Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Robot Arena

Go To
Robot Arena is a series of PC games by Gabriel Interactive, where you design a robot and have it fight against other robots. It is very similar to the TV shows and real-life tournaments BattleBots and Robot Wars.

The first game was released on March 24th, 2001, and was widely panned for a lack of customization, very few chassis' and weapons, and the game was two dimensional, meaning that wedges and flippers were not able to be used. Then, the 2003 sequel, Robot Arena 2: Design and Destroy, improved on everything, allowing you to build the chassis on a grid, and allowing you to choose from a lot of different weapons and parts. Thus, the game has a small but very dedicated fanbase.

After a hiatus lasting for more than a decade, a third game was released on Steam Early Access in May 2016, only to be abruptly made into a full release the following month, in spite of pretty much all players agreeing the game was nowhere near ready.

Also, these games are unconnected to the 2010 Adobe Flash game on Kongregate.


The first game provides examples of:

  • Continuing is Painful: Robot deaths are final, and you will never have enough money to replace your robot. Even if you forfeit the match before your robot is destroyed, you still have to pay for repairs (in a game where the prize money you get is just barely enough to do minor repairs and buy a few upgrades, and you aren't allowed to go back and grind for money in previous fights.)


The second game provides examples of:

  • Arch-Enemy: Popupsnote  against Horizontal Spinners.
  • Bears Are Bad News: The Good 'ol Boys' heavyweight robot, Bear. You can also equip Bear Claws as weapons (though they aren't actual bear claws, obviously).
  • Character Customization: This is the game in the series where robot customization really took off, allowing you to build nearly any kind of machine you can imagine. It's what makes the game so much fun.
  • Cherry Tapping: Averted. Disabling an opponent's control board requires three hits of a minimum strength, so while you can cherry-tap their armour down to zero, you can't actually win fights that way. Components are the same: even if you get their HP down to zero, you still need to deal one more hit greater than their "fracture" stat before they actually undergo Critical Existence Failure and break off.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: All of the AI bots have armor that is twice as strong as the armor that the player can select in the Armor tab (although the player can gain this advantage by never touching the armor tab when building), and some of the "Middleweight" AI bots are actually heavyweights.
  • Combat Breakdown: As with real-life robot combat, weapons can and do break, reducing fights to shoving matches.
  • Continuing is Painful: While robot deaths aren't permanent this time, tournaments give you a very limited time to fix damage to your robot. If you can't get it in fully working condition, you may well have to go into your next fight crippled, or withdraw entirely.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Parts will remain functional up until they fail, at which point they break off the robot completely. Same goes for the robot's chassis, which allows their remaining parts to remain functional until the control unit suffers critical damage and immobilizes them.
  • Endless Game: The game is essentially a long line of building bots and fighting, as you desire. There is no "you win" game over screen, but the game doesn't need one.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Steelyard Dog's lightweight bot is a VERY fast pusher, that is just as fragile.
  • Game Mod: There are numerous ones available, but the most popular are the DSL total conversion, the Ironforge mod, and the more recent Robot Wars mod, which incorporates elements of the DSL mod as well as robots and weapons from the TV show.
  • Genre-Busting: All you do is build robots and fight them. The possibilities are nearly endless. It can be likened to some sort of Action/Simulation/RPG game.
  • Glass Cannon: Team Z's lightweight horizontal spinner Berserker.
  • Gravity Sucks: Inverted. Robot Arena 2 has a glitch with the Havok Physics engine that causes robots to fly around the arena sometimes after a non-static part is knocked off. These are known by the community as Havok Explosions, or simply "Havoks".
  • Loophole Abuse: Normally, components can't intersect, but if you mount something on a motor, the game will only check for intersections at the exact moment you place that component. A major element of competitive play (at least in Stock) involves carefully mounting all your internals on burst motors so that they overlap and take up the least amount of chassis space possible, maximising the amount of weight you have left over for weapons.
  • Made of Indestructium: Castors won't break off no matter how much damage they take. By strategically placing castors underneath and around the sides of your robot, you can create invincible armour that will protect you from absolutely anything. Only two things stop this from being a total Game-Breaker: a) castors take up a lot of weight and space, and b) they can't be placed above a certain point, so the top of your robot will still be vulnerable.note 
  • Mighty Glacier: Raptor, a heavyweight hammer robot, is quite durable and can hand out quite a beating compared with other AI heavyweights.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: Unlike the first game which had a (minimalist) plot, the second has none. Doesn't makes it less enjoyable.
  • Obvious Beta: The double strength armour, hidden components, robots that look like they do one thing but don't, and unused AI.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: The unofficial "antweight" and "beetleweight" classes: beetleweights can only weigh 175kg, compared to the 250kg lightweight limit, whereas antweights can only 125kg. Needless to say, making a decent antweight is rather difficult.
  • Shaped Like Itself: If you delve into the unused sound files, you can find this gem: "Watch out, or the giant hammer in this arena will come down on you like a giant ... hammer!"
  • Stone Wall: Emergency.
  • Wreaking Havok: The game runs on the Havok engine, so this is a given. In particular, tearing a part off a robot may cause a physics goof that sends the entire thing flying.

