What Are Break Bars
The Break Bar is the community name for a new mechanism introduced during the Epic of Remnant. Break bars are a staple among Challenge Quests and feature in many high difficulty story missions. The introduction of these Break Bars is a turning point in how Challenge Quests should be engaged with and indirectly increase the difficulty of many encounters. As a result, Masters often need a more diverse approach in how to clear high-difficulty content and Break Bars as a whole offer more nuance and strategic depth to the game.
In simple terms, the Break Bar system divides a boss' HP pool into several smaller separate “bars” (usually 2 or 3 bars, at most 4). Each HP bar must be depleted completely (“broken”) before the next HP bar is activated. The Break Bars thus function as a maximum limit to how much damage the boss can take during a turn, and any additional damage inflicted during the turn the bar is broken, is treated as Overkill (called “Overgauge”). During the next enemy turn, the broken enemy will activate their next HP bar, and generally activate a unique mechanic such as charging their NP bar, buffing themselves or debuffing the frontline. Typically, Masters often take multiple turns to break one specific Break Bar.
For example, a 700,000 HP boss could have 2 Break Bars: the first (purple) HP bar with 300,000 HP and an additional (red, “normal”) base HP bar of 400,000 HP. Masters can only deal at most 300,000 HP in damage, and any additional attacks will Overgauge until its the boss’s turn again. Much like Overkill, attacks during Overgauge will enjoy a significant bonus to Critical Stars Generation and NP Generation.
Why Are Break Bars Dangerous?
With the Introduction of Break Bars, Masters will be exposed to two new extremely dangerous components to all Challenge Quest that add an additional layer of complexity to building competent teams. The new mechanics force a Master, more than ever, to think two or three turns ahead.
The first dangerous component is how enemies will be more aggressive than ever. Due to Break Bars, Bosses can no longer be one-shot and they will be able to act when their HP bar breaks. Previously, some of the harder bosses could be rendered powerless as Servants like Sakata Kintoki or Jeanne Alter could simply outright kill a boss and by doing so prevent prevent the team from taking damage. Due to Break Bars putting a limit to how much damage can be dealt in a turn, Masters have to take into consideration that a boss will often survive long enough to launch their Noble Phantasm or take out a squishy high damage Servant. As a result, Masters need to look to their defenses more often, and high damage one-shot compositions are far less appealing.
The second dangerous component is how broken HP bars also serve as a trigger point for a wide variety of dangerous effects. The effects of breaking an HP bar varies wildly, from self-buffs, to charging a boss’s entire NP gauge, to spawning new enemies or even a change in boss. These triggers often become the core mechanic of a fight, which means that playing around them become a huge concern for team building in general. Typically Masters save or delay the use of crucial skills or Noble Phantasms to counteract these triggers, or they bring in a highly applicable niche Servant. As a result, the need for knowledge of key mechanics and planning the fight beforehand becomes more and more apparent, as entering some Challenge Quests blindly can be an exercise in futility.
How to Approach Challenge Quests With Break Bars
With the arrival of Break Bars as well as how the game will now present its most challenging content going forward, the perception on certain Servants or strategies will certainly be shaken up. Even with the Global (or North American) Server having insight (ahem, “clairvoyance”) into future events and content, the Break Bar is still a highly exciting addition to the game, one that raises the bar for a Masters’ finesse in raising their Servant rosters, team building, and theorycrafting. In order to form competent teams for the hardest Break Bar content, the following characteristics and focus are most preferable:
Before the introduction of Break bars, one-shot strategies for boss fights were a common sight for veteran Masters. Servants with access to the most powerful burst damage such as Scathach or Sakata Kintoki excelled. However, to properly deal with Break Bars, a prolonged period of downtime in between powerful bursts of extremely high damage is simply a lot less desirable. Most bosses with Break Bars often do not require this much firepower in one turn to deplete one of their Break bars. As a result, Servants who can spread their damage over multiple turns, can generate multiple NPs, or have additional sustain built into their kit will see an increase in their use compared to burst-oriented Servants.
In the same vein, supports Servants with powerful sustain and utility that have a high uptime or short cooldown are more preferred as well. Often, the support Servants are the keystone towards surviving effects that trigger off of a broken HP bar, such as an instantly charged Noble Phantasm. Heading into some Challenge Quests without any defensive support or a clear foolproof plan, is suicide.
As long as the most challenging content revolved around a single boss with a giant single HP bar, the use of powerful single target Noble Phantasms was ideal for clearing a boss within a few turns. However, for Challenge Quests with Break Bars, Servants with AoE Noble Phantasms are often just as much of a staple in many Challenge Quests settings.
The prime reason for this is the emphasis on sustained damage over multiple turns. Most Break Bars often do not have excessively high HP values, and doing constant high damage is more important. Sustained damage is often less reliant on NP damage (outside of NP spamming Servants), and more reliant on the damage dealt by command cards while buffed with a myriad of effects. A strong skill set and high generation stats is more of a boon when dealing with Break Bars than whether an NP is ST or AoE.
Additionally, AoE NPs themselves remain a boon for dealing with multiple enemies and they excel at breaking any remaining HP on Break Bars while still being able to clear out enemy minions before they become a problem. As Single target Noble Phantasms cannot switch target despite a broken Break Bar, they are much less flexible in their use.
At launch, Fate Grand Order was a game of getting and using powerful generalists who performed well in any given situation. However, as the Servant roster grew and the difficulty of the hardest content gradually increased, Masters with highly diverse rosters were rewarded with access to highly specialized and niche Servants that greatly aided in countering specific mechanics. In general, Masters with a diverse roster had, and will have, more strategic tools at their command.
Break Bars will only continue with this trend. As noted in the previous section, Break Bars introduce new dangerous mechanics that force Masters to plan ahead. The fact that bosses will still act after an HP bar is broken, requires Masters to bring some survival measures, as well as additional tools to counteract whatever effects the bosses have when a Break bar is broken. Versatile niches like dispelling buffs, cleansing debuffs, or providing teamwide protection are useful in most circumstances, but some niches that are less universally applicable will find more opportunities to be utilized post-Breakbar.
Gathering information about challenging bosses has always been the preferred approach to comfortably clearing Challenge Quests, and doubly more so with Break Bars active. There is often no way of knowing what happens upon breaking an HP bar, at least without looking up the information beforehand or repeating the encounter. A diverse roster is generally more able to pick up on and exploit a boss’s weakness.