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Final Bosses - rock hard or soft as shite?


JamesC
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What do you want froma final boss battle in a game?

 

Some games go for a rock hard boss - the biggest challenge in the game. Something that takes many tries to defeat and has more that one phase.

 

Others will go for a fairly soft final boss encouter. You're now powered up to the max, you've made it through the challenge of the game and, for the ultimate power fantasy, you're going to wipe the floor with the big baddie.

 

Most games are somewhere in between but which end of the spectrum do you favour?

 

Personally, I prefer a fairly easy final boss. I feel like I've done the hard work and the final scene of the game should be a feel good freewheel down the hill. 

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Yeah, increasingly I don't want the final boss to be a huge hurdle. Dark Souls' Gwyn is a great example - not easy by any means when you first meet him, but he's old and flawed and knows when to die.

 

The Sekiro final boss is the other end of the scale, and I really couldn't be arsed with it.

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God of War's Sigrun was perfect for me. I had learned the techniques to defeat all the other Valkyries and had to use every last bit of skill and hone them even further to defeat her. I don't get much time for gaming these days, but i spent an hour a night after the mrs went to bed for two weeks to finally defeat that boss

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No boss.

 

Almost without fail I don't like bosses in games at all. I think they're mostly the worst part of the game. Added because of some old school hangover of the idea that games and Lev's need them even when they're don't fit any of the rest of the game.

 

Of course they belong in some games. If it's a game which mechanically "needs" or at least fits them then they should be a challenge. When they're really more of a story beat (ala-Mario imo) they should be a pushover.

 

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Soft as Shite, I finished Spyro the Dragon quite recently and the boss literally just ran away! 

 

Halo Infinite, the teleporting boss itself was a bit annoying but not so bad, it was all the goons running after you in between that made it hard, it was grapple hook away, turn around and quickly shoot what you can, grapple hook away, shoot for 10 minutes

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I like them to be difficult. Especially if they test your skill with all the abilities and patterns the game has already offered but mix things up to mess with your expectations. I enjoy a final phase where you just absolutely batter them but I want it to be a struggle to get there.

 

If I play a game and beat its bosses first time I don't really feel like I'm playing the game "properly".

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21 minutes ago, sir podger said:

God of War's Sigrun was perfect for me. I had learned the techniques to defeat all the other Valkyries and had to use every last bit of skill and hone them even further to defeat her. I don't get much time for gaming these days, but i spent an hour a night after the mrs went to bed for two weeks to finally defeat that boss


Sigrun was optional though which is a big difference. I enjoyed the challenge too but it was post game stuff, it would have been frustrating in the extreme to gate the end of the story behind her.

 

Huge difficulty spikes are horrendous at any point but worst at the end. I want a spectacle yes but if I’ve invested 20+ hours I also want to see the end!!

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The best thing about the final boss of Sekiro, is that, yes, it's incredibly hard, but in order to get to that point the game has already gradually trained you to surmount obstacles which were very nearly as difficult. So you just have to apply everything you've learned and break past that one last wall. And the feeling is indescribable.

 

It's the ultimate expression of how good a final boss can be when it's effectively a representation of the culmination of everything else you've experienced up until that point. Like a gloriously timed full stop. Or the final flourish at the end of a virtuoso performance.

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29 minutes ago, thesnwmn said:

No boss.

 

Almost without fail I don't like bosses in games at all. I think they're mostly the worst part of the game. Added because of some old school hangover of the idea that games and Lev's need them even when they're don't fit any of the rest of the game.

 

Of course they belong in some games. If it's a game which mechanically "needs" or at least fits them then they should be a challenge. When they're really more of a story beat (ala-Mario imo) they should be a pushover.

 

This. 

 

I struggle to think of any boss fights I'd look back on and say I enjoyed - mainly they are just an excuse to be cheap/drawn-out/time sinks, and I just want to finish the game.

 

I'd honestly just prefer a cutscene where I could enjoy the spectacle of it all. 

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I prefer the hardest boss to be a few away from the end. It's more memorable and less annoying - Alma in Ninja Gaiden or Ornstein and Smough on Dark Souls - can't even remember the final bosses of either game.

 

The only exception would be a Metroidvania as I would expect some test of all abilities towards the end of the game.

 

No challenge whatsoever is somewhat deflating - Splatoon 1 and 2 have almost the same final boss yet the first game is so much longer and more memorable, and fun.

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I actually think Sekiro has the best final boss. 
 

- Most difficult challenge in the game, but uses everything you’ve learnt to that moment

- Deaths always the fault of the player

- Excellent visuals and music throughout

- Badass opponent

- Most importantly of all, empowering (to the player) final form where you well and truly turn the tide of battle

- Brutal and dramatic final moment

 

For me, the best boss fight I’ve ever played. Probably took me about 4 hours but the feeling of overcoming it was immense. 

