Action RPG is perhaps the most popular genre of video games, second only to first-person shooters, with games like Skyrim and Dark Souls becoming household names. Sadly this popularity also means that many great video games like Dragon’s Dogma were buried beneath the rubble of the success of the aforementioned prominent titles.
Dragon’s Dogma is a relatively overlooked ARPG Hack and Slash title featuring an open-world and innovative mechanics such as the pawn system.
The core gameplay loop of Dragon’s Dogma is not different from your standard RPG affair; the game begins with the players given control of a blank slate and set free upon the world of Gransys to explore and conquer.
However, the game differed in its combat mechanics and the previously mentioned Pawn system. This sophisticated companion system provided combat support and advice to the player, making the companions more than glorified animated backpacks.
The game was initially released only for consoles in 2013 but was later ported to the PC and the newer generation of consoles in 2016. Dragon’s Dogma garnered positive reviews from critics for its innovative gameplay. The “Dark Arisen” version released on later consoles was also critically praised for fixing the game on a technical level and adding more content to the base game.
However, the game is sadly underrated, or somewhat underappreciated outside of Japan, which saw the release of an MMORPG built around the same universe and even the release of an anime adaptation on Netflix.
The market is saturated with games of this genre, so finding good ones will hardly be any trouble; here’s my list of ARPGs I’d recommend to fans of Dragon’s Dogma.
Let’s get the most obvious one’s out of the way first. No one needs an introduction to this title. Skyrim is the most polished TES experience I can recommend.
Although it is not strictly a hack and slash title, players can pick that route by going a more tanky build and dual-wielding swords or choosing to be a stealthy archer who uses darkness to slip between their unaware enemies. The choice is really left up to the player of how they want to accomplish their goals.
The game might be a decade old now, released two years before Dragon’s Dogma, but it still has a lively community and active modding scenes.
In addition, there are many unofficial improvements added by the said modding scene that can vastly improve your experience, especially if you’re someone who played the game a long time ago and is looking to get back in.
2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Another fan favorite, some might even call the best game ever made, and while I do not wholly agree with that sentiment, I cannot argue the game has an experience that any other cannot deliver. It’s only fair to point out the one massive difference between Dragon’s Dogma and Witcher 3.
While both are ARPGs, Witcher does not begin with a blank slate; it follows the events of the previous Witcher games, which follow the events of the books and as such players play as Geralt the Witcher, but they do still have some say in what playstyle they wish to adopt. Still, it will primarily be, for the most part, Hack and slash.
The game also features certain situations where Geralt must make decisions, and as trivial they may seem, they do impact the bigger picture further down the road; you cannot, for example, insult someone and ask for their help a week later.
Like Skyrim, Witcher has set a benchmark for the genre and contains plenty of content and replayability with multiple endings.
3. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning
Kingdoms of Amalur is sadly another underrated title in the genre that featured a third-person open-world experience very similar to Dragon’s Dogma. The game had industry bigshots behind it, with Todd McFarlane working on art and R.A. Salvatore working on the narrative and lore.
The gameplay was straightforward enough; players have the option of four races and three classes, each class featured 22 abilities to unlock via XP in standard RPG fashion.
In addition, achieving a certain amount of progress in both the class system and quests allowed players to unlock destinies, which were buffs directly tied with the classes the player chose or objectives they managed to accomplish.
I have played this game twice and honestly saw no appeal of playing any other way than a pure mage build; however, the game is enjoyable for all classes.
I’d recommend the Re-Reckoning edition that was released in 2018. It’s pretty barebones for a remaster but features healthy optimizations for newer hardware.
4. Middle-earth: Shadow of War
It was a stroke of genius by WB that they managed to build an open-world RPG with combat mechanics “inspired” by the Batman Arkham series. As a result, this title indeed features the best and smoothest combat mechanics of any other ARPG.
I don’t know LOTR lore, to be honest, but I will try to sum up the game best I can. Based in the Lord of The Rings universe, players control talion, a qualified ranger of Gondor who has a unique supernatural personality that adds its own gameplay mechanics.
However, the most prominent mechanic that sticks to mind other than the Arkham like combat and stealth sections is the nemesis system that WB recently patented. To put it briefly Nemesis system allowed the game to generate unique and somewhat random encounters with different enemy captains making the world more personalized.
It’s also noteworthy that players could transfer said Nemesis and their friendly counterparts called Followers to the sequel Shadow of Mordor.
5. Dark Souls
The game that popularized the souls-like genre, Dark Souls, is an ARPG released in 2011 to both critical and commercial success. While the gameplay loop is far separate from any other ARPG, Dark Souls features combat with a weighty feel and interesting boss fights that fans of Dragon’s Dogma might be able to appreciate.
The game is very vague about what it wants you to do, only pointing you vaguely towards the general direction of where you want to be going to progress further.
I have to say the mechanic of the phantoms of other players that you can follow and who leave messages for other players greatly helps how the game handles exploration.
The game is a maze full of loot and traps, and players are expected to die a lot and learn from their mistakes, failure to do so will lead to a frustrating experience followed by rage quitting.
6. Monster Hunter
This game might seem very familiar to Dragon’s Dogma’s fans because Monster Hunter World shares the same engine and even reuses a few assets from DD. Developed by Capcom and released in 2019, Monster Hunter: World is an ARPG emphasising boss fights.
The core gameplay loop consists of battling out with monsters, collecting loot from their defeat to invest in better gear to fight stronger monsters.
While it might sound simple enough, the creatures are well-designed and unique, which translates to boss fights, almost emulating a more forgiving souls-like combat.
The game got favourable reviews on release and is still going strong with new updates, DLCs and a strong, lively online community.
7. Dragon Age: Origins
Developed by BioWare, it should come as no surprise that Dragon Age Origins is a quality ARPG title. Released in 2009, DAO garnered praise for its story, setting and combat system. It sold well and saw DLC released throughout the year, increasing its playability even more.
Dragon Age: Origin is a third-person ARPG that allows players to choose a race and class like any other where the game differs in the world, reacting to the choice of player’s creation. It even offers six different origin stories for its varied class and race combinations, ultimately though this does not affect the plot.
The game also features neat dialogue trees to communicate with NPCs for additional quests or lore. Of course, the NPCs can also be persuaded and intimated, but that was hardly innovative for the time, considering Oblivion did this a generation ago.
Overall it’s a great franchise and deserves to be played through at least once.
8. Mass Effect: Andromeda
Another title by BioWare, however, did not receive the praise as most of its titles primarily due to a botched release, the game being broken even on the most fundamental aspects.
Thankfully the game saw many updates and corrections in its ongoing life span that fixed most of the issues, including the horrible facial animation.
While I consider the original trilogy to be far superior to Andromeda even in its current state, Andromeda features more similarities to Dragon’s Dogma than its predecessors. The gameplay loop is again pretty standard except for restrictions when creating the character in the franchise’s previous titles.
Instead, the players are given free reins to choose what skills they’d like to invest in, allowing them to build their unique skills throughout the game.
The game shines in exploration, allowing players to venture to various alien planets to accomplish objectives varying from getting rid of the enemies to data collection. Completing such objectives earns players Andromeda Viability Points that can be invested in colonists to build a base on the planet.
The game has a strong focus on combat which is real-time for the first time in the franchise, it has a certain depth to it, like Dragon’s Dogma which players might find interesting, but Andromeda is in no way a hack and slash game.
ARPGs have been evolving since the release of Gothic in 2001, and while the genre has become broader and more saturated, it sees continuing improvements to its standards.
It can even be attributed to the creation of various sub-genres, including immersive sims and souls like, both of which cannot exist without ARPGs and lift many elements from the genre.
I could argue that the best games ever made were, in some form, an ARPG. Deus Ex, Dark Souls, Skyrim – all acclaimed titles, all of them are ARPGs.
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