Boss Fights

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Yeah Yahtzees right, I shouldn't wear my White Castle shirt.

First off, i don't know why you chose to harp on a very mediocre game to begin with - Alpha Protocol failed across the board and it's an atrocious example to use for dissection, especially when it feels like a poor man's Mass Effect

Aside from that, have you ever seen TvTropes? It provides a wonderful insight into any and all kinds of 'unofficial' tropes ranging across any and all forms of media. These tropes weren't the basis of the culture, repetition of appearances across multiple forms of culture led to the general idea behind the trope. The tropes came from the material, rather than the material coming from tropes and the sum of its parts.

Boss fights are not an 'exam' as you call them where you're tested on your mastery of the gameplay mechanics. Otherwise the boss may feel cheap. But no, that is not what the boss stands for in gaming.

TvTropes has articles on what are known as 'The Dragon' and 'The Big Bad'. Bosses serve as a direct confrontation between the player and the Big Bad. Half-Life 1 had no Big Bad, so the boss fight felt arbitrary, as you say, and tacked on. But the fact they tacked on Gonarch (The Dragon) and Nihilanth (Big Bad) meant they were still adhering to well-known tropes and they served as a last-minute antagonists. It was clumsy, but it worked.
The reason people did not recieve the Half-Life 2 boss so well is that there was no Big Bad. It felt arbitrary by nature; hurl some balls around and along comes you-know-who to time-freeze everything and you're left thinking 'Wait... what?'

It feels unsatisfying. TvTropes also has lists for other tropes like the Quirky Miniboss Quartet and other members of villain groups, all who you can compare to boss fights in most games. It may seem arbitrary to you, but there is generally a reason why the trope is in place. Most tropes are placed there without a second thought, purely inconsequentially. But it works. You only happen to notice it and say 'oh look, it's the heel-face-turn trope' or 'hey look, they dropped a bridget on him'. Doesn't mean a long list of tropes were carefully planned by the development team to spoon-feed to the willing masses.

I personally think that regular, proper-or simply proper boss fights-can add a lot to a gaming experience. However, I have to say, that if you're gonna put a half-assed boss in your game, don't bother.

Like bosses, exams make sense when the things are simple, in the early years of the school. As you progresses they stop make sense. You don't order PhDs with simple tests, you do complex considerations of the thesis he wrote. So, yes, if you going to made a shot'n up it's better put some bosses but if you made a more complex game at least you approach from the subject in a different way. Open for a wide range of solutions instead of a unique right answer.

When I saw the title of the article I thought "oh good, Yahtzee is going after Final Fantasy boss fights." Well he doesn't because I seem to have forgotten he's allergic to JRPGs, but here's my problem with boss fights.

I actually liked FF12 and 13 but I think Square Enix has forgotten how to actually create a boss.

In FF4, your first boss interacts with you. A disembodied voice asks you to turn around or face an ass whoopin'. It sets a tone of "oh shit, it's in here with us" and even better, puts you in a situation where you have to kill something that doesn't seem to be all that evil.

Also in FF4, you tangle with Golbez and his far-reaching schemes and after much effort and drama he is defeated and his secrets are revealed. Big shock, Golbez wasn't actually the source of all evil in the world and you must travel to an even further off land to find him.

Bosses used to have buildup. They were developed characters that you HATED because they killed Aeris. Yeah. Everyone razes villages, but Sephiroth made it PERSONAL. You bred chocobos just to smack that bastard in the face with Knights of the Round. And it felt GOOD.

So, FF13. Traipse along, and suddenly something with lots of HP comes by. Who the hell is that? OK it's dead. Just like all the other random whatsits around here. Hmmm. Next.

Worse, in FF13 you finally kill Big Evil and...he turns out not dead. He goes right on doing what he's doing in story mode as if you'd never killed him. Way to mug my sense of accomplishment, FF13. That Asshole had 3.6 million HP and I stopped him...yet he keeps going? I know rallying in the face of hopelessness and despair are motifs central to the FF13 storyline, but couldn't you at least show that 3.6 million damage hurt him? Can we at least reduce him to a feeble-bodied escape where he swears vengeance?

So, Square-Enix, let's review. Bosses are characters that we want to take down, and hard. They need development and dastardly deeds. I know you're worried about sales, but giving bad guys these things is free. Setting defense values and HP totals way above normal does not a boss make.

P.S.: Kindly refrain from that bullshit in FF12 where bosses are mighty because they just ignore your defensive items. That's cheap and removes our reward for 1) grinding to get those items and 2) working hard on the mathematics to break the game.

