game like in Yellow. This includes moveset changes like in Yellow with Pikachu being able to learn the Fighting-type move Double Kick (perfect for the Pewter City Gym), and general stat buffs.
  • Fire Emblem Fates:
    • Heartseeker (the equivalent to Fire Emblem Awakening's Hex skill) had its effectiveness increased. It now lowers enemy Avoid by 20 instead of 15.
    • Unpromoted mounted units now provide +1 to Move when they're supporting a unit in Pair Up, unlike in Awakening where they had to be promoted to do so.
  • Powers in Mass Effect 3 largely removed the requirement from 2 that enemies be stripped of shields or armor to be effective and have more bonus effects available. The new power combo mechanic lets them prime enemies with an effect that can be detonated, letting them now do reliable damage against even targets immune or resistant to their effects. Multiplayer would also buff some powers and weapons from single-player to make them more viable.
    • Biotics didn't cause their effects on shielded or armored targets (except for Warp and Reave). Most biotics now prime targets for biotic combos which do extra damage against armor and barriers.
    • Overload and Energy Drain was only effective on shields, doing average damage against barriers and synthetics but none on organics. They're now effective against both shields and barriers and damage organics, the former could even be upgraded for extra.
    • Cryo was the least useful elemental effect since it only froze unshielded, unarmored targets, which were more efficiently dispatched by any other methods. Cryo abilities now inflict chilled on shielded and armored targets, slowing their movement, and has extra defense debuff against armor.
    • AI Hacking was only useful on synthetics, which made up a minority of opponents, after their shields and armor were depleted. It's replaced with Sabotage, which works through shields and armor and when used on organics overheats their weapons, inflicting damage and rendering them briefly inoperable.
    • Multiplayer Singularity primes all targets for biotic combos while in single-player it only primes lifted targets.
  • When classes make returns across different games in the Etrian Odyssey series, several of their skills may get mechanical revisions or have their numbers tweaked for the better. In a few cases, a class may get an enormous overhaul and become greatly improved in the process.
    • The Ronin's Stance System alternates between buffs and nerfs a lot between games. From the first to the second, the stances became pure passive effects and let them not waste turns setting up. This had Gone Horribly Right and made the Ronin the strongest physical DPS, so The Millennium Girl reverted the Stance mechanic but also gave them an attack skill that temporary enables all stance-specific ones for the next turn. The Fafnir Knight spliced the above two features and had the Ronin assume stances using damage skills so they don't lose out on damage output, on top of allowing a Ronin to occasionally begin the fight in a Stance. Nexus refines the system even further, letting the Ronin always begin the fight in their best Stance on top of improving the less-used Stances, along with a Critical Hit factor for their Stance-related skills.
    • War Magi in the second game were pretty much a Master of None due to their Situational Sword attacks and their healing and support not quite matching up to those of the specialists. On top of that, their inability to inflict ailments themselves made them very team-dependent. The Fafnir Knight greatly revamped their skill set, making their War Edge skills trigger off any ailment and giving an Action Initiative factor to their healing skills to set them apart from the Medic. Their new Force Boost also allowed them to maintain function in case ailments were unavailable or impractical.
    • Beasts in the second game were built around Taking the Bullet for the party, but there were a few pitfalls in the programming: First, their Loyalty made them tank hits automatically, and second, they would take the damage the defended member would have taken, without taking into account the Beast's own defense. This meant that sometimes they would take several amounts non-lethal damage that the rest of the party would take and die, and any instance of protecting a Glass Cannon or Squishy Wizard would be very dangerous to the Beast. The Fafnir Knight reworked the Loyalty skill tree, and now any tanking skills were player-controlled, and Loyalty Mastery now gives the Beast a chance to reduce any incoming damage, making tanking a lot more effective.
    • The elemental imbue skills have been recurring throughout the games, and they get tweaked each time. The first two games had them only affect a single ally's weapon, but this made them only useful when you're using normal attacks and they petered off in effectiveness at a point where you'd be using the characters' attack skills more often. The third game added an elemental resistance factor to them. The remakes of the first two games took a page off this, and made the imbue skills a unique damage buff that contributed to Troubadours being a Game-Breaker. Nexus quells the skills' strength but expands their utility: First it introduces several skills that utilize the equipped weapon and thus will be affected by the imbues, next it makes the Sovereign's elemental Arms skill affect an entire line, and finally the Arms skill also provides a damage boost to other skills that attack with the matching element.
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    Shooter Games 
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The Pyro was widely derided by competitive players for being a Skill Gate Character, until he gained the compression blast. This allowed the Pyro to push enemies away and reflect every non-bullet projectile in the game, giving the Pyro a huge advantage against Soldiers, Demomen, and Medics, since the compression blast allowed him to do things like reflect their rockets and grenades back at them or separate an ÜberCharging Medic from his patient.
    • The Medic was considered one of the worst classes in Mann Vs. Machine, since his focus on healing wasn't very useful in a mode where inflicting damage is extremely important and everyone can earn upgrades to heal from getting kills. He later got several buffs, including a forcefield that damages enemies, and the ability to instantly revive his allies, making the Medic an invaluable ally in this mode.
