I think it should be pretty clear what the purpose of armor is: to defend oneself from the attacks of another. However, in many fantasy works, particularly video games, armor doesn’t seem to do that, not really. I’m not going to complain about fantasy armor designs here, nor about armor-as-fashion. I’m talking about armor that literally does not do what it’s supposed to: protect the user from attack, even in the areas it covers.
And again, this rant is inspired by the current event in Granblue Fantasy. (Major spoilers for the one person in the world that cares about the game and hasn’t played the event yet.) At one point, the character shown at top, Polaris (who is a general-champion, of course) catches up with the enemy prince (who is also a general champion, despite being the usual spoiled evil useless brat prince character). Being a good person, and not overconfident, she gets the upper hand. But the prince uses one of his own soldiers as a shield, which is just enough of a distraction that he is able to kill Polaris. So far, so good, typical use of a friendly npc death to raise the emotional stakes of the story. (I don’t like it – it’s yet another instance of FKHR’s war on non-human characters in this game – but it works dramatically.) And it’s not like Polaris is particularly armored – the only really effectual piece would be the breastplate, and even that’s low, and a stab in the side is completely unblocked.
No, the trouble is how it came. That fellow above was the prince’s human shield. Who the prince ran through with his sword, to get to Polaris. This guy actually has proper armor on his torso. A sword would have to go through at least one point in his armor, if not two or more, to get to the potato. Unless that is quite shiny cardboard armor, that’s just not going to happen. If that’s how it is, why even wear armor at all? Just be like Dancho, who runs around in a short dress.
That was what ticked me off this time, but it happens all the time. How many cutscenes do we have of boss-type people who just clear out armored mooks with just a flick of their sword? How often to players go up against heavily armored enemies, which just seems to mean that they have a bigger HP pool, or perhaps slightly lower chance to hit?
And of course this goes beyond games. The recent Witcher series, among many examples, is terrible with this. One scene in particular, that shows up a lot in reviews (and maybe even the trailers? I don’t remember) just turned me off to the whole show: Geralt is in a big battle, and armored guys are taken out just as easily (and thoughtlessly) as the unarmored peasants in another episode. And even in space, armor seems to be mostly useless: what is the point of stormtrooper armor, if even teddy bears with sticks and rocks can take them out?
The thing is, armor protects, and generally quite well, if it’s well-designed. Otherwise, people wouldn’t use it. Even a thick jacket can protect against sword slashes, let alone proper armor. Those armored knights weren’t quite invincible, but they were juggernauts on the battlefield, which is why they prevailed for hundreds of years. Armor is only ditched when it’s ineffective. So why don’t we see that reflected in games? In movies?