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Invisibility with Drawbacks

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"As a child, I would dream about being invisible. I thought it would be so easy. I could do what I want, go where I want and take what I want. But that's the catch. No matter how hungry I was, I couldn't give myself away."
Nick Halloway, Memoirs of an Invisible Man

It's very common for the power of invisibility to have some inherent drawbacks that limit it to only being situationally useful. This is an incredibly universal trope across both fantasy and science fiction genres. It's most common in video games and tabletop games but frequently appears in other media. Invisibility needs to be balanced or it will become a Game-Breaker. Also, writers don't want an invisible assassin to start going around and murdering main characters. If a monster or villain is invisible, this can often take the form of a plot point that the hero can exploit as a weakness.

The most common drawback is that the invisibility stops working when the character attacks, or attacking is otherwise prevented. It can also be very short-lived, or only work when the character is standing still. Can become a Useless Superpower if said invisibility only works if say, it's pitch black or only when no one is looking. Another common drawback is losing invisibility when doused in water (most common with sci-fi invisibility). Sometimes dust or other substances can stick to the invisible character and give away their location. Also, invisible people still leave visible footprints when walking through terrain like sand or snow.

Invisible Streaker is a sub-trope that covers one common drawback, namely the invisible person having to be naked.

Truth in Television, as being invisible would also render you blind. Invisibility means that light does not interact with the object in question, but vision relies upon light striking and stimulating the rod and cone cells of the retina. If light cannot interact with these cells, the retina cannot work and vision cannot happen.

See also Invisible Means Undodgeable, See the Invisible and Invisibility Flicker. Sister Trope to Teleportation with Drawbacks, by being another good power for stealth, usually with drawbacks.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Charlotte: Nao Tomori's ability, but it only hides her from one person at a time.
  • Gundam:
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, there's a special particle gas known as "Mirage Colloid". The first usage of this was as a stealth system on the Blitz Gundam, where the gas is held against its user with a magnetic field, bending visible light and radio waves, making it invisible to visual sight and radar. However, the energy needed meant that it couldn't use energy-extensive devices such as beam weaponry or Phase Shift Armor and water ended up dissolving the gas.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, there's Optical Camouflage, which is a special material that mimics its surroundings, making it seem invisible. However, it only really works by standing still or being really far away.
  • In My Hero Academia, Toru Hagakure, a.k.a. Invisible Girl, has a body that's perpetually invisible. It's mentioned that she has to go naked to be truly effective in stealth, and that she can be slowed by extreme cold. Also, Toru's opponents have slowed her down with sharp objects, thermal vision, and spilling liquid on the floor, since she also has to go barefoot.
  • One Piece: The user of the Clear-Clear Fruit can make themselves invisible at will and can also make anything or anyone else invisible as long as the user is touching them, even something as big as a ship. However, it doesn't make the user silent, and while things such as steam and dust won't cancel out the invisibility, they'll do a good job exposing it. And, of course, you have the standard drawback of all Devil Fruits on top of that.

    Comic Books 
  • Sue Storm of Fantastic Four has all the Required Secondary Powers to keep her ability to become invisible useful, but she can selectively apply this to whoever else she chooses to make invisible. Rendering someone blind or giving them sudden heat stroke through direct UV exposure to internal organs is the least she can do.
  • The Hood: Parker Robins' magical cloak makes him invisible as long as he's holding his breath.
  • Planetary: Kim Suskind is blind when invisible. She wears a set of specialized goggles to get around it.
  • A scientist in a Tales to Astonish story, frustrated by his failures to develop invisibility, is directed to a witch who knew a method that worked. After browbeating her into handing it over, he ignores her warnings and uses it on himself. He realizes too late that becoming invisible to the world means making the world invisible to him.
  • Tanman from G-Man is another character who can only stay invisible for as long as he can hold his breath.