The third game provides examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: The majority of the AI robots (even the deadliest ones, such as OctoDie and Gluttony) have exposed wheels, which can easily be torn off with a good enough aim and a powerful enough weapon. Some, such as Buzcar, even have their drive motors partially exposed.
  • And Show It to You: One or two hits in just the right place will smash the batteries right out of an opponent, leaving them completely inoperable.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • In RA2, getting the shape of your chassis just right to house all your components without any wasted space took a lot of trial and error, and every time you made a change, any components you'd placed would be deleted. In RA3, you can freely sculpt your chassis around your bot's components and even create an entirely new chassis from scratch without having to delete your components first.
      • Component placement is also far more flexible than in RA2: you can place components literally anywhere, you can move them around and rotate them after they've already been placed, there's no restriction on the number of components you can chain together (known as the "Rule of Seven" in RA2), and said component chains can be deleted in a single click rather than having to manually delete every single part. General consensus is that the build system is the best part of the game.
    • Unlike the previous two games, where you had a set amount of time to make repairs to your robot between tournament rounds, in RA3 your robot is automatically repaired to full strength after each fight. This actually backfired somewhat, as fans felt that not having to repair your robot between fights took a lot of the strategy out of Career Mode.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The game's AI has several flaws. Robots will drive headlong into your weaponry and get smashed up, stop so abruptly that they flip themselves over, start twitching back and forth or hurtling uncontrollably across the arena for no apparent reason, and if you flip an invertible AI robot (like Tsuppari), it will fail to recognize that it's upside-down and end up driving around backwards, inevitably getting stuck against a wall or driving off the edge of the arena.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: Want to place a motor inside a battery? Sure! How about ten feet in the air, completely unsupported by anything? You got it!
  • Ascended Meme: One RA2 tournament held on popular fansite Gametechmods included a robot named "Spinner from the west" (SFTW) that quickly became infamous as one of the worst bots ever seen, and has since become a Running Gag on the site. RA3 includes a Joke Character named The Lone Saw that's basically an exact copy of SFTW.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The grinder. It can deal a lot of sustained damage and looks pretty intimidating, but is hard to fit into a design due to its large, unwieldy size, and has far less durability than you'd expect considering it's the single heaviest component in the game (80 mass!). Of course, that doesn't stop Gluttony from being That One Boss.
    • The MegaVolt battery, added in an early update, provides 120,000 power, double that of the next-best battery, and enough for all but the most power-hungry heavyweights. However, its immense size and weight mean it's just not worth it: four Nifty V6 batteries will do the same job for 22kg less and are much easier to fit into a design.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Occasionally, when you try to test a robot in the Workshop, it will instead blow up, its components falling off and its weight going down to 0. If this happens, you'll be stuck in the Workshop until you close the game and the robot will be rendered permanently unusable (however, there's a workaround to fix it).
  • Every Bot Is A Pinto: As robots take damage, they start to emit sparks and will eventually catch fire once they reach critical health.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Initially averted, as one of the many criticisms of the initial release was that motors span far too slowly, making spinning weapons largely useless. Once motor speeds were buffed, the trope was played straight, as spinning weapons become the most deadly in the game. Notably, one of the strongest AI robots is a full-body spinner named OctoDie that's very difficult to fight due to being surrounded with spinning blades.