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Normally I do prefer my final bosses to have a "trick" to beating them quickly so I can cheese them if I want, or for it to just be relatively painless. Sekiro is one of the few exceptions to that for me, but that's because the entire game's difficulty and mastery arc is designed around training you to be able to beat the last fight.

 

One I hate is the last boss in Metal Gear Rising for example: cheap motherfucker who enraged me to the point I gave up. It's just difficult it its own specific way for its own sake and is a complete opposite design philosophy to Sekiro.

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I think the only boss fight I really remember is Wonder Boy 3 on the Master System because it was so hard, and I felt like saying ‘fuck you!’ when I beat it.

 

Although another memorable one was FFVII because I’d maxed out all my materia grinding the submarine dragon (or something) and when I fought Sepiroth it lasted about twenty seconds.

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Sekiro definitely went too far for me. I basically spent the same time on the final boss than I did on the rest of the game and it was a feeling of quiet relief rather than accomplishment when I eventually did it. I'd not recommend the game to any one because of it.

 

That fucker made me feel like I was losing my mind. 

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I don't mind difficult bosses but I really fucking hate it when it's just a war of attrition and you've clocked how to defeat him/ the pattern whatever but just because it's a boss it's going to take fucking ages.

 

I also hate it when the energy bar is actually bollocks and the game wants you to do the thing three times, even if by all intents and purposes you should have killed him off during the second time you staggered them (or whatever).

 

There are quite a few games where I've just not bothered finishing the boss, especially if I've "worked it out" as then just going through the motions is even more annoying. 

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The final boss should definitely not be the hardest. You know you've almost finished, you just want to get across the line. My favourite ever final boss fight (other than REZ)  (I'm certain I've metioned this before) is from Grandia. I think the first form may have been quite tough, but doable, but then it comes back as a second form with a full 9999 points of health, and you think - "oh shit!". But it's rubbish - you've already broken it. It can cast only the weakest spells that aren't even a nuisance any more. So you just spend several rounds kicking the absolute crap out of this thing that has been dicking you around over the course of the game. Very cool.

 

As a game designer, my guiding rule is one I learned from working on a golf game. I read a quote from a course designer who said a course should "look hard and play easy". That's what I like. Make it look like I have to be amazing, but actually don't require me to be amazing.

 

I worked on Dead 2 Rights: Retribution (a nailed on 7 out of ten, but loads of fun IMO). I did the level design for all the doggy stealth sections. The penultimate level is one with the doggo. I figured the player wants to get this over with now, and probably bought the game to shoot stuff, rather play dog-Tenchu. So I set it up so that all the enemies are waiting for the hero character to come through a door, and the dog sneaks in round the back. You can just tear them apart easily, because they're all looking the wrong way. It's the easiest level I made by far. It also feels really wrong and troubling, because I never gave the enemies a chance. I actually think it works really well on pretty much every level, despite being the easiest bit of the game by far - it's the clam before the storm (edit: I'm keeping this typo - it's brilliant! :) ), it makes the player feel powerful, and it should feel a little guilty. What's not to like?

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I don't mind difficult final bosses if the rest of the game is also difficult and the boss is a test of your accumulated skills up to that point, like a terminal exam. Sekiro's final boss, as mentioned several times already, is a great example, as is Satan in Cuphead.

 

What irks me is if there's a big spike in difficulty at the final boss, or if you're suddenly required to use some mechanic you haven't had to for the entire game up until that point, or if a strategy you've used and practised for the entire game is suddenly and arbitrarily rendered invalid (JRPGs are notorious for this).

 

It's definitely true that a crap final boss can sour your overall feelings towards a game, too; off the top of my head, the final bosses in Bioshock, Resident Evil 8, Uncharted 4, Undertale and the Batman Arkham game where you fight a juiced-up Joker were all rubbish.

 

I think the worst final boss I've ever fought, however, was the eponymous Majora's Mask in the 3DS port of the game. That was fucking heinous, mainly because one of its three stages required you to shoot it with arrows from a distance, and I didn't have any, so I was at the mercy of random item drops of about 5 arrows at a time. It completely fucked my appreciation of the game overall, and now when people say that MM is their favourite Zelda, I can't help but shake my head.

 

In that vein, any boss which is magically invulnerable at certain times - when it's midway through an animation, or its suddenly got an impenetrable shield, or it's just invincible because the game said so, that's why, so fuck off - can GTFO.

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I think my favourite final boss was Big Smile Lee at the end of Sleeping Dogs.

He's the triad boss and the game culminates in a pretty long shoot out (up to this point gunplay had been fairly rare in the game as it's set in Hong Kong where guns aren't very common). By the time you fight your way through to him, you're just two blokes having a scrap. Of course, by that point, your character is tough as nails so it's pretty easy to take down the feared gang boss. 

