Fake Balance

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As Thomas you can shoot more accurately, throw lassos, and climb ledges; and as Ray you can open the pause menu, restart the mission, and choose Thomas instead, you fucking idiot! Ray takes less damage, but health regenerates so it hardly matters anyway, and he can dual wield pistols, which means twice as many weapons you have to stop and reload every fifteen nanoseconds.

Fake Balance is what happens when a game or an aspect of a game seems balanced on paper, but actual playing reveals major problems that were not anticipated by the designers. This is a reason why a game can have Character Tiers despite being balanced in theory.

For clarification, Fake Balance is caused when the game designer intends to balance the game, but fails to do so. Intentionally putting in Game Breaker or joke characters does not count, since the designer has no intention of balancing the game anyway.

There are several different cases of Fake Balance:

  • Skill Underestimated/Overestimated: Probably the main cause of Fake Balance in fighting games is when the game designers underestimate or overestimate a skill's usefulness in the hands of a capable player. Underestimating a skill may cause the character's weakness to be ignored; for example, allowing a Fragile Speedster to hit like a Mighty Glacier, or at least get in more damage more reliably in the same space of time. Overestimating a skill may cause the character to become an unintentional Joke Character.
  • Unbalanced skillset: If a character has a move set with a few overly powerful moves, the counterbalance to this may be to have several moves be near-useless. But the existence of bad moves does nothing to reduce the effectiveness of the good ones. A skilled player is likely to exploit the good moves while ignoring the useless ones, often taking away from the variety of the game.
  • Luck-based balance: Luck-based gameplay easily falls into Fake Balance because of issues with the Random Number God, such that a match between two skilled players is decided by luck, rather than skill, so an unskilled player can beat a skilled one (except in movies where The Magic Poker Equation applies). This can often apply to Trading Card Games, where the randomness of draws theoretically balances the match, but skilled players can stack their decks to limit this factor.
  • Rarity based balance: Found in certain Trading Card Games formats, where rare cards are often much more powerful than common cards. This form of balance is based on the notion that everyone has an equal chance of getting the game-winning cards, and thus an equal chance of winning. However, this can result in having matches decided by who was luckier rather than who was more skilled, so it can be considered a form of luck-based balance in certain game formats.
  • Unfair/situational advantage: When a character/deck (A) has an almost unwinnable advantage over certain type of character/deck (B), but is too weak against other characters/decks (C). On the statistic sheet, A might have a balanced winrate, B might have a below average winrate and C might have an above average winrate. But Deck A isn't balanced and C might not be better than B. This results in a practice known as "counter-picking", where a player makes their choice based on the other player's choice. This naturally leads to all players hiding their choices and making the game feel like an elaborate version of Rock-Paper-Scissors played before instead of whatever actual gameplay was intended, determining the outcome of the game before it starts.
  • Relies on stalemating/winning: These characters have over-the-top strengths when they're on balance or winning, but if they're knocked off balance or simply not allowed to get the advantage, their weaknesses actually come into play big time. However, getting the former off balance is tricky business to begin with, and the latter only has to be stalemated. The only conceivable reason why these characters could be considered "balanced" is because humans can make mistakes too.

STOP! Before proceeding, please remember that Tropes Are Not Bad. Games are designed to reward those who take the time and effort to study them. A player who has more expertise at a game should win more, because he or she knows the game's loopholes and how to exploit them. (Games that lack this feature are considered to have Fake Balance in the other direction.) This trope only comes into play when a particular strategy, skillset, or loophole becomes dominant over a game which, purportedly, contains nothing so ultra-powerful.

Consider also that skill levels of players vary, and simply adding an example because you feel it is “cheap” is missing the point, not to mention a great way to start an Edit War. For the types of players likely to do this, see Scrub, Munchkin, Complacent Gaming Syndrome, and "Stop Having Fun!" Guys. May be caused by a Power Creep.

Examples of Fake Balance include:

Card Games[edit | hide | hide all]

