Similar idea to this post, why would an advanced civilization able to create AI/ droids ranging from 'hardshell' (I-Robot (movie) or C3P0) to 'soft' (Bishop (Aliens)) still have use for melee combat, and the implements to accompany it (plate armor, swords, etc)?

In this scenario, I am expecting ranged weapons (firearms, lasers, bow/arrow) to also be present in some capacity. It is general practice for both AI and 'real' humans to often use or prefer melee combat.

While some magic is present in the form of typical d&d style, precious few are able to wield and manipulate it (less than a tenth of a percent of the population), hence the main prevalence of technology over magic. There is some melding of magic and technology, but it is incredibly unstable and unreliable up to this point

  • 16
    $\begingroup$ The slow blade penetrates the shield. $\endgroup$ – Brizzy Dec 5 '18 at 3:48
  • $\begingroup$ Is it only AI that is restricted to melee weapons or are people restricted to these as well ? $\endgroup$ – StephenG Dec 5 '18 at 3:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Brizzy If you don't want to make that a full fledged answer, I will! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 5 '18 at 3:53
  • $\begingroup$ Go ahead buddy! $\endgroup$ – Brizzy Dec 5 '18 at 3:56
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenG Good question :) $\endgroup$ – Snappawapa Dec 5 '18 at 3:57

The slow blade penetrates the shield.

(Thanks Brizzy!)

This quote comes from Frank Herber's Dune, and it is probably the archetypal example of what you are looking for. In this series, Herbert specifically wanted a world where melee combat mattered, but there was technological interstellar travel. To accomplish this, he invented the shields. The personal shields were normally in a "down" state, which let air enter the shield's volume. However, anything fast moving immediately raised the shield, preventing anything from entering (you could get light headed from low oxygen levels inside your shield in a protracted fight).

The result was a melee combat style which involved slow movements of a knife to get inside the shield, followed by a quick killing blow.

Herbert wanted the combat to be personal, which points to a second major reason one might choose melee weapons.

"All can be redeemed." - Praetor Fenrix VII

Melee weapons may be preferred in a highly advanced society which has grown to deeply respect the value of life. Killing is a big deal, and it may be an even bigger deal for some advanced species who have gotten to see just how much can be lost. But even the most advanced species can't help but spill blood at some point. For this, such a society would prefer the opportunity to redeem the opponent, all the way up to the last moment.

With a ranged weapon, your ability to craft such an alternative ending is limited. You pull the trigger, a hole appears where their brain matter was. One, two, the end. With a melee weapon, you spend time attached to your opponent, quite physically. There is a period of time where you can seek to influence them. This can even occur after the knife has gotten under their skin, but before it hits something truly fatal.

A killing with a ranged weapon in that world would be barbarous. But with a knife, and great skill, a holy warrior with an official charge from their cardinals could go back and try to redeem Hitler himself. Perhaps a knife wrapped part way around his carotid artery, lifting it out from his skin without fully severing it, might be just the leverage needed to lead him to become born again.

And if not, the knife works. As it always has.

  • $\begingroup$ I liked a lot of the other answers, but I felt this one fits best into my universe. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Snappawapa Dec 11 '18 at 22:03

Short Answer: Because in an advanced environment where high tech could overkill and therefore melt the environment around a target, melee weapons offer an opportunity to handle close combat in close quarters, without damaging the surroundings. The very surroundings that may be protecting the people inside from vacuum or a hostile environment outside.

One real life example to look at that helps provide some perspective is modern day naval ships. The US Navy has surface to air missiles, cruise missiles, miniguns, torpedoes, and soon even railguns and lasers at their disposal. In addition to this, there are fleets of ships that could travel together, which would help to hinder or prevent the unlikely event of hostiles boarding the ships themselves.

Yet modern naval vessels still carry a sufficient armory of small arms, including rifles, handguns, and shotguns. In the corridors of a ship, close combat is inevitable, and any form of melee weapon may be yet an additional useful tool for survival in combat.

This can easily be applied to a space ship, where boarders could have weapons that could be capable of punching, exploding, or melting holes in the bulkheads. On something like a spaceship, this could be dangerous, especially near vital systems. Melee weapons could offer an alternative that allows the boarders and repelling forces battle without irreparably damaging the ship from within.