    Fan Works 
  • Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space. Dr. Zarkendorf complains about an invisibility potion.
    Dr. Zarkendorf: Yes, you bungling brainiac, the light passed through my entire body — including my retinas! I couldn't see a blasted thing!
  • Rocketship Voyager: The Caretaker shows Captain Janeway an invisibility cloak his Space Pirates have stolen that he explains is useless for any practical purpose, as the user can't see out of it, and anyone studying the cloak can't see inside to find out how it works.
  • Ships Ahoy!: Oz's invisibility helps him when out in the field on cases, but when it comes to holidays like Halloween or Thanksgiving, it becomes a problematic thing.
  • In a A Thing of Vikings Changewings can only make themselves invisible, not things that are on them. Eret exploited this in a prank he played on Skuggi by dumping flour on him while he was invisible.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Invisible Man, after the protagonist eats or drinks, he must remain hidden for one hour to allow the food/drink he consumed digest.
  • In Mystery Men, Invisible Boy's power only works if no-one is looking at him, not even himself. Allegedly. The other characters doubt him but are too polite to press him on it. His power is real, but its only use is against electronic surveillance.
  • In Paul, the titular alien can turn invisible at will, but he needs to hold his breath for the duration.

  • Evolution: The invisible mutant frogs of New Pangea are blind (a transparent retina can't trap light), have inefficient biochemistry for having to use transparent substitutes, lack of protection from light and heat, and are extremely vulnerable to cancer from UV solar radiation; they live short, wretched lives in constant agony before dying as juveniles, never reaching adulthood.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The One Ring grants extremely good invisibility, even so far as to make dust and mud and carried objects invisible too. However, it also eats away at your soul.
  • Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy had Grand Admiral Thrawn discovering the Emperor's secret cloaking technology early in the first book. Unfortunately, it's actually a realistic, consistent-with-the-laws-of-physics version of Stealth in Space... meaning that, while it renders the cloaked ship invisible and indetectable to sensors, it does this by making the ship completely blind — and unable to maneuver, to boot. Thrawn instead puts the cloak to alternative uses:
    1. He straps a bunch of cloaking devices to small asteroids which he then dumps in Coruscant's orbit, effectively grounding the planetary defenses. In the process of launching a few dozen cloaked asteroids, Thrawn also conducts hundreds of fake launches, so that Coruscant would never know whether they've actually cleared away all of them and thus can never risk lowering their Deflector Shields. And since Coruscant has a population of over 1 trillion and can't produce enough food to support even a tenth that without importing from other worlds, this allowed him to place the Republic's capital under The Siege without even needing to keep his own fleet in place overhead. Unless a method of detecting the cloaked asteroids could be found (at the time, the only devices that might be able to do so were all in the Empire's hands), eventually the planet would've needed to surrender or else its population would starve.
    2. He sneaks cloaked battleships into a planet's orbit, so they'll be behind the planet's Deflector Shields when the main Imperial fleet arrives. When he orders an Orbital Bombardment, the visible ships outside the shield fire directly at the cloaked ships, which in turn fire at the planet - creating the illusion that he has a weapon that can bypass shields. Since the double-blind nature of Imperial cloaking devices also prevents any radio transmissions from reaching the cloaked ships, and the illusion required a ridiculous degree of precision to pull off... Thrawn employed a cloned Jedi's Psychic Powers to control the crews of the cloaked ships.
    3. He installs a cloaking device into the cargo hold of a freighter. This makes the hold look empty to outside scanners, so the freighter is able to smuggle fighters through a target system's outer defenses because they don't show up on scans while in the cloaked hold.
  • In Memoirs of an Invisible Man, the primary drawback to Nick Halloway's invisibility is that he cannot turn it off. This causes endless problems for him, not the least of which is that the government wants to force him to become an invisible assassin. Secondary problems include the fact that he only has one set of clothing that is also invisible, so he can be seen when he wears anything else. Also, anything he eats or drinks is perfectly visible as he chews, swallows and digests it, and that can be nauseating to watch.
  • In the Captain Future reconstruction novel Avengers of the Moon, our hero uses a man-portable version of his spaceship's fantome generator to infiltrate the moon habitat of a high-ranking politician. Our hero has to consider such problems as power supply (only ten minutes using his batteries), being able to navigate when you can't see, and how to hide his footprints. The solution they come up with is for Captain Future to walk in behind, and holding onto, his Robot Buddy Grag, who pretends to be a simple maintenance robot. Later Captain Future uses the fantome generator in a shootout by switching it on, moving his position and aiming his weapon at where he can hear the enemy is (sound can still travel through the field) then turning it off again, giving himself a momentary advantage over his opponents.
  • The Ganymede Takeover. A soldier of La RĂ©sistance uses an illusion machine to turn himself invisible. Unfortunately, on turning it off again, he insists that I Can't See Myself, even though everyone else can see him. It's a result of the psychological effects of the illusion machines, which send the users crazy.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: From Boyfriends and Other Minor Annoyances, Priscilla has:
    a ring of invisibility, but one of the cheaper ones, probably made [...] as a practice run. [...] there was a catch. The darn thing only worked right when no one could hear her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek:
    • Klingon and Romulan warships have extremely effective cloaking devices, but cloaking takes up so much power that they can't fire any of their weapons or raise their Deflector Shields while cloaked. Another drawback of Romulan (but not Klingon) cloaking devices was the inability to use the transporters while cloaked. The one time they can fire while cloaked, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, it gives the Enterprise and the Excelsior a hard time and the infamous Scimitar in Star Trek: Nemesis, which could cloak, fire and raise shields, was able to outfight the Enterprise-E and a pair of state-of-the-art Romulan Warbirds at the same time.
    • The Star Trek: The Original Series episode that introduces the Romulans and their cloaks, "Balance of Terror", also shows that the cloak interferes with the Romulan ship's sensors. This gives Kirk the idea to have the Enterprise match the bird-of-prey's movements; to the Romulans, the Enterprise looks like a sensor echo.
    • The genetically engineered Jem'Hadar warriors in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine have a biological ability to "shroud" themselves, but can't maintain this when attacking. For reasons that are never explained (other than to prevent them from being unbeatable by the heroes), this even includes attacking with bladed weapons or bare hands. It would be plausible if firing their plasma rifles disrupted the shroud effect, but why would throwing a punch do so?
  • Discussed and subverted in Stargate SG-1 episode "200". When the writer of a show based on the SG-1 team finds out that one of his actors has pulled out of production, the members of SG-1 suggest that he could continue to use the character by making him invisible, leading to a montage of scenes from an otherwise off-screen incident in which Colonel O'Neill was rendered invisible. The writer is wary of using this particular technique as it gives the character a little too much power. Carter points out that he can always invent drawbacks. She then subverts the example with O'Neill's own invisibility. She implies that it did not have any drawbacks, but they came up with some to convince him to return to normal because, well, it's Jack O'Neill.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The invisibility spell (and most other methods of obtaining invisibility) have retained the same drawbacks in most rules editions, which were specifically designed with warriors, rogues, and evocation spellcasters in mind. The standard invisibility spell ends immediately if the affected party makes an attack or casts a spell. More advanced versions of the spell, such as greater invisibility, remove this limitation (but usually have much shorter duration and require higher-level spell slots).
    • Famously, most stronger monsters have the ability to See the Invisible, preventing underleveled Dungeon Bypasses.
    • Monks in 3.5th Edition have an alternate class feature called "Invisible Fist" that allows complete invisibility (as in greater invisibility above), but only for 1 round (6 seconds) every 4 rounds. As it's an immediate action, though, it's still quite useful in a fight, since it can be used right before an attack (notably fooling some spells requiring absolutely to see the target).