  • An example of a failed attempt of balance by rarity can be found in Magic: The Gathering. When the game was first released, it was known that cards such as Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, Timetwister and the Moxes were game-breakingly powerful if present in sufficient quantities. However, they believed that since most players would only buy a starter deck and a couple of boosters, their power would never become an issue. This is especially evident when you look at the initial deck construction rules: 40-card minimum for decks, and no maximum for any individual cards. The deck of nothing but Black Lotus/Channel/Fireball was 100% legal, and not even the most broken deck you could build. Constructed tournament later evolved to have a 60 card minimum limit and a maximum of 4 individual non-land cards, thus effectively removing the fake balance.
    • Modern Magic The Gathering still has balance by rarity due to its rarity system, which recently added a new rarity. It should be noted that rarity balance exists in limited formats, such as booster draft and sealed deck, where certain powerful cards could easily help the player to win but they may well not get one of these cards, let alone multiple copies, but does not exist in constructed play where people will spend whatever it takes to win.
      • In Magic limited formats, there is the BREAD principle, which describe what card to draft - Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Advantage and Dregs. While Removal, Evasion, Advantage and Dregs cards are available in every rarity, Bombs are usually in the rare slot. A deck with a good amount of bomb and removal cards usually has a considerable upper hand. Whether a player obtained those cards by luck or by skills is something that is often discussed in MTG boards.
      • In Limited, that $50 Baneslayer Angel is still neutralized by that 5-cent Doom Blade, Pacifism, Essence Scatter, and so on. As these cards are common, they show up far more often than Baneslayer, and odds are very good that even a bad draft deck can still beat someone who has that card. Assuming they even draw it. Bombs can give a very commanding advantage to their controller, but are by no means an automatic win.
      • Also, some of the best bombs available (such as Fireball) are uncommon.
    • A cause of Situational Advantage also frequently arises. As cards "rotate" (new ones are printed, older made illegal in most common formats) for a good portion of environments, there will arise one or two "tier 1" decks that prompt development of counter-decks aimed to specifically hurt those dominants. Said rogue decks are less powerful overall, so any (semicompetent) deck but the dominant actually has a good chance against it - but will likely fall to the tier 1. The resulting rock-paper-scissors deck choice process is known as metagaming.
    • The luck-based balance gets a bit worse when one considers cards like Enlightened Tutor, which lets you reshuffle your deck, with the artifact or enchantment of your choice on top. When you consider that many of the big game breakers are artifacts or enchantments, and Enlightened Tutor costs one white mana and can be played just before you draw, yeah. Enlightened Tutor, by the way, is legal in Vintage.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh Card Game is also famous for the same reason as Magic: The Gathering at game balance. Many of the most powerful cards were not only Game Breaker cards, they were considered "rare", with some others being “Secret rares” that would never ever be encountered by the average player. Now here's what creates the fake balance… after awhile, you could buy tins with most of those secret rare cards in there.
    • Even later still, many of those cards will probably be found as Commons in preconstructed decks or compilation sets, thus devaluing the originals by several degrees. Yu-Gi-Oh! is not kind to the secondary market...
    • Some of the original cards have been banned from tournaments such as Monster Reborn (which alternates being banned with Call of the Haunted for some bizarre reason), Witch of the Black Forest, Pot of Greed and Change of Heart because they lack a 'cost' for using them and can potentially help you get powerful monsters early on, making it seem like they are just creating a balance. However, most of the new powerful monsters have effects that either: prevent destruction; allow them to be brought back; or simply prevent them being targeted by spells, traps or effects while also having 2000 or higher ATTACK, making most stronger than the original strong monsters. Plus they are also easy to summon usually and very few of these monsters have damaging effects for the owner of the card. Also, if you do not have the specific type of deck with just the right countermeasures against the one you are facing, then you can be screwed from the very beginning of the duel.
  • In the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, (almost) all cards have a "Destiny" value in the top right corner. During just about any type of confrontation (aiming a weapon, resolving a battle, holding a lightsaber duel, attacking the Death Star's exhaust port), one or both players were allowed to draw the top card of their deck and add its Destiny value to whatever total they had previously. The rationale was to allow The Force (read: luck) to affect the outcome, and since the Force is always with the underdog, common / weak cards always came with high Destiny values. Unfortunately, the strong cards were often so powerful that they were essentially immune to the effects of Destiny, so, in the end, it didn't work.
    • Luke Surl once proposed to "even things out"... so that all would be fair.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Dungeons & Dragons had Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards from the get go, resulting in exactly what would be expected - wizards being really tough to get up to a decent level, but if they survived (and in a party, they would survive, especially in later iterations like 3rd edition) they were just broken. This was not specific to wizards; all full casters tended to be broken because they had abilities which simply didn't care about how many hit points enemies had, and which enemies had no defenses against - indeed, some even worked against enemies immune to magic because they did not directly affect them, and such difficulties could often be circumvented anyway by simply focusing on buffing yourself to godlike capabilities. This was fixed in 4th edition by greatly restricting what magic users were capable of as well as expanding what other characters could do, resulting in complaints by players who completely missed the point - that if a character can do everything there's no need for an adventuring party, or other classes.
    • 3.5 had this problem when they introduced a Magic Knight class, the hexblade, and overestimated the usefulness of being able to cast spells in armor (there were already low-level spells which acted as superior substitutes to armor). As a result, the hexblade couldn't cast or fight very well. The designers basically admitted that they'd messed up, and their next attempt at the archetype (the duskblade) was much more balanced (A low tier 3 with tier 1 and 2 belonging to classes considered to have Game Breaker stats). The opposite problem was the full caster classes, all of which completely shattered the game - most could turn themselves into better melee combatants than the actual melee combatant classes, and even worse, oftentimes that was pointless anyway because they could do even STRONGER things. High level full casters make the game utterly unplayable because they simply cannot be threatened effectively by anything which does not use similar tactics. This criticism of the game was termed as "rocket tag", as in, whoever hit with their rocket first won.
