I Am The 99%, A Petition To End The Tyranny Of Boss Fights

So I've been playing Fallout New Vegas quite heavily lately, and I've been loving it. (Spoilers are sort of ahead, so you might want to not read this article if you haven't yet played FNV all the way to the end or, for that matter, Final Fantasy 8, or Zelda, Ocarina of Time.)

I was thoroughly entranced by the game until the final battle for Hoover Dam. I'd sided with Yes Man and was determined to destroy the dam. That task I completed without too much difficulty. But then I was forced (for reasons that I found to be rather flimsy at the outset) to go across to the Legate's Camp and battle Legate Lanius. This I did with a growing sense of excitement, because I sensed I was near the end of the game.

Most gamers would be excited at this point, but I was excited for a very specific reason. I was about to finish my first RPG ever. I've never actually finished an RPG before you see, and you're about to find out why.

I approached the Legate, and through the use of my finely honed speech skill, I managed to convince him to fight me mano e mano, man on man, one on one. I was almost cackling with glee, right up until the point when I unleashed the incinerator about 20 times without him taking any damage at all. It was then that I realized New Vegas had suckered me into the thing I hate most - a boss fight.

I'd managed to sink 40 or so hours into the game without having to do a boss fight up until that point, so I was rather surprised to see that the Legate was flame resistant. His flesh doesn't burn at all. Hurrah for ridiculous premises.

Of course there are plenty of ways to beat the Legate, I googled them, and I won't bore you with them. But here's the thing. Why did there have to be a boss fight at all? Why did a game that had otherwise allowed me to survive on wit and tact and lockpicking things, suddenly force me into combat with a nigh unbeatable foe? Why did Bethesda feel that having slogged my way across the Mojave for hour upon hour was in itself, not enough to reward me with the end of the game? What is the omnipresent obsession with boss fights in gaming?

This is probably yet another of my wildly unpopular opinions on gaming. I'm sure boss fights are well loved by most gamers because otherwise developers wouldn't keep shoving them into the game, separating the player from the content with tests of skill and sometimes luck. I accept that I might very well be alone in thinking that boss fights are unnecessary and often game ruining.

I've never completed an RPG before because most (if not all) RPGs contain boss fights and to be honest, I just don't care for them. Zelda, Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy 8 are also games I've sunk countless hours into, but as soon as I approach the final boss fights I lose interest in a cataclysmic sort of way. Ganon can take over Hyrule for all I care and Ultimicea can steal magic and bend time to her little black heart's content. It looks like Legate Lanius is going to have his way with the Mojave as well, because the game crashed when he killed me and I'm not sure I have the will to try and best him again. Poor planning lead me to show up on his doorstep with little in the way of fire power and he seems to have a magical machete that can cleave me in twain before I have time to even draw a weapon.

That's the thing about boss fights. They're often ridiculously weighted against the player, they're designed to be beaten by one approach only: grinding attack. There are sometimes tactics too, but odds are you're only going to know about them if you use the power of internet research to discover them. I wish that for once an RPG could end with a sweeping conclusion that was story based, not battle based - because that's why I play RPGs. I play them for the story that unfolds, for the reward of discovery. I don't play them so I can bang my head against stubborn pixels or so I can sit there for half an hour slowly chipping away at a overpowered foe's health.

A boss fight could be compared to a final exam, but it's a final exam in which all the answers have to be chipped by hand into a stone tablet that repeatedly wipes itself clean and has the ability to leap up and break itself over your head at regular intervals.

When someone dares to make an RPG style game that does away with boss fights, I'll be there. Until then I remain the 99% - 99% completion, that is.

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