TheMadDoctorsCat:
As the resident "System Shock" fanboy, I nonetheless have to agree with Yahtzee on "SS2". The "repair" skill was absolutely useless, for example, whereas the "Maintainance" and "Hack" ones were essential. (I'd love to know if anybody has ever beaten SS2 on "Hard" or "Impossible" difficulty without putting at least three points into "Hack" early on.)

The "Exotic Weapons" skill was useless until the Operations level (almost halfway through the game) because you didn't get the crystal shard until that point. Heavy and Energy weapons were extremely specialised, whereas the "Standard" weapons included the two best weapons in the game, easily - the versatile pistol and the assault rifle - and also used the most plentiful ammunition. Standard weapons could be used on robots and annelids equally effectively (unlike any other weapon class). Yeah, it's fun one-shotting the Heart of the Many with a viral proliferator, but there's really no practical use for it before that point.

And I've only just recently got used to the psi-amp, after several playthroughs. It's a bit fiddly to use and you need to know what powers are useful and what are useless. The healing ones sound useful, for example, but there are so many health pick-ups throughout the game that they turn out to be something of a waste of cybernetic modules.

And stats? There's zero point in having anything more than three agility or endurance points, even on the very hard difficulty levels. Strength is essential for the heavy weapons, armour, melee, and just basically carrying stuff about. Psi is either essential or useless depending on your build. And Cyb is essential for a decent hacker build (which as has already been established is just about any useful build in the game.)

As as a System Shock fan girl I have to tell you that I recently did a play through of SS2 on Imposible with no hacking skill at all. I did a Marine with Energy weapons, Exotic weapons, Maintinence and Research. It was a little difficult at the start with no hacking but starting with a laser pistol gives you something to deal with turrets that can't be avoided. It was also hard towards the end when facing multiple rumblers in tight spaces. I agree though that the balance was totally messed up for some skills and weapons and in that play through it showed through the fact that a pistol (using the base 1 skill point I got at the start as a Marine) on burst with anti-personel rounds was my most effective weapon against rumblers and dropped them in seconds.

The end "Boss fights" in SS2 were definatly the weakest part of the game over all.

Gralian:
First off, i don't know why you chose to harp on a very mediocre game to begin with - Alpha Protocol failed across the board and it's an atrocious example to use for dissection, especially when it feels like a poor man's Mass Effect

I'm guessing you haven't even played the game at all and are just judging it based on reviews you've read because it's really not that much like Mass Effect at all. A more common comparison I've seen people who've actually played it make is to liken it to Deus Ex (part of the reason why Yahtzee mentions it in comparison).

Alpha Protocol is a relly inconsistent game that goes from being awesome and comparable to Deus Ex one moment (when you are sneeking around the levels picking your paths and stealth killing everyone) to a God aweful mess that's just frustrating the next (Boss fights and other forced combat situations). Yahtzee is harping on this game because if it wasn't for the Boss fights and a few other bugs and balance issues (SMG skill, lol) it could have been a really great game.

Deionarra:

TheMadDoctorsCat:
As the resident "System Shock" fanboy, I nonetheless have to agree with Yahtzee on "SS2". The "repair" skill was absolutely useless, for example, whereas the "Maintainance" and "Hack" ones were essential. (I'd love to know if anybody has ever beaten SS2 on "Hard" or "Impossible" difficulty without putting at least three points into "Hack" early on.)

The "Exotic Weapons" skill was useless until the Operations level (almost halfway through the game) because you didn't get the crystal shard until that point. Heavy and Energy weapons were extremely specialised, whereas the "Standard" weapons included the two best weapons in the game, easily - the versatile pistol and the assault rifle - and also used the most plentiful ammunition. Standard weapons could be used on robots and annelids equally effectively (unlike any other weapon class). Yeah, it's fun one-shotting the Heart of the Many with a viral proliferator, but there's really no practical use for it before that point.

And I've only just recently got used to the psi-amp, after several playthroughs. It's a bit fiddly to use and you need to know what powers are useful and what are useless. The healing ones sound useful, for example, but there are so many health pick-ups throughout the game that they turn out to be something of a waste of cybernetic modules.

And stats? There's zero point in having anything more than three agility or endurance points, even on the very hard difficulty levels. Strength is essential for the heavy weapons, armour, melee, and just basically carrying stuff about. Psi is either essential or useless depending on your build. And Cyb is essential for a decent hacker build (which as has already been established is just about any useful build in the game.)