    • D&D is absolutely FULL of these. Physical defense, Base Attack Bonus, Hit Point damage from any source being aimed at an enemy, feats, mundane skills and many others were also grossly overvalued by the developers, leading to the characters that rely on these things being unable to contribute.
    • This is not helped by D&D's spell list being filled with options that an experienced player will have notice work well, as opposed to things which -sound- awesome but really aren't that great in practice. At level 1, there's things like Color Spray and Entangle, spells which will remove groups of enemies from being able to contribute unless the enemy can succeed a difficult (for the level they're at) die roll. At level 5, you get such staples as Fireball and Lightning bolt. The problem is, Fireball is a much more effective spell than Lightning Bolt, because Fireball affects a 40-foot sphere and Lightning Bolt happens to go on a four-hundred foot straight line—cool, but enemies are more likely to take some sort of spread formation than single-file themselves. And this is just at the low levels. At high levels, you have Polar Ray (You get Fireball at level 5, it does damage to multiple targets. You get Polar Ray at level 15, it does slightly more damage to one target in less range and you have to hit the enemy to succeed) vs stuff like Plane Shift (normally used to move the party to one plane or another, including the various afterlives. A sub-use is to send an enemy to a plane of your choice. So you can literally send someone to Hell to remove them from combat). Ironically, the game works better' using the stronger effects, because monsters/other encounters tend to have them and if you tone down the casting classes, you'd better remember to tone down all many hundred of pages of monsters, too.
      • It's 3.0 trend to simplify everything, even when this is Completely Missing the Point. To go with the same example, AD&D2 has Lightning Bolt slightly shaped and ricocheting from the walls while chipping them—more useful than a Fireball unless in the open field, but tricky. In simplifying it to a straight line, it loses most of its utility, and is no longer as useful as Fireball.
      • Fake Balance exists in many cases because game designers could not predict the reliance on House Rules, since so few people play D&D strictly by the rules-as-written. Things that are balanced for level 1-5 characters using the elite array of stats suddenly stop being balanced when you jump right to level 10 with much higher stats. Player characters are much more powerful when they can spend vast starting wealth on any magic item in the books than if they have to get by with whatever random junk they find.
    • Wu Jens basically get free metamagic feats if their narrator plays them a certain way. (eg, unable to touch a dead body, cannot cut hair, cannot bathe...) However, some players often pick the taboos and set them to stuff the player or Wu Jen wouldn't even do in the first place!
      • This is basically a role-playing problem. The GM should step in and make it so that their taboos are more than free metamagic feats.
    • One of the early flubs was rarity based balance as a counter to the Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards phenomenon. Certainly a high level wizard is much more powerful than a similarly-leveled fighter, but wizards are easily killed at low levels. Consequently, many more fighters survive to reach high levels than wizards. This makes a certain amount of sense in terms of world balance, but for an adventuring party likely to contain one wizard and one fighter, it doesn't help very much.
      • Another, related, form of Fake Balance was race based class level limits. Only humans could advance any class to any level; all demihuman races were not only limited in what classes they could choose, but every class had a level cap. In many cases, a very low one, lower than level 10. In theory, this was meant to balance the racial abilities of the demihumans, who received extra powers like nightvision and bonuses to saving throws; in turn, humans received unlimited growth potential. The problem was that level caps are only a limit if anybody reaches the cap. If the campaign never gets high enough level for caps to matter, then the caps don't balance anything. If a campaign *does* get that high of level, however, than the cap is crippling. Either way, nothing is balanced.
    • Another odd form of overestimating the skill of players is overestimating the skills of the GM. A good GM will vary his combat encounters enough that some "gamebreaking" builds will realize they're really just suffering Crippling Overspecialization and haven't been forced outside of the player's comfort zone. He'll also test the player characters out of combat, forcing them to rely on skills and knowledge. Varying encounters greatly is one of the best ways to fight spammed attacks and minmaxed builds by exploiting their lack of versatility. As long as the Game Master is not a Killer Game Master who makes their players suffer, it's a good cure for Complacent Gaming Syndrome. However, some GMs just aren't that good at it, resulting in greatly unbalanced games because the players have no incentive to find new tricks and just reuse the same builds and powers.
  • Despite being designed with an eye for better balance, 4th Edition D&D hasn't entirely avoided this. Initially, many players did not understand how to play controller characters properly, and there were a large number of what amounted to fake choices in the original power set for the wizard, the first controller class. Controllers do exactly that, control the battlefield and debuff enemies, but many players picked area damage spells instead, which were terrible because the Wizard is not a damage-dealing class. Bad players Players used to the previous editions, where wizards were damage-dealers rather than controllers, constantly whined complained about wizards being underpowered not being able to do what they used to be able to do in previous editions, while, ironically, they were actually one of the strongest classes, and acquired some game breaking abilities at higher levels which required errata.
    • And that is why you should not play a wizard as a Nuker, but as a Debuffer or Mezzer. Even from the first book, the wizard has huge area effects that cause a group of enemies to lose half their actions, or fling them halfway across the battlefield. In the hands of a beginner, the wizard is a sub-par damage dealer. In the hands of a skilled player, it will give your DM nightmares. Unfortunately, this is bad design; later controllers ditched most of the bad damage dealing spells to simply make sure you cannot accidentally make a useless character, instead replacing them with more control options.
    • Other balance items that look good on paper but really don't work: Weapons with a higher accuracy are much, much better than weapons that lose accuracy for special properties, due to the way the game math works at higher levels. Because most powers only have an effect if they connect, hitting is much important than some incidental rider ability on the strike, and yet weapons got balanced between those that had extra accuracy and those that didn't but had other effects. This is less of an issue for fighters, who have powers which make some of the less accurate weapons much stronger (hammers are amongst the best fighter weapons, despite their slightly lower accuracy, for this very reason), but for every other class...
    • On the DM's side come Solo monsters. Solo Monsters are supposed to represent the same challenge to a group of adventurers that 5 normal monsters do, usually by having higher defenses and four times the normal monster hit points. This didn't work. Solo monsters were derided as boring grindfests. The problems boiled down to the fact that Solo monsters had too many hit points and too few actions - a solo monster could easily be locked down by status effects and didn't have the number of actions a full crew of monsters did, but they were too tough to be taken down in a reasonable amount of time. new versions of solo monsters have more actions (up to and including extra whole turns), more resistances to status effects, slower defenses and hit points (still high, but lower than before) and more "state-changing" abilities. Still, the best use of a "Solo" monster is paired with a few other normal monsters.
    • For those non-players: Orbizards (or Orb Wizards) are Wizards that get a special ability as long as they wield an orb as an implement - as opposed to those who wield a staff, a wand and so on. These also get special abilities, but they weren't nearly as powerful. Orbizards could once per encounter debuff a monster's saving throw against an effect the wizard cast. To succeed on a saving throw, you have to get a 10 or higher on a d20 roll. Solo monsters get a +5 to saving throws, which means they can succeed on a 5 or higher. But the orbizard could - if he took the right items, skills and feats - debuff a monster's save by -17! So you cast "Sleep" or any spell that makes the monster unconscious and needs a save to be ended onto the enemy, couple that with your -17 to saves, and even the highest level monster in the game would need to roll a 22 to succeed. On a d20. This could trivialize entire encounters, and was WAY overpowered. They errataed it out.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000 both suffer from this disease due to all of the reasons above, but also because some codices or army books aren't updated in years. In theory, powerful units are balanced by costing more points than weaker Cannon Fodder, but due to a gradual Power Creep, Power Seep, armies that don't have recent updates tend to find themselves simply out-classed by competitors which have new rules written. It can be downright maddening, such as when an army finds itself losing a special advantage because it is incompatible with the current rules. Armies also have had "legacy" rules which interact with the game's current rules to create an Unwinnable situation. The solution seems to be to give everyone occasional moments in the sun. It just may take twelve to thirteen years for some armies.
    • Sometimes provoked intentionally in order to boost the sales of a flagging army. "HA! Imperial Guardsmen have flashbulb guns and die when breathed on!". Cue new codex. "Guardsmen are cheaper, can shoot rapidfire in ranks if they're under half range and don't move and they have better AP? Which way to the Cadia box?"
    • This is the current problem with the Daemonhunters, specifically the Grey Knights. Even the book itself acknowledges that the Knights are not meant to be used as a stand-alone army, however with the new GW policy of "no allies", that is the only way to field the Knights. In addition, since the change in rules of how to play Daemons (they no longer suffered instability) the Grey Knights are effectively paying extra points for abilities that can never be used (to balance out this advantage in previous editions, Daemons gain Sustained Attack, meaning that any destroyed daemons automatically return back onto the table free of charge. However that rule is still in use).
  • Warhammer 40k has done pretty much every example on this list.
    • Skill Underestimated: 5th edition Outflanking. Essentially, this allows you to deploy a unit by walking on from a board edge, usually allowing a brutal assault onto anything near that edge. Since you have a 2/3 shot of deploying along the side you want (1/3 of getting the flank you want, 1/3 of getting the flank you don't want, 1/3 of being able to choose which flank you want to deploy on), it's not exactly unreliable. What's more: any unit with the incredibly-common Scouts or Infiltrate special rules can use Outflank deployment. Cue the demise of any army with a Crippling Overspecialization in shooting. (So long as said army doesn't deploy vehicles en masse, which are far less vulnerable to close combat so long as they move at least 6" every turn.) Lash of Submission also deserves honorable mention, as Games Workshop themselves reportedly remarked how they didn't think anybody would use it in broken ways when they wrote and tested it.
    • Skill Overestimated: Tyranid Pyrovores. Aside from their perversion of the Tyranid fluff,[1] the Pyrovore has so many caveats on its not-that-good ability that the unit itself becomes veritably worthless. Essentially, a Pyrovore must suffer Instant Death, roll a 4+ on a six-sided die, and then it will radiate a strength 3 hit to all models, friend or foe, within about 2.5".
    • Unbalanced Army List: Chaos Space Marines. Though they possess a number of average units (Havocs, Raptors, Chaos Lords), nothing compels a player to use these mediocre units any more than absolutely necessary, instead enabling players to just take the best stuff possible (Berserkers, Plague Marines, Daemon Princes).
    • Luck-Based Balance: Chaos Daemons, whose racial hat is Confusion Fu. Every model has a fairly bad invulnerable save that is generally inferior to most other armor types, but they tend to not have many good saves at all. Roll well and you will shrug off tons of firepower. Roll poorly (and more often than not, you will roll poorly), and you'll take a ton of casualties every time an enemy unit shoots at one of yours. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. You literally cannot guarantee that any particular unit will start the game on the table, and that even assumes nobody dies to a Deep Strike mishap. Chaos Daemons were designed to be super-powerful, yet balanced by their ability to fail at unpredictable intervals. In practice, they're basically a catastrophic failure waiting to happen.
      • Luck-Based Balance used to be the Shtick of the Orcs in earlier editions, where many of their most powerful weapons hat random range, strength or effect radius.
    • Rarity based balance: More representative as a price-based balance. If you can't afford Forge World's "Ann'grath the Unbound", you're not going to field one. Simple as that. Also represented by 0-1 units, which can only be used a maximum of once, no matter the size of your force. These limits are usually relegated to special characters, who have various abilities that occasionally toe the lines of game balance.
    • Unfair / Situational Advantage: Jaws of the World Wolf is possibly the most Useless Useful Spell in the game. It requires purchasing a very expensive yet easily-killable model. It can't target vehicles. It can be blocked or made more difficult to cast. It's incredibly unlikely to kill any individual model. A clever opponent can minimize its effect by spacing out. And it can instantly kill any model that fails an Initiative test. It also lets you effectively pick which model(s) you want to target, something usually not permitted barring exceptionally rare special abilities. And to make it worse, no saving throws are allowed to any model that is consumed, trumping armor saves, invulnerable saves, cover saves, and even special rules that prevent the model from being instantly killed, which makes Jaws (potentially) into 40k's Infinity+1 Sword. Because Jaws is less useful against higher-initiative models, there's almost a sense in which every unit in the game is judged by whether or not it can easily be killed by Jaws. Woe betide any unit / army if it's a Mighty Glacier with no anti-psyker support (like Ork HQ units).
    • Relies on Stalemating / Winning: It is incredibly easy to play for a draw. One of the most blatant offenders is the DAVU setup for the Eldar. DAVU essentially takes the least expensive Troops unit purchasable (5 Dire Avengers) and puts them inside a fast transport vehicle (like a Vehicle Upgrade) to allow the vehicle to capture objectives quickly at the end of the game. The way to beat that is to basically outclass these expensive and not terribly numerous vehicles.