As for training, military forces today still train with melee weapons and combat. All forms of martial arts are still practiced, although not necessarily for anything other than recreational or competitive purposes. Just as futuristic forces are trained in their futuristic, exotic weapons, they'll likely be trained to also use a knife and their own fists as well.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding! :) Great first answer: I always like using real-world examples in my own answers, too, because to me it makes a world more believable if its logic is grounded in reality. Your idea works for me in non-vehicular settings, too: anywhere you don't want to destroy needs close combat to remove entrenched defenders. And sure, side-arms are always the last line of defense, but in real life, we still had bayonet charges in the gulf war, and hand-to-hand fighting, because as you said, once you have people fighting face to face in close quarters, it becomes inevitable. $\endgroup$ – Dewi Morgan Dec 5 '18 at 17:31

You have 2 types of long range weapons, unfortunately in your future they are not very effective against combat droids

  • Kinetic weapons:

    These weapon throw an object at high velocity (a bullet, a rocket, a missile) towards their enemy and try to do damage with their kinetic energy. The problem is that in the future, most robots/droids have hyper sensitive long range sensors and superhuman reaction time (like in matrix/men of steel). They can therefore quickly dodge incoming projectile fired upon them. On top of that they have super resistant and flexible armor making most them immune to most projectiles of reasonable size. They are also resistant to the blast from a larger missile. Of course you can still use fusion or antimatter bombs to flatten an entire area against robots but that is overkill and not strategically meaningful.

  • Directed Energy beams:

    These weapons focus a beam of energy on the enemy (laser, plasma etc...). The beam travels at the speed of light so robots cannot dodge them. However most robots are equipped with a magnetic force field which can easily deflect those energy beams. A very powerful laser won’t be deflected but the energy required to go through the force beam is orders of magnitude higher than what a force field needs to deflect it. Lasers that can pierce an energy beam are very costly in terms of resource to build and energy to fire. They are so big and heavy that they have to be stationary. These big lasers are meant to fire on larger enemies like spaceships. It's a waste to use such a laser weapon against simple infantry.

Energy fields cannot deflect melee weapon. Being in close combat means that no matter how fast your reaction time is, if you are fighting against an equally fast combat droid, he will be able to hit you.

So while ranged weapon are still used to slow down/do light damage to the enemy, in the end melee combat is how combat droid vs combat droid battles are won.


UK and many other developed countries have severe restrictions on firearms (which will likely extend to any ranged weaponry). Only military and special police units have combat firearms.

Civilians are limited to sporting and hunting weapons, which require registration, fingerprinting, training, periodic psychological profiling & income source review, and membership in a registered club that is held accountable for its members. Ammunition is expensive, sold in small batches, and you have to return empty casings to get more. You can even require weapons to be stored in a government facility and "checked out" for limited amount of time. And if you are caught with unregistered firearm or ammo, you go to jail.

Moreover, millimeter-wave radar can see concealed guns. The sound of gunshot and the energy signature of a blaster can be easily detected and triangulated, and flying drones respond in less than a minute to track all the suspects on the scene.

So both criminals and private security companies have to rely on melee weapons. Once they develop bots, nothing changes.

Moreover, as others said, bots can be shielded against small firearms and energy weapons, or can detect and dodge them (and report to authorities). But not armor will save you from a good old hammer swing. Even if the shell holds up, the innards and the limbs are damaged.


A neutralization field was invented. It blocks all weapons except for bladed one: ranged, energy, even nuclear fission/fusion are blocked inside it. The same for matter/anti-matter reaction and other hi-tech.
Because of complex equipment, it's not possible to create mobile field or create field which covers continent. But most important cities/locations (like capital or military base) are covered by this field. Goverment buildings, elite restaraunts also have their own field.

By the way, it's once more reason for castles building.

The idea borrowed from the storyline by Russian writer Lukyanenko. He described circumstances in very small fashion, maybe in couple pages. Main reasoning is inside field any process which equal or more complex than 'powder explosion' are blocked.

As far as I know it hasn't published in English but avialable in Russian in many sites.

  • $\begingroup$ "inside field any process which equal or more complex than 'powder explosion' are blocked". A blade-tipped bullet would soon be developed. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Dec 5 '18 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn and it was ;) But doesn't change so much. $\endgroup$ – ADS Dec 5 '18 at 17:47

It's probably fallacious to think that all possible civilizations would inevitably develop similar technology. And if conditions are different, it's quite easy to think of ways that technology may advance far past us in one area, but stall in others.

In our own world, it was the advent of firearms that signaled the fall of melee combat in warfare. So think of a way to prevent firearms. What if your world had no sulfur with which to make gunpowder? What if it had no metal with which to make barrels that could withstand the pressures of an explosion?

If you can come up with any reason that firearms are hard to make, then you can easily justify melee combat even while this society becomes quite advanced.


Because, as you said, magic and technology don't go well with each other. Gunpowder is rent ineffective at the sole contact with any spell or magic user like other complex and delicate artificial products. What about the droids and computers? They are originally made with the help of magic that combines noble materials in a way that doesn't interact with magic. But some droids can replicate themselves and evolve to produce descendants without the use of magic.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.