Magic Vs. Melee 01/19/2010
I’m sure anybody that’s played their fair share of RPG’s will understand this article.  Always when I buy a new RPG, I’m stuck pondering for ten minutes on whether to focus on a magic character, or a melee character.  Considering that most RPG’s are long journeys, what you pick is what you’ll have for usually 30+ hours.  Sometimes you’ll have these characters for 100+ hours.  From the start the idea of being a sword swinging hero is appealing.  Then the idea of being an old wondering wizard comes to mind.(Of course there is the rogue/archer type class, but thats for another discussion.)

That decision alone leads to some hefty weighing of options.  But aesthetics and archetypes aside, the real question is how easy and fun will it make the game.  Some RPG’s out there understand the trouble of choosing and give options such as Battlemage, a good mix between both.  But usually you end up being good at certain skills but never mastering either.  It’s a jack of all trades, master of none kind of deal.  Doing that usually leads to a rough ride early on in the game.  Spreading your skills too thin is not a good idea. (Even though I am guilty for choosing Battlemage on Oblivion)

The real problem in my eyes is the lack of balance between the two.  At first glance they seem perfectly balanced.  Melee people attack at close range and spend time getting better at swords while getting huge armor boosts for being up close and personal.  Magic people have weaker armor but can stay away at a distance and hopefully kill the enemy before he gets too close.  But in all honesty when it comes down to it, magic is usually the way to go.

Now I’m not saying that this is true for every game as I have not played every game.  But from my experiences, playing with a mage is always easier than playing with a warrior.  You can cast from a distance, enchant your equipment, silence opponents, freeze them in place, paralyze them, heal yourself, summon helpers, etc.  It’s crazy how many skills you can come up with if you work your XP and money the right way.  Especially on RPG’s where you can create your own spells. I know sometimes melee users can have a stun ability, or disarm, but it's still not as effective.  On oblivion I remember creating a 100% weakness to fire spell, and then a high level fireball spell.  Hit them with the weakness; finish them in usually one hit with the fireball.  And that worked for almost every enemy in the game. 

Being a sword fighter is fun, getting to hack and slash and block and all, but in the end it’s always a harder experience.  I made a melee focused character on Demon’s Souls and was having a hard time.  So I restarted with a new magic focused character and blew through half the game like it was nothing.  Yes you get awesome armor and powerful swords, but in the end it doesn’t measure up to people with magic abilities.  I think developers need to rethink the balancing in some of these RPG’s, so people can have equal difficulty while playing the game in their own style.

Chucky Mitchell

What’s your opinion on magic vs. melee? And what do you choose most of the time?