First-Person Shooter[edit | hide]

  • Many FPS games such as Call of Duty have the problem of similar but grossly unbalanced weapon sets. At a medium range, nothing beats assault rifles and marksman weapons; likewise, extremely short-ranged weapons like submachineguns and shotguns are next to useless outside of room to room fighting.
    • Additionally, in Modern Warfare, the imbalance grows as a player's multiplayer level increases, since levels grant better attachments and perks to already powerful weapons.
      • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1 & 2 have this problem largely with automatic weapons, which are ostensibly balanced due to increased recoil. However, since most maps are rather small and such guns are mostly capable of killing any player before the recoil kicks in entirely, skilled players can dominate most maps with their automatic weapons alone. If they run out of ammo, they can simply pick up another one or use the Bandolier/Scavenger perk to start with/grab more.
        • Not to mention the grenade launchers, which are supposed to be balanced due to limited ammunition (the player spawns with two grenades, which). However, each grenade is essentially worth at least one free kill, and when you run out of grenade ammunition, you can simply switch back to your assault rifle. In 2It Got Worse. There were methods to get more than two rifle grenades.
      • The perks have this problem too. The ones that specifically enhanced your ability for direct shootouts were much more usable than the others since… that's what the multiplayer consists of in general. While specific combinations of them could be more useful than the direct ones alone, it didn't stop those ones being the perks most chosen.
        • The Double Tap perk. The Stopping Power perk increased the damage of bullet by 40%, generally making bullets take one bullet less to kill. Double Tap made weapons fire faster. On slow-firing weapons, Double Tap allows you to fire again much quicker. On semi-automatic weapons, Double Tap pretty much does nothing. For automatic weapons that do 30 damage on average, they are equal in killing speed. On automatic weapons that do more, Stopping Power kills a bit faster. However, increasing the fire rate allows increases recoil and the chance on wasting shots on automatic weapons. Needless to say, with the popularity of automatics, Double Tap was used rarely.
    • Call of Duty 2 and World at War. both suffer from brutal gaps in weapon effectiveness, since they're set during the second world war. Each country's weapon set includes bolt-action rifles, semiautomatic carbines, and fully automatic submachine guns. The submachine guns are by far the most used and useful, as the rifles are nearly impossible to use and the semiautomatics just don't have enough firepower to compete.
      • This is intentionally used in many servers that implement anti-spamming measures. The end result is that a maximum quota for how many players can spawn with each weapon is in place, meaning that there's mostly bolt-action, some semi-auto and automatic, and just a few rockets and flamethrowers.
      • The MP-40 of World at War was widely considered an overpowered weapon, which a developer from Treyarch admitted and apologized for here. The imbalance was on account of the weapon being balanced mathematically so that its direct time to kill a player, if all the bullets hit, was made equal to the killing speed of the other sub-machine guns within their respective effective ranges. Problem was, seemingly, the gun itself was not properly playtested and is why the MP 40 was able to slip into the released game so overpowered.
  • Team Fortress 2 had the Sandman, a good example of an unbalanced skillset. The Sandman's baseball attack can could knock out a player temporarily, but the actual melee attack was weaker to make up for it. But nobody used the Sandman for its melee attack, since the Scattergun was stronger at melee range anyway; the Sandman amounted to a certain kill, provided you could hit with the ball (which wasn't as hard as some players liked to claim). Even worse, the Sandman could stun players under the effect of an Ubercharge (temporary invincibility), which meant either a few wasted seconds (if you hit the charge target) or, worse, a wasted Uber (if you hit the Medic). All of this made it the single most hated unlockable, with CEVO actually banning it from competitive play.
    • Valve went around a lot with the issue, mostly implementing damage reduction on stunned players (which sorta worked, but didn't really make a whole lot of sense). The Soldier/Demoman update seems to have finally resolved the issue: getting hit with the ball now puts you into a "fleeing" state, which means you can still run away, but completely removes the damage reduction. (You can still get the "stun" effect with a long-range hit, but that's not always practical, i.e. not every map even has a space long enough to do it in.)
    • The other downside of the Sandman was that it removed the Scout's double-jump. Scouts were eventually given back the double-jump, but were given a health downgrade.
    • On a more general note, the classes themselves. Pyro is a good example. On paper, he is a Lightning Bruiser with a passive damage ability, balanced by his lack of effective range. In practice, he is weaker than most offensive classes even in that range and his passive damage is very easily countered.
      • Fire used to be a reliable way to kill someone, but it seems like every update another counter to fire is introduced. At first, only medkits, water, Medics, and Dispensers could put out fire. Now take that, and add on Jarate, the airblast, Bonk drink (temporarily negates the fire's effect), Mad Milk, and the Demo's 50% damage reduction from fire while using the Chargin' Targe. Especially the airblast, since it only costs a Pyro a tenth of his ammo supplies with two of his four primary weapons, and ammo is extremely common in this game, and can put out several players at once.
    • A less noticeable example would be some of the unlockable melee weapons compared to their default counterparts, specifically for the Pyro's Fire Axe, Heavy's Fist, and Soldier's Shovel. The unlockable weapons generally are better in specific circumstances and worse in others (Axtinguisher does huge damage against burning enemies and less against others, the Equalizer does less damage at high health and more at low health while boosting speed), or grant special abilities at the cost of making them less effective as weapons (the G.R.U. lets the Heavy run faster while draining his health, but do less damage). The catch is that default weapons for those classes are almost entirely useless in the first place even as Emergency Weapons (the Rocket Launcher reloads as fast as a melee weapon is used while the Minigun and Flamethrower only need to reload when entirely out of ammo, which rarely happens), so there's nowhere to go but up most of the time.
  • Command & Conquer: Renegade was balanced in that GDI and Nod each had an approximately equal chance of winning a given match. Other than that, you had infantry which were only worth a damn fighting other infantry, matches that devolved into neverending reverse tug-of-war tank battles due to the repair mechanics, hitscan snipers who could kill with 1-3 bodyshots, and so on. To avoid taking up the entire page with how this game failed to achieve balance, I'll leave it at that.
    • It's nice to see how faithfully they translated the RTS into an FPS so well, as C&C has always been about tank rushes.
  • Counter-Strike gives us the AWP. It's theoretically balanced because it's a bolt action sniper rifle (thus fairly slow-firing) that fires a big bullet. It isn't balanced at all because a shot to anywhere but the legs can and will kill the target, so the reload doesn't matter unless you're outnumbered. The Automatic sniper rifles - the D3 and Kreig 550 - do considerably less damage, and fire fast enough to be fairly useable as assault rifles.
    • What's more, switching to a different weapon and back to the AWP takes less time than letting the reload animation play, increasing the rate-of-fire