As as a System Shock fan girl I have to tell you that I recently did a play through of SS2 on Imposible with no hacking skill at all. I did a Marine with Energy weapons, Exotic weapons, Maintinence and Research. It was a little difficult at the start with no hacking but starting with a laser pistol gives you something to deal with turrets that can't be avoided. It was also hard towards the end when facing multiple rumblers in tight spaces. I agree though that the balance was totally messed up for some skills and weapons and in that play through it showed through the fact that a pistol (using the base 1 skill point I got at the start as a Marine) on burst with anti-personel rounds was my most effective weapon against rumblers and dropped them in seconds.

The end "Boss fights" in SS2 were definatly the weakest part of the game over all.

Not sure if there is such a thing as a "boss fight", come to think of it, although beating SHODAN is almost pathetically easy. I like the "Body of the Many" level though.

There's one point at which you face a rumbler on a basketball court, but if you duck into the air duct to the right, it can't get at you and you can snipe at it with pretty much whatever you want. (Although I much prefer to take it on with a crystal shard - much more fun!)

1st off...
"It's like a final exam for a philosophy degree marking you solely on the neatness of your handwriting. Yes, you probably had to do a lot of handwriting to get through the course, but there's slightly more to it than that."

Although I detect sarcasm, as a Philosophy Major I must still object. Gamers tend to associate themselves with technology and through valuation of said techonology and its scientific basis; Scientism. Scientism is a pop-culture worldview that more or less states that only the "hard" or physical sciences are the source for true knowledge and the betterment of society, and the Liberal Arts are academically less important. Although the hard sciences do provide us with technology the Liberal Arts provide us with culture, history, and the higher aspects of human life besides simple improvement in material living. Furthermore, Philosophy is the domain of Logic, and should be academically associated more with mathematics than Literature, (or at least the Analytical school should). But considering Yahtzee's literary allusions I doubt he commits to Scientism nearly as much as some of his gaming brethren.

Secondly, I'm surprised, given your whole "games at their highest state are Art" stance, that you failed to mention the emotional potential of Boss Fights. If the game has achieved a truly emotionally compelling storyline, the boss fight should amount to the Climax of the plot. The final showdown between protagonist and antagonist, and should incite genuine feelings of anger in the player, and satisfaction once it is over. The Metal Gear Series tries to accomplish this, but it is often dragged down by excessively long cutscenes with flowery narrative spouting a strange melancholy philosophy that doesn't really make any sense. I never understood this trend with the Japanese. In architecture their ritualized lifestyle the Japanese generally try to imbue everything they do with simplicity and naturalness. Why then the incredibly terse narrative in all their stories? My personal theory is that long dialogue first arose as an answer to animation cost for Anime and then became popular through the strong association between Anime and videogames.

But I digress. A boss fight, in its greatest form, should not only be a test of skill but act as a climatic plot resolution that leaves the player emotionally satisfied.

Difficulty levels in FPS are paramount. The absolute best way to get entertainment for your money (with any game really) and to test your skills as a gamer, is to run up the ladder of difficulty. I like to start on normal and just keep climing.
Way back when in a day long ago, I was terrified to play QuakeII. That game was scary. Berserkers rushing at your screen, Iron Maidens screaching in the background and the sound of multiple rockets being shot while sitting in a dark room trying not to shit your pants was the essence of QuakeII for me. But I started on easy and eventually beat the game on Hard, effectively makeing the game my bitch.
The best parts about game with difficulty setting:
Each setting plays through differently, new enemies, more enemies, player takes more damage, LESS power ups, usually in different locations on the map. Psy-Ops is one of my favourite FPS partly because I was aloud to play though on several difficulties levels until I was finally able to defeate the game on the hardest diffuculty setting. What an accomplishment.

Go eat yourself Call of Duty with your stupid regenerative health.

Now, this seems odd to me, because I actually liked Zen. I loved the strangeness of it and I never found the platforming that difficult. The final boss was a pain in the ass at first, but there were a few tricks to it that I'd been using through most of the game that allowed me to be it with relative ease as long as I kept my eyes open for the baddies it summoned. I guess I would have to admit that it kind of came out of nowhere and was totally different from the rest of the game, but that never once bothered me.

If boss' weren't so prevalent in games they could be a valuable tool for "OMFG what is that!?" moments. for example the only real boss fights in Mass Effect 2 should have been the thresher maw and the end boss.

Why do boss fights have to be at the end of a level? In Mass Effect when you explore uncharted worlds you can stumble into thresher maws, and have really shitty fights with them. The first time this happened to me I almost shat myself in an epic "OMFG what is that!?" moment.

Extra Punctuation: Boss Fights. Thanks for your quite nice article on the topic. I agree to the GM aspect. IF one allows non-fighter characters there must be non-fighter solutions for ALL steps in the adventure/campaign/PCGame!!!

