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Sunday, July 14, 2024

10 Best Games with Weapon Durability

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Weapon durability. It’s, somewhat ironically, a well-worn point of conversation by now. I’m not here to debate the merits of it though, but instead, to celebrate the best implementations of it. From magical worlds to ones much closer to home. From oceans full of life to lands that belong to the dead. Here are some of the best games (not ranked in any particular order) that are home to weapons with a limited lifespan and why they work so well.

10. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Encouraging Experimentation

One of the great things about weapon degradation is that it requires you to evolve as you play the game. There’s no one reliable way to keep attacking so you have to stay nimble and, in the best cases, actually get you to engage with the game's mechanics in a more interesting way. And when it comes to experimentation there’s only one place to start. Let’s get this one out of the way, shall we?

Yes, snapping a branch in two after a couple of bashes of a Bokoblin can be a minor frustration at the beginning of Breath of the Wild, but from that point onwards a lot of this masterpiece’s magic would be lost. The experimentation that the many breakable weapons of Hyrule encourage is half of what makes this Zelda so much fun – that drive to find a new exciting way to take down whatever enemy faces you next as you juggle between the items in your inventory and those scattered around the battlefield.

There is no one set way to finish Breath of the Wild, from the order you take down its Divine Beasts, to the way you choose to defeat every other tiny enemy. And with Tears of the Kingdom set to only enhance that feeling of experimentation further with its new Fuse and Ultra Hand abilities, weapon durability is set to be an essential, and arguably less contentious issue this time around. If weapon degradation was removed from these recent Zelda games, that impetus to put your own unique spin on the adventure would largely disappear with it. Especially if you’re a weirdo like me who defeated Ganon for the time without even finding the legendary Master Sword.

9. Minecraft – Survival Instincts

Much like Breath of the Wild, many games like starting you out with a chunk of tree in your hands. While the construction side of survival games can encourage a similar level of experimentation as Zelda, they’re much more linear when it comes to weapon and tool progression. Whether it be Valheim or Rust, survival games rarely let you settle into a comfy favorite weapon, with some using a lack of durability as a means to progress. After all, what better way to force you to get better than to have your tools start to suck? This is a staple of many, but landing at number 9 here, is Minecraft.

Making your way from humble wood all the way through diamond and beyond is a path that all players will take if they dig far enough down. Crafting is obviously at the core of Minecraft, and the small dopamine hit that comes with each new creation is key to the journey.

That drive to find enough materials to progress through the layers that make up Minecraft’s world and eventually get that all-conquering Netherite sword with a meaty 2,032 hits to its name is central to the gameplay loop that has made it one of the biggest-selling games of all time.

8. Dark Cloud – Don’t Get Too Attached

In Minecraft, you can just craft another sword if it breaks, but there are some games where you just don’t get such a luxury. One of those is Dark Cloud. A unique action RPG in as much as it abandons the traditional character leveling system in favour of your weapons doing so. The more kills you do with that weapon, the more powerful it becomes. This comes with a caveat, though, as every weapon has a certain amount of hits it can dish out before breaking completely, and once it breaks, it’s gone forever.

You can repair them with items from your inventory which provides an exciting balancing act as you keep one eye open on the durability meter while fighting enemies with the other. A fun twist on weapon degradation that plays more actively into gameplay than most others, it isn’t without its share of heartbreak as a blade you’ve spent a dozen hours befriending shatters in your hands due to a lack of concentration.

7. The Last of Us – Making Opening Drawers Fun

Post-apocalypse games are also no stranger to dishing out heartbreak with their tales of broken civilisations. They are also often home to weapons degradation, with Metro Exodus and Fallout New Vegas taking part in the art of collecting tat in order to craft and patch up homemade weapons. When it comes to rifling through dusty drawers in order to build makeshift weapons there’s only one king, however – Naughty Dog’s beloved infected-fests.

Both The Last of Us Part 1 and 2 allow for homemade melee weapons to be constructed from blades, tape, and a big bit of metal. Yes, its story may well have its sad moments, but it’s also undeniably devastating when you break your big metal pipe with scissors sticking out of it. Valuable in fending off Clickers, it’s always helpful to have one of these handy, with their limited level of durability only adding to the desperate nature of its combat, and echoing the fragility of humanity itself. OK, maybe I’m thinking a little too hard about this now.

6. Dead Rising 2 – Zombie Time

On the pulpier side of the apocalypse are zombies. And I’ll be damned if zombie games don’t love anything more than letting you craft your own makeshift, limited-use weapons. Dying Light loves a bit of this, as does recent gorefest Dead Island 2. But let’s go all the way back to the Dead Rising series to see who did it best.

Effectively a playground built in order to slaughter as many undead as you can, this series placed the emphasis on using as many different weapons as possible. From everything from potted plants, to plywood, to pickaxes. Dead Rising had no shortage of damage dealers with systems that also played into encouraging exploration as you’d find books and magazines that increased the durability of certain weapon types. In some ways, Dead Rising really did influence Breath of the Wild. If you think about it in a really obtuse way like I just have.

5. Def Jam: Fight for NY – The Weapons Snopp Dogg Can Use

Similarly liable to using household furniture to cause pain are professional wrestlers. WWE games have included chairs, tables, and ladders since before The Rock was The Scorpion King and have only got more impressive in recent years with items visibly deteriorating over the course of matches. But that’s not what we’re picking here, and for one simple reason: they don’t have Snopp Dog in them.

That’s why Def Jam: Fight for NY is winning this round. Not because of the semi-durable bats, tire irons, and other weapons each arena Xzbits (I don’t really have much to say about those really), but just because Snoop Dogg and many other mid-2000s hip-hop stars get to wield them. I think that’s completely fair.

4. Madworld – The World is Your Weapon

From Ludacris to the ludicrous now. Some games just love to push the boundaries of what can be used as weapons. From Yakuza’s bicycles and traffic cones to God Hand’s array of colourful parasols, there is a lot of fun, and overpowered, examples out there. Nothing quite comes close to the sheer chaos of Madworld, however, where the world is your weapon.

A singularly stylistic hack and slasher from PlatinumGames, Madworld openly encouraged you to employ improvised weaponry to purvey as much bodily harm as possible. Rewarding players for the artistic merits of their kills, utilising these barely durable weapons was key to getting as high a score as possible and bringing as big a splash of red as possible to the Sin City-inspired environments. Making them last for many more hits would’ve made it all too easy, and where’s the fun in that?

3. Dredge – A Rod is a Weapon to a Fish

Where’s the fun in that? Is also a question you could ask about fishing. That hasn’t stopped dozens and dozens of games from including the past time, however. Normally one of the more relaxing things you can do, have you ever stopped to think that to a fish, a rod is a weapon? You have now, and no, I’m not talking about the limited amount of uses you get from one in Animal Crossing, but instead the largely unrelaxing horrors of Dredge.

Rods, nets, and crab pots have varying levels of durability in Dredge, asking you to take care when navigating its rocky waters, but also testing your timekeeping abilities. Keeping your fishing equipment in good shape is key to making it through Dredge in one piece, with repairs not coming cheap and selling fish in order to fund them difficult if that equipment isn’t ship-shape. I may be pushing the boat out a little here by calling a fishing rod a weapon, but would you want a sharp metal hook impaled on your lip? I think not.

2. Red Dead Redemption 2 – Keeping it Clean

Firmly back on dry land now where the last thing that some equipment likes, is getting is wet. This can be seen as you hike through a timefall-ravaged North America in Death Stranding, for example. But nowhere is this displayed better than in Rockstar’s phenomenal cowboy simulator, Red Dead Redemption 2.

Arthur Morgan’s selection of beautifully rendered pistols, rifles, and shotguns pack a punch, but only when treated with the care they deserve. Over time the condition of your weaponry will decrease, requiring you to clean and polish them to bring them back to full deadly power. Most of the time this isn’t a huge issue and something you don’t have to worry about all that often. Venture into some snow, roll around in the mud, or take a dip into some water, however, and that process is accelerated. It’s an impressive level of detail that very few can match. A lot of games strive for realism, but very few truly get it right like Red Dead Redemption 2.

1. Far Cry 2 – Keeping it Real

Realism is not always the most direct route to a fun time. But in some cases, that balance can be found. Stalker is as grounded as it gets, but also thrilling. Escape From Tarkov’s core gameplay is centered on taking care of your equipment. Very few, however, have ever done it quite as impressively as Far Cry 2.

Ahead of its time in many ways, Ubisoft’s African adventure is a descent into hell unaided by the fact that you’ll have to escape using a selection of guns that love nothing more than jamming, degrading, and ultimately breaking. Everything in this game needs repairing, from the vehicles which can absolutely be used as weapons, to yourself (I’ve been called a weapon on many occasions) as you lose durability due to the malarial infection coursing through your veins.

It’s a realism that the Far Cry series would soon move away from, favouring a more action-movie approach from 3 onwards. Nothing quite matches the unrivalled feeling of pure desperation that Far Cry 2 offered, however, and it’s as good an implementation of weapon degradation that you’re likely to see this side of Hyrule.

Those are just a handful of the many, many, games that utilise weapon durability in different ways. What’s your favourite game with weapon degradation? Got any that I’ve missed that use it in different ways? Let us know in the comments!


Simon Cardy is also slowly degrading over time. Follow him on Twitter at @CardySimon.

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