Strength or Dexterity?

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This is particularly relevant in Soulsborne games, where the choice between being quick and nimble or a lummox with a greatclub is identity-defining. Plenty of other games break builds down into these two archetypal choices, however, and STR and DEX remain two of the first stats in basically every RPG that has them. What's your preference, quick and dodgy and probably good with ranged weapons, or slow and hefty and able to hit like a truck?

Strength or Dexterity?

Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.

Robin Valentine, Print Editor: I always love the idea of going dexterity-based in RPGs. I like dodging more than blocking, and there's just something cool about the image of being an agile duelist rather than a lumbering brute. Plus light armour always looks cooler than heavy armour. 

But in practice Dex builds are so often the more awkward, difficult approach, requiring clever min-maxing to work and punishing mistakes more. Halfway through you're liable to find out that ranged damage just doesn't cut it in the late game. And if you're melee-based you end up having to use some lame looking weapon like a dagger or a rapier. 

So more often than not I go the path of least resistance and make a big, strong, tough guy with a sword and a shield. It's definitely the easiest way to go in the Dark Souls games. I kinda breezed through the first one as a walking tank who could take all the time he needed to learn enemy attack patterns. 

Really, though, the cool guy answer is to say screw both of them and do magic instead. 

(Image credit: From Software / Nexus mod user Asasasasasbc)

Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: Wait, Robin, what? DEX weapons are funky and awesome. DEX all the way. I love walking around with a whip or that Soldering Iron from the Irithyll Dungeon or literally any rapier. Oo, or the Claws. Also, I'm big on solving all my problems by dodge rolling. 

Fraser Brown, Online Editor: I prefer to be slow and weak. Keep your DEX and STR, I'm an INT boy.

Chris Livingston, Features Producer: Can I vote for Constitution? No matter how strong or dextrous I am in a game, my biggest worry is always health because chances are my enemies will be hitting me more often and much harder than I hit them. Fill up my health pool first because I am going to need every last hit point. (I have never played a Souls game but I assume they have something like CON, right?)

But if I can't choose CON, I'll go with DEX because I like being stealthy (they can't hit you if they can't see you) and I like ranged weapons (they can't see you if you're on a hill fifty feet away) and I feel like dexterity is more useful when you need to quickly bail from a fight and go heal on a hill fifty feet away.

SIFU artwork.

(Image credit: Sloclap)

Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor: I used to always pick rogues and rangers, but same as Robin I never find them fulfilling in the end. Being fast can be great in a combat system dedicated to it. In Sifu (a brawler which doesn't have stats like Strength and Dexterity), slipping and rolling under strikes is brilliant, but I feel like I'm disappointed by most dex-based RPG classes. Granted, I'm not a Souls person. I'm thinking more of MMOs. It always seems cool to be the sneaky rogue until you're faced with enemies you can't backstab, or who only lose a sliver of health from each of your rapier pokes. These days I go boring and balanced.

Andy Chalk, NA News Lead: I generally aim for balanced builds in RPGs—min-maxing is so tedious—but unless it's completely non-viable, I'll always prioritize Dex over Str. I like thief/assassin-style gameplay, ranged weapons, dual-wielding, and ganking dudes who don't even know I'm there. Finesse is so much more fun and interesting than pure power.

From our forum

Brian Boru: Quick, dodgy, ranged without question, I get no enjoyment from melee, it's just a passage to get thru before back to the fun stuff.

This comes from my preference to role play in games—what would I do if this was real? If there are a dozen enemy troops or one hulking big guy, no way engaging up close makes sense short-term, never mind as an ongoing strategy. The fun for me is in finding ways to neutralize such enemies without going on repeated suicide missions.

(Image credit: CI Games)

Withywarlock: Dexterity. I'd rather dodge a blow in its entirety than mitigate the one that hits, but that doesn't necessarily mean you will always dodge them.

That said, in Lords of the Fallen there was a build wherein you could use the healing cooldown to heal more damage than the enemy could put out, ergo making you invincible in heavy armour (save for one boss if you didn't find cover. Anyone who has played LotF knows who this is.) So Strength definitely helped there, especially when dextrous play was far more difficult due to the limited windows of time to get attacks in on the heavily armoured bosses.

In CRPGs I mostly play dextrous characters because it can determine stealth skills including lockpicking, pickpocketing, trap discovery and disarmament. Strength rarely gets used for skill checks, and is mostly limited to combat... the thing that every class can do, and usually well in today's games.

DXCHASE: For Elden Ring/Dark Souls games? Dexterity all the way. It's easier to learn patterns of bosses and adds and dodge and hit a bunch of times than sucking up dmg from a hit and hoping that when its your turn to hit them you do enough to kill them or risk being exposed to attacks because your kinda standing there with no stamina.

