“NERF VAYNE NOW!!”, “AOO SPAM BUILD IN D&D IS OVERPOWERED!”, “BLADE GRASP IS CHEAP!”, whining from noobs who don’t know how to play games it sounds like, but these are genuine complaints. The reason a game has balance issues isn’t always because it wasn’t balanced when it was designed, it’s because of the choices the player can make.
Vayne in League of Legends for example, a glass cannon, assassin, champion whose gimmick is being able to completely obliterate a tank in seconds regardless of their stats. It works because she’s able to do a flat amount of %damage every few hits, which cannot be reduced or mitigated. On her own she is quite a potent champion, but other things make her even more potent. Attack rate boosts let her bring you down in (a maximum of) ten seconds.She can use items that slow you to make you unable to reach her in time. A champion with stunning abilities locks you down for your execution.
The Inhuman AOOer build in D&D 3.5, though not a videogame example, is still a good one. Once it reaches its peak, getting within 20 feet of a fighter wielding a spiked chain means you get knocked down, attacked, attacked for moving, attacked for staying there, you basically walk into a blender. Is it an overpowered build? Absolutely. But the build takes content from six different books, one of which everyone agrees already has balance issues.
Blade Grasp in Final Fantasy Tactics, a flat % chance to avoid any attack based on your Bravery stat. When combined with zero faith (your magic damage and defense is heavily influenced by this value), you can only be easily harmed by Malak, and he’s on your side by this point (and useless TBH). Physical attacks becoming near-useless is common in lategame FFT, but that turns it up to 11.
I hear noobs who can’t play games complain and whine about the most elaborate builds they can come up with, using things in ways the developers never intended. Because of the sheer complexity of such builds wreaking havoc on the game world, nerfing one aspect of it could very well punish players who use it for other things. A large amount of freedom to build things how you want is part of the appeal of modern games, giving it a false sense of “depth” when really it just makes balancing things much more difficult for the designers.
A small fact, the original Phantasy Star Online is hailed as one of the most balanced online games ever. Let me tell you all of the things you can customize on your character.
1: Class, you have several each with different stat growths.
2: Weapons that only have a few stats. Only difference is randomly generated aptitudes for certain monster types.
3: Stat boosters for each stat.
4: A mechanical familiar called a MAG that boosts stats.
That’s it. PSO has no ‘crafting’, it has no ‘builds’, it has no list of skills you grind up, it’s straightforward and it’s very hard to screw up. There is however a cap on how high a stat can be, and how many total stat boosters you can use. You CAN be overpowered as all Hell, but you have to earn it.
Now, Shin Megami Tensei Imagine, and most MMOs.
1: No class, just several pages of skills to customize freely.
2: Weapons have a ton of stats.
3: Demon allies can be fused to create near-invincible allies.
4: A crafting system that has crazy results.
5: Leveling system lets you put everything in offense.
Even though an effective Lv60 in Megaten is often as much of a glass cannon as a level 20, the sheer amount of choices you have can make for some very overpowered combinations.This can be done if someone diligent enough boosted their capabilities to heights only a lunatic would challenge.
The complexity of an MMO or console game may seem to add choice to the player, but in reality all it does it bring up balance issues that are a complete nightmare to fix, and will almost always catch other people in the crossfire when it gets patched. Why developers choose to constantly fall into this pitfall I will never know. The simpler an MMO, or any game for that matter, the easier it is to keep the metagame in check and to tweak balance issues as they come up. These days, rebalancing an online game would involve overhauling absolutely everything at the same time.
In closing, have some examples of synergy and stat ridiculousness going out of whack for your entertainment.
Final boss of Xenosaga 1 killed on the third turn. By Momo doing over 15000 damage.
One very underleveled character (30 below the recommended level for a full party) killing the true final boss of Etrian Odyssey 3 with over 70,000 damage in one attack.
A Lv1 Rattata destroying a Lv57 Granbull in two hits.
If anyone knows any videos that show other such trickery from unintended combinations, feel free to show them off, the more absurd, the better.