  • BIONICLE: The Mask of Concealment does not hide the wearer's shadow. Vakama also notes at one point that it's hard to run when you can't see your own feet.

    Video Games 
  • In ARMS, Dr. Coyle has the ability to turn invisible when blocking and standing up after she is knocked down. There are about 2 drawbacks however. One of them being a major one.
    • If she were to be hit by a charged poison or blind ARMS, she won't be able to turn invisible after she is knocked down, since poison and blind are considered status. These status also stops her from charging her ARMS until it goes away on it's own.
    • Because ice drastically slow fighters down and stop them from charging, moving, and even jumping, Dr. Coyle will also have her invisibility nullified if she ever gets hit by one. Not only she won't be able to charge her ARMS while trying to move around or shield, but this status also leads her wide open for grabs since not only invisibility is disabled, but it also stops her from trying to propel herself in the air.
  • In Avencast: Rise of the Mage, the powerful Shadow Walk spell can only be activated while no one is watching.
  • Invisibility in BioShock is only active when you stay completely still and takes a few seconds to recharge whenever you move or attack an enemy.
  • In BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea, the Peeping Tom invisibility Plasmid can be used while moving and even muffles sound, but still drains energy. It can be upgraded to not drain energy while you're standing still.
  • In The Binding of Isaac, certain items grant an invisibility effect that makes enemies incapable of seeing Isaac. Attacking it cancels it and it usually won't refresh until the next room, making it only useful as a stalling or setup tactic.
  • Dead by Daylight:
    • The Wraith cannot interact (attack mainly) with survivors while invisible, and must ring a very audible bell to become visible. He also slows down briefly while reappearing and suffers from Visible Invisibility of the distortion style.
    • "The Nightmare":
      • When initially released, the Nightmare was completely invisible to the Survivors, but he could not attack them unless he drew them into the Dream World, at which point he became visible to them. Also, Survivors who were still awake would hear his trademark lullaby when near him.
      • Following a re-work in a later patch, the Nightmare's invisibility has been toned down significantly. He still remains invisible to Survivors that are awake, but only when he is some distance away from them. He becomes increasingly more visible as he closes in on a Suvivor. Awake Survivors will hear the normal heartbeat when they are within his Terror Radius, while the lullaby that used to be his warning to awake Survivors is now what the sleeping Survivors hear when he's close.
    • The Spirit can turn invisible at any time—briefly leaving behind a decoy of herself to fool survivors—but Survivors become invisible to her while she is doing this. She can still see the scratches from their running to help track them down, while an add-on can also allow her to see blood.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II:
    • The Chameleon Cloak spell is broken when the invisible character takes damage (including from a Herd-Hitting Attack or harmful Geo Effect), attacks, or performs certain other actions.
    • Invisible characters can be detected through Interface Spoilers. If you attempt to use a Teleportation or jump spell and you find a conspicuous open spot that you cannot target the spell destination on, that means an invisible character is present there.
  • In DON'T LOOK AWAY, the Entity can turn a mannequin invisible in an instant, which allows it to run faster, jump and remove the need to freeze while being observed. However, the Entity cannot attack while invisible, cannot switch between states while being observed, and can be partially seen if the survivors shine a light at it.
  • In Dota 2, almost all forms of invisibility are gained from abilities on a cooldown and are lost upon attacking or casting a spell. Furthermore, the item Dust of Appearance is intended specifically to counter heroes that rely on invisibility by revealing them and slowing their movement speed. There are also several special invisibility cases, each with their own drawbacks:
    • Smoke of Deceit grants invisibility to allies in a large radius around the user and prevents them from being detected by sources of True Sight, and Phantom Assassin's Blur ability can grant this effect to herself only. The catch is that the invisibility wears off if you're near an enemy hero or building, making it less useful for making daring escapes and more for sneaking up on enemies without being seen by wards (as long as you're not using Smoke underneath one).
    • Templar Assassin's Meld requires her to stand completely still to maintain its invisibility, making it poor for escaping from enemies with half a brain on its own and only being good for setting up ambushes if you can predict the enemy's movements well. However, breaking invisibility with an attack grants that attack bonus damage and an armor-reducing effect, letting her briefly turn invisible in the middle of combat to backstab enemies in the face.