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2 minutes ago, Jamie John said:

I don't mind difficult final bosses if the rest of the game is also difficult and the boss is a test of your accumulated skills up to that point, like a terminal exam. Sekiro's final boss, as mentioned several times already, is a great example, as is Satan in Cuphead.

 

This is a really good point. I played through Cave Story and absolutely loved it, up until the final section where you get stripped of all your weapons and need to use a jetpack to navigate a maze of lava and spikes and death. Problem is I'd never used the jetpack, because one of the powered-up weapons worked a bit like one if you shot downwards and was much more fun. So I did that instead. Got to the point where I needed a jetpack and very fine control and ended up quitting without finishing. I'd had no practice, and just started hating the game.

 

FWIW - I also hated the last level of Halo - the Warthog escape - for the same reason. Up until then you never had to be any good at driving a Warthog. Suddenly you have to do it pretty damned well.

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1 hour ago, Timmo said:

I actually think Sekiro has the best final boss. 
 

- Most difficult challenge in the game, but uses everything you’ve learnt to that moment

- Deaths always the fault of the player

- Excellent visuals and music throughout

- Badass opponent

- Most importantly of all, empowering (to the player) final form where you well and truly turn the tide of battle

- Brutal and dramatic final moment


The Wonderful 101 does all this.

 

The entire last chapter is one big thirteen-phase boss fight.

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I don't mind rock hard final bosses as long as they feel "do-able". If it's some bullshit like 99% damage attacks with a one-frame dodge window then nobody's going to bother; it has to be right on the line of hard-but-fair. So: Gehrman, Isshin, Elden Ring's final bosses.

 

Being a JRPG player, one thing that can get annoying is when you haven't prepared for things that might be pulled out in later phases that you haven't seen yet. So you get all the way to the end and then get hit with something entirely new and scramble to salvage something but end up dying. It's only really bad in newer RPGs that have enormous battles though. I played FFV Advance for the first time this year - there's a part where the final boss Hastes himself, but I didn't have a time mage and so I couldn't do anything to keep up with him.

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Maybe it’s Stockholm syndrome but I really like the final boss of a JRPG to be some absolute mad nonsense that I may never actually beat but which exists as a background for doing 20-50 hours of sidequests.

 

For a more linear game it’s got to be a smooth continuation of the rest of the story which has more bark than bite. Preferably with some mechanics that appear nowhere else in the game and are desperately undercooked eg a fist fight or a car chase.

 

Spot the guy whose first two big modern games were FF7 and MGS…

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It depends on the game, but Sekiro's final boss remains probably my all time favourite gaming experience. It took me loads of attempts over three days or so, but the gradual feeling of mastery, and the eventual victory felt like nothing else. Not even the other Souls games quite matched the feeling I got from this.

 

Sometimes it's nice to just enjoy a big spectacle though, but I like a boss fight to feel at least a little satisfying, mechanically speaking.

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It's one of the things I really liked about Yakuza: Like A Dragon - it had both, in a reasonably enjoyable format.

 

Spoiler

You had Tendo who, in the jumped up JRPG style the game switches to, had a bunch really hard hitting attacks and a one hit kill which is very problematic in LAD, as well as taking forever to actually whittle down his health.

 

Directly after that, Ryo Aoki, who's the actual big bad of the entire game. It's an easy fight even with it being one-on-one, but the game drops all the goofy bollocks, Ichi only has his original brawler moves and it's little more than beating up an actual governor for being an arsehole.

 

Of course, neither were the hardest encounter in the game, either.

 

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I don't like the final boss to be too hard.
You should be able to adlib them after a few goes, I reckon.

 

Make some of the bosses utter cunts and make the last stage a nightmare, by all means, but you're usually burnt out by the very end.
Some games will make their final boss as hard to get a handle on as the rest of the game combined, and if it's coming right at the end of a run, where you haven't had a chance to get familiar with it's attacks. Nah, that's not fun.

 

If you give the player enough resources to just bomb through the tricky bits, then that's OK, and then you award points for lives and bombs remaining for the guys who can manage to get through it unscathed.

 

I like the idea of the main villain being a coward, and once you've taken out their army, they're just a frightened little tosser and not as powerful as the bosses you've previously encountered.

 

There's a thing in shmups "true last boss" where if you meet certain requirements, or do certain things during the game you get to fight them, or they'll show up in the arrange mode regardless, and honestly, they are the bane of my life.

 

There's loads of times I've been celebrating, leaning back in my chair having a well earned swig and some absolute heid the baw will turn up with his ominous music and unleash a pattern that you'd have to practise for half an hour to understand.

It's technically still a 1cc, but it never feels like it.

 

I like that true last bosses exist as something extra for the nutters, but I think it should always be the players decision whether or not to fight them. Fair enough having them mandatory on the hardest difficulty but not on arrange modes and shit.

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