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10 Infuriating Video Game Bosses That Made You Lower The Difficulty –

Difficulty settings are not so much black sheep of video games, as they are profoundly neon-blue ones, grazing noticeably among the flock of television, cinema, books and so on. No other medium invites the viewer to adjust the experience they will soon delve into according to their level of skill, or their definition of fun and challenge.

The notion of temporarily denying your audience a portion of your work due to their inability to progress is enough to send directors and authors of other industries into fits. It’s madness, and counter-intuitive for most media to do so. Imagine movies that regularly give the viewer a pop-quiz assessing their knowledge of preceding events.

Incidentally, that exact approach is one of the defining characteristics of video games and deeply rooted in the eclectic elements that have made the medium so popular.

A middle finger from a final boss is, when employed effectively, just another brick laid upon the player’s gas pedal; one more thing pushing them forward. This builds a unique drive €”to beat that boss, reach that checkpoint or otherwise improve, €”not found anywhere but in games.

But all those triumphant and hard-earned victories do not come without the worst of defeats. Simply dying would be mercy; far worse is the reluctant admission that you would rather progress on Medium than continue to bite the Hard bullet.

Sometimes it’s your sanity or the next level, and sometimes, you just need to wuss out…

Note: Some of these entries are final bosses; read their slight spoilers at your own risk.

10. Vanquish: Victor Zaitsev

SEGA and Platinum Games wowed many an action fan with the 2010 release of Vanquish. A project borne from the cliché villains of mid-1990’s sci-fi films, the excessive macho humor of old Arnold’s glory days, and the over-the-top development philosophy also evident in Platinum’s Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Vanquish is a brief and terribly written thrill ride carried by premises and action sequences that are as absurd as they are exhilarating.

Protagonist Sam Gideon is clad in an advanced bio-suit granting him enhanced agility and strength; even the heaviest weapons can be touted around like so many keychains; and there always robots that need killing€”corner to corner, Vanquish has adrenaline dripping off the screen. As you may expect€”that is to say, predicted by eliminating all two of the other plot choices€”the story revolves around those dastardly Russians who are once again plotting to conquer the world for curiously vague reasons.

Of course, none are more dastardly than Victor Zaitsev, the game’s primary antagonist, tyrant-in-training and proficient dealer of Sam ass-kicking. Victor has a super suit of his own, you see, but with a few bells and whistles Sam didn’t spring for. Naturally, flight and a telepathically-controlled drone were just behind leather seats on the list of features, both of which make for one nightmare of a boss fight. And any player who’s reached Victor’s final encounter on the highest difficulty knows even that is an understatement. Should’ve gotten the advanced model, Sam.

9. Heavenly Sword: King Bohan

Ninja Theory’s PlayStation 3 poster-child Heavenly Sword is absolutely caked in doom. Protagonist Nariko consigns herself to an early demise by using the titular and quite thoroughly cursed Heavenly Sword to fight for her dying clan, and the kingdom in which her remarkably well written conflict plays out is well into its death throes.

Fitting, then, that the game’s final boss dooms the player to round after round of “pin the button-mashing on the Bohan.” Heavenly Sword is at no shortage of questionable design decisions, but things are never more grating than in the game’s finale. Your duel against King Bohan cobbles together the slow dodge function, shoddy camera and slipshod blocking into a veritable frustration buffet.

This becomes glaringly obvious on the highest difficulty setting€”for some reason not titled Just Shoot Your Own Foot€”and makes for the rare situation where lowering the difficulty can be done without an ounce of shame.

8. Killzone 2: Colonel Radec And His Merry Flamethrowers

The Killzone series has always been built upon a profoundly murky conflict. Though made out to be an antagonistic and war-mongering race, the Helghast are often simply defending their home from invaders (that’s us, the player). This moral gray area is explored in Killzone: Shadow Fall, but not before iconic Helghast Colonel Mael Radec showed just how fiercely a cornered rat can bite. The running and gunning of Killzone 2 is culminated in a confrontation with Radec within Helghan’s lavish Visari Palace.

