A few weeks ago I had a raging about the bad bosses in Sonic Generations. I promised at the end of that post that I would eventually get onto the topic of some good bosses in video games. What constitutes a good boss? Something that is exciting and challenging. Something that has an impressive size and scope. Something that has actual weight to the gameplay and the story itself. All those things are factors to forming a great boss fight. If you throw a few of those together you got an amazing boss fight. Unfortunately boss battles are a dying art. Back in the day boss fights were the big factors of every level. It was about fighting through all the challenges the level threw at you, ultimately leading to the big boss fight itself. The bosses that I’m going to talk about today is from the video game Outland. If you haven’t played it, and if you want to play it, go play it.
Otherwise, there will be boss spoilers within.
Outland is a brilliant little game with an absolutely amazing art direction and a very simple concept. The world has fallen into the grips of light and darkness and you are a warrior that must bring balance to the two and beat the witches causing this. Unite them and save the world, much like a great warrior did long before you. The game can be a great challenge at times. Not the frustrating throw the controller against the wall challenging, but a warranted fun sort of challenge that the gamer in you will just love. The enemies are diverse, some tough at first, but when you get their patterns down you can rip through them. The bosses, however, are the really awesome parts of this game. They’re unique, fun and insanely challenging at times; beating them feels extremely fulfilling– we need to bring that back.
First Boss – The Golem
The Golem was the ‘introduction’ boss, in the sense that you got a taste of the scope of the bosses in this game, without being too jaw dropping. The game didn’t start on a high note and teeter downwards, with each boss getting worse. Instead Outland showcased an impressive first boss, relatively easy, that had an impressive size. You got a taste for the bosses love of throwing coloured dot of bullet hell at you, and you got to feel a nice sense of accomplishment after beating him. A great first boss to a great game.
Second Boss – The High Priestess
Phase one of this boss fight was nothing to write home about. She would appear and summon rocks to fly at you, depending on which way she waved her arms. Yes, it was neat to react without any clues as to what her hand waving meant, but it’s still standard boss fare. However, once phase two hit I was sucked in instantly. The ground gives way and you and the high priestess fall for an eternity. You constantly have to jump from falling platform to falling platform trying to catch up to the priestess, all while avoiding her god-like hands destroying the platform you’re standing on.
I get boners for non-static boss fights. If there’s a boss fight where I constantly have to run around I am in heaven. I don’t want to stop moving, I don’t want to stop panicking, I don’t want to stop figuring out my next plan of attack. I want to have to sweat to beat this boss, and The High Priestess delivered.
Third Boss – Mother of Eyes
Alright. A giant spider. Nice. The first phase of this boss is a simple one, just go and hit the two switches to activate the torches to piss the spider off. Easy stuff! I have to say though, I love the design on the spider and I dig the design of her projectiles. A web? That’s just great, and the light and dark factor of this game is presented perfectly here. I would LOVE a sequel to this game if they approached it with the same ideology for boss design.
Phase two the spider comes out and you get to fight here toe to toe. If you notice in this phase there are spikes on the wall that come out depending on what colour you are. Something like that is a wonderful addition to a boss fight and not some terrible cop out like adding enemies to a fight. If your idea for a challenging boss fight is a strong baddie with tons of little guys you fought before… you’re designing a boss wrong.
You aim a cannon at the Mother of Eyes and shoot it at her, all while she is shooting tons of her web projectiles at you. They explode, becoming a colourful epileptic feast for the eyes and a danger to you as the player. If you can survive all that she jumps down to fight you on your level. Dodge her legs to fire the cannon at her to deal some more damage to the spider queen. In the end this is a boss fight that is just an absolute feast for the eyes. And, wonderfully enough, nothing like the previous two boss fights encountered!
Fourth Boss – The Winged Serpent
Phase one of this boss was great, you have to run through an obstacle course of the giant winged serpent who hovers over you shooting a LASER at you. This is where you put together all the platforming and colour swapping skills you’ve learnt throughout the game and put them all into effect to outrun the serpent. The second phase is a bit of a let-down after the first. I’ll admit that this boss was my least favorite of the entire game, but still, that’s only counting phase two.
Phase two you get on the serpents back and you have to destroy its special bits, enough to takes it health down to death. As this is happening he drops down tons and tons of mines on you, and to make matters even tougher, he shoots projectiles too. This is a hectic boss fight, and in order to succeed you HAVE to pay attention. Another huge plus side of this boss is, once again, the scope of the fight. Much like Shadow of the Colossus, your character is so tiny against this boss. You feel accomplished after beating him. This game would be terribly dull if each boss was about two feet taller than your hero.
We fight bosses to kick asses of mythical or fantastical creatures, not body builders from the gym. If we wanted to do that we’d go to the gym with a steel pipe.
Final Boss – The Sisters
This boss took me a loooong time to beat on my game. I spent a good 45 minutes to an hour of constant attempts to beat these two women. They are tough. Like, tough. Even with a full life bar and energy bar, my first time I beat the sisters was with one health remaining. This boss comes in the three phases and the start of each phase is more ridiculous than the last. You’ll sit there, mouth gaped open, as you watch their new attacks just RIP through you.
This is what a final boss should be. I don’t want to beat a final boss on my first attempt. Something like that is laughable, the game is way too easy then. The whole idea of bosses, at least as they were, was the need for pattern memorization and an understanding of their attacks. You have to think quickly on your feet and unleash fury on the bosses at the right time to not get walloped.
Outland had a great feature, the colour swapping, that could be use to make a tough boss fight even tougher. This game was a blessing to me, I had an absolute blast with it and was one of my favorites of its year. I don’t want to say much else on the Sisters, other than they were a legitimately near perfect final boss fight. Epic music, epic environment, epic scope and epic attacks. Many different strategies to approach them too. Watch the video and then go out and play the game if you haven’t. Treat yourself, you deserve it.