The other side... overdose of classes and solutions which make one wonder, WHY and HOW any problem could still be unsolved happens, too.

My suspicion: The academic pseudo-guidelines lack the crucial GM experience which it needs, to even consider why logic causes breaches and why players have a long tradition of getting unexpected ideas... No offence intended. Not yet.

I am going through my second play in Alpha Protocol.

My first play was on the Recruit mode, on Hard, with all my points going toward Stealth, Sabotage and Martial Arts on that order, i used the Infiltrator armor (and its variations) throughout the whole game and i didn't kill anyone. I played it as a stealth game and whenever i used a gun it was the pistol, with tranquilizer rounds. (except on some boss fights)

Was it Hard? HELL YES. it was very hard, i had to redo very single part that was even remotely diffucult because i couldnt take any damage at all most of the time (and i also didnt like triggering alarms).

The Boss fights were indeed a problem, not because they felt out of place, but because the melee combat was lacking the simple command to defend. And because i didnt invest on it enough. I had to be the most resourceful and careful as possible, the stealth ability really helped to escape direct confrontation. (not to mention, avoiding killing random enemies during the boss fight is really hard)

It was AWESOME, i had so much fun with the game, i couldnt believe the reviews nitpicked every single flaw and expected this to be Just LIKE Mass Effect (so it failed for not doing so)

The two times i had a problem with the boss fight, i went out and did some alternate quests, leveled up and put all my points in Martial Arts, the second time i also put some in Endurance, the Third time i used guns and explosives mostly but the boss ran away before i had to close in. It was hard but i felt great for doing it, and just had to invest more whenever it wasnt good enough (as it should be).

Not killing is awesome, this game doesnt do it as well enough as Metal Gear but at least you can opt to never kill a boss if you dont want to because you will always go to a dialogue after you whoop his ass.

Now i am playing the second time around with guns, doing my best to be a total jerk, not caring so much about alarms or stealth at all, killing everything (investing in hit points too), im steamrolling over everything its not as fun but it gets the job done (and being a jerk is not treated much as a bad thing which might go well with people who like it)

1) Alpha Protocol has real choices, and when you play it once you think the game is so much bigger than it really is because of that.

2) Playing as a stealth game makes it a lot more fun, not killing is fun on top of fun

3) Its a Spy game based on ACTION Movies, its not like those CIA movies where the guys sit on desks and just talk their way through everything

4) the Bosses added a lot of personality to the game because they were all interesting and belonged to different organizations and made the whole idea of talking to contacts and infiltrating places work.

Its not like its suddenly a God of War Ripoff, it fits, and for those who like challenge, you can defeat them even with a lame build, while avoiding killing people, you just have to use different tactics.

Sorry Yahtzee but you are not being fair on the particularities of the game
and if you dont like a challenge, switch on the easy difficulty and just be done with it without earning it.

not to mention... Fallout 1 and 2 had AWESOME ending boss fights whereas Fallout 3 was Disappointing in that regard (just at the very end, if you ignore that, as i do, you will still love it, as i do)

I'll buy nicer clothes when I need them. I don't have a fancy hat and fancy accent to make me look like a fancy person.

I don't mind boss fights as long as they make sense in context and are climactic.

I can't totally agree with this.

The reason being that we're dealing with a heroic fantasy situation, even if it's one set against a backdrop of modern espionage. The entire scenario is based around fighting terrorists and such and it only makes sense that in a game based around para-military anti-terrorist activities that violence is going to be unavoidable at points.

In Alpha Protocol pretty much all of the combat abillities are pretty effective and you can beat the boss fights with any of them, though admittedly some of them make certain ones easier than others.

A lot of the boss fights you run into are in the form of situations where a lot of conversation doesn't make sense, or there really isn't anything you could say that the person your up against would believe and stop fighting because of.

It should be noted however that in pretty much every situation once the fight is over you DO have the oppertunity to kill them or let them live, and the results of that desician in that case can be rather profound.

To put things into perspective, it would make no sense for a certain terrorist-organization running Sheikh to get out of his armored combat vehicle to have a polite chat with the guy he believes is there to kill him (and rightuflly so, since that is what you were sent to do). Likewise if your dealing with a Chinese intelligence agent who believes your there to committ an assaination to frame HIS goverment (when you think he's there to actually perform the hit, he think your there for) it's pretty obvious why nobody decided to sit down to tea given the sequence of events.

