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Vortex Barrier

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Solid walls are so overrated.

"The voyage to Inazuma is a treacherous one. You will be plagued by a perpetual tempest the entire trip. In fact, the relentless rain and wind are also an embodiment of the Raiden Shogun's will to close the nation."
Kaedehara Kazuha, Genshin Impact

Weather is one of the strong driving forces on Earth (or any planet with an atmosphere for the matter), so what happens when someone takes advantage of that to conceal some important place that they don't want other people finding out?

The answer is to form a literal storm barrier around the location, usually in the form of a hurricane, tornado, or some other cyclonic vortex. Occasionally, the "storm barrier" here is part of the place's natural phenomena, which someone gets to take advantage of.

These vortex barriers tend to have winds far stronger than any recorded natural storm, and will often be accompanied with intense lightning strikes and flying debris for good measure. Anyone who dares to try and penetrate the vortex will likely not live to tell the tale, as they get tossed around by the winds, get bombarded by debris and possibly get zapped by lightning. Because of this, brute force is not always the answer to see what lies inside. By contrast, the location inside the vortex is very calm, like being inside the eye of a hurricane.

Usually, the heroes will try to find a way to get inside without having to resort to dangerous dive-ins. If the vortex is artificial and is controlled by a Weather-Control Machine of some kind, or is powered by someone with Weather Manipulation abilities, then the common solution is to destroy the device or defeat the being to turn the vortex off. Other ways include finding a safe opening in the vortex to pass through (which is usually at the very top where the "eye" opening is visible), and using specialized protective gear to withstand the full brunt of the storm without injuries.

They may also come in sandstorm, blizzard, and whirlpool variants, depending on the climate and region.

May overlap with Perpetual Storm, as these vortexes tend to be really unusual in their own right and often last longer than natural storms. Often the case of Hostile Weather and Weird Weather. Compare Deadly Dust Storm, a dust/sand storm with devastating effects, which can be one of the forms that this trope takes. See also Braving the Blizzard for the snowstorm variant and Mega Maelstrom for the whirlpool variant. In video games, if the vortex itself makes up an entire level to show the arduous journey through, then it may overlap with Gusty Glade and Funnel Cloud Journey.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: Any time the God Hand is summoned via behelit, an ethereal cyclone manifests to keep outsiders at bay. This phenomenon has been observed twice: once during the Eclipse, and later (in-story) during the Black Swordsman Arc.
  • Castle in the Sky: One of the indicators (and obstacles) of Laputa's presence are two contra-rotating vortices of air. The presence of the Heart of Laputa opens a path through them, after which, they seemingly dissipate entirely.
  • One Piece: An unintentional example. Punk Hazard, the island where Caesar Clown (a wanted Mad Scientist who was thought to be dead by the public) secretly hides in, used to be a relatively normal island (that's full of gases as part of the Gas Leak Cover-Up in the past), but it became a battle stage for two admirals Akainu and Aokiji. The battle was so intense and lasted for 10 days straight, which permanently alters the weather and geology on it, turning it into a Hailfire Peaks covered in firestorms and blizzards. The center of the island is a lake with a perpetual tornado on it. All in all, this makes the island into a dangerous place people normally wouldn't land their feet onto, which helps Caesar maintaining his secrecy.
  • Tales of Wedding Rings: The elven kingdom of Romca is surrounded by a magical windstorm which has kept out all intruders for the last fifty years. It was conjured with the Ring of Wind by the king and queen, to protect their daughter Nefritis from the dangers of the outside world. It is eventually penetrated by an Abyss Knight wielding powerful wind magic, and is brought down permanently after the protagonists take the Ring of Wind to defeat said Knight.

    Film - Live-Action 

  • In The Forges of Dawn, Tsatsi's spell created the Tempest around all of Africa, extreme winds that prevent anyone from leaving by sea (while traveling by land will lead to having to traverse a large, zombie-infested wasteland).
  • The Seventh Tower: The Old Khamsoul, a Time Abyss oracle in the Spirit World, can only be contacted from a spire in the eye of an extraordinarily powerful and destructive tornado, and might in fact be the tornado. The main characters reach it by flying over the top with the aid of some Storm Shepherds.
  • The Stormlight Archive: The lost islands of Aimia are cut off from the rest of the world by a perpetual storm, among other defenses, but the coming of the Final Desolation weakens it enough for a well-prepared ship to get through. The Wrong Context Magic necessary to create such a thing is one of many mysteries about the place.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Villains & Vigilantes adventure "Devil's Domain". The Devil places a giant machine off the east coast of Florida. When it's activated, it creates an incredibly powerful weather system around it that is dubbed "The Vortex". It prevents any access to the machine by conventional forces: only superheroes are powerful enough to get through it.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The 3rd Edition Stronghold Builder's Guidebook includes magical crystals that can be installed in a structure to maintain winds of up to tornado force around it, leaving the structure itself completely clear.

