Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Boss Battle Syndrome

            This is it. The moment you have been waiting for. You have traversed great obstacles and destroyed anyone in your way to get to this moment. You expect the most epic of battles. The pinnacle of your journey; the fight where you prove yourself worthy and justify those many hours spent in the virtual world.  Needless to say, you are eager and expectations are high. So you eagerly walk to the final door, and open it.
After a cutscene and some sort of speech by your nemesis, the battle begins. This is it!
This is happening!
This is easy as hell?????
What is going on? This is not a final boss! This is a pushover of a boss. AHHHHHHHH! The frustration is agonizing.

If you have ever experienced the situation I just described, you are a victim of a developer’s Boss Battle Syndrome. However it is not just games that have underwhelming bosses, BBS (I abbreviated because I am lazy) also causes developer’s to shoehorn bosses into games that do not need them or creates the unbeatable god of the game who cannot be vanquished.

BBS is a serious issue. I have played games and enjoyed myself thoroughly, only to be disappointed by the final parts of the game. Many games build up to what you think is a great ending or fight, only to fall flat on their face. Then there are those which are consistently great throughout, and end on an extremely positive note. Red Dead Redemption is an example of consistent quality. The main story seems to end with John Marston being gunned down in his barn. After a cutaway to his gravestone, you jump years ahead to see John’s wife Abigail buried as well. Suddenly you are thrust into the shoes of Jack, john’s son. Jack begins to track his father’s killer. When you meet the man, there is no grand stage, no battle, no cutscene; you simply face off in another duel on a riverbank. You kill the man and the credits roll. The ending is a great way to end your journeys in the Wild West. A boss battle of any sort would have been nonsensical and ruined an otherwise (mostly) perfect game.

Bayonetta is a game that is the exact opposite. After an underwhelming battle against your father, you are suddenly thrust into a battle with the Creator, a massive statue which fills your screen (DMC 4 anyone?). The game is always throwing crazy stuff at you, but the game has more crazy and awesome moments in the end than most games have in the entire game. But being an action game, you would expect something crazy and over-the-top to trump everything you have done before and leave you satisfied.

Both of these games are examples of how to perfectly end a great gaming experience. A lackluster boss in Bayonetta or a shoehorned boss in Red Dead would have ruined the experience. However, there are rare cases where the ending has been somewhat disappointing, but not enough to ruin the experience as a whole. Mass Effect 2 has an EPIC build up throughout the game, possibly one of the most tense and anticipated build ups I have ever played in a game. So when I saw the Reaper, I was going crazy. When the actual fight began, it was poorly done. At least I think so. But after the fight you make a monumental decision. Decision made, you flee the Reaper place and the ending cutscene ends on a massive cliffhanger and great place to end the trilogy. Was the boss battle bad? Yes. But the rest of the ending and the game as a whole more than made up for a five minute fight against a giant robot baby. 

Hopefully the more games evolve and developers learn, we will not have another great game with terrible boss battles to tarnish the experience. *cough* Bioshock *cough*

This was my first blog at GIO; so it is my first here. I realize it is not the well written, but I am trying to improve. Any criticism will be greatly appreciated.