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Damage Is Fire

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Who knew ramming could set stones on fire?
Whenever structures in Real-Time Strategy games are damaged, the damage is usually represented by a tiny flame that burns perpetually in the corner of the building, which grows as the damage increases. The fire represents the damage, but does not (usually) damage the building further. Many games also do not show non-fire indication animations, damaged models or death types, on infantry or vehicles, resulting in Critical Existence Failure.

This trope is also common in Vehicular Combat games, where vehicles will start smoking and sparking when damaged.

Being on fire is basically the standard way to communicate "this thing is damaged" to players.

See also Shows Damage. Compare Fire Means Chaos, which is when fire is a shorthand for chaotic situations in general.


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    Action Adventure 
  • In The Godfather game, vehicles will catch fire once they have taken enough damage, while a bombed building will be on fire.
  • Just Cause does this with vehicles, combining it with Every Car Is a Pinto. After taking enough damage from any source, a vehicle will start emitting flames; a few seconds later, it explodes, killing the driver and/or passengers (but only doing moderate damage to anyone standing right next to it).
  • The Mako from Mass Effect emits more smoke and fire the more damage it takes.
  • [PROTOTYPE] uses this trope for vehicular damage but averts it for buildings.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, all card battles end with destroyed cards bursting into flames, no matter what element destroyed it. Yes, even water will end in the card burning up.

  • Most shmups, such as Raiden, use this for large enemies and bosses, as well as destroyable scenery.

    City Building 
  • Averted in The Settlers II, where buildings can't be damaged at all, but are destroyed or razed on occasion. This results in a fire and smoking ruins afterwards, indicating that razing actually happens through burning.
  • SimCity. This city simulation has no combat and thus no hitpoints. Fires in this game will destroy buildings if they are left burning too long.

    First Person Shooter 
  • The BioShock turrets and security bots get a little fire and sparks, full out exploding when they die.
  • Most vehicles in the Halo series will catch fire in several places (with the Covenant vehicles having a bluer, plasma-ish fire) if heavily damaged, though it doesn't damage them further than they already are.
  • Team Fortress 2: Sentry guns smoke and spark if damaged; at higher damage levels, the smoke becomes fire.

    Platform Games 
  • This is one of ways (and only in the case of vehicles in Haven City) how the HP of vehicles in Jak II: Renegade and Jak 3: Wastelander is indicated. The more the given vehicle is damaged, the more sparking the engines are, and if it has very little HP left, its engines start burning. While the exterior of vehicles reflects damage as well, as long as the engines are not sparking you're fine.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • In Age of Empires, the flames are bigger than the building.
    • Some of the buildings are obviously made out of stone. The most likely scenario for fire destroying a stone building is that the fire would burn down wooden supports; the unsupported stone would then collapse. However, in Age of Empires, it just looks like the stone itself is on fire. In some cases it can be justified as the fire sprites are positioned on top of things such as windows, the implication being that the fire is coming out of them. But one look at the page image reveals a lot of places where this doesn't work, enforcing the trope.
    • Partly justified in Age of Empires III, where melee units will use flaming projectiles against buildings. Still doesn't explain stone burning, though. Also, ranged units continue to use their normal attacks.
    • Age Of Empires IV uses a system similar to Cossacks: European Wars and Starcraft, where buildings damaged past a certain point will take slow, continuous damage from its fires until the building is repaired by villagers or burns down completely.
  • Aztec Wars: Damaged buildings start burning. The fire gets increasingly bigger as the building approaches destruction.
  • Averted in Battle Realms. Buildings just get more broken when damaged by normal attacks. It's possible to set buildings on fire with certain units to deal damage over time, with the size of the flames is proportional to how much damage its taking per second, not by how much it has already taken.
    • Stone buildings can catch on fire, but they go out almost instantly.
  • Command & Conquer
    • Slightly averted: Flames left behind as the result of a building or vehicle's destruction will damage anything placed on top of them until they burn out.
      • Also, the buildings usually have different graphics displayed, depending on how damaged the buildings are, in addition to the fires. So the damage is not only represented by the flames.
    • Also averted with units, particularly infantry, and their many, many different ways to die: shot to death, squished, exploded, set ablaze, electrocuted, disintegrated, poisoned/gassed, irradiated... and in most games all of those do have unique animations, though this practice all but disappeared for Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars and after, where even infantry burned to death just fall over, which removed a lot of the cause-and-effect draw and drama of war that many earlier titles had.
  • Constructor has tenants of houses politely inform you that their abode is filled with smoke and burning to the ground, complete with 40 foot flames shooting out of said domicile.
  • Played with in Cossacks: European Wars and its' expansions. Building damage is displayed as fire like in Age of Empires, but beyond a certain point, it also causes the building's remaining health to deteriorate similar to Starcraft, eventually destroying it completely unless workers are assigned to repair it (how burning can be stopped by hammering away at the building is anyone's guess).
  • In Homeworld, when ships are damaged below about half health, they start shooting flames. Presumably this is due to the damage control teams desperately trying to keep the fire from spreading by venting the flaming compartments' atmospheres into space, so it's a justified example.
  • Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds uses varying amounts of smoke and flame to indicate damage, not only to faction units and structures but to literally everything destructible, which includes civilian buildings, bridges, trees, lamp posts...
  • Knights of Honor: When pillaging, laying a siege, or battling enemy forces, the units/structures/castles are replaced with burning flames.
  • Netstorm has buildings burning after some damage threshold. They don't get worse, but you can't repair anything either.
  • In Starcraft, Terran and Protoss buildings display this, with Terran buildings burning orange and Protoss buildings burning blue-white, even in a vacuum. Unusually, it's not just decorative for Terran buildings, as once a fire breaks out it will slowly take damage until or destroyed or repaired above a threshold. Zerg buildings bleed instead of burn because they are Organic Technology, and will slowly repair themselves over time.
    • Justified for Terrans. Due to No OSHA Compliance, their buildings are haphazardly constructed and tanks or lines for volatile chemicals are easily damaged. Combat can easily cause said damage. In the sequel, one upgrade for buildings is a pair of fire-extinguisher helicopter drones that fly around the building and passively restore it to half-health when damaged.
    • Averted with Starcraft II units. Killing a biological unit with a Roach or Baneling (which have an Acid attack) will cause that unit to literally melt away. Killing a unit with fire (Hellion, Firebat, and Battlecruiser) will cause them to burn to death.
  • Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds did this, as to be expected from something on the Age of Empires engine. The Rebel Fortress structure in particular produces a flame approximately the size of an Imperial AT-AT walker when it's being torched.
  • Warcraft. Particularly noticeable in Warcraft II, as a growing flame in the middle is the only visible effect of damage to a building.
    • This could get funny when you set a gold mine on fire by shooting arrows at it. World of Warcraft comes around, and suddenly it turns out that all of those rocks that weren't gold were actually Made of Explodium.
    • In the Warcraft series, hitting a building with cold or water elementals will still set it on fire.
    • Warcraft III has buildings that will explode and leave a pile of cinders...from being whacked by steel axes. Bonus points for structures made entirely of carved stone and steel. All buildings will also catch fire as they are damaged (Human and Orc buildings burn orange, Night Elf buildings and Ancients burn purple and Undead buildings burn green).
  • Total Annihilation: Kingdoms - however, a burning building will be further damaged by the fire.

