I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a challenge. That’s something most of us should at least expect in a video game — especially during the closing segments of a journey. After all, when we’ve spent countless hours crafting our heroes and maxing out their true potential, what we really want is an output that lets us showcase our newfound abilities. What we don’t want, however, is an anticlimactic conclusion that draws away from the challenge and instead poses as a fluke. We want boss battles — and we want them armed to the teeth in anticipation of our arrival.
Whether it’s a JRPG or a relatively short campaign with fewer levels to climb, video games should always aim for a crescendo. Unfortunately, many developers have gotten lazy with their boss battles over the years. And, I’m not talking about the three-strike tap out cliche, but more the method of using snappy cutscenes rather than actual gameplay. Sadly, these five are guilty of using that tactic to weave their games together. And no, we haven’t forgiven them for it. Yet.
5. Rodrigo Borgia (Assassin’s Creed II)
Okay, so I’ll fire this one straight off the bat. Assassin’s Creed, no matter how this entry may paint it, is in no way shape or form a bad game. It’s just that, well, it’s a tad unconvincing at the best of times, and on a few occasions our immersion has been completely divided over certain sloppy mechanics. Just take the final boss fight with the Pope, for example. What should’ve been a memorable battle between two kingpins ultimately resulted in a schoolyard fistfight with very little room for actual skill. Like, how did that happen?
Of course, as with any Assassin’s Creed segment — using your counterattack is the only strategy needed for winning almost any battle. And, while that may be good for taking down small armies of guards over the course of our journey, it’s only natural to expect something a little more extravagant for the final boss. But no. It’s just, well, more punching and countering. Punching…and countering. Sigh. Surely, Ubisoft could’ve pulled something a little more exciting out of the bag for a conclusion as emotionally charged as Assassin’s Creed?
4. Lambent Brumak (Gears of War 2)
Take a look back at the Gears of War timeline as a whole and you’ll likely recall the number of bullets you fired as Marcus Pheonix. Surely, it must’ve been hundreds of thousands, right? Well, from what we can remember, only a single one of those bullets were used to bring down the final boss in Gears 2. That’s right — one. One bullet. Not an entire volley of ammunition spread over a bunch of weapons. Just one shot — with one weapon. Annoyingly, after everything we had built ourselves up to — that’s all it took to defeat the towering Lambent Brumak.
Gears of War 2 did a marvellous job of setting the stage for a final standoff between humans and the Lambent army. Sure enough, the Brumak was just the icing on the cake to a showdown that we worried would be the challenge we both craved and feared. But it wasn’t anything of the sort. In fact, all we had to do for the duration of the final boss battle was hold a single trigger for a few moments. Lo and behold, the credits started to roll, without an actual challenge presenting itself beforehand. Honestly, that’s not something we came to expect from a Gears title.
3. Gary “Boss” Smith (Bully)
There’s no denying the fact that Bully is a genuinely enticing little number when it comes to adventure gaming. After all, it has all of Rockstar’s signature quirks, and, it bodes well with any gamer who’s so much as glanced at a Grand Theft Auto chapter over the last decade. Storywise — it’s compelling and genuinely easy to follow. Combat, on the other hand, is a little more watered down compared to other titles under Rockstar’s legendary belt. That’s where they sort of slipped up — especially during the larger fights.
Gary Smith, who we only caught a glimpse of a couple of times after the opening chapter, should’ve been a worthy contender for a closing battle sequence. After we’d quite literally ploughed our way through every clique and conquered the school, it was only right that we would go on to face our worst enemy in a blaze of glory. It should’ve been emotional, powerful, and unbelievably challenging. Only, it wasn’t. It just had us mash square a lot — just like we had been doing for the last six and a half hours straight. Where’s the fun in that?
2. Final Boss (Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor)
While Shadow of Mordor has proven to be one of the best adventure games on the market, its status alone doesn’t necessarily excuse its god-awful ending that leaves its players feeling both underwhelmed and baffled post-credits. Admittedly, we expected a lot more from a game that quite literally shoves action in our faces every fifteen seconds or so. In fact, with a battle lurking around almost every corner and a whole roster of Sauron’s Army to dismantle, we all anticipated an incredibly lengthy finale. Though, unfortunately, it didn’t quite meet our expectations.
In the end, to our honest surprise, it all came down to a few QTEs and nothing more. No strategy was required in order to confront the Black Hand, and almost every shred of our skill was quickly discarded without a moment’s notice. A few buttons later and we’re suddenly left with an incredibly anticlimactic ending that does nothing except give a nod to a blatant sequel. Though, after an ending as poor as this, it made us question Monolith’s abilities to develop a worthy successor altogether.
1. Lucien (Fable 2)
When we think of Fable, we don’t really associate it with overpowered bosses and mind-bending difficulty spikes. Instead, we link it with button-mashing fights and simple QTEs that any player can master with ease. However, that isn’t to say that the ending of each journey should be just as straightforward. After all, with Fable being an RPG, we’d at least expect a small army to try and subdue us before taking our final steps to the grand finale. Sadly, a walk in the park would’ve been far more challenging than taking on Lucien in Fable 2.
Of course, we never expected facing Lucien to be an overwhelming struggle when we crossed the threshold into his sacred Spire. Only, we did come to expect at least a wave of enemies or a timed battle of sorts. But oh no, we just had to reveal an old music box and hold a single button for twenty seconds instead. That was really all there was to it — despite Lucien having an entire army idling in his lobby. Like, really? Come on, Lionhead.