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In Face Off, PC Gamer writers go head to head over an issue affecting PC gaming. Today, Tom and Wes argue about boss fights, which have been around nearly as long as video games themselves, and whether they re an outdated concept.
Wes Fenlon, Hardware editor Wes wants modern boss fights to be a bit more original.
Tom Marks, Assistant editor Tom thinks boss fights are still a nice change of pace.
Wes: YES. I ve played many great boss fights in my day, but far too many big games shoehorn in boss fights when they don t need them. Boss fights once made perfect video game sense in linear, side-scrolling levels. Get to the end of the stage, fight the big bad in charge, and move on to the next. And that s still fun! But as games have evolved with open worlds and non-linear levels and forms of gameplay more nuanced than shoot slash punch bad guy, boss fights don t fit as well. Bioshock and the more recent Deus Ex: Human Revolution are two modern examples of boss fights gone really wrong. Bioshock needed an emotional climax, not one that involved shooting a roided-up bad guy. And Human Revolution betrayed the core of its gameplay by making you shoot it out with its bosses, which is something the new Deus Ex is thankfully addressing. Boss fights can still be done well, of course, but they re most definitely antiquated.
Tom M.: NO. Boss fights aren t always fun, but used correctly they can be vital to the pacing of a game. Boss fights don t just represent the end of a level, they are a change of pace after a long stretch of similar gameplay. You ve been running around shooting and beating up bad guys for a while, but how are you going to deal with this new enemy? That s when the concept of a boss fight really shines; when it s not just a bigger harder enemy, but instead challenges you in some interesting and different way. I completely agree that AAA games have recently misused the boss fight trope, treating it more like an expected practice than a place to shake up the game s design, but that doesn t mean boss fights as a whole are an outdated concept.
Wes: Sure—I d look like a big dumb idiot if I said all boss fights today are lame and crappy. There are still good ones! But I think there are two big problems with how boss fights are implemented. In big-budget games, they re often used to facilitate some dramatic cutscene or story moment, which means taking control away from the player or forcing you to play in a specific way. That sucks. And in general, I think too many games use boss fights because they re expected. Boss fights are part of the language of video games, but they re a very old word. And I d like to see more games creating new words instead of falling back on the Middle English that is the boss fight.
Tom: I actually don t mind boss fights being more rigid or scripted than the rest of a game. Making open world experiences where the player has lots of choice is a very difficult thing to do, and too much freedom can sometimes make for a crummy story. Boss fights are the perfect moment for a developer to bring the story back under their control a little bit to let them reliably tell the story they want to. Of course, the boss fight shouldn t take certain options or playstyles away from the player that the rest of a game has made them accustomed to, like in Deus Ex for example. Those fights should be climactic and should represent a shift in the story. Even if they re expected, they can play a vital role in the rhythm of a game.
Wes: Ah, so idealistic! Time and again, boss fights in big-budget games do change up the play style you ve been taught just to show you something cool. Even the Batman games, which have fantastic combat, lose their lustre when they put you in an arena to slug it out with a boss. Think of the end of Asylum, when the Joker gets all beefy and slugs it out with Batman. It s a great game, but that s a cookie cutter boss fight that relies on antiquated video game language. How do we make a big, climactic battle? Hm, how about lots of punching? But the Joker would never do that! He d do something clever. A smart, modern take on the boss fight there wouldn t end with a punching match. I d like to see more games have confidence in what they do best. To use a pretty traditional 2D game as an example: I don t even remember the final boss of Rayman Origins, but I do remember the incredibly challenging and rewarding final platforming sequence leads up to it. Surviving that level is the true boss of the game.
Tom: Lots of games have also tried doing boss sequences or boss levels instead of a straight up fight, and I love that. I think it s great when games don t adhere to the formula, but that s not the solution for every game. Assassin s Creed doesn t really have many boss fights, instead a particularly special baddy will get a mission all to himself. That s cool and different and doesn t shoehorn a stupid arena fight into an assassination game, but I also don t remember a single one of those missions. You know what I do remember? Every single boss I fought in Dark Souls 2. I still agree that developers will put cookie cutter boss fights unnecessarily into games that don t need them, but it s by no means a concept that s lost it s value. It s just more valuable in certain types of games.
Wes: I may not remember the characters of many Assassin s Creed targets, but I do remember some of my more epic assassinations—and I loved that those characters could be killed silently and instantly, if you planned the perfect stealth kill. That s a smart modern twist on the classic boss fight, too me--it elevates what s best about Assassin s Creed, instead of suddenly changing how you play the game. And hell, I love Dark Souls bosses too—I don t hate the traditional boss fight, I just think many games today could do something more interesting with them. It seems like we re mostly on the same page. So...what games are really doing creative boss fights right these days?