  • When Resident Evil 4 was released in PAL territories, it lowered things like ammo crops, but upgraded a number of weapons. These changes were applied to all further re-releases.
    • The fully upgraded bolt-action rifle does 30 damage instead of 18.
    • The fully upgraded Red 9 does 6.5 damage instead of 5.
    • The fully upgraded Blacktail does 4.5 damage instead of 3.4
  • A few weeks after Star Wars Battlefront (2015) released Hero Lando Calrissan, he saw an increase in accuracy, damage output and his critical hit multipliers, alongside a homing feature for his Power Shot and a instant kill to anyone stuck in his Shock Trap for too long.
  • Splatoon 2: In the first game, a charge of a charger class weapon would be immediately cancelled upon entering squid form. Splatoon 2 changes it so that charger weapons save their charge for a limited amount of time, allowing players to fully charge a shot, quickly change position, then reemerge with a fully charged shot. Scope models do not have this functionality, however.
  • Rainbow Six Siege
    • Tachanka, almost universally considered the worst operator in the game, received a shield on his mounted LMG. It didn't help too much though.
    • Kapkan's doorway traps, at launch, had a large orange spike poke out the other side of the door or window, making it laughably obvious to the enemy. The spike was eventually removed.
    • Castle's Kevlar barricades were made much more resilient to melee hits (making holes in the barrier was no longer possible) and Glaz's sniper rifle (while the bullets can still penetrate, they can't destroy the barricade in a few shots anymore).
    • Mute's Jammer had a buff to its area of effect.
    • Both Pulse and IQ's scanners were made much more readable in later revisions. Not only is the scanner's distortion lowered, but IQ can now see the outline of electronics, and Pulse can see little circles around heartbeats.
    • Glaz's sniper rifle received a heat sensor to distinguish targets at long range.
    • Blitz was made faster and could run with his shield in front of his face.

    Strategy Games 
  • Warcraft III:
    • The Steam Tank in the original game was, for all intents and purposes, a battering ram, a mobile building that could only attack buildings at short range. In the expansion, it was replaced by the Siege Engine, which serves the same purpose but has a multitarget anti-air attack.
    • Archers in the first game could permanently mount a Hippogryph, which combined a ground ranged unit and a melee air unit into a flying ranged unit. The expansion made it reversible, allowing the archer to dismount and suddenly deal more than twice the damage against flyers.
    • Catapults were replaced by Demolishers, which set the ground on fire with every attack.
    • The Undead make heavy use of corpses for theirs units: Abominations (heavy melee units) gained the ability to regenerate health by eating corpses, while Meat Wagons (plague-spreading catapults and corpse carriers) gained the ability to generate corpses, making Meat Wagon / Necromancer combos self-sustaining.
    • Each race's Worker Unit was given the ability to defend itself against attack: Peasants can become Militia (a slightly weaker version of a Footman), Peons can bunker down in Burrows, Ghouls are the Undead's lumber harvesters and basic melee unit, and Wisps can selfdestruct to cause damage to summoned units and remove magic buffs in an area.
  • Dawn of War In Soulstorm, Khornate Berserkers were given the Mark of Khorne ability, which scares enemies away when used. The Necron Lord was given the ability to channel the C'tan Deceiver in addition to the Nightbringer (the Nightbringer is invincible Grim Reaper, the Deceiver can temporarily Mind Control an enemy and summon a fake Monolith).
  • StarCraft,
    • Ultralisks get better every game. In the Brood War expansion, they got upgrades for their movement rate and armor to make them more cost effective. In the sequel, they got to deal splash damage and got immunity to enemy stuns, letting them tear up clumps of weak enemies. Then in Legacy of the Void, their armor upgrade was doubled to give them +4 armor instead of +2, making them very dangerous meatshields.
    • Goliaths. From the base game to Brood War, they got a damage buff to their anti-air attack and an optional range upgrade to let them function as powerful ground-to-air attackers. The sequel gave them upgrade to the range of both their air and ground attacks, and an upgrade to let them attack air and ground enemies at once, emphasizing their Jack-of-All-Stats nature.
    • From the first game to the sequel, Protoss Zealots got the Charge ability, letting them rapidly dash towards nearby enemies to engage them quicker and making them able to chase down fleeing enemies. This overall helps alleviate their main weakness that is their melee attack.
    • Between games, the Terran Dropship became the Medivac, allowing it to heal organic allies and thus being a more versatile and effective support unit. Then in Heart of the Swarm it got a speed boost ability to more quickly make troop drops and escape defenders
    • Hellions in Heart of the Swarm became Transforming Mecha, letting them become Hellbats. While Hellions are Fragile Speedster units meant for base raiding, Hellbats are Mighty Glacier units better for prolonged combat, giving the Terrans an answer to Zergling and Zealot hordes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • X-Wing Miniatures prefers to release new cards to upgrade weak ships, rather than directly errata specific cards and vessels - X-Wings were improved by the Integrated Astromech card, for example.
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