Boss Fights

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Boss Fights

Some boss fights just don't belong in RPGs.

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Most bosses seem like pointless delays to me

Shamus Young juuuust beat you to it this time.

Half Life 2 isn't exactly a good example for game designers to follow.

Screw you, I hate shopping for clothes. :P

But... I like this shirt D:

Seriously though, if a boss battle doesn't add anything to the experience, then just don't include them. Wish more people would realize this.

I'm wondering whether or not Yahtzee has played Geneforge at any point (yay fanboy post). I never played the full versions of any of those games for various reasons, but they make a point of letting the player invest in whatever skills they like.

For example in Geneforge 2, there's a section whereby you've got to go into a some infested mines and rescue a bunch of Serviles (depressed slave things); you can choose to charge in there, sword drawn, and slaughter everything that comes at you; you can create a bunch of monsters that'll fight your battles for you; you can bully the "overmind" or whatever it was called into turning the mine's automated defences back on; you can use your skills in mechanics to turn the automated defences back on yourself, and this all just from one section. These sorts of scenarios exist in most every part of the game I had access to.

Even once you'd found the Serviles, you could either take them out and tell their owner that they're an idiot for not looking after them, you could take them out and tell the owner that their Serviles are idiots and should be punished, or you could just kill the lot of them and blame it on the monsters.

Yeah, so that's what I thought after reading the first few paragraphs about why Alpha Protocol was lame; try Geneforge instead

Absolutely agreed!

There is one type of boss battle I hate more than the gigantic health bar though; the boss with the inexplicable Achilles' Heel whilst being impervious to all other damage. How I hate thee!

I like a tough boss fight as much as the next guy but I think it should go like this - if I have a rocket launcher it will do damage to the guy no matter what he is made of - if I hit the guy's weak spot it will 'crit hit' and do more damage.

Now there is wiggle room in there but thats the formula that strikes me as being the least far removed from reality, assuming you are happy suspending your disbelief enough to think anything could survive ONE rocket in the face, never mind 10!

Jokes on you, Im not even wearing a shirt. So there.

Awww, no Fun Space Game update? Too bad.

Anyway, I never felt as though there's a great big need to have boss fights in games. Well, certain games anyway. Sometimes it's just completely illogical to try and squeeze one in. I haven't played Alpha Protocol, so I can't really comment on that, but I really don't like the idea of a game that essentially punishes you for choosing your own route, especially when said route is not mindless run-and-gun.

When I was still in high school, I enjoyed getting to test my mettle against a boss that was going to force me to outwit him/her in order to defeat them. I enjoyed the challenge of taking on something in the game that was as tough if not tougher than my character. Nowadays, with all the pandering to the "casual" gamer market, boss weaknesses are paper thin and easy to exploit. Aside from playing JRPG's with their typical end game side-bosses that are tougher than the actual final boss (which I never understood), most boss-fights do seem out of place. I enjoy going back and playing old shooter's like Contra 3 and Castlevania IV where the titanic boss's were difficult, but that's mostly nostalgia. So, in short I guess I agree with Yahtzee, unless the "final boss battle" is done in a clever manner than, cool, if not don't waste my time because I'll just find the quickest way to kill it/him/her. A good example of a bad boss fight is the human reaper in Mass Effect 2, Blech!

Hey! Do not be dissing the shirt of awesome! :p

Buuuut yeah, boss fights are pretty daft at times.

Hah! I referenced System Shock 2 in my comment on Shamus Young's article/comic.

It always bugged the crap out of me in all the FF games I've played. You travel around the world for hours, just training enough to keep on top of the enemies - then you get to the final boss and realise "I need to spend another 10 hours collecting pieces off all the best weapons in order to beat this guy :("

Portal did a great job on the final boss. The entire game really felt like it was training you for that moment, rather than switching modes entirely for some big spectacle shootout.

Yahtzee, have you been reading TVTropes?
Anyway, I agree that a boss fight is at its best when it tries to test ALL the skills the game is teaching you (assuming you have a good number of skills to test).