Now for other RPGs say Diablo, Grim Dawn, Lost Ark I would choose Strength because its a different ballgame when tackling mobs/bosses in those types of RPGs.

Diablo 2 horadric cube

(Image credit: Blizzard)

mainer: Dexterity, at least 90-95% of the time in any RPG I play. I love ranged combat, whether it's bows, crossbows, or guns. I like to kill from a distance. Dexterity also (usually) allows greater stealth, better sneaking, detecting and disarming traps, and lock picking. Occasionally I'll build a high dexterity character and focus on dual-wielding small weapons as well as back stabbing, and dodging in combat. I also like to scout ahead using stealth, checking a potential battlefield or enemy positions.

The way you build really depends on the game, as so many RPGs have different methods now, not just the standard attributes (STR-DEX-CON-INT-WIS-CHR) that we grew up with. Take Skyrim for example, I can build a high dexterity archer or thief, but I build him by leveling up skills instead of attributes, though it amounts to the same thing.

Older CRPGs like the Baldur's Gate and Pillars of Eternity games, I always build a high dexterity archer, usually a Ranger class. ARPGs like Diablo 2 and Grim Dawn, I still prioritize dexterity, the Amazon for D2 and the Inquisitor for GD (dual wielding pistols is so sweet). It should be noted that the attributes in Grim Dawn are called Physique, Cunning, Spirit which are basically Strength, Dexterity, and Intel; just different terminology.

Many games with as many different methods to build a character, but I'll take a high dexterity character any day, regardless of the way I get there.

Zloth: I tend to play the wizard types, so I'll likely be pathetic at both. Typically, I'll take dex over strength, though. Maybe I'll get lucky and dodge an attack or two. Strength is good for carrying stuff, but we'll just let the mule... I mean the fighter hold on to all that stuff.

Dark Souls PvP

(Image credit: Fromsoftware)

Kaamos_Llama: There's nothing more satisfying in a Souls game than smashing stuff into the ground with a Great Sword in PVE. Ultra is too big and slow and feels too wonky though, too much delay. With a GS you can time the hits after the wind up more easily and still get the satisfaction of once shotting a lot of stuff after a dodge. One handing a GS with a shield is also more flexible, as it gives you the option of parrying too.

At the same time it's terrible to fat roll or even medium roll, so my default thing to do is to rock around in the strongest armor that lets me still quick roll with a Great sword. I think its leather armor or hard leather in DS, don't remember exactly, and also changes based on the type of damage you're facing, if things get difficult.

In non action RPG's I default to strength on a first playthrough, because usually a heavily armored fighter main char is most survivable. Probably a hold over from games like Baldurs Gate where low level wizards (my second favourite class) were almost useless and would get one shotted by rats.

Pifanjr: Definitely Dexterity. I really like the ranger archetype and I like being sneaky, so I'll always make a dexterity build if it's viable.

Skyrim armor guy

(Image credit: Bethesda)

WoodenSaucer:  don't know what to say here because I waiver between stealth and run-and-gun.

I keep bringing up Skyrim, but I can't help it because it's my favorite game. Every time I play it, I think I'm going to try things differently, but I always end up doing the same thing. I start with the Thieves' Quest and max out all of my stealth, pickpocket, and archery stuff. But then after I have that maxed, I'll build up my one-handed and smithing until I can make myself some dragon weapons and armor, and build up enchantment so I can enchant the weapons I make. Then I can just walk into a place and take everyone down. Dragons are nothing at that point.

For those of you who are Skyrim fans, the first time I played, I tried to do the Missing in Action quest where you save the guy from the Northwatch Keep that is heavily guarded by Thalmor. I tried to do it early in the game and got pummeled. Then I went back later after maxing stuff out and having Dragon gear, and I walked through there like it was nothing. It was kind of funny.

So I don't really know what to choose because I really enjoy both ways of playing.

Johnway: Depends on the RPG. For fantasy RPGs I favor strength. My MC is leader and the corner stone for most, if not all attacks. Also if I want to weld the best weapons and armor, its usually geared towards strength. There are exceptions; magic users and rogues are top targets, but for the main fight I opt for strength. Concerning dex, it doesn't appeal as archery is meh, thieves/rogues are more support roles that someone else can fill.

For Modern/sci-fi RPGs I favor dexterity/agility especially if it influences accuracy as playing strength means just charging in and hoping for the best. Generally in these RPGs I opt to be a flexible jack of all trades if possible or falling back to the fighter mentality and in modern/scifi rpgs, it means guns.

For ARPGs however I opt for dex (or intelligence) builds for range attacks. Too often that going up close and personal with mobs or bosses become a death sentence as they're usually more powerful then you. With dex I can at least kite them. boring, but i have breathing room and survive longer.

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