    • The Shadow Amulet's invisibility has the same drawbacks as the Templar Assasin without any of the benefits and takes a few seconds to kick in to boot, but at least it can be used to build items that don't have the "stand still" restriction on their invisibility. It does have several advantages, though - it can be engaged while channeling a spell, has no cooldown, and never expires. This allows casters like Crystal Maiden and Pugna to invisibly perform their ultimates without being stopped (at least until the other team starts carrying dust).
    • Slark's Shadow Dance is one of the few invisibility sources in the game that isn't broken by any action, but it also surrounds him with a very visible cloud of smoke while active.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has two types of Invisibility spell: Invisibility itself and Chameleon. To note:
    • Invisibility makes the player character completely invisible for a set duration, but the effect ends as soon as the player performs an action other than simply moving. (Interacting with an object, attacking, casting a spell, picking a lock, etc.)
    • Chameleon only turns you invisible by a percentage and has a higher Magicka cost, but will remain in effect for the spell's entire duration. This makes it particularly potent when combined with custom spells or enchanting.
  • In Final Fantasy VI the invisibility status effect makes the target able to dodge all physical attacks but also makes them 100% susceptible to magic. This led to a bug that let you one-shot bosses with normally unreliable insta-kill spells.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics the highly useful Vanish skill does have some drawbacks to keep it from being a complete Game-Breaker. Your unit becomes visible again if they do an attack and Vanish is a reaction skill, so it only activates if you're attacked and it was in your Reaction Skill slot.
  • In most Halo games, a player with active camouflage becomes completely visible for a brief moment whenever they do an attack of any kind or get hit. From Halo: Reach onward, moving will also disrupt the camo (though to what degree depends on the game), with sprinting making it basically useless. Additionally, active camo only lasts for a short time before you have to either wait for it to recharge or pick up the required power-up again.
    • In Halo: Combat Evolved's campaign, you had to rely on melee attacks in order to remain unseen if you were cloaked since enemies would see you if you fired your gun. In Halo 2's campaign, doing an attack of any kind would drop your cloak. Additionally, CE's and 2's active camouflage was incapable of hiding Covenant energy swords, which would continue to glow brightly.
    • In Reach and Halo 4, a player with active camo would cause the radar of nearby enemy players to go haywire; this was a double-edged sword since it allowed people to know when there was a cloaked enemy nearby. Additionally, Reach's and 4's active camo would muffle their user's audio, reducing their situational awareness.
  • In Jak 3: Wastelander Jak can turn invisible after acquiring corresponding Dark Eco power. The drawback is he can do so only by interacting with Precursor statue and it does not last long, so it is essentially useful to solve few puzzles to advance the game and nothing else. There is a cheat that allows you to turn invisible at will after you complete the game or start New Game Plus, but by then you can outright buy invincibility cheat and use that instead.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, you can't attack without breaking stealth, nor can you use it sneak past most droid opponents. In Star Wars: The Old Republic, stealth is limited to a handful of classes (Operative, Scoundrel, Shadow, Assassin), you won't be able to sneak past higher-level enemies, you can't use objects or attack while stealthed, and you have to keep a certain distance from enemies at all times to avoid detection. This is not to say a good Shadow or Operative can't learn how to use a combination of hit/stun/run/stealth to handle missions they shouldn't be able to solo.
  • League of Legends has several playable champions that can go under stealth, and given the breadth of characters and various applications, the game categorizes two specific types of stealth, each with their own benefits and drawbacks (though broadly speaking, both of them stop once the stealthed character makes an attack, and both can be revealed by True Sight):
    • "Invisibility" (categorized as "tactical stealth") is a short-term stealth used by characters such as Akali, Vayne, and Wukong. Ideal for being used in the middle of skirmishes, either to reposition around enemies or back away, but the effects last a few seconds at the most, many lasting barely a second.