Rich decor lines its regal halls, but the fight beneath its beautiful arches is not so pleasant. Radec is backed by a horde of soldiers brandishing calibers, explosives and bizarre Helghan weapons of frankly excessive power and quantity. The Colonel alone can be tough to handle if approached improperly (that is, with the dream of keeping your face intact), but with no allies by your side€”hopelessly inept as they are, they can at least soak up bullets€”taking on the entire squad can feel like trying to dodge the rain.

And on Elite difficulty? It’s a monsoon.

7. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: Lazarevic

Naughty Dog has admitted to designing the Uncharted games with a somewhat hopscotch lens€”that is, by coming up with particular scenes, lines and most notably set-pieces first and then building a game to accommodate them all at least somewhat coherently.

This has resulted in some stellar action titles, to be sure, but also a series of formula: a foreign villain out to exploit some ancient power for the purposes of world conquest who protagonist Nathan Drake must thwart, usually by smothering them with wise-cracks. Uncharted 2: Among thieves is true to form, then, as it concludes with yet another supernatural encounter which Drake must shoot his way out of.

The apparently four-sided die of mythical evils landed on “wraith possession” for Among Thieves, leaving antagonist Zoran Lazarevi‡ uncharacteristically blue and fiery for his part as final boss. Incidentally, this granted him the ability to soak up bullets like Call of Duty sucks up money. You’ll throw an army’s worth of magazines at him before he so much as buckles, but a few pot-shots from him will drag your HUD-less health deep into the monochromatic zone.

6. Tales Of Xillia: Gaius And Muzét

Among all their irrational qualities, Japanese role-playing games are more easily characterized by their loose treatment of numbers. From hitpoints and attack damage to equipment options and party members, you can bet they’ll reach well into four, five or even six digits depending on the series. Bandai Namco’s Tales of franchise is no exception€”a fact to which its most recent Western releases Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2 will attest. The former makes a strong case for how irresponsibly JRPG bosses handle their math.

Never mind the somewhat convoluted plot behind it, just know that Gaius and Muzét€”the ruler of the world and the sister of a deity, respectively€”want your party stomped into the dust. Between the two of them, they comprise approximately 435,000 hitpoints when fought on Hard. Both wield devastating special attacks: Gaius can one-shot any party member, and Muzét can and repeatedly will bring your entire party under two percent health.

That’s hardly the worst of it: due to the healing items they possess, you’ll almost certainly have to deal well over one million damage to bring them down. And with your attacks struggling to break the five-digit mark, that can take several hours to do.

5. Dungeons Of Dredmor: The Dredmor Himself

There’s a certain charm to the inevitable deaths which are so earnestly promised by the rogue-lite genre. Risk of Rain, Dungeons of Dredmor, Spelunky, FTL: Faster Than Light€”theirs is a rinse and repeat mantra. You try, learn and die horribly all for the purpose of doing even a little better next time. However, few titles take the rogue philosophy to the lengths seen in Gaslamp Games’ Dungeons of Dredmor.

Here randomness is applied so thickly that a trace of consistency would be the only thing capable of raising an eyebrow. Mustachioed golems? Seen it. Fighting several hundred monsters at once? Get in line. Armor made from meat? We told you no cutting! Level design, equipment choice and even your skill set are all up in the air, often falling unceremoniously upon your hero’s yearning face like so many figurative eggs. Indeed, your only solace is in knowing you will die, and that you will stay dead upon doing so thanks to the game’s perma-death mechanic.

Let’s not play coy. If you’re on the highest difficulty€”because “dying is fun,” the game observes€”and the traps and monsters don’t get you, Dredmor will. These are his dungeons you’ve been skulking around in after all, and he will come to collect. There aren’t enough Zorkmids in the world to cover the rent. And unfortunately for you, neither do you have enough hitpoints.

4. Devil May Cry 3: Arkham

Capcom has never been a particularly merciful studio. From Resident Evil to their archive of fighting IP to Devil May Cry, they’ve engineered countless situations and boss encounters which have no qualms about knocking players senseless. With three nasty forms and attacks to match, Devil May Cry 3’s Arkham is the embodiment of this school of design.

