Dragon's Dogma is without a doubt one of my favorite games from last generation. Flawed as it is, Dragon's Dogma is this charming and curious concoction of Japanese sensibilities and European fantasy that feels at times both fresh and wonderfully nostalgic. As weird as it might be, I really think it is one of the greatest role-playing games of recent years. And now, much to my delight, Dragon's Dogma will be arriving next week on PC! If you're a fan like me, the wait since its announcement late last year has been torture, so it shouldn't surprise you that I've been digging around as best as I can to find some suitable alternatives that really scratch that monster-slaying itch. Fortunately, there are no shortages of games that capture a little glimmer of what makes me love Dragon's Dogma so much.
Monster Hunter 4U
To be honest, any Monster Hunter will do just fine but if you're looking for the ultimate in Dragon's Dogma likeness, you cannot go wrong with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate for the 3DS. Continuing the series' tradition of brutal boss battles and thrilling combat, Monster Hunter 4U is unequivocally the best Monster Hunter game. And that's saying something.
Like Dragon's Dogma, Monster Hunter truly shines when you're slaying monsters. Both games have a rather distinct focus on battling large beasts that can take a monumental effort to bring down. Where Dragon's Dogma branches into more typical RPG fare by including a bunch of smaller types, Monster Hunter doubles down and is basically "Boss Fight: The Game". With over 70 different beasts to kill, there's no shortage of boss fights.
Dragon's Dogma is much more firmly planted in the realm of traditional open world RPGs than Monster Hunter is. You won't be spending your time here crawling through lush forests or completing fetch quests. Even the story is rather sparse and, while entertaining, not all that important to the game. Monster Hunter remains almost entirely focused on the brutal tension between you and that giant monster you've been struggling to take down. Like Dogma, the biggest monsters are a lot more than just a hack and slash affair. Each one has their own approach to combat, and learning that approach is half of the battle. You're going to need to keep your wits about you, watching for those subtle "tells" that let you know when the beast is about to unleash a devastating attack.
Both games also make use of the ability to grapple larger monsters and climb their bodies to attack otherwise unreachable areas, which I wouldn't be surprised to hear was a somewhat intentional cross-pollination of game design as both games are developed by Capcom. The system is far more robust in Dragon's Dogma, however, allowing you to climb all over a monster's body and deliver nasty attacks to certain weak points. You can also use that same method to grapple smaller monsters and hold them while teammates deliver blows, or through picking up objects in the environment. In Monster Hunter 4U, the system is similar in spirit but acts more like a mini game, tasking you with timing your attacks in between moments when the monster is thrashing about. If you fail you'll get thrown off.
When you aren't slaying dinosaurs, you'll be carving them up into resources that you can use to craft new items and equipment. This is one of the most appealing aspects of Monster Hunter, as killing monsters yields new resources to make more powerful gear to kill more powerful monsters. It's a satisfying gameplay loop that can take you hundreds of hours until you're kicking it with the coolest, most powerful armor in the game.
The other aspect that makes Monster Hunter feel so similar to Dragon's Dogma is when you team up with three others and hunt monsters as a group. Dragon's Dogma doesn't really have any true multiplayer mode, but you can team up with a party of three computer controlled teammates and you'd be surprised how similar the two can feel. Sure, they'll never replace a highly skilled human player, but you'll never feel very alone on your adventures with your team of "pawns" following you around. In fact, some are so prone to being talkative you'll likely wish they'd just shut up.
Though there is more than enough differentiating these two games, Monster Hunter really feels like a cousin of Dragon's Dogma in many ways. They're both excellent games that can be enjoyed for different reasons, but if you want to take some Dragon's Dogma on the go, Monster Hunter 4U is your best bet.
Black Desert Online
Playing the Black Desert Online beta there were times where I was overcome with nostalgia for Dragon's Dogma. Though the games are distinctly different in many areas, there's definitely this familiarity that exists between the two on an aesthetic level. Graphically, Black Desert Online is superior to Dragon's Dogma, yet the two boast similar art styles that just feel inviting. And the presence of well populated towns and villages that don't feel static like they tend to in some MMORPGs really make these games come to life.
Though Black Desert doesn't have the amazing grappling system explained above, the combat isn't all that far off. Both games have action-oriented combat that'll see you slicing and dicing your way through foes, and like some of the classes in Black Desert, it can be far more beneficial to dodge an attack altogether than heal through the damage.
Black Desert Online takes things in a different direction by utilizing a rudimentary combo system with the combat, which allows you to initiate abilities by pressing a certain combination of buttons on your keyboard (like shift + S + Left Click for example) which you can then string together with other equally as complicated moves. Some people hate it, I enjoy it.
The biggest similarities are found in the fact that both games are vast open worlds that you can roam around and explore. Though you won't have a party of NPCs following you around, Black Desert Online has far more depth to the ways you can interact with the world than Dragon's Dogma ever had. With a PVP system, the ability to use things you've learned in conversation with NPCs to make them like you more to unlock quests and items, robust crafting and trading, and more, Black Desert Online is a vastly deeper game. Which is a good thing because you'll be expected to play hundreds of more hours than anyone could feasibly invest into Dragon's Dogma.
In truth, Vindictus is much more akin to Monster Hunter than it is Dragon's Dogma. Both games emphasize battles that play out in instanced missions rather than happening organically while wandering a large over world map. But in terms of combat, Vindictus and Dragon's Dogma both have a lot of great things going on.
Like Dragon's Dogma, Vindictus is all about action-packed combat versus hordes of smaller monsters or against much larger beasts one on one. Both games feature a somewhat similar grappling mechanic and lots of interaction between your character, monsters, and the environment you fight in. You're free to pick up objects you find scattered around the field of battle and use them in a fight, which is a lot of fun.
Where Vindictus can falter is in the structure of the game and the payment model. As a free-to-play game, Vindictus definitely gives preferential treatment to those willing to cough up money in order to play. If you want to guard your wallet, expect to have to grind missions repeatedly in order to get the materials and items you need in order to progress.
Though the two aren't overly similar, you'd be surprised how often Dark Souls comes up in conversations surrounding Dragon's Dogma. While the latter is certainly more of a traditional open world RPG, it can also be punishing enough that it evokes the same feeling of total soul-crushing despair that made Dark Souls so beloved to being with.
Dark Souls' combat emphasizes timing more than anything, whereas Dragon's Dogma can be far more forgiving if you want to just swing wildly and button mash your way to victory. However, Dragon's Dogma never really tells you what zones are safe to travel, and a group of otherwise normal looking bandits might be able to end your life with just a few hits.
Dark Souls is far more organic in this sense (to be fair, just about everything can end your life in a few hits), but really shines in the world and enemy design. If you enjoy feeling a continual sense of awe and dread, any of the "Souls" games (Demon's Souls, Dark Souls 1 and 2, and Bloodborne) are amazing at delivering unforgettable experiences.
With Dragon's Dogma only days away on PC, you'd be far better served playing one of these games than spending the days twiddling your thumbs anxiously. With the future of the series uncertain, Dragon's Dogma might be forever doomed to be a one-hit-wonder with a Chinese MMORPG spin-off that only the most dedicated fans will take the time to play. If you love Dragon's Dogma as much as I do, what games do you turn to if you need your fix? Let us know in the comments!