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Healing Loop

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(Enemy deals a critical hit) "I think we're done. I think we're f**ked already. Okay... restore some HP... more HP... resurrection, water, fish."
(Playable character recovers. Enemy deals another critical hit) "Are... we going to be caught in a healing loop?"
Jim Sterling, Jesus Christ RPG

The boss monster hits you down to 5 HP. You take your turn off to heal. The boss hits you down to 5 HP again. Repeat forever. Battles are supposed to have two directions, two outcomes: win or loss. What's happening is much worse: you are now haplessly caught in a Healing Loop.

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This can work both ways, often you find the battle is stuck in a loop because your enemy has the ability to recover and bring themselves back from the brink. You can't stop them from healing themselves. No matter what strategy you employ, you can't seem to stop them from returning.

A healing loop is usually not eternal however. More often than not, it's actually a miserable downward spiral into a slower, agonizing, more humiliating defeat, whereupon you run out of health items, reaching Critical Existence Failure. The brawl has now become an arduous cycle, your only alternative is to switch the game off, or allow the enemy to defeat you.

Not to be confused with an Endless Game.


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Examples of individual Healing Loops

  • Bloodborne has 'Vicar Amelia' a monster who heal loops the battle again and again, giving some players a lot of trouble trying to shut her down. This is the point where many find themselves under-leveled or under-geared, because if they don't have the proper Damage Per Second, or a weapon that can stun lock her... she will heal indefinitely. Nothing else you do in the fight matters, because once she gets into her healing loop the fight will just go on and on.
  • EarthBound has the Clumsy Robot boss fight, where the robot every so often heals itself to full. Except it's a lie: Despite the message, its actual HP don't go up, and the cutscene where you're saved by the Runaway Five is triggered by its HP dropping down to zero.
  • Elsword: The fight with the Bonus Boss Alterasia Type-H can be this, especially on harder difficulty. Aside from having loads of HP, he boss can regenerate his health by touching any of the Alterasia Spore spawned in the boss room. So unless the player party consistently does damage on him (using upgraded late-game equipment is pretty much a requisite here) and can prevent him from touching the spores, the fight will take forever and you gotta burn through your potions just to survive and/or quickly deal damage. The fact that the stage has a "time limit" and your HP will drain once you go past that limit only makes it urgent to come to the boss room and defeat him quicker.
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  • Tech Mages from EpicDuel were this. One of their skills was 'reroute', together with 'assimilation' causes a healing loop taken from any damage sustained. Combined with their other formidable abilities in the skill tree, gamers kept on complaining that Tech Mages were simply overpowered, until a recent patch removed the reroute skill.
  • This is fairly common in the earlier Final Fantasy games (most notably Final Fantasy VI), where sudden difficulty spikes can leave players stuck in these loops, if they didn't prepare heavily before moving into a new area of the game.
  • Golden Sun: The Lost Age has one with the Serpent boss around midgame. The Serpent is very easy to find, but if you fight it right there, it regenerates 200 HP per turn (only the nightmarish Bonus Boss Dullahan gets that much, and it's fought at the endgame), far more than the party can hope to inflict without concentrating on healing or defense. The solution to the loop is to explore the dungeon and let light into the Serpent's lair, weakening it until it recovers a much more reasonable 30 HP per turn.
  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has two examples:
    • The Mario & Luigi fight between Bowser's memories of the brothers, requires you to defeat Memory L first, otherwise Memory L will simply revive Memory M over and over again. The fight drags on forever though because Memory L often runs off-screen, where you can't attack him, and will likely not return until Memory M if defeated. Get ready for the pain.
    • Facing off Bowser X in the Challenge Node in Bowser's body is gruelling, he's the hardest optional boss in the game, but you can't even challenge him until you defeat all the other X bosses in a row before finally confronting him. And when you do, getting yourself in a healing loop is just the pits - you need both brothers standing to pull off those special attacks, but all of Bowser X's attacks hit like a train, so be prepared to have Mario taking hits while he revives a fainted Luigi... and then Luigi getting pummeled while reviving a KO-ed Mario.
  • This is pretty much all you can do against the final boss of Mother 3, you can't attack him, so you've got to keep healing yourself again and again until the story kicks in. Pray to God, he doesn't use PK Love against you too many times or your HP will nosedive.
  • Planet Side 2: A stubborn concentration of medics healing and reviving their fellow medics can be very difficult to uproot. Under heavy enough fire and lacking the sense to redeploy elsewhere, they could theoretically constantly revive each other, but be unable to make any progress in the fight due to being stuck using their medigun on one another.
  • The Pokémon games
    • Generation I features Mt. Moon, a large cave with many floors and connectors. A common recurring enemy here is Zubat which spams its Supersonic move causing your monsters to become confused. You're trying your best to cure these ailments, only for Zubat to follow it up with another Supersonic. So in frustration, you have your Pokemon simply attack Zubat, only for your creature to hurt itself in the confusion. You heal it, so it can hurt itself in the confusion. And it goes on and on, and on.
    • Any opponent trainer, in a long drawn-out battle where neither Pokemon is dealing anything super effective to the other, using a Max/Hyper Potion or Full Restore at the very end, is a cheap enough tactic to make a gamer's blood boil. And they can do this several times in a row.
