How Weapon Durability Systems Could Enhance Gameplay If Done Well

I know that right off the bat, many people are going to disagree just based off the title of the article. One of the most common takes regarding weapon durability limits is that it does nothing but get in the way. And I can’t disagree to some extent—it can be horribly frustrating and annoying.

More than that, the argument has been made that weapon durability systems basically discourage combat altogether. If you must constantly replace your weapons—and especially if you’re carrying a better weapon with you—you’re reluctant to use it because you don’t want to use it up. Furthermore, it also encourages players to use the worst weapons possible in every battle, in fear of using up the good ones. Instead of encouraging the usage of a variety of weapons like the system is supposed to, it often ends up encouraging players to simply avoid combat. Sometimes, players even finish the game without using any of the best weapons, because they “might need it later”—indefinitely. It almost seems like weapon durability is basically the game’s way of shooting itself in the foot.

That said, the one realm in which people seem to be the most accepting of weapon durability systems is in survival games. Considering that the whole point of those games is to be desperately trying to survive in an almost impossible situation, limited supplies and weapons contributes to the feel that the games are usually going for and are thus much more acceptable for most.

But games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have gotten a lot of hate for its weapon durability setup. In Breath of the Wild, you go through weapons and shields extremely quickly, and they’re just broken and unusable once you’ve used them up. This game falls into that exact, problematic description that I’ve given above. Considering how great the rest of the game is, it’s unfortunate that so many people could not get past the durability system.

However, this is not to say that durability systems should just be eliminated entirely. In fact, when done right, they can make gameplay feel more realistic in a way that isn’t infuriating. For starters, apart from survival games, weapons can still have a durability limit without breaking. Or perhaps eventually they will break, but you’re able to keep tabs on how worn out your weapons are, and you can choose to go and repair them before they get close to breaking entirely. This would keep the realism element without making the player feel like they need to entirely avoid using their better weapons. This would also avoid the aggravating part where you must constantly be finding new ones to pick up (though you likely would need to be gathering supplies as you progress through the game, to have the materials to fix weapons later).

Another way to enhance weapon durability would be by incorporating a way to upgrade the weapons, such that they take longer to break or wear down. In fact, a game in which you really have a choice for how to spend time and resources to deal with weapon durability would be the most ideal. For those that would rather not spend time constantly looking for new weapons, they could upgrade the ones that they have. If others would rather not bother with that, there would still be a lot of opportunities to pick up other weapons along the way.

Some games have definitely used weapon durability systems better than others. Dying Light, for example, allows for repairing and upgrading weapons. In Monster Hunter, your weapons become less sharp as you use them, limiting what you can cut through, but the game allows for the use of whetstones in order to sharpen them again (though different weapons have different limits). The weapons in Fire Emblem break after you’ve gone through the number of uses per weapon, but most of the weapons are so easy to replace that it doesn’t become a consistent detraction from the game, it simply adds to the strategy per map.

At the end of the day, eliminating weapon durability systems entirely would also eliminate a big portion of strategy and realism from numerous games. Thus, adapting systems that allow for ways to prevent weapons from breaking entirely would resolve most players’ frustrations, and is the best win-win scenario.

Next: Why Traditional Dungeons Should Be Brought Back In The Next Legend Of Zelda Game

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Stephanie is an Editor at TheGamer, solidly aligned chaotic neutral. Though her favorite game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, she vows to do everything in her power to one day see a Legend of Dragoon remake. Absolutely nothing can top her immense love for The Lord of the Rings.

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