Role-Playing Game[edit | hide]

  • In Pokémon, Wobbuffet (and its baby form, Wynaut) has very low stats and learns just eight moves (with no direct attacks). But its moves are very well-chosen to exploit its ability, Shadow Tag, which traps the enemy. Since it breaks one of Pokemon's key concepts, switching to another Pokemon, Wobbuffet is highly treasured in competitions that allow trainers to use the Game Breaker Olympus Mons—he's currently 9th on Smogon's "uber" server. In all other tournaments he's banned.
    • In a more general note, Pokemon is balanced by luck as there is quite a number of moves with their additional effects chance of occurring is determined by the Random Number God.
    • The whole type chart in the first Pokemon trilogy suffered from fake balance. The designers greatly underrated the Psychic type; not only were both its countertypes broken (Bug and Ghost had no strong moves, and a programming error made Psychics immune to Ghost instead of the opposite), but it was strong against Poison, a type the designers had spread around the Pokeworld like it was going out of style. The apparent balance between "physical" and "special" types was an illusion; physical Attack and Defense were separate stats, but the Special stat governed both offense and defense, making strong Specialists automatically tanks. (Needless to say, Psychic is one of the special types.) Meanwhile, the Dragon type basically failed to exist offensively—its only move was Dragon Rage, which always does 40 damage. The second generation addressed these flaws, and each succeeding generation has fine-tuned the system further.
      • However, there is still the consistent problem caused by an unbalance in what moves outside your type most Pokemon can use. Just taking the core "grass->water->fire->grass" triangle, it is unbalanced by the fact that nearly every water Pokemon can learn Ice Beam, Ice Punch, and/or Avalanche (which are super effective against Grass) while few Grass types can learn moves effective against Fire types and few Fire types can learn moves effective against Water-types (this was somewhat fixed by letting many of them learn Solarbeam and/or Energy Ball). In fact, Ice types are supposed to be Glass Cannons, as they have many weaknesses and are only resistant to themselves, while Ice attacks are Super Effective against many types, but the abundance of non-Ice types which learn Ice-type moves simply leads to Ice-types being horribly underused and Ice-type moves being practically omnipresent.
    • Two typing stands out the most in pokemon other than Gen 1 Psychic which was Gen 4 Dragon and Water. Dragon only has two weakness, ice and itself, however it has a ridiculously strong moves(something that it lacks in previous gens) that is only resisted by Steel types. Water has two weakness, Grass and Electric, both of which are easilly covered by 2 relatively widespread move and offensively is super effective against Fire, Ground, and Rock while only resisted by Water, and Grass. The issue comes from the fact that Dragon is only resisted by Steel, coupled with its absurdly and easilly covered powerful moves, and Water is such a well rounded type amongst the typing it can do almost every role.
    • Another issue with those two typing are the fact that it has ridiculously well spread moves on both offensive side. EVERY Dragon type can learn Outrage, Dragon Pulse, and Draco Meteor and Kingdra is the only fully evolved Dragon type pokemon that can't learn Dragon Claw. As for Water types, Hydro Pump are extremely common, and Surf, Waterfall and Aqua Tail are spread amongst every Water Type in existence. While other types has more powerful and specialized moves on one side of the Offense, no other types has the combined ballance of typing coverage and movepool that these two has, so much that there's only one Dragon type that is not OU on Smogon Tier List for gen 4 one which is considered as really underpowered stats-wise, and Water has the most number of OU pokemon and even the non OU are perfectly usable in OU. Even in Ubers, Dragon is considered the most Dangerous offensive typing of the tier while the so called "King Of Ubers" is a Water Type.
    • Generation 5 has one with the weathers. Sun, Sandstorm and Rain is supposed to ballance each other and the metagame is supposed to be who defend their summoner and win the game. It worked well, until players realized that Water are such an amazing and well rounded offensive typing that is far easier to Spam than Fire, Grass, Steel, Rock and Ground. As a bonus, Swift Swim pokemon has boosted speed and Same Type Attack Bonus. Chlorophyl pokemon only got boosted speed, No Charge Solarbeam, which is risky in a case of Weather switcher switch ins, and fire type moves boost that Grass types lacks, while Sand Rush and Sand Force abuser need their weather one to get Doubled speed or 30% attack boost(Rain gives 50% to water without a need of ability) but not both at once. Rain is the only one that boost both speed and offensive powers.
    • Another issue comes from the summoner itself. Sand has two summoner both of which are OU in gen 4, and Hippowdon is an amazing Tank while the other summoner is Tyranitar who is an OU veteran that is considered as a really influental pokemon ever since its introduction. The other two summoner are a former NU pokemon. However Politoed is a relatvely bulky Water type that gets Offensive boost with Rain and relatively good movepool. Ninetales is a One Trick pony both statswise and movepool wise, ridiculously frail by the weather summoner's standard and is weak to Stealth Rock AND vulnerable to spikes, for a pokemon that's supposed to switch repeatedly. Hence the Weather metagame at the time become Rain dominating with its "Broken Trio"(a collective term for Kingdra, Kabutops and Ludicolo which is the most used Rain Sweeper) and a bunch of other Rain abusers, Sand behind it with Excadrill, Landorus and sometime Terrakion, and Sun relatively obscure with Venusaur, Volcarona, and Heatran as their ussual core.
    • Stealth Rock is a perfect example of "Everybody's Cheap". In single battles it's absurdly powerful (one use damages every opponent that comes out as much as 50% health, since, unlike the other entry hazards, it factors weakness and resistance into its damage), but an enormous number of Pokemon in 4th gen can learn it. As a result, every team uses it and every Pokemon's value is judged through a filter of how much they're affected by Stealth Rock. The developers attempted to rein this behavior in in the fifth generation by making it only available to monsters who learn it normally by level up or through breeding.
    • Regigigas falls under "Skill Overestimated". It has extremely high stats in nearly every category, but is hindered by its "Slow Start" ability, which halves its attack and speed until it stays in battle for five straight turns. Unfortunately, five turns is more than enough time for your opponent to take advantage of, and switching out resets the timer, so once Regigigas is sent out in battle you have to keep it there, which takes away a big part of battle strategy. To make matters worse, to try and make it even more "balanced", it is the only Pokémon who can learn TMs that is unable to learn Protect or Rest, two moves that could normally help it try and stall for time. In the end, the game designers went way too far in trying to balance Regigigas's power, and it ended up becoming useless instead.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has this problem in spades, the mage class is so absurdly effective with any of its possible builds, nothing comes close to its raw dps potential and frankly mages aren't much squishier than the rogues. Meanwhile any warrior built as anything but a tank is essentially worthless as anything but a distraction and nothing but a drain on healing and the rogue requires near constant micromanagement in order to achieve a damage output that the mages could outdo any day, well that and simply survive because everything tends to aggro on them as soon as they get one good hit in and they go down faster than a drunken prom date.
    • In addition to that, Mages' effectiveness is further increased by "Spell combinations," (something only mages can do.) The effect varries from "Set everything on fire" to "Shatter the villain into a thousand pieces" to "Conjure an incredibly destructive storm."
    • Mages can actually become better at tanking than warriors if you build them as Arcane Warriors, capable of soloing dragons and the rest of the game.
      • That said, a mage can only be human or elven, and only has one possible background story. Powerful, but lower replay value than the other classes (not that it matters if you only play the game once).
    • Dual-Dagger Charisma Assassin anyone? Ridiculous sneak-attack criticals, uncanny dodging ability AND the potential to breeze through the non-combat parts of the game with amazing ease. A common choice for soloing the game.
  • The World of Warcraft expansion "Wrath of the Lich King" did this accidentally. Due to combination of a number of issues healers found that they could quickly grow to the point where they would never run out of mana to cast spells. This allowed non stop casting (ie spamming) the strongest and quickest heals in the game, which were suppose to be balanced by their higher mana cost. With the infinite and powerful heals available the only way to challenge a raid of 10 or 25 men was by creating bosses that could kill your tank in seconds and raid encounters that made every single raid member take damage no mater what they did just to give the raid healers something to do. This in turn led to Paladins (with the ability to cast one strong fast heal non stop) being the only class capable of healing the primary tank and changed all the raid healers to using one or two type of heals that they cast on every raid member as quickly as possible. Meanwhile Player vs Player combat was all about burst damage, at the peak players could die in one to two GCD (minimum length of time between abilities). If that wasn't bad enough the easier AOE tanking combined with a faster progression of gear quality then originally intended led to all non-raid encounters being a tank running headlong into packs of 10 or 20 monsters at a time, keeping them all distracted and allowing the damage dealers to use their one best area effect spell to do damage on all foes. The Cataclysm expansion has changed all of this. There is now limited mana for healers, who have to use every one of their healing spells. Wars have been fought deciding whether the easy AOE fest or (currently) insanely difficult heroics are preferable.
  • Puzzle Pirates implemented possibly the most bizarre piece of "balancing" in the history of computer games. Apparently players used obvious and ubiquitous strategy of armed convoys for transport unfair "double floating" exploit all the time, so it was fixed. Enter the Giant Space Flea From Nowhere to catch all giant fleas from nowhere: monkey boat. It also broke PvP since these wonder monkeys shoved a ship aside every time its opponent has as much as one pineapple on board (see the link). Of course.
  • While La Tale tries to avert from this with its PvP, it fails often usually because the creators just dont care.At first, gunslingers were just your fragile speedsters the use of super puzzles quickly made them able to outdo pretty much every class except Guardians. but since every class can do this if the have the time and money to do so, its really a case of everybody's cheap
  • In Mass Effect 2, increasing the difficulty level strengthened enemies. Putting it on Hardcore or Insanity, however, just gave every enemy an additional layer of protection (kinetic shields, biotic barriers, or armor). Unfortunately, the vast majority of enemies gained kinetic shields. This resulting in Adepts (and Vanguards, to a lesser extent) being severely gimped on higher difficulties, since biotic powers are incapable of damaging kinetic shields and many are ineffective on enemies with additional layers of protection. Powers like Shockwave and Throw became Awesome but Impractical finishing moves, as opposed to the Awesome Yet Practical room-clearers they were on lower difficulties.
    • Mostly true, but actually shifts Adept into being Difficult but Awesome rather than useless. Clearing rooms takes for them is almost as fast on Insanity as any other difficulty level, but most players never develop the tactics needed to get the first biotic explosion off.