    Video Games 
  • Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky: The ruins of Geosis is protected by a strong storm that prevents un-armored airships from passing through, because in addition to the turbulent winds, the storm also picks up surrounding debris that is very dangerous to any ship passing by. It is powered by a Weather-Control Machine inside that is controlled by Flameu, who seeks to use the ruins to revitalize the dying world but at the expense of humans. The heroes, Escha and Logy, manage to penetrate the storm by upgrading their airship into an armored dreadnought that can withstand the strong winds and debris. Once inside, Logy comes to the conclusion that the storm they flew through isn't natural and was deliberately put up to keep people out of the ruins.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a magical blizzard surrounds the peak of High Hrothgar; stepping into the gale will kill you in seconds. After learning the shout Clear Skies, you can use it to break through the storm to reach the top, where you discover that the mysterious leader of the Greybeards is in fact a dragon.
  • Fate/Grand Order: In the second saga of the game, the "Lostbelts" (aberrations from human history, typically centered at certain locations) are protected by powerful storms (except for one, which is protected by a barrier of light instead). To enter and destroy them from within, our protagonists have to use a special vehicle called "Shadow Border" that can perform a dive to the "Sea of Imaginary Numbers" in order to bypass those protections.
  • The town of Cleyra in Final Fantasy IX is protected from the outside world by a powerful sandstorm. Unfortunately an attempt to strengthen the storm accidentally turns it off, leaving the place vulnerable to an attack by Queen Brahne.
  • Gears of War: The third game reveals that the island of Azura is protected by an artificially created storm as a defense against the Locust, who eventually find a way to bypass it.
  • Golden Sun: The Lost Age: The way into Lemuria is a permanently foggy shallows of volcanoes, currents and whirlpools. Going in without knowing the proper sequence of volcanoes to go around causes your ship to get kicked out (and going there without collecting the three pieces of the Trident triggers a Hopeless Boss Fight).
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: A cyclone surrounds the Great Bay Temple and prevents you from swimming there. To enter it, you need to awaken Lulu, a giant turtle who can handle the storm just fine. When you enter, you see a group of Gerudo pirates be blown away by the cyclone.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: The Isle of Ruins is blocked by a huge whirlwind that can only be dispelled by collecting the Regal Necklace from the Isle of the Dead.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom: The Wind Temple is surrounded by a constant blizzard, so Link and Tulin must ascend high in the sky to get into it through the eye of the storm.
  • In Ōkami, the Dragon Palace of Japanese Mythology can only be reached through an ocean whirlpool. Even a god like Amaterasu can't swim through on her own: she has to ride (the) Orca, and before that she has to get a starry nebula turning again so the whirlpool will even appear.
  • Outer Wilds: The Tower of Quantum Trials is located inside a perpetual polar vortex on the north pole of Giant's Deep, with its winds far too strong for even your ship to pass through. There are only two ways to get around the vortex; either from above the cloud layer or below the ocean current. Accessing the tower is critical to obtaining the knowledge needed to land on the Quantum Moon.
  • In Paper Mario: Color Splash, a huge whirlpool blocks Mario's way to Fortune Island. He must stop at Vortex Island and enter a parallel world to discover the cause of the whirlpool: a washing machine. Once it's removed, he is able to continue to Fortune Island.
  • In Path of Exile, a perpetual sandstorm blocks the Oasis side area in act 9. The sandstorm conceals Shakari, Queen of the Sands, a goddess who is trying to build an army of giant scorpions in secret. To enter the Oasis, you must retrieve the Storm Blade in the nearby Vastiri Desert, have two people in Highgate separate the storm from it, and use the now bottled storm to dispel it.
  • Pokémon:
    • In Pokémon Gold and Silver, some chokepoints are blocked by a whirlpool which spins you around before shoving you back. Using the Whirlpool move on it cancels out the vortex and lets you pass.
    • In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, as well as Emerald, this is downplayed. The player is unable to access the desert blocking half of one route, as the desert is covered by constant sandstorms. This sandstorm never goes away, but the player can eventually enter the desert after obtaining the Go-Goggles.
    • Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness: Citadark Island is surrounded by artificially strong currents and a nearly impenetrable fog. Only one ship which belongs to the leader of Cipher is capable of reaching it in one piece. At least, until the Robo Kyogre is operational, which becomes the protagonist's way onto (and off) the island.
  • RuneScape: The island of Anachronia is surrounded by a fierce, unending magical storm that, prior to an in-game event where players helped to build a specialized ship designed to survive the storm, made travel to the island nearly impossible.note 
  • Due to the nature of the game, this kind of barrier shows up a lot in Skies of Arcadia where the player travels by sky ship. The two most notable ones are the perpetual hurricanes surrounding the optional "Dark Rift" dungeon caused by the massive chunk of black moonstone residing within and around the wall of intense winds that separate the Northern and Southern Skies, barring entry into Yafutoma. Piercing and navigating these barriers requires either outfitting your existing ship with a special prow or swiping The Delphinius from Valua (which comes later in the game).
  • Tales of Vesperia: The Tower of Ghasfarost (pictured above), which is the headquarters of Barbos and his Blood Alliance guild, is protected by a strong vortex that prevents trespassers from entering, at least from the surface. During the upheaval in Dahngrest, Yuri hitches a ride with the Dragon Rider (aka Judith) and infiltrates the tower from its uppermost floor, which is not protected by the vortex. They destroy the blastia core powering the vortex and confront Barbos, but they're quickly outmatched by his new powerful weapon and are detained in the tower's prison cells by his lackeys. However, their work has also allowed other members of Yuri's group to start a raid inside the tower, and it's not long until Yuri and his new friend break out of prison to join in on the fun.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: At the center of the world of Aionios, there is a perpetual storm that has been raging for over a thousand years. Naturally, everybody's pretty curious as to what's inside it, but any ship that has ever gotten close to the storm wall has been ripped to shreds. It turns out that's where the home base of the Big Bad is, using a reality-warping machine to keep the storm going indefinitely. Step 1 to starting the endgame is finding some way of breaching the storm.