How viable are whip swords in actual combat? I know things like the Urumi existed in real life, but would something like the Sword of the Creator from Fire Emblem 3 Houses be feasible? I feel like that’s probably a fantasy-only weapon, but they sure do look cool.
The difference here is that the urumi exists, and, as far as I know, that’s as close as reality has ever gotten to a whip sword. The other real examples would be multi-section staves (usually, three section), and various flails.
Fire Emblem’s Sword of the Creator isn’t possible. Meaning, from an engineering standpoint, it would be impossible to build the weapon using modern technology. It might be possible at some point in the future, but even then it would be more of a novelty.
The issue with the Sword of the Creator is that it’s a segmented blade which snaps apart into multiple segments. These segments need to be able to separate enough for there to be play between them when the sword is in whip mode, but latch together securely enough that it will function as a sword in combat. That’s not possible with non-magical means. So, you have a weapon where, “if it was real,” it would snap apart, unpredictably, in combat. To put this in technical terms, “that’s a very bad thing.”
This isn’t a problem with the in-setting item, because it’s a magical (or, at least pseudo-magical) artifact. So, being able to instantly fuse or shatter the blade, and convert it into different modes is plausible enough.
This biggest issue for viability with weapons like this, and this includes the Urumi, is the danger the weapon poses to its user. There’s a real risk of the sword bouncing off an object, and whipping back on the user. With enough skill and experience, you can mitigate this, but it creates a significant skill floor, that makes the weapon impractical for general use.
Obviously, the Urumi does exist, and weapons that pose a significant danger to an untrained user are defensible worldbuilding. (Lightsabers come to mind.) It’s also possible that the Sword of the Creator is actually intelligent, or at the very least, guided by its user, to the point that it isn’t really a whip, and more of a, serpentine weapon. Again, this plausible for magic (or technology from the other side of Clarke’s Law.)
Are weapons like this viable in the real world? Not really. There’s no way to engineer a sword that can break into pieces, and then reassemble itself with anything even approaching the needed level of stability. You may be able to make a display piece, that exhibits the behavior, and that would be a piece of visually interesting art, but it wouldn’t be a usable sword.
Incidentally, these are the same issues with Bloodborne’s Threaded Cane. Visually, it’s an amazing weapon, but, completely impossible to produce, and actively dangerous to the user.
In fiction, weapons like this are pretty easy to excuse if they offer enough entertainment value to the audience. It’s not a coincidence that both of these examples are from video games, and so you’re presenting the audience with a visual spectacle. Like you said, they look cool, and I fully agree. You’re also presenting the audience with a play experience (which unique to games), and that can also help to sell the audience on a weapon, even when it’s not particularly plausible. However, it does make translating weapons like this from a visual media into written prose particularly tricky, and outside of games (whether that’s tabletop or video games), being able to simply provide a power fantasy to the audience isn’t, necessarily, going to be enough to sell them on a cool new sword, no matter how awesome it is in your mind.
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