Hah fuck you I'm not wearing a shirt.

True when a boss just says fuck your allocated skills I perfectly counter them, the devs did something wrong.

Jokes on you, Im not even wearing a shirt. So there.

I'm not even wearing clothes!
Anyway,i don't see any problem with regular boss fights,like the ones in Resident Evil 4 or adventure games.But RPG boss fights are really anoying,especially in the Final Fantasy series.Bosses that tend to have tons of HP (FF 12 had a boss with,no joke,50 million HP) and one-hit kill attacks are just unfair.

After having just played Serious Sam 2nd encounter, I agree as far as your views about the boss having to fit the style of the game go; all you do is shoot, and wow, all three bosses can be killed by holding down the left mouse button and occasionally collecting more ammo. Those are fun bosses!
Now, compare that to Vampires The Masquerade - Bloodlines, and what do you have? I decided to join the Chinese vampires on my first walkthrough as a melee/sneak focused character, and then you have to fight off that giant bat-thing? Hell, talk about unfair...
A more mixed example I can think of would be KotOR 2: Nihilius, walking necrosis, and Treya being the main bosses in the game. While there were some unfair fights, at least two of these bosses were well balanced. Nihilius could be easily defeated with a good party, walking necrosis by using a bit of talking in addition to offense, and Treya, well...she sucked. But 2/3 isn't bad.

.Bosses that tend to have tons of HP (FF 12 had a boss with,no joke,50 million HP) and one-hit kill attacks are just unfair.

A completely optional boss it was.
No one forced you to fight it.

I personally enjoyed that fight (I did it in one sitting).

OP: Bosses work in some games. In others, they have no place being there.
As I read the rant about Alpha Protocol (which I've not played) I couldn't help but think that life is quite random. Sometimes we are faced with a challenge that we are under equipped to deal with, but we persevere. I guess it's kind of like that.

I'll agree with you that Boss fights have to make sense with the story, I guess that's why I liked the Metal Gear Games so much, they point a target on the back of the big bosses, and you spend your time going between them, and crossing them off your list. Every one is always different too, some need stealth, some need raw firepower, some a mixture of both. But then again, they always have punch ups at the end based on new gameplay mechanics... So not the same, but I still enjoyed them, it adds variety.

Well given that it's sunny in England and us Englanders aren't used to the sun. I'm naked with a fan on so screw you Yahtzee.

Okay once you've gotten the horrifying thought of me naked out of your head I'll get on to the topic. Personally I enjoy boss fights of today. I like the challenge. Sure I guess your right, they should be a final test of what you've been learning to do through the games and I commend any game which actually does that. However I'm not going to knock points of a game for not doing that.

I enjoy that satisfying feeling you get from destroying that big arsed Giant Crab. That crab that's been kicking your for the last hour and gotten you frustrated to hell. Sure your just shooting the shit out of it like you've done for any other enemy, However it still feels challenging and satisfying.

But...But.. I'm not wearing a shirt

Well given that it's sunny in England and us Englanders aren't used to the sun. I'm naked with a fan on so screw you Yahtzee.

I am not quite naked but I do keep sticking to my leather computer chair.

Hay screw you, I like the clothes I wear.

Hey I have a nice shirt on, although my jeans are all rip torn.

Making games costs huge amounts of money, therefore game developers don't take risks. This is partly why they conform and include boss fights; they primarily want their game to sell. Also it gives differing pacing throughout the game.

Hey! My clothes are just fine.

You are right, Yahtzee, boss fights just don't suit some games.
In a espionage game, it should be a "sneak past them" or "convince everyone on the bad guy's side to shoot them" or "pay a sniper to kill the fucker" fights.

Something along those lines.

The boss fights in Alpha Protocol were definitely annoying. Though by focusing on stealth, they were still mostly manageable. It was only until:

Yahtzee mentioned Deus Ex, and I think that game really deserves high praise for truly allowing you to take any path you want. Let's hope the upcoming Human Revolution continues with that route, but I for one am not holding my breath.

EDIT: just fixing a typo.

Ah nostalgia. I see some people commenting on when bosses used to be hard. Really? I remember old platformers like Castlevania where boss fights were usually several seconds long because whichever of you spammed your one or two available attacks faster depleted the others health and won. Old boss battles sucked and usually came down to "Do you have the gamebreaking item/ability that will kill him in 5 seconds? No? Ok, flounder about for like 10 minutes avoiding attacks and hitting him once in a blue moon." At least nowadays they HAVE weakpoints.

OT, I was so looking forward to Alpha Protocol. Then I heard about forced combat and, of all things, boss battles. Why the hell does a game about spies have boss battles? I totally agree with Yahtzee, sometimes they fit, other times they don't fit so badly it hurts.

I think that the reason why people always expect a huge boss fight in the end is their subconscious desire for a climactic ending to the experience as well as a feeling of accomplishment that comes from proving that they have fully mastered the game mechanics. This is especially true if they actually liked the game. In that case, an anti-climactic ending is that much more bothersome.

I am personally not bothered by the absence of a final boss fight if the final encounter makes sense in the context of the game, and I don't think I'm alone in that. For example, I don't think anyone complained about the final encounter of Demon's Souls (the Old One), since a) it is presented in a truly mind-blowing manner, b) it makes sense that you are not actually expected to kill a Cthulu-esque monstrocity with a soft, intelligent, evil voice and the size of a mountain and c)the game has tested your skills...more than enough in order for you to get there. Even though there was not much of a "fight", it still felt extremely rewarding. The opposite is true for a game like Bioshock 2 however. I expected something there, some sort of final confrontation, but what I got instead was a couple of bad guys of the exact same type as the ones I have been killing for the last 15 hours. Oh, and don't even get me started on Assassin's Creed 2...

As you said, tropes are often there for a reason. Hanging on to them for dear life is not always the best decision as a developer, but at least you'd better make sure that you are presenting something worthwile when you choose to ignore them.

By the way, now that the summer gaming drought is kicking in, you really need to put your hardcore hat back on and play through Demon's Souls. You need to have fully experienced this as a game critic. Not only is it an astonishing game, but it will give you a LOT of things to consider and talk about, regarding pacing, atmosphere, level design, boss design, minimalistic storytelling, the integration of elements from late 19th century horror literature in gaming, combat mechanics, challenge and more.

My shirt is awesome!

I like any game where you can use cunning to cheese a boss. In Oblivion I killed the last boss with poisoned arrows. Or Hitman where you can poison their drinks. Sometimes Indiana Jonesing a boss is sexy-awesome

(I like pizening people)

I do sometimes like epic tough boss fights if done well like in Jedi Outcast where you have been after the guy all the game. Or something that feels right for the style of game. I think the games with flashing hit spots should board the western ships and approach boss fights from an almost cinematic perspective, Where you feel incredible satisfaction emotionally as well as gamerly. Max Payne 2 ends like a Lethal Weapon or Die hard movie.

If there's one thing I don't want it's Boss battles in shooters.

Half-life 2 did a terrific job of making the citidal the "Boss" as in, the final confrontation. But then again, the entire game had a great way of being creative with it's gameplay mechanics, wich for some reason most FPS' are unable to do.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that the last paragraph made me chuckle, on account of the fact that I'm not wearing a shirt at the moment.

I don't want to change my shirt. I like Orphaned Land. And boss fights for that manner.

I'm perfectly comfortable with my dress sense thank you.

Honestly though, i remember when boss fights used to be a challenge that relied on SKILL rather than whatever stupid power you bought earlier on and remembering its attack pattern to an almost balletic performance.

Take Shinobi for the PS2. The game mechanics were deceptively simple and yet the bosses were still hard and challenging enough that i was all 'FUCK YEA' when i finally managed to cut them in two.

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