Tag Archives: Wolfenstein: The New Order

Opinion – Final Boss Success

I must have been tempting fate.

Remember when I said the boss of Persona 3 met most of my criteria for a bad final boss fight?  It proved it this week.  After fighting for an hour and having a relatively easy time, the last boss reached 25% life and dropped a final attack that wiped out my party at nearly full health.  ISN’T THAT FUN???

Obviously, it’s not.

Having just gone through an example of a terrible final boss, I feel it’s time to identify what a good final boss looks like.  Final bosses are an awesome opportunity to put a satisfying ending on a game that the player may have invested tens of hours into.  It can be the ultimate moment of closure for an epic storyline.  In short, final boss fights have considerable potential.  Here are a few ways to take advantage of it:

Reflect the story of the game

Developers often feel the need to have a major boss battle as the conclusion to their game and there is something appealing about one final duel against all odds.  Unfortunately, that may not organically mesh with the game’s story.  Not all enemies are super-powered villains who destroy worlds and provide challenges to elite groups of warriors, yet some games try to jam them in anyway.  Consider the end of Wolfenstein: The New Order.  The final fight is against Totenkopf, a maniacal Nazi scientist.  To make Totenkopf a challenge for the player, they stick him in a giant mech suit reminiscent of mechaHitler from the first game.  Nothing up to this point suggests that Totenkopf has any great skill piloting a mech, nor that he wouldn’t be better off handing the controls to a trained henchmen, yet that is how he’s presented as the final boss.  Wolfenstein would have done better to play to Totenkopf’s established skills rather than invent a martial persona which clearly didn’t fit.  The end boss fight feels tacked on because it is out of character with the character as he’s been portrayed up until that point.  Of course, if a video game has set up the final boss as a destructive warrior, then it would do well to ensure he is one when the fighting starts.

Minimize frustration

Too often do developers confuse difficult with frustrating.  Bosses have a myriad of special attacks, absorb tons of damage, and always seem to have another form.  A good final boss fight shouldn’t have the player tearing out their hair.  Developers should minimize random elements that deny player skill and avoid overlong attacks or cutscenes.  If a developer insists on a long fight, then it ought to facilitate restarting that boss fight should the player fail.  Nothing destroys the mood of a final boss by having to restart a long sequence all over again.  In short, the fight should be a test of skill, not patience.

Build on the game

Most games have a signature mechanic or story that helps define the game within its genre.  Unfortunately, most games also have a final boss that ignores that element in favor of brute strength and endless repetition.  Persona 3’s final boss is a perfect example.  Until that point in the game, the player exploits enemy vulnerabilities to gain extra attacks and win fights.  The final boss, on the other hand, has no vulnerabilities.  The developer completely ignored the defining battle mechanic of the game in the service of avoiding an “easy” boss fight.  Instead, we get a boss that could fit into any RPG.  It would have been better if the developer could have used the skills the player already learned to create a unique and memorable boss.

It doesn’t have to be long or hard to be epic

The end fight of Saboteur has the player fighting their way to the top of the Eiffel tower in pursuit of a vile Nazi commander.  After killing the last guards, the player finds him waiting next to a ledge.  The game slows down and the player shoots the commander with the glittering city of Paris as the backdrop.  The fight wasn’t long, the battle wasn’t difficult, but the end imparted a sense of completion and grandeur that a thousand bloated fights couldn’t match.  Game endings can achieve superior conclusions without demanding time and skill from the player.  If the preceding game sets the whole event up, then sometimes a boss fight needs nothing more than a well-conceived shot to make a memorable end.   Give the player credit for all they’ve done up until this point and don’t demand more if you don’t need to.

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Opinion – OMG! Boobies!

Not the source I expected on this one

There are a couple of scenes in Wolfenstein: The New Order where the hero, BJ Blazkowicz, and his love interest, Anya, have sex.  What is shocking about this is not the act of sex in the historically sex shy video game scene, but rather that it was shown with a modicum of maturity that isn’t present in even gaming’s most mature franchises.  The act of showing two character engaging in sex as a normal function of their relationship and without gratuitous Playboy shots runs counter to the games industries typical depiction of sex from a 13 year old view point.  The games industry, as a whole, has trouble breaking free of the immature perspective of sex.  New Order gives us a glimpse of how easy it would be to move away from the youthful swamp in which most video games are mired.

The most common depiction of sex in games is the mindless titillation of big boobs, skimpy clothing, and prostitution.  It’s often done from a straight male point of view (a topic worthy of its own article) and captures the simplest conception of sex there is.  Off the top of my head, I can think of strippers in Saint’s Row, the giant breasted sex minigame of God of War, and just about every game that includes prostitution ever.  One of the many problems with this depiction of sex is that it represents the act as conceived by the average teenager, rather than by the many adults who both make and are the audience for these games.  Consider the strip club minigame I tried in GTA V.  I approached a busty stripper, got a lap dance, and, when we went back to her place, the screen bounced to an unshown good time and faded to black.  This is pretty much what your average teenager thinks of when they conceive sex.  Hot women, sensual moves, and some kind of black box that is supposed to be super cool.  In contrast, New Order has two individuals who, as part of their relationship, have sex.  No lurid strip club, no sex crazed prostitutes, just people who enjoy sex as part of a greater relationship.  This is how most adults approach sex, yet it is one of the few times a game has depicted it as such.

The sad part is that even one of gaming’s greatest series has trouble with sex.  Mass Effect is well known for depicting the act in the exact opposite way.  Rather than showing sex as a dirty act between a man and oversized, throw away genitalia, Mass Effect sanctifies the act as the crowning achievement in a relationship.  Each romantic option climaxes when Sheppard and his partner having sex.  This is the pinnacle of the relationship when most adult relationships include sex well before some kind of mystical understanding is reached.  It is a fun part of the relationship that can start anywhere between the first date and the wedding day and is rarely considered an achievement.  Rather than be the sex mad teenager, Mass Effect chooses to be the virtuous abstainer whose refusal to have sex puts the act on a pedestal that it doesn’t deserve.  Again, New Order provides the more mature counterpoint.  BJ and Anya’s first time isn’t a vaunted relationship defining achievement nor does their subsequent encounter suggest anything more than stress relief and a good time.  Sex is neither glorified nor objectified in New Order, it’s just a healthy part of two character’s relationship.

I don’t want to oversell New Order’s achievement.  While BJ and Anya’s relationship is believable, it isn’t particularly well developed.  Condoms were never shown despite how important avoiding pregnancy would be while living in the heart of an insurgency.  Furthermore, most sex does not occur between a giant ball of muscles and a model with a fantastic rack.  Still, the general tone is something that few games have nailed.  New Order’s decision to depict sex in an adult way rather than as a 13 year old might is refreshing and laudable.  I can only hope other developers will follow suit.

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