It’s not enough for his first form to resemble an incredibly angry Mr. Freeze. It’s not enough or his second form to be an unnerving jester straight out of a masquerade ball. No, Arkham’s third, gelatinous form is what DMC players remember, often as the last thing they saw before becoming reacquainted with their most recent save point. Though troublesome on any difficulty, when fought on the highest setting€”aptly titled Dante Must Die€”Blob Arkham is best described as a mass of headaches.

It’s your standard boss fare all right, but with the dial turned well past eleven. Instant kills by the fistful coupled with frequent and nigh-unavoidable area attacks… why Capcom, why?

3. Kingdom Hearts: Sephiroth

How good of Square Enix to make what most players regard as Kingdom Hearts’ most difficult boss battle entirely optional. And how evil of them to have designed it€”no doubt from within a dark spire located in the ninth circle of Hell€”in the first place. It’s a sentiment rooted in the earliest fighting games but one echoed even today by games such as Dark Souls.

There’s something infuriating about losing to an NPC that, by all rights, appears equal in strength to you. A towering goliath or hulking demon is one thing. They’ve got more than a few weight classes on us. Two or three opponents at once? We got overwhelmed. In the worst-case scenario, most bosses carry an obvious explanation (read: desperate excuse) for why you are currently on the ass end of an ass-kicking. Sephiroth denies even this comfort in his appearance as the Platinum-level tournament for Hercules’ arena. He’s just plain exceptional. Unlike Sora, his speed, power and vitality haven’t aged since his Final Fantasy days. But despite a questionably elongated katana, his movements are completely devoid of unfairness. Complaining is impossible; your blood will almost certainly boil, but it’s easier just to stare in awe.

When it comes to Sephiroth, you either grit your teeth, clench your fists and grind your way through his enormous health bar or convince yourself to be content as a Gold-level hero.

2. God Of War – Ares

It was out of necessity that Kratos slew Ares in the first installment of the now massive God of War series. He wouldn’t be much of a war god if he hadn’t now, would he? What was distinctly not necessary was to make doing so mind-numbingly annoying. Ares possesses a frustrating combination of ranged and melee attacks that all hit hard enough to keep you wary of, well, existing.

Particularly on higher difficulties, the fight is a true rock and hard place situation: you risk being ripped to shreds by attacking closely, but you will wear out first in a distanced conflict. It doesn’t help that only one of the fight’s participants (hint: not you) has spires jutting out of his back which are quite capable of impaling, rending and otherwise destroying health bars.

Most players’ mental pots boil over when quick-time events are added to the mix, doing for the experience what they always do for games€”just shy of absolutely nothing. Can we fight the god of gardening next time?

1. Shin Megami Tensei – Devil Survivor Overclocked: Lucifer

How strange for Atlus, a studio best known for such wholly upbeat if maturely flavored IP as Persona, to also have put out some of gaming’s most overwhelming bosses, the majority of which come from the mammoth Shin Megami Tensei franchise. SMT: Nocturne, for example, is widely regarded as the most difficult JRPG of the PlayStation 2 era.

Nocturne just so happens to share many design principles with the 3DS remake of Devil Survivors, now bearing the suffix Overclocked, but can’t compare to the latter in the contest of bossing for a single, six-winged reason (pictured above). The lord of demons and prince of darkness himself, Lucifer graces Overclocked with an appearance as an optional boss fight accessible only after completing the game, allowing your party to reach a level of strength at which opposing Lucifer is strictly stupid rather than just plain laughable.

Forget actually fighting him, Lucifer isn’t even fun on paper. Multiple and increasingly powerful forms? You got it. Unstoppable insta-kills? By the truckload. Defenses that waltz along the line between hardy and invincible? Stepping on the toes of the latter. This fortunately optional fight is a truly hopeless experience. It is not a matter of avoiding the worst-case scenario, but a matter of reluctantly counting down to it like the victims of a nuclear strike preparing their continent-splitting counterattack… only in this case, you’re well out of nukes.

You have no choice but to account for the impending culling of Lucifer’s next turn. Strategy? The only strategy here is to die at moments of least inconvenience.

 

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