    • "Camoflage" (categorized as "strategic stealth") is a long-term version of stealth used by characters such as Twitch, Evelynn, and Rengar. Ideal for remaining in stealth for prolonged periods of time and setting up for a devastating ambush once the time is just right. However, if a camoflaged unit stands too close to an enemy before they make their move, they'll get spotted early.
  • Shows up frequently in Metroid, usually on your enemies.
    • Metroid Prime: The Cloaked Drone is only visible to the Thermal Visor; the second form of the Metroid Prime itself is only visible to one Visor at any given time, but which one that is changes... Once you have all the visors, you'll need to switch them from time to time, but that's it for enemies being able to hide completely.
    • In Metroid Dread:
      • Corpius is still easy to see when it turns invisible because of the glowing red Aeion weak point in its tail. It can become completely invisible, but only for a short moment.
      • The Phantom Cloak ability has lots of drawbacks. It doesn't work on enemies who have already seen you, you can only move slowly while it's active, it drains energy faster as you move, it drains your health if you run it for too long, you can't turn it back on until it's fully recharged, and it requires you to move (which will make noise) to recharge it. Nevertheless, it is one of your best tools for avoiding invulnerable killer robots.
  • Might and Magic VII and VIII have Master Ari Magic spell Invisibility that, well, turns your party invisible. However, the spell will fail if you cast it when enemies are nearby (so if you're in a middle of a dungeon when it ends, you're out of luck) and yelling, colliding with monsters, attacking and even casting defensive spells will break it. Its duration also isn't very good until the caster reaches Grandmastery in Air Magic. It is still a very useful spell for sneaking somewhere though.
  • Red Alert 3:
    • The Mirage Tank can disguise itself as a tree to avoid detection, but only when idling. The tank's alternate mode makes it project an invisibility cloak over nearby units. However, not only does the tank remain visible, it can't even fire.
    • Shinobi smoke bombs theoretically make them untargetable for a short time, but AI units can gleefully shoot them anyway.
    • Disguised units (spies and Sudden Transports) lose their disguise when using their ability.
  • In Team Fortress 2, the spy's cloaking ability has several drawbacks:
    • Cloaking is on a timer and has to recharge.
    • You can't attack while cloaked.
    • You make a distinctive hissing noise and emit smoke particles when cloaking and uncloaking.
    • Being set on fire or soaked with jarate or mad milk effectively neutralizes it for a while.
    • Touching enemies and taking damage will make you visible for a short time and make you flash your team color.
    • You can collide with enemies while cloaked, which is even easier to notice than the flashing.
  • StarCraft:
    • Ghost cloaking drains mana while used.
    • Zerg units are invisible while buried, but can't move.
    • Subverted with Dark Templar, who are fully invisible for no energy cost at all.
    • Arbiters project cloaking fields around them to protect friendly units, but remain visible even in the presence of another Arbiter.
  • In Star Trek Online, there are three types of cloaking:
    • Normal Cloaking, which players can activate outside of battle, but will drop once Red Alert is activated and cannot be reactivated until Red Alert goes down. Basic Klingon craft and certain Federation craft have this.
    • Battle Cloak, which allows players to cloak while in battle, but cannot attack. C-Store and Tier 5-6 Klingon craft and all Romulan craft have this.
    • Enhanced Battle Cloak, which allows players to fire torpedoes while cloaked, but they will give themselves away when cloaked. Tier 5 and 6 B'Rel Bird-Of-Prey and Tier 5 and 6 T'varo Light Warbird use this.
      • As well, the Federation Cruiser Refit (that's the Constitution-refit) has a Console that allows photon torpedoes to home in on cloaked units.
  • In every Mortal Kombat game he appears in (at least since MKII where he became a more individualized character), Reptile has the ability to become invisible for an indefinite amount of time. This is only canceled if the Invisibility command is entered again, or if he's attacked. Even blocking the attack will cut off the effect.
  • Perfect Dark has the Cloaking Device, an equipment that renders you invisible to enemies, allowing you to slip right past them (so long as you haven't activated it in their presence). However, shooting will make you and your bounding boxes visible for a few seconds, enough to get any soldier in the area to converge on you. Later on, you get the RC-P120, which has a secondary cloaking function with the same disadvantage plus one: keeping the cloaking on eats away at your ammo, and you get visible in that brief moment you get to change clips.