    • Another loop is triggered by using Rage against an NPC opponent who keeps using Rest or Recover over and over again to negate any and all damage done by Rage (if the Rage user's type and the recovery user's moveset render the recovery move the only "viable" option), which results in an endless fight you can't stop unless you reset the game.
    • You're in for a miserable battle against any same-level Pokemon that knows the move Roost to recover HP over and over.
    • There are three ways the game prevents this from happening (usually): the existence of Critical Hits, which will usually take their victim down below healing level; misses, which will allow the other pokemon to do something else; and PP, so players can only use a move a certain number of times before they have to pick something else. (However, in Generation 1 AI trainers did not have PP, so they could repeat the same move indefinitely). Healing items are also restricted - AI trainers almost never have more than two, and while a player could stock up on enough Full Restores to keep this going for hours, there's no in-game reason to buy this many, and single-use healing items aren't allowed in trainer battles. There is one perfect situation which bypasses all of these restrictions and allows two players to be locked in battle eternally: two Wobbaffets holding leftovers will never be able to attack one another, in early generations would also prevent one another from switching, and once all of their PP was reduced to 0 the desperation move Struggle (which can neither critical hit nor miss) wouldn't be able to do enough damage to overcome the healing effects of the leftovers.
  • In Spectromancer, only one card is played per turn, allowing skilled players to deduce the opponent's maximum damage potential on any given turn from the few direct-damage spells like Lightning Bolt and Armageddon. Since those two spells also get stronger with each additional point of hoarded mana, a player can easily be caught in a "heal or die" state for several turns in a row. Here's a video of a player using a healing spell five turns in a row, but it's not entirely rare for loops to go even longer.
  • Spore for its strategies, can be a complicated game. Colonizing planets, getting that sought-after spice, to the point where it can all get horribly imbalanced. Setting up trade routes, amassing the necessary funds for upgrading, the list goes on. But Spore has a beginner's trap, and that's own your home-world. It's a useless dead-weight that'll never yield much spice production. It cannot be taken over by hostiles. Many don't realize it can be ignored to start with. Devoting time and resources to it, results in a vicious circle of invading, defending, spending, and rebuilding... over and over until bankruptcy.
  • Undertale. The final boss of the Genocide Route has some all-round insane attacks that'll force you to heal yourself to avoid death. But as you soon discover, the battle cannot progress unless you actually attack and miss him. Unfortunately he's a magnitude stronger than any other enemy in the game, requiring you to heal yourself often in order to just survive. According to Word of God, this is intentional.
  • The Zelda games:
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: The boss Moldrom is a pain in the ass to defeat for this reason. It's bad enough that if he manages to kick Link out of the arena, Link needs to climb back up from the floor below (or two floors if he kicked Link down the hole in his platform); but he also regains his full health in the process, effectively resetting the match. There's no strategy to break this cycle, either, other than fighting him over and over until one gets enough reflexes (or enough luck) to dodge him for the whole fight.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening: The boxing mini boss Blaino, is even worse than Moldrom: Aside for resetting the combat, his uppercut knocks Link not only out of the room, but the entire dungeon. Turtle Rock is not a fun trek. This is one loop you don't want to get stuck in.
  • In the same vein as Zelda, Ecco the Dolphin also has its looping frustration with its final boss, the Vortex Queen in the American Version. If you get consumed by the alien Queen, which can easily happen, you are forced to play through the previous level, The Machine, just to return to the fight, where her health resets. You don't want or need this loop, as The Machine is a five-minute-long autoscrolling monstrosity of a level.
  • Paper Mario: Color Splash has its loop with the Larry boss fight on the Sunset Express. No skill is required to win here, but if you haven't equipped enough of the right cards, you'll get trapped in a loop. Your ally in the battle, is the Toad engineer trying to prevent a Shy Guy giving Larry an endless supply of healing items. But the train's engineer can be taken out by Larry's minions. You need to have multiple-enemy-hitting attack cards to KO Larry's minions in one turn. You can't even run away from the fight if you run out of cards, forcing the player to reset.
  • Tales of Vesperia has the fight with Alexei. Around half HP he'll begin to absolutely spam Guardian Frost, which heals him quite a bit. However, the move is *also* an Ao E attack that hits around him, making it impossible to get close, and another problem with the fight is him randomly ignoring hitstun, making it virtually impossible to actually stop him from using the move with projectiles or spells (or your own Iron Stance). Your only hope is outdamaging his pace of healing- otherwise, you might as well load your save and equip damage boosting skills before trying again. it should be noted he's the only boss with a healing move to exhibit this issue.
  • The Bonus Boss Bravely Default is a Dual Boss against Adventurer and Comrade. While they don't generally heal, killing Comrade (who only has the HP of a common enemy at that point) simply causes Adventurer to bring him back next turn, forcing you to focus on Adventurer instead lest you get caught in this. As it turns out though, blowing through Adventurer's massive HP pool simply causes Comrade to bring Adventurer back, meaning you have to kill them both on the same turn to avoid this.


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