Tom: The first example that jumps to my mind is Titan Souls, a game made up of nothing but boss fights. It takes the kill the big monster in an arena concept to its extreme and cuts the fat off everywhere else. If you need to be convinced that compelling and exciting boss fights are still possible in modern games, Titan Souls will do that and then some. Terraria is another good example; each boss is difficult and unique, but also represents a tier of progression. The game has an open world with no fake constraints, but you can mostly only reach bosses in a certain order, each one giving you the means to fight the next. These games embrace the boss fight as the effective tool it is; a change of pace, a milestone in your progression, and a generator of wow moments.
Wes: I ve played my fair share of Terraria, but I ll be checking up on Titan Souls. If killing each boss doesn t make me feel a deep and intense sorrow in true Shadow of the Colossus fashion, though, I m going to hold you responsible for my irrational expectations.
Tom: Titan Souls was the first game that made me physically jump out of my chair when I killed a boss, and I did so for every single one. Consider your expectations rationally high.
Surreal stages, events, or gameplay that somehow just don't fit have always been present, and even expected. Their crazy graphics, weird aesthetics and ideas make sure that we have absolutely no idea what's going on. But they have their charm, they are funny, or they're simply part of the experience—and so we love them.
We collected a bunch of them below.
source: DmC Chapter 10
source: Alice Wiki
source: Max Payne's first nightmare
source: LSD Dream Emulator Wiki
source: Rayman Origins Dragon Trailer
source: Yume Nikki Wiki
source: Bayonetta Chapter 14
source: superadamsworld's LP
source: cubex55's LP
There are probably a lot more mind-cracking levels or games, so you should submit your own picks below (with visual support)!
That's it. No mahine guns today. No more giant robots, no post-apocalyptic landscapes, no bloodthirsty aliens. Today, we're looking at video game concept art that's so damn bright and cheerful it'll put more peps in your step than you'll know what to do with.
It's all the work of Floriane Marchix, who is currently at Dreamworks but who used to be employed at Ubisoft, where she worked on the delightful Rayman Origins.
You'll see a ton of stuff from that game, but I've thrown in plenty of personal work as well. Because it's great.
You can see a lot more at Floriane's personal site.
To see the larger pics in all their glory (or so you can save them as wallpaper), right-click on them below and select "open in new tab".
Stephen Colbert agrees, or at least… he likes to dance. So, okay, yes, this video mashup is totally silly, but also delightful. It makes me want to both play Rayman Origins and watch The Colbert Report.
Two things that I want to do already, as it happens...
From the guys who brought you "Mario Party Down", the excellent Mario Party drinking game (with some bonus Party Down references) comes "Rayman OriGin and Tonics."
Yep. It's all gin, all the time. The game leverages the abusive nature of Rayman Origins' co-op gameplay to get you as drunk as possible. Take four drinks of a G&T if you win? Wow. Something about this video, particularly the fact that they're just straight up mixing gin and tonic water in huge glasses without even ice or lime just makes it all look fairly wretched.
But, if you were playing the game (and playing Rayman Origins with your friends, I have a feeling that after about twenty minutes you wouldn't really care how wretched you were being.
I speak a little bit of French. Just enough, in fact, to get the gist of what Rayman creator Michel Ancel is saying in this interview. The Ubisoft developer confirms work continues on the long-awaited sequel to cult favorite Beyond Good & Evil, but also says that it'll need better tech than is currently available.
I'm paraphrasing here but Ancel basically says that the game is indeed being created he can't say when it's coming or for which platforms. He also says that the game needs-either better or more—technology to succeed and, when asked if Mirror's Edge was an influence on BGE2, that the work seen in the trailer was completed before he was aware of the EA first-person-platformer.
Ancel elaborates that BGE2 will have a very dynamic camera system which will make it seem as if the action is being filmed live. This detail fits with BGE heroine Jade's role as a journalist. But, this is apparently one of the areas where the increased power of future consoles is needed. So, we'll have to wait for a while longer until we can revisit the planet of Hillys.
[YouTube, via NeoGAF]
Ubisoft's critically acclaimed platformer Rayman Origins is going to get a sequel; it's pretty much inevitable. What form that sequel will take might be hinted at in these screens taken from a marketing survey by one of our readers, hinting at a world filled with dragons, ghosts and Greek gods.
Rayman Origins received rave reviews, and Ubisoft has been on record as saying the game turned a profit for the company. The trick now is to take that amazing gameplay and package it in a way that appeals to the consumer. Ghosts, dragons and mythology might do the trick.
These images, sent to us by an anonymous tipster who stumbled upon them in a survey from marketing firm Arkenford (Ubisoft is one of its regular clients), point towards a Rayman Origins sequel that retains the same four-player drop-in/drop-out gameplay of the original, while trading the first game's outlandish world for something a bit more familiar. Seems like a sound strategy to me.
Of course these images could all add up to nothing. For one, Arkenford is a marketing survey site, and what you see there isn't necessarily what you get. And then there's always the chance that an overzealous fan was just getting ahead of themselves.
We've contacted Ubisoft regarding these images, and will update the post should we receive a response.