Mass Effect 3 proves brutish boss fights are expendable

By Johnny Cullen, Monday, 12 March 2012 13:23 GMT

Mass Effect 3 could have been the epic to end them all, if it wasn’t for the slavish adherence to the boss battle formula. It’s time for developers to get the message, says Johnny Cullen: no ones likes it unless it’s done right.

It’s simple: do boss fights right or don’t do them at all. They should be high points, not something to bore and frustrate the player. Mass Effect 3 is a great game for the majority of the time, but when boss fights dampen a great experience it’s time to switch it up.

At the time of writing, I finished Mass Effect 3 nine hours ago. Shepard’s last stand against the Reapers was incredible, except for two things.

The first is the ending, but that’s for another day. The second was the inclusion of some less than stellar boss battles, two of which frustrated me. I won’t go into too much detail, but I do have to give a little context, so you’ve been warned: spoilers.

The first battle, which takes place halfway throughout the game while rallying support in the fight against the Reapers in the war between the Quarians and Geth, took me a bit to figure out. I sprinted from side-to-side and rolled around for nearly half an hour until I got anywhere.

But that was nothing into the disaster I ran across last night. The second battle, the last before ME3’s end-game, nearly gave me a nervous breakdown. Stopping short of actually crying, I shouted, I screamed in frustration, and I’m pretty sure I came up with a few new swears in the name of advancement.

The boss encounter itself was only five-to-ten minutes long, but as a result of repeated death it was three hours between beginning the fight itself and completing it.

It was harder than the first boss in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Enough’s enough. General boss fights are bad. They should be amazing or nonexistent. It’s a shame this happened to Mass Effect 3. BioWare’s made an excellent game, but these two fights absolutely soured my experience. Surely it’s clear something’s gone astray?

Notorious

BioWare isn’t the only action developer finding it difficult to stick the middle finger up to the boss. Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s boss fights are notorious. There are three in the game, and Eidos Montreal has apologised several times for their inclusion. Director Francois Lapikas did so again during a GDC session last week.

“[The boss fights] were a big part of the game, and we should have put more effort into them. I’m truly sorry about that. Next time we’re gonna think about it more,” he said.

“We saw them as a thing to break up the pacing more than a way to test the player’s skill,” he admitted, saying the team believed the weapons and ammo scattered throughout boss fights would compensate for any difficulties.

“Play tests did flag the boss fights as a problem, but they didn’t flag the severity of it.”

Laziness? I remember the time boss fights were in games for a reason rather than being “brutes”. If you want a case of bosses done right, you need only look at Metal Gear Solid.

The series has some of the greatest fights in history. Pointers: Mantis, Wolf and Liquid in MGS1, all of the Cobras in MGS3 and the B&Bs in MGS4.

They had meaning. Mantis, for example, played mind games with you by reading your PSone’s memory card, as well as switching between channels making you believe something was up with the game until you saw the “HIDEO 1” sign.

In MGS3, the Cobras each had a unique variant in battle. The Pain intended to make you suffer, the Sorrow had you in a psychological battle in the afterlife and the Joy – another name for the Boss – was about feeling the, well, joy of battle.

Sadly, we now appear to be in a time where boss fights don’t mean much in games besides, “Here’s a gun, now kill him/her/it.”

It’s simple: do boss fights right or don’t do them at all. They should be high points, not something to bore and frustrate the player. Mass Effect 3 is a great game for the majority of the time, but when boss fights dampen a great experience it’s time to switch it up.

Stop being lazy, developers. I don’t have too many nerves left to shred.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments