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A Historical Analysis of the Practicality of the Weapons in Zelda: Part XV: The Flameblades.

TheGreatCthulhu

The Great Old One, Star Spawn, Sleeper of R'lyeh
ZD Legend
Joined
Jan 22, 2016
Location
United States of America
Been a while since this series, hasn't it? Well, that's because mostly I want to discuss swords that I feel I'd have interesting talking points, and due to the (mostly) fair weapon design of the Zelda series, I will eventually run out of weapons to discuss.

Well, I'm resurrecting this series again to discuss the elemental swords in a little mini-series, as requested by @Twilight Shadows.

It's time to discuss swords and weapons again!

Remember again, I'm reviewing these weapons from the point of view of somebody looking at these designs as functional weapons from the perspective of someone who knows how to use swords effectively, having been trained in HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts).

Let's get to reviewing these.

FLAMEBLADES:

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This one-handed flame blade isn't too awful, however, if this is meant to be a one handed sword, or an arming sword, then the blade's proportions are off compared to the hilt assembly, which if you've forgotten, is everything below the blade including the guard, handle, and pommel.

It seems to me that the blade itself is oversized compared to the handle, if we assume the handle is properly sized, or the handle is puny if the blade is properly sized.

And that's the other thing I'm noticing in general with the swords in Zelda, and why I think this small improvement would drastically improve how these swords would handle.

And that's the complete lack of any tapering! All of the blades seem to lack any profile tapering, which is a narrowing of the blade between edge-to-edge as it nears the point. It also seems all of the swords in Zelda lack the most crucial tapering you can give to a blade longer than a knife, and that's a distal tapering, where the width of the blade gets smaller as you near the point.

Swords have distal tapering to improve their handling. See, when you're dealing with a weapon that's around 3 feet or longer, if it doesn't have any tapering, the sword won't feel like an extension of your body, it'll feel like a metal club, or handle as elegantly as a crowbar.

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If it's important for kitchen knives, you better believe it's important for swords.

If we assume this blade is meant to be used one-handed, that means that it should weigh on average, 2.5 lbs (1.1 kg), have an average overall length of 36 inches (91.4 cm), with the blade itself around 29 inches (73.9 cm). As it's currently shaped, I can guarantee you that this wouldn't have the proper weight, so it'd feel like a metal club, not a sword.

So all of the swords in Zelda need some tapering.

Since they don't have any tapering, it seems to me that those who made these weapons didn't have any skill or finesse in making them, just crudely hammered them on an anvil, then ground it to shape, without giving care to handling or function.

Why am I bothered by this? Well, dear readers, for the simple reason that the main advantages the sword has over an impact weapon is how light and nimble they are, because their main purpose is to cause massive damage via cuts and thrusts to soft tissue.

This holds true for large greatswords, as it does light smallswords. Swords are meant to be nimble weapons, and you're meant to skewer and sever flesh with them. That's what they excel at, and that's what they're designed to do.

Which leads me to the other problem of this sword, the strange nodules of metal in the middle of the blade, and near the point. See, having any weird extrusions on a blade means you are limiting the damage it can do.

Why do you think sword blades throughout history had smooth, acutely tapered edges and points? To make it easier to sever flesh and to thrust with.

You have to imagine actually trying to cut a target with this blade. A normal sword with a nice, smooth, acute edge will slice the target easily, while this nodule can get stuck on bone.

Even worse, the nodules near the point limits the sword's thrusting potential, the point seems wider near the base, which means if you run a target through with this, you're going to have a helluva time extracting the sword from the target.

Consider this, even swords with smooth edges and nice, acute points still get stuck in targets! Accounts throughout history show us that people got run through and the opponent couldn't extract the sword.

Now imagine that being stuck in your target. Seems a nice way to disarm yourself eh?

But it gets worse....

GREAT FLAMEBLADE:

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If this is meant to be a greatsword, then lemme tell ya, you probably couldn't lift it, let alone strike something.

We still have proportion issues, either the handle is too small and spindly, or the blade is just overly large.

Again, no profile or distal tapering to improve the handling of the sword, which for a two-handed sword only compounds the problems I mentioned earlier.

On top of this, those strange protrusions on the blade, looking like secondary guards also adds unnecessary weight, and limits its cutting potential.

Now, it might have gotten inspiration from historical greatswords that had lugs above the ricasso (unsharpened part of the sword near the guard):

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But here's the thing, look how much longer, narrower, and how smoothly acute the edges and point are on the real weapon!

The Great Flameblade is quite the trainwreck in terms of function. Making you less effective of a fighter by working against what a sword is meant to do.

I'd fix the one-handed Flameblade by making it more into a proper arming sword:

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No, I wouldn't get rid of its fire-causing mayhem, what I'd do is take Albion's Chevalier (pictured above), and put runes in it to enchant it with fire magic. Then, the sword still has function as a sword, as well as its magical properties.

To fix the Great Flameblade, I'd design it more like the historical greatsword I pictured above, and do the same thing, by putting runes in it to enchant it with fire magic.

It also helps that these two improvements also fix the main issues with the swords by having profile and distal tapering, smooth acutely tapered edges perfect for cutting, and smooth tips good for thrusting. These would also handle like they should, making the blades more of an extension of your body, not handling like crowbars.

CONCLUSION:

3/10 for the one-handed version, and a 0/10 for the two-handed version. As it stands, the Flameblades would handle sluggishly, have improper proportions, so they're likely not secure in the hand, or securely fastened, and because of the shape of the blades, they would limit how deeply and effectively you can cut or thrust, which is what a sword is supposed to do.

Why design a sword that negates the main advantages the sword has over a bludgeon? If you want to make a bludgeon, make a bludgeon, otherwise, when making a sword, there's things you have to consider in order to make the sword do its job properly.