  • In Crysis, "Stealth Mode" is less effective the faster you move, has a limited power reserve, and firing a gun drains the power completely if unsilenced or by an amount corresponding to the weapon's damage. Interestingly, this makes one of the best weapons in the game the starting pistol, silenced, with a laser sight, allowing you to pick off an entire squad of Cell troopers using headshots without completely draining your power.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, the most basic form of Obfuscate grants invisibility that fails if you move, act, or interact with anyone; leveling it up by spending experience points lightens those restrictions and eventually removes them.
  • Minecraft has invisibility potions that can make you invisible — but only you. Your weapons/tools and armor do not become invisible, so having armor equipped or holding anything in your hand will instantly give you away. Only by going fully naked can you achieve true invisibility at the cost of a weaker attack and defense. Even then, you still give off the standard potion effect particles (though they are near-transparent and thus easy to miss), and sprinting still kicks up dirt on the ground. Wearing armour is the only thing you can do that is enough to tip off mobs, but if you're facing another player, any of these can give you away.
  • Descent: The cloaking device renders you completely invisible to the enemy robots (enemy players can still see a faint outline, though it's very easy to miss). However, it has a time limit of 30 seconds. Furthermore, while firing your weapons won't cancel the invisibility, every robot in the area will immediately react and start firing in the general direction of where your weapons fire came from.
  • Blinx 2 gives players an Invisibility Cloak if they decide to play as a Tom Tom, but it's strictly for stealth, stealth for long trips over short distances; Players can't use any weapons without decloaking, and they can't move too quickly, even at normal walking speed, because shimmers appear from fast movement. These shimmers will build up until one is essentially a streak of sparkling light more visible than if they didn't use it at all.
  • Warcraft III:
    • Invisibility (granted by a potion or a spell) breaks as soon as the unit attacks or casts a spell, even units with Permanent Invisibility. The only exception is the Shade (which has no attack anyway), an invisible detector which has the Ghost ability that prevents it from revealing itself with its passive True Sight ability.
    • The Blademaster's Wind Walk boosts his speed and makes him invisible, but he's visible as soon as he attacks (albeit doing considerable extra damage).
    • Night Elf women and Bandits have Shadowmeld, which makes them permanently invisible if holding still, and only at night.
    • Invisibility can't be cast on Action Bomb units (using it on your own sappers in Warcraft II instantly killed the sapper).
    • Burrowed Crypt Fiends regenerate much faster, but cannot move or attack. Carrion Beetles and Arachnathids can burrow as well, but don't get the regen bonus, only making it useful for ambushes or keeping an eye on isolated locations.
  • X-COM
    • XCOM: Enemy Unknown has the core game's Ghost Armor ability, Ghost Mode, and Enemy Within's concealment from Mimetic Skin. In both cases, the invisibility makes the units impossible to target, immune to Overwatch and Suppression, and bestows a fat Critical Hit chance bonus, but each has its problems: Ghost Mode is limited to four charges per mission and each use only ghosts the user for one turn, while Mimetic Skin needs the unit to be out of sight of all hostiles and a move action towards a piece of full cover (any cover will do if the user has Low Profile) on the map to conceal, and if the user moves while within view of hostiles, they're instantly revealed. Finally, a soldier with Mimetic Skin cannot use the Ghost Armor's Ghost Mode.
    • XCOM 2 has the Concealment mechanic, where XCOM operatives start off missions hidden from ADVENT's detection. This makes it possible to scout out a mission site and figure out a plan of attack. The downside is you can do very little while concealed – attacking in any way or interacting with an objective instantly reveals the whole squad except units with the Phantom ability. Even the Reapers from the War Of The Chosen DLC pack, which are the most Concealment-focused units in the game, can only perform a few actions without at least a chance of being revealed, and those actions are either single-use or have long cooldowns.
  • Stealing the Diamond has this trope apply at one point. During the Unseen Burglar route, Henry can choose an invisibility pill. Depending on the version being played, either Henry will become blind and fall off the roof (vision works by light striking the retinas, but if the retinas are transparent the light just passes through them), or the game will lose track of him (you obviously can't track something that is invisible).
  • SCP: Secret Laboratory has SCP-268, which makes the player invisible for up to 15 seconds. The invisibility is cancelled early if the player interacts with anything or equips an item, and the SCP has a two-minute cooldown between uses.
  • Shantae and the Seven Sirens: Ghost Eyes are invisible until revealed by the Seer Dance, or for a while after dealing Collision Damage.

