It was almost gone. Weapon durability has slowly been leaving major games as a common mechanic, and those of us who despise limits on our weapons could almost celebrate. However, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is on the horizon, and the debate over weapon durability has returned.
Breath of the Wild featured durability on weapons at the core of the gameplay experience when it was released and it certainly divided the community. Not only were weapons at risk of breaking but there was no repairing them either. Now that the sequel is on the way, we know that Weapon Durability will come back with some extra incentives, and it’s time to talk about this mechanic once again.
Why is Weapon Durability Bad for Open World RPG Games?
Before jumping into the thick of it, we should differentiate which games shouldn’t have to limit durability on tools. One of the recent examples of a game that has great use of limited tools is the Resident Evil 4 Remake. Utilizing the knife in that game can make you unstoppable and learning how to parry is integral to becoming a deadly Leon. The knives will eventually break though, and you’ll have to use something else until a repair is possible.
So, survival or survival horror games are a great example of where the limitation on tools is part of the experience. Open world RPGs, or action RPGS, on the other hand, is a terrible vehicle for weapon durability, and the addition only hinders the game. When you’ve found a weapon you like to use, or want to build around in an open world RPG, you don’t want to spend your time worrying about when it’s fine to use the item. The fun is in mastering that particular weapon and taking on the enemies you find around the world. These weapons build identity in your playthrough that can also make searching for new weapons even more purposeful.
When players have to worry about the lifespan of their arsenal, they’ll likely spend the rest of their time conserving their favorite items for when the “time is right” in most cases. That means using whatever weapons you don’t like in the process because you don’t care if they break. In other words, you’re spending your time engaging with items and mechanics you don’t enjoy in the first place.
One major genre that has gone away from weapon durability is the Soulsborne collection. FromSoftware used to feature fairly heavy penalties to weapon durability and players had to be very careful about managing their items and choosing their battles. Over time, the extent of durability on weapons became less intrusive, all the way up until Elden Ring finally appeared. Elden Ring removed durability entirely, and this allows players to simply use the weapons and armor they want without discouraging playing the game.
Is Weapon Durability Artificial Difficulty?
The way that many gamers at this point in time see difficulty has changed, mainly with generations. Games used to have much more emphasis on item management, which leans heavily into the tool limitation. It was important to be able to choose your battles and your items to make it through a game. In something like Resident Evil 4, none of the fights are mechanically difficult by any means. It’s the lack of tools and choosing what you should use that creates the challenge.
Many gamers today have become accustomed to games that utilize mechanical difficulty instead. Of course, titles like Ninja Gaiden have existed for a long time, but the mechanical difficulty is mainstream. To trace back to our previous examples, Elden Ring is almost entirely mechanical difficulty, and Breath of the Wild or Tears of the Kingdom will be based on item difficulty. For gamers like myself, weapon durability is a cheap way to limit my access to tools because the mechanics themselves are not difficult. Instead of offering up challenges that force me to master a set of mechanics, I’m forced to rely on Inventory management for the win.
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So is weapon durability artificial difficulty? I wouldn’t go that far, and it’s just a different way of adding challenges to a game. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good mechanic for open world RPGs, and as I’ve mentioned before, it only keeps the player from truly mastering weapons or using the items they enjoy.
Why do Players Like Weapon Durability in the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild?
On the other side of the debate, the durability of tools forces players to engage with everything in the game. Your spear broke? Now you have to utilize that sword you found 20 minutes ago. You’re out of ranged options? Time to throw some bombs and hope you can move onto the next stage. Instead of hoarding all the items they find along their travels, everything is used, much like a survival game.
To some, it’s also another way to add immersion into a massive open world RPG that gives reason to explore every nook and cranny that you can. You’re forced to experience all of the weapons that the game has to offer as you explore, and it takes away the stress of trying out new builds with full commitment.
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This is where the debate really splits down to the types of games players enjoy. There will never be an end to the weapon durability debate in games because it’s hard to fall somewhere in the middle. Most gamers seem to enjoy difficulty with inventory management or difficulty based on mechanics. Which one is right or wrong is really for you to decide. However, I’ll never enjoy choosing to play through 95% of a game with a stick to conserve the sword I actually like using.
And that’s all! For more guides, news, and updates, make sure to check out the dedicated The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom section of our site.