Awesomely Inefficient: Dual-Wielding in Games

posted by on 23rd November 2014, at 4:13pm

We’ve all seen it and we’ve all done it: Wield two uber hunking weapons and started swinging them around bashing creatures left and right.

Only problem is, most games execute this style of fighting incorrectly.

I’ve noticed a recurring theme in most games which offer the ability to Dual-wield: The attack pattern is a sort of Right, Left, Right, Left. This may technically be ‘dual-wielding’, that is, wielding two weapons simultaneously, but it is not dual-fighting because you are only using one at a time. If we want to get literal, I would argue this does not even count as Dual-wielding. Why? Because according to

“to use (a weapon, instrument, etc.) effectively; handle or employ actively. “

If both are not being used simultaneously, how are they being used actively, or even effectively?

They’re not. They can’t be. If you are only actively using one at a time then you are just as good if not better to use sword-and-board(sword and shield for those unfamiliar with the term). Think of it like this:
When wielding a weapon and a shield do you choose which to use each second? No, you continue your attacking rhythm with the sword and block or bash with the shield as needed. This is exactly how dual-wielding should be done; attack with both weapons and block/deflect with whichever one is most appropriate at the moment throughout the fight. This may mean you strike 5 times with your left while deflecting or holding your right, or vice-versa.

A Right, Left, Right, Left style implies you are only able to calculate with one weapon at a time, thus, you are not proficient with your style. If this is the case then why are you using it? For a proficiency reference, think of your favorite FPS and your favorite weapon there. Why do you use THAT weapon instead of the many others you could? Because there are certain aspects of it you like and have learned to use it to its maximum potential. Switch to a weapon you never use and you’ll do worse, because you’re not as proficient with it.

RuneScape, unfortunately, exemplifies this very well. Only on some ability attacks does the player actively use both weapons. During auto-attacks it is a simple Right, Left, Right, Left.
Lord of the Rings Online, however, is a pretty good example of what dual-wielding should look like. For starters, only 3 out of 10 classes can dual-wield. When those classes attack they actively swing with both weapons, simultaneously, during both ability and auto-attacks.

LotRO makes a good point here in that they don’t allow every character and his brother to dual-wield. It is an exclusive feature of certain classes. Why is this important? Since true dual-wielding requires the mind to be thinking of both weapons simultaneously and the body actively using both, it requires more mental and physical aptitude and acuteness than normal combat. It makes perfect sense that the majority couldn’t do this at all and even less could do it well enough to use it as their main form of combat. In LotRO roughly 30% of the population can dual-wield, which is actually a much higher percentage than you would find in real life.

For a comparison, albeit much scaled down one, think of Juggling. It uses the same basic parts of the brain and body in basically the same way – coordination and thought on multiple elements always in a constant motion. How many people do you know that can juggle? How many of those could do it really good? Furthermore, how many of these are good enough to win a juggling competition on a state level? That’s about how many people on average are good enough to dual-wield as their main form of combat.

Now I know I’m talking about games and games are fiction, but doesn’t it just make sense to have the characters swing simultaneously? After all, wouldn’t that look even cooler?

I think the reason many games portray this incorrectly is because of a key game aspect called Balance. I think they fear the balancing issues that may arise if both weapons were to be used simultaneously. Logically, if you are wielding a 100 damage weapon and a shield and another player is dual-wielding 100 damage weapons then they will be doing 200 damage in the time you are dealing 100.

Which is absolutely true.
And 100% OK.

Because the player using sword-and-board is not going for damage, he’s going for defense and/or survivability.
The player using akimbo (dual-wielding) is going for damage and/or utility.
And the player using a two-handed weapon is going for damage and/or power.

These are three distinct playstyles and should not be equal by any means. If they were equal we wouldn’t need all three!
I don’t think I need to explain the role of sword-and-board and two-handed fighting, but I will explain that of dual-wielding.
A dual-wielding person’s strength is his versatility and speed. In a real-life or movie situation, the ability to strike faster is a great boon and often allows you to deal just as much damage as the two-handed user. However unlike him, you can drop (or preferably sheathe) either your left or right hand weapon should you need to grab an object or comrade. This allows you to continue to fight and/or defend yourself while aiding a comrade or carrying something vital. During combat, two weapons allows you to block and deflect with your weapons better than one large weapon but not as well as with a weapon and shield, this is why the dual-wielder may also be a secondary tank.

What are your thoughts on this? Has the world of games gone dual-wield happy because it’s ‘cool’? Do you know of a game that exemplifies either style of dual-wielding? I’d love to hear about it.

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