    Role Playing Games 
  • In Dragon Quest, both of your offensive spells, Hurt and Hurtmore, are fire spells. When Dragon Quest II came out, the English translation turned one of the new offensive spells, Woosh, into another fire spell called "Infernos." Starting in Dragon Quest III, more varied forms of magical attacks appeared.
  • Fire Emblem 10 technically plays this straight, but usually it's directly stated that the bandits or other enemies ARE burning down the structures in question.
  • Empire Earth:
    • The first game uses fire to represent damage to buildings, and one spell uses fire to damage buildings (the aptly-named Firestorm, which also spreads to nearby buildings). The expansion has space units which sprout bright blue plumes when damaged.
    • The sequel causes an annoying case of Damn You, Muscle Memory! - structures emit huge amounts of smoke and fire but it doesn't correlate to the amount of HP they have left.

    Simulation Games 
  • In Majesty every building will burst into fire when it's damaged, and will burn stronger the more damaged it is. It deals no additional damage, and this effect will apply even if the structure in question is made of ice. The sequel adds parts of buildings breaking and going flying when enough damage is dealt.
  • Played amusingly straight in Singles 2: Triple Trouble, a cheap knockoff of The Sims. It makes sense that a stove would belch smoke if it needed repairs... But can anyone explain why the bathroom sink does the same?

    Sports And Racing 
  • In Crazy Cars III, your Lamborghini will start emitting smoke when the damage meter goes high enough.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • Gears of War - Your vehicle, though since the health in the game is the walk-it-off type, your mechanic is repairing the thing.
  • Taken to its logical conclusion in GoldenEye (1997). If you shoot a box - or, really, anything - enough, it explodes and is partially deformed. Shoot it more and it'll explode again and look like it's falling apart. Shoot it even more and it will explode again, finally being reduced to a few blackened remains.
  • Grand Theft Auto III and up implement the vehicular version, where the car begins to smoke as it is damaged. However, once it catches on fire it becomes a time bomb with a very short fuse. The same was true of many other GTA style games, like Saints Row and Mercenaries.
  • In PlanetSide 2, damaged vehicles will spew out smoke which gets thicker the more damaged it becomes. At critical levels, the vehicle's engine begins to fail and begins to spew fire from the exhaust and nearby body panels, slowly burning the vehicle up and crippling its top speed, or in the case of heavy aircraft, all but killing its ability to stay airborne.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • Appears in Civilization V whenever a city is besieged or a tile is pillaged. Arguably justified in most cases by the animations- melee units attacking a city appear to throw flaming projectiles, burning is a great way to destroy a farm, etc.
  • Hogs of War has this, and it extends as far as to your flesh-and-blood characters, who explode upon losing all their hit points (even from drowning) and leave a pair of Smoldering Shoes‎ behind.
  • In Ring of Red, each of a mech's Cognizant Limbs (legs and main gun) catch fire when damaged. The Repair battle skill involves spraying the damaged components with a fire extinguisher, and nothing else (they'd reallistically need a lot more to get them combat capable, what with being shot by cannons and all).

    Vehicular Combat 
  • Critically damaged components in some MechWarrior games will smoke and burn.

  • A non-video game example: Kamen Rider 555 has the Orphnoch, who, when damaged, will burn blue flames. This is more telling when they are mortally wounded, as they are almost full of blue flames as they break down into dust.
  • In Soul Calibur III's Chronicles of the Sword mode, as strongholds lose health, they begin to catch fire, with the flame intensifying as the stronghold's health reaches lower and lower percentages. This despite them being attacked with swords and the like.
  • In Zombidle the structures (essentially mooks) that Bob the Necromancer and his minions attack will catch fire when damaged enough, and then burst into even more flames as its health depletes even more. When the structure is down, villagers might run out of it- on fire, of course.