Now, people will inevitably argue, "It's fantasy, the swords don't have to be realistic!"

Here's my rebuttal, form follows function!

Why is the blade shaped that way if we now know it limits the amount of damage that it'll do? Why is it so overly large if we now know that it works against how a sword is meant to be used?

There are reasons for the shape, and to date, nobody that makes the "It's just fantasy," argument has ever come up with a good reason for why a sword is terribly designed.

My suggestion? If for real combat, avoid these and get a proper sword.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Now, people will inevitably argue, "It's fantasy, the swords don't have to be realistic!"

Here's my rebuttal, form follows function!

Why is the blade shaped that way if we now know it limits the amount of damage that it'll do? Why is it so overly large if we now know that it works against how a sword is meant to be used?

There are reasons for the shape, and to date, nobody that makes the "It's just fantasy," argument has ever come up with a good reason for why a sword is terribly designed.
Good write-up man. I don't know enough about weapons to refute any of the points you've made, you've got a much better grasp on this historical stuff than I have.

That being said, I would like to address these closing points. You're right in that form follows function, absolutely, however I'm not quite as disturbed by impractical design in series like this as you are. Most of that is undoubtedly because I don't understand it enough for it to be offensive to me, but otherwise I'm fine with them taking liberties in how weapons are designed for the sake of making visually exciting designs.

I think, moreso than it being fantasy, the fact that it's a game plays a greater role in this. Swords have to be easily identifiable to the player, especially in games like this whereby the option to choose different weapons increases the necessity to get the weapon you want quickly. The great flame sword is an absolute mess, of course, but it's impossible to miss if it's the sword you're looking for in that moment. To the untrained eye, a normal looking one armed sword may not be easily distinguishable from a great sword especially if they're trying to switch quickly mid battle.

Likewise specifically with the flames word it's got orange to signify the flames, but for those who are colour blind the extra little bumps and fire-like whisps at the side make the shape immediately identifiable too. This is especially important for the icons.

So in that sense, form is following function. Any player can pick up a Great sword and know from its size and the odd way Link carries it that it's functionally slower yet more powerful than a one armed sword because it's proportions have been exaggerated in such a ridiculous way. Any player knows that the whispy design indicates fire, and a jagged design indicates lightning etc. It's reducing the weapons to their base function so that no players are alienated by not knowing what each weapon does That may be much more difficult if we were to go entirely historical with some of these designs.

Perhaps things like the tapering aspect are more a measure of keeping models simpler for resource reasons. I'd be fine with them stretching for closer accuracy to real world weapon rules where they can, but always with an eye to keeping things visually easy so that the game flows better in terms of player understanding.

That said, it's always fun to read about what liberties they have taken, and that's were your eye for the historical accuracy of these things comes in.
 

TheGreatCthulhu

The Great Old One, Star Spawn, Sleeper of R'lyeh
ZD Legend
Joined
Jan 22, 2016
Location
United States of America
Good write-up man. I don't know enough about weapons to refute any of the points you've made, you've got a much better grasp on this historical stuff than I have.

That being said, I would like to address these closing points. You're right in that form follows function, absolutely, however I'm not quite as disturbed by impractical design in series like this as you are. Most of that is undoubtedly because I don't understand it enough for it to be offensive to me, but otherwise I'm fine with them taking liberties in how weapons are designed for the sake of making visually exciting designs.

I think, moreso than it being fantasy, the fact that it's a game plays a greater role in this. Swords have to be easily identifiable to the player, especially in games like this whereby the option to choose different weapons increases the necessity to get the weapon you want quickly. The great flame sword is an absolute mess, of course, but it's impossible to miss if it's the sword you're looking for in that moment. To the untrained eye, a normal looking one armed sword may not be easily distinguishable from a great sword especially if they're trying to switch quickly mid battle.

Likewise specifically with the flames word it's got orange to signify the flames, but for those who are colour blind the extra little bumps and fire-like whisps at the side make the shape immediately identifiable too. This is especially important for the icons.

So in that sense, form is following function. Any player can pick up a Great sword and know from its size and the odd way Link carries it that it's functionally slower yet more powerful than a one armed sword because it's proportions have been exaggerated in such a ridiculous way. Any player knows that the whispy design indicates fire, and a jagged design indicates lightning etc. It's reducing the weapons to their base function so that no players are alienated by not knowing what each weapon does That may be much more difficult if we were to go entirely historical with some of these designs.

Perhaps things like the tapering aspect are more a measure of keeping models simpler for resource reasons. I'd be fine with them stretching for closer accuracy to real world weapon rules where they can, but always with an eye to keeping things visually easy so that the game flows better in terms of player understanding.

That said, it's always fun to read about what liberties they have taken, and that's were your eye for the historical accuracy of these things comes in.
And that's perfectly fine for game design, but looking at them as actual weapons, it's a little iffy.
 
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
And that's perfectly fine for game design, but looking at them as actual weapons, it's a little iffy.
Absolutely, but there's your answer for why these swords are terribly designed from a realistic viewpoint. Sometimes it's through ignorance, sometimes it's because the philosophy of game design itself necessitates taking liberties with design in order to convey information efficiently.
 

TheGreatCthulhu

The Great Old One, Star Spawn, Sleeper of R'lyeh
ZD Legend
Joined
Jan 22, 2016
Location
United States of America
Absolutely, but there's your answer for why these swords are terribly designed from a realistic viewpoint. Sometimes it's through ignorance, sometimes it's because the philosophy of game design itself necessitates taking liberties with design in order to convey information efficiently.
I know why the liberties were taken. What I'm saying is that if we just look at the sword as a sword, there are some problems that result it in being unusable as an actual weapon.

So that's the perspective here. In terms of game design, I don't mind liberties being taken to convey info to the player. :)
 

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