Other[edit | hide]

  • In Master of Orion 2, every spaceship had a finite amount of room for weapons and other systems, and every race was limited to -10 "picks" in negative attributes and 20 "picks" worth of positive attributes. Naturally, nothing whatsoever cost anywhere near what it should, so everyone played with Unification/Tolerant/Repulsive races and crammed as many Plasma Cannons onto their ships as possible.
  • BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger suffers slightly from this. Nu-13 is meant to be balanced by low health. But her projectile combos and teleport moves made it nigh-impossible for some characters to land even a single hit, making her health irrelevant. Come the sequel, her projectiles can't combo, and her teleport is gone.
  • Many Street Fighter games have balance issues where certain matchups are unfairly difficult. In the earliest games certain characters lacked an effective method for dealing with projectiles, so they'd end up pinned down by fireball traps. Combo-oriented games like X-Men vs. Street Fighter or MvC had infinite combos for every character.
  • In Mercenaries 2, you can regenerate health. The developers decided that to balance this out, everyone in the goddamn world gets a rocket launcher. Vehicles have tissue paper for armor, too, so it's not as if you'll find much sanctuary from all that rocket and tank fire. Nine Ten times out of ten, when explosives are flying, they're flying at you. Not even freakin' Wolverine could survive this crap!
    • This is a problem in Red Faction: Guerilla and Prototype, too, but it's not as bad in the former and makes sense in the later.
    • Call of Duty, again, has this problem as well. United Offensive decided to up the challenge present in the base game - by removing the ability to pick up medkits dropped from enemies. Your only chance of survival is letting your AI teammates do all the fighting, because if you try to do anything, you will lose half your health, and you will not have the chance to regain it until after you're past five more such fights. Call of Duty 2 switched to Regenerating Health - and now you're forced to run right up to enemy tanks and stand up in front of enemy machine-gunners every fifteen seconds to balance it out.
  • A textbook example of fake balance was present in the old Asteroids-like Mac game Asterax. The player can choose one of three ships: the Manta, which had mediocre everything; the Crab, which had good guns and shields but tiny engines; and the Mantis, which had good engines but tiny guns and shields. The problem with this arrangement came in the form of the game's item shop selling guns, engines and shields, which meant that a Crab pilot could upgrade away their ship's sole deficiency with a single purchase, while Manta and Mantis pilots would need to buy two or three upgrades to reach the same level of effectiveness.
  • When Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3's expansion was released the game creators specifically left out any programming to let it be multiplayer knowing full well that some of the units could be used in truly epic overpowering moves. At the top of the list was the Gunship (pretty much a flying heavy tank with either a heavy gun or machine gun), the desolator (could kill anything on the ground) and the Giga Fortress, a floating island with 6 main weapons that could transform into a flying head with a ridiculously powerful Wave Motion Gun.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 purposefully used something close to "Everything's Cheap". Like almost all C&C games, you still have to pump out tanks. But rather than making a bunch of rock-paper-scissors effects with units that can stop tanks, and other units which can stop the tank-stoppers but lose to tanks, they made many units which can be countered by almost anything at all, but if you use them quickly and effectively before they were countered, they could achieve a decisive result. Some games would work out with two equally powerful tank forces facing off while each player tried to be the first one to sneak a spy, hero, commando, etc, into the enemy base, secretly build up some airplanes or ships to attack his enemy's construction yard, etc.
      • Sandbagged Allied GI troops. They may be immobile, but they easily overcome this when they settle down near an enemy base, pulling out their absurdly powerful machine guns, that can destroy tanks in good numbers. A bunch of them trained well can stop every player's assult because once a unit is constructed, it is already destroyed. Gets even worse in the expansion pack where the new Guardian GIs might not be much for killing infantry but when deployed, there's simply no way to force them out of their holes because while the massive firepower of massed GIs could be offset by suicide-rushing tanks at them in order to crush the immobile soldiers, deployed Guardian GIs are uncrushable and have anti-tank weapons. Combining the two means certain death to the enemy.
  • Super Smash Bros. took a fairly simple approach to balance. In general, most characters can fit into one of three groups: Fast, but light and weak; strong and heavy, but slow; and "balanced" characters who are somewhere in between. This sounds good in theory -slower characters don't have to hit as much to KO you, and are more resistant to being KO'd themselves- the problem is that fast characters generally have a much higher combo ability, which makes fighting one more difficult, especially if you're using a slow character who has trouble getting hits in between their opponent's fast attacks. This has ultimately led to complex Character Tiers appearing (despite claims that "tires don exits") and the Metagame being dominated by fast characters like Meta-Knight and Marth.
    • This is actually very common in fighting games with larger, slower characters finding their increased strength and durability vastly overcompensated by their inability to catch the opponent or dodge their attacks (due to their enormous hitboxes), and are most commonly Skill Gate Characters.
    • With the standard tournament settings (no items, 1v1 stock match) slow characters might be underpowered. However, they're much more useful in free-for-alls, where they can hog the KOs before other characters get a chance, and get KOed less themselves. In both free-for-alls and team battles (to a lesser extent), they can pick off people who are busy fighting someone else, or slam themselves into the fray for multiple KOs.
    • The Stamina mode gives everyone the same amount of HP, so heavier characters that can normally take more damage are at a disadvantage.
  • In Madden NFL and its sister series NCAA, the developers seem unable to properly balance special teams play. Given that any method of blocking kicks or returning them can rather quickly be determined and exploited, they have opted to take it completely in the opposite direction. Whereas in Madden 10, it was possible to see 1-2 kickoffs returned for touchdowns every game, in 11 you might not see one at all in a year.