    Web Original 
  • In Critical Role: Exandria Unlimited: Calamity, Brennan states that invisibility affecting the retinas and thus sight is one of its drawbacks, and thus states that Cerrit can spot an otherwise invisible assassin by the tiny pinpricks of their retinas they had to leave visible.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Owl House, Luz figures out a spell that can turn her invisible, but it only lasts for as long as she can hold her breath.

    Real Life 
  • The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth aircraft was practically undetectable to Cold War-era radar. Even with heavy upgrades and software modernization, which allowed limited detection but not active tracking of the F-117, anti-aircraft radar couldn't "lock on" to the plane until it opened its weapon bay doors to attack, which reduced its electronic invisibility enough to make them vulnerable. The plane could not attack and be stealthy simultaneously. This is how the Yugoslav shot them down, and the fatal flaw convinced the USAF to retire its entire fleet of them to redistribute funds for the far superior B-2 and F-22. note  The F-117 was also somewhat hamstrung by Crippling Overspecialization: its impressive stealth capability was achieved at the cost of severely limiting its payload (it could carry no more than two 2000lb bombs and no other weapons), and it had a fairly low top speed and poor handling characteristics. If its stealth capabilities were overcome somehow it was a big fat target. The F-22 was designed as a direct response to these limitations, applying the lessons learned from the F-117 to create a stealth aircraft that was capable of holding its own in air-to-air combat.
  • Early versions of the B-2 and F-22 became detectable when the skin of the aircraft got wet after flying through the rain. Rumors claim it was because the stealth coating washed off or beading water droplets reflected radar signals (perhaps even both). Whatever the cause, the USAF claims the weakness was eventually solved, and both aircraft are all-weather combatants: rain or shine. And even once that was sorted out, they still had one even bigger drawback: a staggeringly high price tag.


Video Example(s):


Luz's Invisibility Spell

In this episode, Luz creates a glyph array that allows her to turn herself invisible, but it only lasts as long as she holds her breath.

How well does it match the trope?

4.33 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / InvisibilityWithDrawbacks

Media sources: