Going through various game forums and threads it seems like people hail Dark Souls as having the best combat in a fantasy game this generation of consoles (PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii).  I find this interesting because the combat really isn’t that interesting.  You have your basic light and heavy attack for melee weapons, and for bows you can zoom in and shoot.  Actually, the ranged combat isn’t that good, because there is a very limited range in which you can lock on to enemies, which you have to do if you intend to use magic or a crossbow.  Then you can also use a shield, which works as a shield always works.  Couple that with some rolling and dodge moves and there you have it, that’s the combat of Dark Souls.

Yes, that makes it sound rather bland and generic, and you know what, it kind of is.  That’s not to say it’s bad, but it’s just nothing great.  Barely being able to use a crossbow makes one wonder why it’s even in the game, and the lock on for magic seems to not always work as it should.  Luckily, the combat is methodical enough that the way combat is handled actually works, but it doesn’t seem to do anything overly impressive.  Though, are there really any fantasy games with good combat?  Let’s take a quick look at what there is (that I’ve played).

When current fantasy games are brought up it’s hard not to think of Skyrim.  While the combat isn’t anything to boast about, they did make some nice improvements over Oblivion.  Being able to duel wield is fun, though not as much if duel wielding two melee weapons.  The benefit comes when using it with magic, as you can combine two of the same spells to make a sort of “master spell,” which essentially just puts them together to make them stronger.  Bethesda also made it easier to use bows, and in turn I’ve ended up using bows as my main weapon, which is in contrast to Oblivion where I didn’t even travel with a bow.  The rest of the combat is solid, but not anything special.  They tried to add slow motion killing moves, but they just end up taking you out of the action, and feel forced.  Using a two handed weapon, such as a great axe, can create problems, especially when you end up missing a target after a running attack.  Though, 60 some hours in, the combat has not detracted from the experience, it just hasn’t really added much to brag about.

Then there was Two Worlds II, which well wasn’t anything special.  Granted, the world was huge, and it had made some nice progress since the first game (at least that’s what I’ve heard, as I’ve never played the first).  However, it was glitchy and had a very unstable framerate.  The combat was really poor.  Poor enough that I didn’t know if I was going to hit an enemy or not.  For some reason there were infinite arrows for no matter which bow I used.  It was interesting to have three character builds (melee, ranged, and magic) under the same character, but neither was particularly exciting.  I tried to like this game, but it was very bland, and the combat did nothing to add to the experience.

I played the demo for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and while better, still wasn’t overly great.  It felt like a mix of standard combat mixed with some God of War elements.  Only playing the demo, it’s hard to say how it actually is, but it did seem to be a bit better than the rest.  Combos looked like a key part to combat, where you can launch an enemy in the air with a sword and shoot it with arrows or magic and then continue with some crazy moves.  The magic was the key part for me, as it was actually fun to use and looked pretty cool.  It was weird that when you go to block, the shield appears out of nowhere and your weapon is put away.  It’s probably not that bad once you get used to it, but it was still kind of awkward.

However, in two months it looks like consoles may get a solid fantasy game in terms of combat.  Dragon’s Dogma looks like it’ll offer some strong combat with open world exploration.  Being able to scale giant monsters is very reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus, which is always a plus.  I’m hoping it’s a mix of Shadow, Monster Hunter, and Skyrim (in terms of the size of the map and stuff to do).  Now, Monster Hunter doesn’t have great combat, but it does have giant monsters and is also made by Capcom, so I’m assuming some inspiration will be taken from that.  Hopefully this game can pull off some good combat, but who knows, it may not be anything other than another fantasy game.  Though, it does seem like the combat will coincide with the character build, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they spent a good amount of time making the combat feel even a little bit unique depending on what class/build you are.

There you have it, a quick recap of what fantasy games I remember playing this gen, or at least last year.  I don’t think any of these games, other than Two Worlds II, have bad combat, and a lot of them handle it very well in relation to the game and context it’s used in.  There’s just nothing overly special, but does it have to be?  Should combat carry a game?  I don’t think so.  I think it’s more important that it fits into the rest of the game, and that’s what these games have done.  Chances are, if you complain about the combat in a game, then you simply don’t like the game, which is fine, that’s why there’s so many games to choose from.  Though, it will be nice if Dragon’s Dogma will have some strong combat, as the game itself looks very fun (as does using a bow).  However, the lack of story may put people off of it (as is the case with Monster Hunter, Dragon’s Dogma does not look to