  • Twisted Metal 2 messed up hard. Some vehicles/characters were slow, tough and had powerful short ranged special weapons and did a lot of ramming damage, usually enough to instantly kill an opponent with a melee combo. Others were weak, fast and usually long ranged. The obvious problem was that the faster vehicles could simply keep running away and either do hit and run attacks or use their long distance weapons while the slower ones were unable to catch up. The worst example was Spectre, the second fastest vehicle in the game with a special that goes through walls.
    • Vigilante8 and its sequel averted this issue for the most part by introducing weapons with mapwide range and giving the heavy vehicles long ranged special weapons instead of short ranged ones, thereby ensuring that if the weak fast vehicle keeps running away endlessly he'll lose due to attrition damage. Also, one of the secondary fire modes of said mapwide weapon disables the target, giving even the slowest vehicle a chance to close the gap. The exceptions are the bus and the sequel's garbage truck, both with short ranged weapons and agonisingly slow, both completely useless.
  • Early Wipeout games had ships that excelled in either handling, acceleration, shield or top speed. But air brakes made it so you wouldn't lose speed if you took corners properly, making acceleration moot, and also making handling irrelevant provided you're good enough to not crash (which was harder in a ship with low handling, but hard didn't mean slow). And if you didn't crash, shield was also unimportant. As a result, the best ship in the game was invariably the fastest ship regardless of its other stats, to the point where a ship with 10% extra speed and zero in all other stats was the best ship. This has finally been averted in recent titles where you do slow down while cornering and the enemies sometimes actually hit you with their weapons.
  • Mario Kart Wii had a pretty bad balancing issue between karts and bikes. In theory, karts had more powerful mini-turbos than bikes, but bikes could pop a wheelie for a speed boost in exchange for worse steering and slowing down to a crawl should they bump into anything while doing a wheelie, which would also come into play with the game's constant bombardment of items. However, players that used bikes quickly realized that they could use wheelies at any time and would do so at every chance they got, which gave them a huge advantage on tracks that had many straight roads. Because of this, karts simply could never keep up with a wheelie spamming biker and this boiled over quickly into online play and time trial records.
    • Mario Kart has other examples of this too. For example, in Mario Kart Double Dash and Wii, the two types of karts (high acceleration/low speed and high speed/low acceleration) were meant to be roughly balanced, the former could recover from item hits and quickly reach top speed, but couldn't keep up with the latter if it was in front. Unfortunately, high acceleration was also tied into mini turbo stats, so people found they could mini turbo/drift non stop ('snaking'/PRB) and in effect have a permanent Mushroom boost speed, making speed based karts entirely pointless.
    • Then Mario Kart Wii added the aforementioned bikes and a standstill mini turbo technique, which made both karts and acceleration based bikes useless.
      • Balance problems with this game go deeper than this: its entire stat system has several stats compete with each other leading to some being easily overshadowed. Who needs top-notch handling on a bike with good drifting? Why bother with acceleration when mini-turbos can get you back at top speed in a blink? Not to mention the off-road stat that barely sees any uses outside tracks made of sand or ice, or the hidden inside-drift property exclusive to certain bikes that makes them automatically stand out for making drifting so much more consistent and less risky.
    • And Mario Kart 7, due to having the power slide system from the last game plus no bikes has swung the balance back again, with items making acceleration based kart setups the only practical ones.
  • The Thraddash in Star Control II. This ship is designed to be a Joke Character: it has very few crew, and its weapon does a measly one damage. However, said weapon also has an unusually long range, and the ship is one of the fastest in the game when its afterburner is used. This allows a skilled and patient Thraddash player to stay out of range from the other ship's guns while slowly wearing it down. Thraddash is the only ship which is routinely banned from competitive play, for this reason.
    • The price the Androsynth is so much lower than the actual value of the ship that it's considered a must-have.
    • As a side effect of the Androsynth being considered a must-have because of its price, the Orz, which is otherwise reasonably priced, is made far less effective; the Androsynth is the natural counter to the Orz, so you're pretty much guaranteed to only be able to use it effectively for one battle. This hurts especially hard because the Orz is a very powerful ship, and typically only cost-effective if it can win multiple battles.
    • The Ur-Quan Dreadnought is supposed to be one of the most powerful ships in the game, equipped with a very powerful, rapid-fire fusion blaster and able to launch large waves of smaller fighters. Unfortunately, the fusion blaster travels slowly, making it difficult to aim at fast-moving targets; and the fighters, which cost a crew each to launch, are incredibly stupid and fragile. These factors added together make the Ur-Quan so ineffective compared to its great cost that it has been called the "Banana Boat" by some fans.
    • The Spathi Eluder manages to achieve this in both directions. Against the A.I., the Spathi is massively overpowered; the A.I. stupidly chases a fleeing player around, and the Spathi shoots homing missiles from behind, so many A.I. controlled ships (most notably, the Ur-Quan and Kohr-Ah ships) can be easily decimated by the Spathi. Against humans who know better than to blindly chase around the other ship, however, the Spathi's rear-facing missile is pretty much useless because of its slow speed, and a common House Rule requiring the fastest ship to take initiative further cripples it (since the Spathi, while not the fastest ship in the game, is quite fast).
  1. Tyranids, being Extreme Omnivores, literally strip entire worlds of their biomatter. It's why they are a threat. The problem is they can't eat something that gets incinerated. So, of course, Pyrofores have flamethrowers, something that suggests poor evolution, but also a design that could not be called "intelligent" by any means either.