Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
What It Is: Whereas The Witcher 3 is a dark fantasy setting, Kingdoms of Amalur is on the other end of the spectrum. It’s all very bright and colorful in a Fable kind of way, with a cartoonish art style. Even though it doesn’t have the richest amount of backstory to work with like The Witcher does, the lore here is still pretty interesting. You play as a warrior who dies and then is brought back to life with the ability to change their destiny. But before you can go on and demand your money back from those fake fortune tellers at the carnival, you have to deal with the Winter Fae who want to wipe out the other races of Amalur. You know, usual Thursday.
Why You Should Play It: Despite its typical fantasy setting, Amalur does add some new wrinkles to the formula. Yes, the story is pretty generic, but the environments look great and all the key characters are doing what they can to immerse you in the world. The combat system is more reliant on swipes, parries, and combos than some other games in its genre that all flows quite well, and the different weapons and buffs are fun to experiment and mix with. If nothing else, the ability to pick a class and then go through different subclasses through skill trees encourages you to find a tier and stick with it to its full potential or experiment all over the place. While Amalur may not have the luck to follow up on its ambitions like The Witcher does, that doesn’t mean you should turn it away.
Two Worlds II
What Is It: A 2011 high fantasy action-RPG set in the world of Antaloor. Just like in the first Two Worlds, you play a hero destined to save the world from the evil wizard Gandohar and your kidnapped sister. Yeah, the plot is pretty bare bones, especially when compared to something like Dragon Age or The Witcher, but it does have some bits of humor sprinkled in. Just hope you don’t mind that your character basically sounds like he’s spent half his life smoking in the Church of the Dark Lord with special cigars fresh from the 52nd Circle of Hell.
Why You Should Play It: Two Worlds II isn’t exactly refined like the Witcher games are. But the sequel really does a good job of addressing a lot of criticisms with the original, starting with the combat. It’s been reworked to be less “wave your hand around halfheartedly” and more “take that, and that, and some of this! Ha-HA!” It flows quite nicely and intuitively, and gains a little something when you’ve got some better weapons in your hands. There’s also an absurd amount of customization; you can create your own spells and craft weapons, armor, and potions for you to use in battle. There’s certainly plenty to do, and it’s quite easy to lose yourself in this grand adventure. You certainly won’t be short on things to do with at least 70 hours of gameplay and plenty of quests for you to tackle. Leveling up your character will quickly become addictive, and you’ll be searching for loot and taking up treasure hunting to build up your character any way you can. Two Worlds II is flawed, yes, and it does have an odd title, but underneath those flaws is a solid action-RPG that has its own special charm and will hopefully invite you in with open arms. Just be sure to expect some rough patches now and again.
What It Is: Capcom’s open world action-RPG series that started back in the PS2 days. Just like the title implies, your job is to hunt down monsters and capture or kill them. On the upside, you get to travel a lot and add to your frequent flyer miles.
Why You Should Play It: This series is basically the monster killing sidequests in The Witcher, just made into the core of the entire game. You start out in an area and can gather whatever materials you need to take out the big beast and get their remains to turn in for money or research. Unlike other action-RPGs, you don’t level up at all, you have to improve your character by getting better equipment. You’re free to switch between any weapons and armor you have to change your playing experience a good deal. You can play in a fully solo experience by yourself, or gather three friends together for epic monster killing that you’ll be talking about for weeks to come. The friends that slay monsters together stay together… or however that goes.
Which One You Should Play First: Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate Edition. It takes the best elements from each of the previous games and preserves the series’ core mechanics while giving more in depth and exciting options. Climbing is a welcome to gameplay and adds verticality to the combat, alongside new weapons and the addition of monster diseases. For anyone who wants a real challenge, G-rank missions will test your mettle, and even more so if you go with friends. If you like games like Borderlands or Destiny that give you more loot than you know what to do with, Ultimate Edition will satisfy your desire to hoard with plenty of rare resources that’ll let you construct new gear and add tons of replayability. Once you add in greater and more diverse sets of worlds and an excellent multiplayer element that encourages teamwork and cooperation, it’s easy to see why this series has stuck around for so long.
What It Is: Peter Molyneaux’s action-RPG series that puts you a hero in the super British world of Albion. In each game, you’re faced with plenty of moral choices that allow you to choose between being a Hero of the land or a Villain everyone hates. Also an easy paycheck for any British voice actor between the ages of 26 and 54.
Why You Should Play It: Like Amalur, Fable is on the opposite end of the fantasy spectrum, going for a very cheery and colorful look compared to the grittiness of The Witcher. The Fable games may not be as open ended as some of its competition, but it’s also not aggressively linear. No matter your preference, you’re sure to find your favorite play style between magic, ranged, or melee weapons. Albion is a beautiful land brimming with tongue in cheek British humor and personality that fans of the Monty Python films are sure to enjoy.
Which One You Should Play First: If you still have a 360, you can snag all three of the main games for one price. But between those, Fable II is your best option. It builds on the excellent foundation that the original provided while also redefining the system. Moral choices may not be as clearly telegraphed or as consistent like in other games, but the reputation system is much more subtler way of making your actions matter in Albion. Combat is much more efficient and flowing compared to the previous game, and the co-op adds for a fun tag-team element. The future of the franchise may currently be up in the air aside from Fable Legends, but the second installment is still very much worth your time.
What It Is: For starters, it’s a game with a needless title; everyone can grok that it’s a Lord of the Rings game simply by having the word ‘Mordor’ on there. No one cares about Mordor, New Jersey anymore. Other than that, it’s one of the more recent fantasy games to come out so close to The Witcher 3. Also based on a classic set of fantasy novels (in this case, the Lord of the Rings franchise), Mordor is set in between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings during Sauron’s rise to power. You play as Talion, a ranger of the Black Gate who ends up dead alongside his family at the hands of the Black Hand of Sauron as part of a failed ritualistic sacrifice. Talion ends up bound to a Wraith with no memory of who he is, but the two of you decide your best course of action is to kill the Black Hand and get some answers.
Why You Should Play It: Shadow of Mordor came out last year to basically unanimous praise, and for good reason. The story itself may not be entirely engaging–don’t worry if you forget who the bad guys are, or if Talion and Celebrimbor bore you to tears with just how dark and grim they are–but it’s the Nemesis system that carries it. The land of Mordor has an Orc hierarchy, from captains all the way up to war chieftains. You can use your Wraith abilities to find out weaknesses for each of them, and the info is essential in taking them down. It’s a constant power struggle that’s dependent on you while also not entirely guided by your actions; you can wipe out three Orc captains, but once you die trying to go for your fourth, your killer will take all three vacant spots. The Nemesis system is ultimately what makes Mordor so fun; once you make that first crack in the Orc hierarchy, you’ll want to keep playing.
What It Is: Bioware’s other big action-RPG franchise they started back in 2009. Each game has you play as a different protagonist; in Origins, you play a Grey Warden tasked with killing the Archdemon before it destroys the world. Dragon Age II puts you in the shoes of Hawke, a refugee who rises to power over ten years and gets tangled up in mage rebellions and Qunari uprisings. The more recent Inquisition paints you as the survivor of a massacre that kills religious and military leaders while also leaving you with the ability to close rifts in the Fade.
Why You Should Play It: As this list is showing, there’s plenty of room for more than one dark fantasy series. Like The Witcher, Dragon Age has a fun, well-rounded cast of characters and epic lore that keeps players coming back for more. The combat may alter between each game, but the core mechanics are still the same between each of them, and all the games have a great spread of characters and skills for you to play around with. If nothing else, you’ll enjoy the various banter between your allies and each game, plus the romance in each allows you to find love no matter your orientation.
Which One You Should Play First: This one is tricky. PC players love Origins to death while having not so kind thoughts about Dragon Age II. But the console version of Origins is very much not good, while II is pretty great, if flawed. If you primarily play keyboard and mouse, go right on ahead with playing Origins and ignoring II’s existence to barrel straight on to play Inquisition. For the console players, start with II and don’t look back. Seriously, Origins on console is pretty crap, the combat’s like waving a wet paper towel around. But taking gameplay out of it, II needs to be played because Inquisition’s story is very reliant on you having played II.
What It Is: Probably the biggest fantasy franchise in gaming. In each game, you play an adventurer who starts off in prison. But before you can even think about legging it to anywhere else so you don’t get thrown in jail again, it falls on you to defend the people of Tamriel from an evil force that’s perfectly content with letting you dick around for a couple dozen hours before deciding to destroy everything.
Why You Should Play It: You can’t talk about fantasy games without talking about Elder Scrolls. Bethesda’s epic, generation-spanning franchise has garnered huge acclaim, and it’s easy to see why. While the previous three games were exclusive to PC players, Oblivion and Skyrim allowed console players to get in on the action. The games themselves are big in scope and size right when you buy them, and when you throw in the expansion packs into the mix, the playtime has to rival The Witcher’s. You’ll be in your home for months, if not years to come!
Which One You Should Play First: Morrowind. Sure, it’s old by today’s standards, but it succeeds in showing players a strange world and mythology without just going completely over their heads. Just like in the other games, you’re basically Ultra Jesus Chosen IV PhD, but the way it’s fleshed out here is better and more presented than previous or future titles. Even though you could break the game, the gameplay allowed for huge flexibility and let you basically make or do anything you wanted. Skyrim may be the game that people want The Witcher 3 to dethrone, but it should keep its eyes on that shifty looking Morrowind.
Like our list? Disagree? What games would you remove or add? Can anyone ever really be done with The Witcher? Sound off in the comments below and let us know how The Witcher 3 is!