  • Game-Breaker: The ram plates. Not only do they provide good defensive protection, but they're also the most damaging item in the game, even more so than dedicated weapons like the Iron Spikes and Gold Maces. Bolt a few ram plates onto the front of your bot and you can defeat practically anything just by ramming it a few times. Naturally, Emergency has four of them.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: A few of the AI robots, like "Kamineko" and "Tsuppari".
  • Helping Hands: Sort of. Unlike RA2, spin motors in RA3 can be torn out of a robot's chassis, often with the wheel or weapon still attached, and will inexplicably continue to spin for a while. This can lead to spinning weapons breaking off and flying across the arena, potentially still causing damage or tripping up an opponent, when logically they should have stopped moving the instant they broke off.note 
  • Joke Character: The lightweight robot L'il Dog. Not only is it painfully slow with highly ineffective weaponry, but its batteries only last for about a minute, at which point it will stop moving and you'll win anyway.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Unlike the previous game, you can continue knocking bits off an opponent and racking up points for it long after they've already been KO'ed. It's possible to win a four-way fight by ignoring two of your opponents and spending the whole fight smashing the third into Ludicrous Gibs.
  • Legacy Character: A few opponent bots from the previous game return with upgraded designs, most notably Emergency. Upgraded versions of Forkie and Bot Choy, two of the starter robots from RA2, also appear as AI opponents.
  • Obvious Beta: Even more so than the second game, especially when it first came out:
    • At first, there were no weight limits whatsoever. While weight limits were later added, this created a separate problem where entering an overweight bot for a tournament would lock that bot forever. Parts were highly unbalanced, with seemingly-arbitrary weight and damage values (and for some reason, wheel casters weigh about 160kg more than their description says they do).
    • Collision detection issues initially meant that wedges and flippers were completely useless. This was fixed and then broken again, so that if you build a ground-scraping wedge chassis, your robot simply won't move.
    • Robots will occasionally just blow up in the Workshop when you try to test them, crashing your game and deleting your creation. Luckily there's a workaround to restore your bot if this happens.
  • Punched Across the Room: Due to the game's buggy physics, landing a powerful enough blow on an opponent can send them flying through the air, up to halfway across the arena.
  • Ramming Always Works: As stated above, ram plates are the most powerful weapons in the game, and iron spikes aren't too far behind, making ramming a highly effective tactic.
  • Sequel Escalation: In RA2, the weight limits were 250kg for a lightweight, 400kg for a middleweight, and 800kg for a heavyweight. In RA3, the limits are 400kg for a lightweight, 800kg for a middleweight, and 1300kg for a heavyweight - and you can build beyond that limit if you so desire.
  • Walking Armory: Several robots are packed with ludicrous numbers of weapons, but the most notable example is Savage. It's completely surrounded by weapons, mostly spikes but also front punching arms and a rear circular saw. Finding an opening to attack it is nigh-impossible and your only real hope is to push it into an arena hazard or try and flip it over.
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: The game (like the first two) tries to avert this, as not moving for long enough will cause you to be counted out, but it's still possible. As noted under Artificial Stupidity, AI opponents will often simply drive head-first into your robot, so it's possible to win by simply sitting there and letting them dash themselves to pieces on your bot's weaponry. Certain opponents (most noticeably Hedgehog and Bot Choy X) can flip themselves over when they brake, leaving themselves stuck, and if you're fighting the lightweight L'il Dog, you can just drive around without attacking it for a minute until its batteries run out.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: