Weekend Question: Dexterity or Strength?

PCG Jody

Staff member
Dec 9, 2019
I ask the PCG staff a regular Weekend Question and post the answers on the site. If you'd like to throw in an answer here, I'll squeeze the best into the finished article!

This week's question is: Dexterity or Strength?

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 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?
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What's your preference, quick and dodgy and probably good with ranged weapons, or slow and hefty and able to hit like a truck?
Or Rogue in WoW - quick and dodgy and also hit like a truck

Most games you need a bit of both, as Dex = agility and Crit chance,
whereas Strength is Damage and ability to carry some weapons/wear some armor.

I used to play slow warrior type characters as my PC was slow and more armor means more chance to survive lag, but last time I played Torchlight 2 I played slow characters as a 10 year old game is too fast on a 2020 6 core CPU, I couldn't keep up with the faster classes now.

Hard to find games that do ranged and melee just as well, many seem to make you choose one over other if you want to get far. I am now prepared for Brian to suggest too many. :)
What's your preference, quick and dodgy and probably good with ranged weapons, or slow and hefty and able to hit like a truck?
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.

games that do ranged and melee just as well
I don't have too many, since I avoid melee. But the Far Cry games—which are generally ideal for the role play I described—seem to offer melee players a decent option too. I've seen snippets of gameplay where the player is using the BFGs to good effect.

I always check out a new weapon when it shows up. I've found the BFGs way overpowered when matched with a role playing style like mine—LMGs with scopes and suppressors, or multi-launch rocket packs :rolleyes: So I avoid them—and overpowered explosives too, like mines & C4—to keep the play interesting… but they should prove very effective at ground clearing for a melee player.
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Nov 26, 2021
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.
For Elden Ring/Dark Souls games? Dexterity all the way. Its 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.
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.
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 its 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 dont remember exactly, and also changes based on the type of damage youre 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.
loads game to get better screenshot. TL2 stats are different in that you can set characters in certain ways were they can wear gear far above their lvls for most of game so that its never hard until you pass the lvl of the weapons you been using most of game. For that canon you have to be lvl 100 to equip it, everything apart from lvl 100+ items can be equipped early if you have right stats. +27 all stat lvl rings make that easy to do, its equiping rings that is initial challenge.
SO in TL2, the most important stat can be mana related just to equip rings/amulets and start using lvl 40 weapons at lvl 10... game doesn't appreciate it and its not easy fighting dragons that randomly attack at any moment.

I have forgotten a few buttons, i guess I haven't played in 17 months.
I 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 Thieve's 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.
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.
Jan 14, 2020
I know I'm late to this, but I wanted to weigh on Strength vs. Dex:

Neither, baby! It's just Magicka, Health and Stamina across the board, Skyrim-style! That's all I need! Just Magicka, Health, Stamina, and a skill tree. That's it. Just Magicka, Health, Stamina, a skill tree, and related perks. That's all... oh, and enchanted armor and weapons. So Magicka, Health, Stamina, skill tree with perks, and enchanted armor and weapons, that's all that matters to me! Also followers to fight on my behalf and carry things. So to recap, it's just Magicka, Health, Stamina, skill tree with perks, enchanted armor and weapons, and companions to do heavy lifting, literally and figuratively. Also potions. *pause* I forget the question.

Okay, silliness aside (finally), I've always been a Dex player. Even before I was sneaking up on the oblivious inhabitants of Tamriel or skulking through the roomy ventilation shafts of the Deus Ex world, I leaned heavily on Dex/Agility-based skills in games, including the original two Fallout games. (Though I think Perception was also key.) Once in a while I try to play a game as a big lumbering brute, but even then they tend to be more agile than they ought to be. (I'm currently playing a half-orc barbarian in a TTRPG, and he is unusually good at acrobatics and stealth despite his size and height.)