May 15, 2021

Although many Dark Souls fans may disagree, a good combat system doesn’t necessarily have to make your calloused fingers bleed – but sometimes you want to play a game with a distinctive system which goes beyond the pleasant and visually excellent button-tapping ballet of Arkham-like combat. For that, we have compiled our list of top 10 games with the most developed combat systems. Let’s dive in!

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Produced by the creators of NieR: Automata, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance had a perfectly functional core combat system, but what gets it the spot on this list is the Blade Mode, AKA “Cut Everything”, AKA “Oh dear lord, so detailed”. If something is a discrete model, then there is 95% chance you’ll be able to cut it to tiny pieces. You control the angle in 360 degrees, as well as the direction. If you’re determined enough, you can cut a watermelon into party-appropriate pieces. The game launched in 2013, and it remains the only game with that level of slashing detail.

We do have dismemberment in many other positions, of course, but nothing near the freeform of Revengeance. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic Dark Messiah is a spin-off from the Might and Magic series, a first-person perspective shooter-slash-slasher with deliciously meaty combat and its systems were full of kinetic joy. If you pick melee combat as your focus, you’ll find yourself hacking orcs to pieces with swords, whacking them around with staves. Every hit and every parry feels like it has proper weight behind it. If that wasn’t enough to provide a nice immersion, you quickly discover the joys of ragdolling enemies with well-aimed kicks, swinging chandeliers, or falling barrels. If you’re lucky and plan well enough, you’ll impale your foes on spikes abundant in the game’s environments.

Mount & Blade: Warband Mount and Blade: Warband makes the list because of its massive variety of melee weapons, each with their own stats, such as reach, speed rating, damage values for all of the available attack types. Some weapons have different modes – for example, you can use a bastard sword one-handed or two-handed – or special properties, like punching through blocks. You use mouse movement to control the type of attack, as well as to parry. Momentum has importance too, especially if you grab a lance and choose to play here and kill someone from horseback.

All this makes battles in Mount & Blade: Warband a ton of fun, and every weapon available feel unique. Star Wars: Jedi Knight Series Yeah, we had the Force Unleashed games, which made lightsaber combat look cool, but it never managed to make it feel cool. This is where the Jedi Knight games come in.

Running around slashing foes, directing attacks with subtle movements of your mouse buttons and pre-determined maneuvers is a blast, especially with Raven Software’s dismemberment engine. Jedi Academy added dual lightsabers, and Darth Maul-like staves, each with unique move sets and different input. This means every style change comes with something new to learn. Buff it all up with certain acrobatics, and The Force Unleashed can hide.

Devil May Cry 3 and 4 Devil May Cry games had a pretty hefty combat systems from the start of the franchise, but the Styles introduced in Devil May Cry 3 and the ability to switch between them on the fly introduced in Devil May Cry 4 expanded on combat significantly. While attacks on their own are largely about pressing buttons in a certain rhythm, with occasional direction input from the stick, the magic comes from combining them into incredible sequences. And yes: these games track just how diverse your combo is.

If you go around spamming the same attack over and over you’ll never crawl above C, which translates into fewer souls and lower overall mission score. The Special Edition also happens to have five characters to master, instead of two we got in the game at launch, so more bang for your buck. Guilty Gear Series Guilty Gear is to fighting games what Devil May Cry is to hack and slash genre. All the entries to the franchise mix incredible speed and absurd skill ceiling with the complexity expected from modern games fighting games. You will find attack cancels, five types of regular attacks, special attacks, and more.

Guilty Gear’s speed and high skill threshold make it not really suitable for newcomers to the genre, but you’ll find that the systems are complex and require split-second reaction speed. For Honor For Honor makes this list with a stellar melee combat system, especially suited for duels. At its core, the system boils down to picking one of three directions: top, left, or right.

It informs not only your guard form, but also the direction from which you begin your attack. If your enemy matches the direction of your attack with their guard or attack, it’s blocked. Then you have fast and heavy attacks, important for damage calculations and deciding which attack hits first if they start at the same time. And on top of that you get the specific moves of the various classes. Before long you figure out that what looks like a fairly simple rock-paper-scissors type of deal gets enough modifiers and complexities to turn it into a 3D fighting game more than anything else.

Tekken series The newest entries to the Tekken series happen to be pretty darned nifty fighting games, perfecting the more than 20 years old system, and pushing it to the logical conclusion. This is what a long time of “testing” in Japanese arcades does to games, it seems. Tekken at its core is focused on controlling individual limbs, chaining attacks, and looking great while doing this.

It’s probably among the most smooth fighting games out there, system and animation wise, with incredibly detailed hitboxes too. Tekken might not be the most complex of them all, but polish and cutting away things which do not work is also an important part of development. And Tekken is great at this. Soulsborne series Soulsborne games have become something of a measuring stick for many gamers.

The games have a certainly demanding combat system, which is typically reasonably fair, but on the other hand knows absolutely no mercy. The key to victory lies in managing your stamina, which is drained by attacks, dodging and the like, and in learning your enemies’ attack patterns and general behaviours. Working out the proper timing to attack, block, dodge will hopefully keep you beyond the striking range of your opponents. It’s a game with a certainly very deliberate tempo, nothing like DMC’s mad speed. The always present threat of violent death at the hands of every foe, and combat system unlike many we’ve seen before, make the Soulsborne games a shining example of how to do combat in games. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen Dragon’s Dogma is a criminally underappreciated game.

It blends some of the most distinctive features of other games to deliver something truly worthwhile. Probably the most distinctive feature, undoubtedly inspired by Shadow of the Colossus, is being able to climb massive monsters to deal damage much heavier than you would be able to from the ground. Each of Dragon’s Dogma’s nine Vocations plays differently, with a number of dedicated abilities and passive talents which can be shared across Vocations. Pawns – the NPC you hire to help you in combat – make the encounters even more interesting. They are mostly independent form you, but it doesn’t stop them from being helpful – healing you, stunning or grappling the enemies and so on. It works wonderfully, and even when you die horribly at the hands of bandits or huge monsters, you feel like you just died a heroic death.

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