Editor: Bracken Lee-Rudolph
This generation of gaming, with the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and the ever-present PC, has been filled with some exceptional protagonists, some epic antagonists and a great amount of fights between the two. Now as the curtain begins to close on our current generation with the announcement of the PlayStation 4, we take a look at some of the most insane, hardest and visceral boss battles that the current generation of gaming had to offer, starting with… A MAJOR SPOILER ALERT, I do discuss integral plot points, so beware!
Disclaimer: I do not mention any of the boss battles from either Demon Souls or Dark Souls, for 2 simple reasons:
1) I have not had the opportunity to complete proper playthroughs of these titles as of yet. This is something I hope to do in future.
2) The titles were designed so that everything could kill you and had a varied move set. In essence, every enemy played like a boss character.
Zeus – God Of War III - PS3
Over the course of the God of War series, Zeus shows great fear towards the ambitious human-cum-god that is the series’ protagonist, Kratos and appoints him a God of Olympus, kills him and drains his power, before declaring war against the Titans who he allies with to begin his quest for revenge. This in itself makes for what could be an amazing finale, but when a final boss battle takes you through a frenetic battle through several environments, from the chamber where Pandora’s Box is stored by the Gods, to the heart of Gaya and then throws Kratos into the dark depths of his own mind, the finale becomes one of the most impactful endings to the end of a brilliant story arc that I have ever had the pleasure to play.
The Seneschal – Dragon’s Dogma -PS3/Xbox 360
Dragon’s Dogma was not the best told story, and in many cases, it was not even a well told story, but it was an extraordinary amount of fun and quite challenging simultaneously and it thrived in boss battles to an extent that I had 3 choices which could have all made this list. The one I chose, was not the dragon who steals your heart, Grigori; nor was it the legendary Ur-Dragon, the asynchronous multiplayer boss that was impossible to kill alone online, and was still an incredible boss battle offline, where he was substantially weaker. My choice was the Seneschal, the absolute final boss in Dragon Dogma’s main storyline. The Seneschal was a former Arisen who slew the dragon of his* or her time, traversed the Everfall and battled with the former Seneschal to prove his will. This makes fighting him/her a rite of passage taken by all Arisen who conquer both the dragon and the Everfall. However, in addition to this battle being fairly tough, it comes with a twist. If you die, you become the new dragon, the very creature you had hunted for the majority of the title (unfortunately unplayable), and if you win, you become the new immortal Seneschal, by killing and “freeing” your predecessor, continuing an eternal cycle.
Kessler – inFamous – PS3
The original inFamous won a lot of fans with its anti-hero approach in which it represented the title’s main protagonist, Cole McGrath, and the implementation of the iconic electric powers that he used throughout the series’ two main titles. Another high point of the title was its main antagonist, a mysterious, aged man known only as Kessler, who arranged for the Ray Sphere (the source of Cole’s powers and a device which kills thousands) to be delivered and takes over the Historic District with his faction, the First Sons, following the blast. Kessler taunts Cole throughout the title, playing on his insecurities, thwarting his plans to help and eventually killing his girlfriend, Trish, in a cruel game of choice. The emotionally-fuelled build-up to their final fight means that the battle is an intense, hard fought one, in the ruins caused by the Ray Sphere’s explosion. The final fight inevitably ends with Cole defeating Kessler, with the startling revelation that Kessler is actually a version of Cole from the future (later a parallel future), and that he arrived to hone Cole’s powers with a battle against The Beast, which he was previously unprepared for. This means, for all the trauma he had caused Cole and despite his defeat, he had still won by influencing Cole to be stronger than himself, making this a bitter-sweet, if hard-fought, victory in retrospect, and a fantastic one to replay.
Doviculus – Brütal Legend – PS3/Xbox 360/PC
Tim Schäfer and Double Fine’s Brütal Legend was a title which recreated a world of heavy metal lore, including a number of its sub-genres, particularly Death and Black Metal. Doviculus was no exception to this, as he led the faction of the Tainted Coil, who were a faction of oppressive demons who represented mainly death and industrial metal. After having killed several of your allies, including Lars Halford and the post-Sea of Black Tears Ophelia (who is later revealed as an imposter, created by the sea), you finally face him, as he raises a Gothic-style church into a three-headed beast, and you commence a stage battle against him. After a lengthy battle in which the creature spawns several waves of enemies and the Tainted Coil’s ultimate unit type as you take down two of its heads. As the third head falls into position, you spawn your vehicle and crash through its stained glass window to battle Doviculus to the sounds of Judas Priest’s Painkiller and various other heavy metal tracks, setting up an atmosphere for an intense fight, which does not disappoint.