Now, I suppose one can argue that it is possible to write a game where all of the scenarios allow you to solve problems without ever having to fight anyone, however that would be pushing the limits of disbelief within the genere of adventure fantasy, especially if it gets to the point where all games do it.

The bottom line is that I think Alpha Protocol did it right. I suppose you could argue that Deus Ex did a lot of things better, allowing for it's age, but then again Deus Ex is remembered after a decade as a bloody masterwork specifically because what it achieved is so hard to do, and people keep failing to recapture it... including with Deus Ex's own sequel.

Remember the boss of Far Cry (the First). I was laughing so hard.

HA! Shows you, I'm naked.

I'm not wearing a shirt.

I've played a number of games recently with boss fights that felt particularly anachronistic, or contrived. They work best when they occur in the natural flow of the game, and feel like a sensible progression of the plot. When it alienates me is when the game comes to a sudden halt and says BIG KLAXON SIRENS! BOSS FIGHT BOSS FIGHT!
Then I'm like wait a minute... this feels too arcadey and stupid.

I'm currently playing Dead Space (yeah... behind the times) and I'm about 50/50 on their method of working in boss fights. There's definitely room for improvement.

Thank god I'm wearing my nice shirt, and therefore am not the cause of stagnation in the medium.

I like bosses. A boss isn't just about a gaming challenge, it's part of the emotional value of the game. When playing a game that contains violence, I want to hate the folks I'm fighting against, I want to feel like I'm opposing something and they're oposing me. An arch-villan or huge monster helps symbolise my enemy and give me an opponent to focus on rather than just a stream of identical mooks. I will always prefer games with a few good boss battles because they make the combat seem much more significant.

Thats sounds like the one in The Matrix: Path of Neo both the end boss fight which they actually explained there were being wankers (doesn't make it any better but at least they bothered to say so) and the fight on top of the posts that basically nothing to do with the previous or future combat.

Great stuff good sir.

i think that boss fights are pointless when a type of enemy is just as strong, But most boss fights are there to help advance the story along so its like a win lose situation. For example in a RPG game they basically are needed to help move the story line imagine a final fantasy game with out boss fights, its basically taking out major parts to make the game have a good story so the gamer will stay entertained. But in a FPS its seems point less when its a bug fight and then BOOM HEAD SHOT right to the bosses face, its like fighting Sephiroth and winning with a one kill hit move, its no fun at all, and sheilds to make them last longer are a excuse to make it seem like a real boss fight.
TIMBAP_AJR

A bit old, I know, but I wanted to quickly address the topic and use of "tropes" in this article and some of the comments. Most importantly, tropes are not inherently good or bad. A trope is just a pattern. An individual trope may be perceived as good or bad, boring or exciting or whatever metrics you prefer but as a whole, calling them bad or good, would be like saying prime numbers are bad or good.

Yes this is all stated (copy pasted?) in the first page of the article but when we hit the meat of the article we get the line, "This demonstrates the other problem with tropes..." It made me cringe a bit. It's a real easy trap to fall into as a budding troper or upon first stumbling across a site like tvtropes. "Picking sides" so to speak with tropes, and I think Yahtzee may have stumbled into it a bit in this article. Just something to keep in mind.

[quote="Celtic_Kerr" post="6.203906.6831625"] I find I have the same problem wioth Dragon's Age. I always do fine and upgrade my stats however the hell I want them, and then suddenly they toss a group of enemies at me that undermine all the stats I've put in. Said group, couldonyl be defeated if I were a tank, not a rogue.

Such is like the mage's tower, then you have to go into the faze. You have to kill these female faze things (Forgot the terms... Things seems appropriate). now when fighting one enemy, two, or three... I can usually hold my own. Here they asked me to hack on a woman wil qa significant amount of health while enemies regenerated all around her. With the number of times I was getting hit and the fact that I was on fire, I hit the heal button and he was too busy spazzing about before he could gulp down the potion. [quote]

Bombs, Dirty Fighting, and stealth help you hold your own as a rogue against tough fights in Dragon Age. The other skills and talents help to varying degrees because of the boss's creature class (darkspawn, dragon, etc.) will give them resistance or immunity to certain things. As for your example, well, have you considered using the other forms? I found that the golem and the arcane horror forms work pretty well.

Dead Space series anyone? Seriously mechanical bosses

You would have loved:
1) MDK 2 by SHINNY and Bioware for the PC
2) Dynamite Headdy by Treasure for the Sega Genesis

Those have very good boss fights and test everything you did until now in the game. But i guess i could also mention this one: Alien Soldier by Treasure for the Sega Genesis. Its a Boss Rush GAME. All of it but not the way you may like it, but give it a try eventually

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