All Swords Are the Same

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

There are lots of different types of swords. There's katanas, kukris, scimitars, swords that should be logistically impossible for any human to wield, and many more. Yes, the sword is certainly a unique and varied specimen, and no two kinds have exact the same method of wielding.

Except in video games.

You see, when a game has loot and upgradable weaponry, it won't do to carry around the same dinky sword for the rest of your journey, so you're bound to get a new one. But in a game filled with oodles of weapons, developers can't always be inclined to make each and every one specifically different from the next. A sword's a sword, right?

In other words, a lot of games have the tendency to give you a "better" or "new" version of a weapon that you already own, but while it may statistically be more powerful, it looks and plays almost exactly the same as your previous weapon. You'll be amazed by how much more powerful your Ultimate Warrior Blade is in comparison to your Trainee Sword, but then you'll realize that when you swing it around in-game, it's pretty much exactly the same.

While this can be occasionally justified by the character simply gaining swords of the same style as their previous ones, in games where you control a party of characters, and more than one wield the same type of weapon, they will be able to interchange between each other. We'll ignore the fact that The Hero wields a katana, while The Lancer swings around a broadsword; you can just give them both an "Iron Sword" and be done with it.

This tends to be much more common in older or sprite-based games, before developers really could finely detail weapons to look differently. However, even in modern games, just because a weapon has a slightly different hilt or a chip on its edge doesn't mean it'll swing any different from your last one. It's also common in Tabletop Games.

See also Every Japanese Sword Is a Katana and Slice-and-Dice Swordsmanship. Check out our Useful Notes: Swords, European Swordsmanship and Kenjutsu pages for some thoughts on the differences between actual swords.

Examples of All Swords Are the Same include:

Hack and Slash

  • Blatant in Devil May Cry 2: you get a normal sword, a BFS and a fencing sword, but only the look and damage differs, the combos are exactly the same. That's one of the reasons this episode is considered the black sheep of the series.
  • Averted hard in the Dynasty Warriors series; most of the large character roster has unique weapons, and move sets to accompany them. Even some very similar weapons can play very differently!


Role-Playing Games

  • Zig-zagged with Chrono Trigger: Every character has their own weapons, so Crono can't use Frog's sword and vice versa, but every weapon that each character is able to use is wielded identically.
  • Morrowind:
    • Averted, since each weapon (and thus different types of sword) had different values when they're used for hacking, slashing or thrusting. Played straight in its sequel Oblivion where every sort of sword (apart from a few token katanas) was basically a variation on a basic crucifix sword made from different materials.
    • Practical non-sword example: staffs, halberds, and spears all use the same wielding/attacking animation. However, halberds and spears have better damage values when thrust and staffs do better damage when swung.
  • In Radiant Historia, both Stocke and Marco can wield swords, and despite the fact they are clearly two completely different types of swords (a katana and a short one-handed blade), they both can equip any and all types of swords. This also applies to armor, since Stocke, Raynie, Marco, and Rosch can all equip the same types of armor. The first three are somewhat understandable, but Rosch fitting into the same pieces of armor is a tad ridiculous.
  • RuneScape:
    • In RuneScape Classic, whose graphics were on the less-advanced side, all melee weapons had the exact same fighting animation: you just bash your opponent with it and that's that.
    • The modern game has a wider variety of stances for different types of weapon, but there are still a limited number of animations for slashing, stabbing, or bludgeoning—the stabbing animations for a bronze dagger are the same as the ones for a mithril shortsword or a pair of gardening secateurs.
  • In Shining Force, giving a character a different weapon swaps the weapon you see in their battle sprite, but otherwise, the animations are exactly the same. The only exception is the Chaos Breaker, which has fancy fire effects.
  • The majority of MMORPGs use the same animation for all weapons of the same class even if their designs are wildly different. A one-hander and a two-hander may have different animations but all one-handers will have the same animation with the same being true of all two-handers. Weapons that aren't swords may have even more drastic generalization, such as having a single animation for both polearms and javelins.
  • Vandal Hearts is this trope and then some. Whatever weapon or armour you give a character, their sprite will still use exactly the same artwork - the artwork only changes when the characters change class. This leads to the potential of giving a character a crappy shortbow, then the character having a huge pavise with a mechanical, belt driven arrow launcher strapped to the side in-game.
  • Nethack has no attack animations to concern itself about and, instead, is super-conscious about weapon type and skill of weapon use. That does not mean that simplifications and over-specificity are not maintained as Acceptable Break From Reality moments - standard long swords and katana sharing the same skill, while broadswords, scimitar, and sabers each have their own skills - but this produces a decent simulation of "all swords are not the same."
  • In Dungeons of Dredmor, you no longer incur a penalty for using a weapon that you are not skilled to wield, where it did distinguish between several types of melee weapons in the older versions.
  • A variant is averted in Mass Effect 2, while you do get upgraded versions of all of the available weapons, many of them operate rather differently from the basic gun. The Viper sniper rifle is a semi-automatic weapon dealing less damage per shot than the bolt-action Mantis sniper rifle, the Carnifex heavy pistol is slower-firing but more powerful than the Predator, and the Tempest submachine gun is less accurate than the Shuriken machine pistol but has way more bullets to make up for it.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night does a fairly good job of averting this. Of the approximately 60 bladed weapons in the game at least half of them have significant differences in animations, reach or status effects than any other weapon in the game. That's not even taking into consideration the secondary attacks of some of the weapons that some players might never even find.


Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons started with sets of weapon given to the classes and ended with much the same. AD&D1-AD&D2.5 rules, though, acknowledged that a character could be proficient in wielding, e.g. glaives but not halberds or knives but not daggers. To avoid going too far this way—because, again, there are lots of minute variants—AD&D2 halved non-proficiency penalty for closely related weapons and Complete Fighter's allowed proficiency in tight groups ("fencing blades" or "spears") at the cost of two or broad groups ("pole weapons", "small throwing weapons") at the cost of three. Groups overlap with each other, styles add diversity on top of this, giving different tactical advantages/disadvantages to Single weapon style specialist and Two-handed style specialist using the same bastard sword (or a club).
  • Averted in RuneQuest. Your skill is in a specific type of sword and if you switch from ,say, one scimitar to another there is a temporary penalty to simulate getting used to the balance of your new sword.
  • GURPS groups various similar kinds swords all together in the Basic Set to play this straight. In the Martial Arts and Low-Tech books however weapons are only grouped together if they are completely identical, like a Japanese yari and a generic spear.
  • Almost averted in Warhammer 40,000, where weapons are visually different (combat blade, chainsword, powerfist) to adhere to the WYSIWYG rule. However, a sword could "count as" a power weapon, daemon weapon, frost blade or something else depending on who's carrying it and what the owning player wants it to be. Warhammer Fantasy Battle itself plays it a lot straighter, with a sword (for example) able to represent a generic hand weapon, one of many magical weapons or even a Runefang as the player wants to use it.


Turn Based Strategy

  • Averted in Final Fantasy Tactics. Precise classes have precise types of weapons, and they don't mix.
  • Taken to absurd lengths in the Fire Emblem series. Non-magical weapons are broken down into four categories: swords, lances, axes, and bows. Not accounting for all of the different styles and variations of weapons that different classes can wield, any character that can use a weapon type can use every weapon of that type. It's absurd enough when a "Wo Dao" used by Eirika (or a shamshir in the same game) becomes a rapier, but even more ridiculous assassin becomes a pair of knives; whereas swordmasters use them like a katana.
    • It is inverted in the Jugdral and Tellius games where each sprite and model show the differences in the weapons no matter which one is equipped. Quite impressive for the sprite-based Jugdral games, but par for the course for the model-based Tellius games.

Other

  • Despite its obsessively realistic combat rules, Dwarf Fortress plays this one straight with actual swords, at least for now. There's only three and a half actual types of sword: Shortsword and the scimitar (identical in all but name), the longsword (actually a bastardsword) and the two-handed sword. All of them use the same generic "sword" skill. Of course, dwarves can't actually forge longswords or scimitars without minor modding and can't even wield two-handed swords, but going from a shortsword and shield to a bastardsword that from a dwarf's perspective is as long as a zweihander has no skill penalty.
    • Averted for polearms and ranged weapons, however; spears and pikes use a separate skill, as do bows, crossbows and blowguns. There's also a generic "Fighter" and "Archer" stat which gives a bonus to an attack roll made with any melee and ranged attack respectively.
  • In the Star Wars franchise, Jedi wield "light sabres". What's wrong with that? A sabre is curved. And of course light doesn't curve. Well it kind of does, but it does not do so passing through no more then three feet of the same medium in any way that can be perceived. And there is no reason for Jedi to have a curved sword as they are not fighting from horseback. In any event, insofar as it resembles faintly real martial arts, it resembles more rapier, or perhaps Italian cut-and-thrust sword fighting then it does fighting with a sabre. So maybe they were talking about sporting sabres? Yes but fights with those last for a few seconds and have little Flynning (just watch one on YouTube). Or maybe we can just settle for the fact that it was "A long time ago in a galaxy far away" and they are representing a different language. Then why did they not just use "sword" instead of such a specialized term as "sabre"? Or maybe they just did not know "sabre" is a specific kind of sword and one that does not look a bit like "light sabres" do. Or maybe they just thought it was a cool word. But somewhere a museum curator is crying.