Al Mualim – Assassin’s Creed – PS3/Xbox/PC
The first Assassin’s Creed title was one that was received with mixed opinions, and although Ubisoft Montreal’s creation received many rave reviews and several awards, the gaming community was split in how it perceived Assassin’s Creed. However, despite its flaws, it was still a well-developed title, and the final boss battle with Al-Mualim completed an excellent story arc with his betrayal of the Assassins, despite being a long-standing mentor to the Order, and one that facilitated protagonist Altaïr’s growth. What set this battle apart from, for example, the battle with Robert De Sable, the title’s other main antagonist, was that it introduced a supernatural influence with the Apple of Eden, a fixture which would dominate the series for several titles afterwards, allowing Al Mualim several magical and illusionary powers to confuse the player.
Necromancer – Castle Crashers – PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC
While Castle Crashers had no deep, engrossing story to speak of, it was still a captivating title, simply because of its frenetic, side-scrolling action and the light-hearted approach that the developer had taken while producing it. The result was a title that was fun, humorous and had lots of fan service, yet still managed to have some difficult boss battles thrown into the mix. The most intense of those has to be the Necromancer, the Evil Wizard’s second-in-command, and a mysterious character who appears without a backstory in-game, appearing in the Volcano Town to summon foes to hinder your progress. His battle is particularly tough as he raises the corpses of different enemies which you will have battled throughout the title, from thieves, to barbarian soldiers to fire demons. After you have defeated his minions, he lands on the ground to fight you personally, and is a tough boss to best, as his abilities (at the very least) match any of the basic Castle Crashers’, be it speed, strength or magic. As an added bonus, the Necromancer can also be unlocked when playing through a particularly level on the title’s Insanity Mode.
Colonel Radec – Killzone 2 – PS3
Killzone 2 was a vast improvement over the first title in the series, looked sombrely beautiful and took gamers out of the regular bound of first-person shooter gameplay to the very hostile world of Helghan, the homeworld of the Helghast, their iconic masks, and their sinister British accents. While the majority of the title involves you fighting large scale battles with Helghast soldiers on ground and in vehicles, the fight with Radec takes a one-on-one perspective, and challenges the player to adapt or die. Although it still takes place in a large environment (where you were fighting a Helghast squad shortly prior to Radec’s arrival), Radec’s cloaking ability and melee skills make him difficult to trace or get away from. This means the player is often chasing shadows of a quick, efficient killer who can kill the player in one or two attacks. However, the battle always feels like a last-ditch, adaptive fight, rather than a grind, which is how Guerrilla Games ended Killzone 2 on a high note.
Crawmerax the Invincible – Borderlands (Secret Armory of General Knoxx) - PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC
Gearbox’s Borderlands took the world by storm with its over-the-top action RPG gameplay and grim sense of humour. The title was notorious for challenging players with powerful bosses and Crawmerax the Invincible was definitely the toughest of the lot. If the name were not enough of a sign that you were in for a hell of a fight, just take a look at him. In addition to being several levels above the player by default, Crawmerax has an insane amount of health and some devastating attacks which can take fully levelled Vault Hunters down in as little as 2 hits. He also has minions (also default at a higher level than the player) who he will periodically spawn reinforcements for. He was nearly impossible to beat without a full party of members and dropped Pearlescent loot, the rarest loot in Borderlands, to those fortunate enough to defeat him.
Ra’s Al Ghul – Batman: Arkham City – PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC
Batman: Arkham City had a good deal of long-standing foes that the Dark Knight had accumulated over his eventful career, but none have a more delicately balanced friend/foe relationship with Batman than the Al Ghul family. Both Talia and Ra’s are tentative allies of Batman’s, Talia being a romantic interest to Batman, and Ra’s considering him a worthy opponent and a possible leader of the League of Shadows. In Arkham City, a dangerously ill Batman tracks down the lair of Ra’s Al Ghul in order to gain a sample of his blood to synthesise a cure to Joker’s weaponised virus. When Batman tricks Ra’s into believing he has decided to take the Demon Trials and later reveals his ruse, Ra’s battles him in the Demon Trials dimension, wanting either himself or Batman to die. The sheer supernatural setting of the entire battle takes you out of the title’s very mortal questline, although it is integral to its progression, as well as being an insane and rewarding fight that was a lot of fun to experience.
Imperial Star Destroyer – Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was a very popular Star Wars title, as it gave users a lot of control over the Force powers of Starkiller, Darth Vader’s apprentice. Nowhere are these Force powers better utilised than on the Imperial-controlled version of Raxus Prime, where after shooting a space station out of orbit with the planet’s mining cannon, Starkiller pulls an Imperial Star Destroyer – something the size of a fairly large city – out of the sky and into the ground several miles in front of him, amongst attacks from several TIE Fighters, and ends up having to dodge it before it comes to a full stop. This exhibited Starkiller’s massive potential as a Jedi, as well as creating one of the most memorable cutscenes in recent history as the dust settled on the aforementioned junk planet.
While these are not nearly all of the boss battles which deserve mention in this generation, these are 10 of the finest boss battles I have had the pleasure of playing. I am certain that there will be some notable boss battles before the impending end of this generation of gaming, specifically with titles such as Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen and The Last of Us set for release in 2013.
If you have any boss battles that you feel should have been included, or that you think deserve honourable mentions, please don’t hesitate to tell us in the comments!