[Dtoid community blogger bbain shares his favorite battles from the Souls games. Spoiler alert for those of you who haven't beaten any of the three games! Want to see your own blog appear on our front page? Go write something! --Mr Andy Dixon]
Having beaten Dark Souls II, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about the boss fights, which I thought were generally weaker this time around. There were a lot of really cool looking bosses, but none, save for a select few, seemed to provide much of a challenge. There also weren't a whole lot of unique ideas in terms of boss tactics this time around, where most of the bosses used tactics borrowed from the past games.
The boss fights have always been one of the most important aspect of the Souls series, in my opinion. Therefore, I thought I'd take a moment to discuss some of my favorite boss battles from the series. I chose these examples based on a few criteria: difficulty, uniqueness, and emotion. Making boss fights challenging is always important, but a good boss fight can also provide unique challenges for the player or even toy with the player's emotions in some way. And speaking of emotion, let's jump right in to the first example of a boss fight that is not in the least bit challenging, but still manages to remain one of the most memorable bosses in the series.
Spoiler alert! If you haven't finished Demon's Souls, Dark Souls or Dark Souls II and care about keeping the boss battles a mystery, then bookmark for later and leave now!
10. Maiden Astraea (Demon's Souls)
One of the most unique bosses in the Souls series, and really video games in general. After trekking through the putrid, plague-infested Valley of Defilement, and expecting an equally foul final boss, you enter the arena and are met with what appears to be a defenseless young woman, sitting in the back of a filthy cavern in a blood-drenched white dress, holding a glowing object. Not quite what you expected to see! You'll still want to proceed with caution, though, because this is Demon's Souls we're talking about. Anything could happen!
However, as it turns out, you actually don't have to "fight" Astraea. You can if you want, and you can also fight her bodyguard, Garl Vinland. He can actually be pretty tough, but he can also be bypassed. Once you get past Vinland, the plagued swamp, and the weird plague babies coming out of said swamp, you can approach Astraea. You are then given the option to talk to her. After a short speech where she admits she can no longer defend herself, she ends up committing suicide, granting you her Demon Soul.
Congratulations! You've just slain the Maiden Astraea! And now you're probably starting to feel like the worst person in the world, having caused a well-meaning woman to take her own life after you killed her bodyguard. Are you the villain? Have the other enemies you've murdered really been the good guys after all? Even after beating the game, it's difficult to tell, but the boss fight with Astraea definitely makes you question your own motives.
9. Storm King (Demon's Souls)
The Storm King is another unique boss fight in the Souls series, as I believe it's the only boss in the series that you can't attack directly. You must use ranged combat to take it down. However, you will hear people say that you can kill any boss in Demon's Souls with any kind of character build, even melee, and they are not wrong!
When you enter the arena at the end of the Shrine of Storms, you'll be greeted by a swarm of angry Storm Beasts (or as I like to call them, Sky Mantas), along with their leader, the enormous Storm King. If you're playing as a melee build like I was, you may start to wonder, "How exactly am I supposed to touch these things? Do I really have to resort to arrows or magic?" But before giving up the fight and returning to the Nexus for a change of strategy, you may as well explore the arena a bit. It's quite a large arena, with lots of stones and crumbling structures scattered about. You'll find several items lying around, which you might as well pick up since you can't fight the boss just yet, including a new sword called the Storm Ruler. Cool, let's check it out!
If you do decide to test out the Storm Ruler's moveset during the boss fight, then you're in for quite a surprise. The weapon will emit huge bursts of razor wind, tearing through even distant enemies! Once you've discovered this, you will no doubt make short work of the Storm King and his minions; piece of cake! Or, if you're like me, you'll ignore the weapon you just picked up, and settle on taking down the Storm King with your pitiful Soul Arrows, and you'll be in for a long, tedious fight... but more prudent players will be awarded for their curiosity!
8. The Pursuer (Dark Souls II)
The Pursuer was the first boss in Dark Souls II to really bring back the spirit of the series for me. The fight against this creepy knight with the unusual ability to levitate a few inches off the ground plays out similarly to some of my favorite boss battles from the earlier games (two of which are also on this list!). This fight is all about agility; the Pursuer is quick and relentless, so you'll have to employ some sort of strategy to deal with his speed. It's these types of fights where the Souls series' combat mechanics really shine! For me, the strategy involved figuring out perfectly timed rolls, evading his attacks and giving me just enough time to land a strike or two before going back into defensive mode. Others might resort to perfectly timed parries, while casters might have to figure out how to avoid his attacks long enough to cast a spell. It's an extremely tense fight; let your guard down for even a second and you're toast. Although, if you're observant enough, you might find an object in the arena which could help you immensely, making very short work of the Pursuer (given you find an opportunity to use it)!
However, even after defeating him, this won't be the last you'll see of the Pursuer. Staying true to his name, he will hunt you down in several other locations throughout the game, given you have a penchant for exploring. Somehow, he always reappears in the least expected places, giving you another chance to prove your evasive abilities and use your own agility to beat him at his own game. The reward for doing so is not too shabby either!
7. Flamelurker (Demon's Souls)
The battle against Flamelurker plays out much the same way as the Pursuer; once again, the Flamelurker's attacks are quick and relentless. In fact, this was my very first experience with this type of boss, as it probably was for many other players who started the series with Demon's Souls, so it will always stick out in my mind whenever another boss employs the same strategy.
Unlike the Pursuer, however, the Flamelurker has a few other tricks up his sleeve. For one, he's literally made of fire, so you will take damage when you're getting up close and personal. You should have a few items in your possession which can help to reduce fire damage; just be sure not to stand near him for too long! His second trick occurs approximately halfway through the battle: you'll notice he stops moving for quite a long time... what is he doing? Wait, is he getting brighter? He's powering up! After this happens, he'll become noticeably more ferocious, making the battle even more tense as you desperately try to finish the job.
In more ways than one, the Flamelurker serves as an influence to many of the best boss fights in the Souls series. You'll encounter plenty of bosses who use agility and power-ups to their advantage, and even one other boss that damages you with flames if you get too close. While some bosses may utilize these strategies more effectively than Flamelurker, he still remains one of the most memorable and difficult bosses for introducing us to these tactics.
6. Black Dragon Kalameet (Dark Souls)
What type of enemy do you generally think of when playing a fantasy game with knights and castles? That's right, dragons! And while there are plenty of dragons in the Souls games, there is one clearly supreme dragon battle: Black Dragon Kalameet! The sheer scale of this massive dragon, along with the fact that you battle him up close and personal, makes this one of the most epic boss battles in the series. Jumping out of the way as the huge dragon lunges toward you, black flames licking at your heels, feebly attempting to fell the beast by attacking its legs and tail... and when he finally falls, it is truly the most satisfying feeling of all!
The defeat of Kalameet is made even more satisfying by the fact that he's actually impossible to kill at first. This is similar to Seath the Scaleless, except figuring out the method to begin laying the hurt on Kalameet is much less obvious. In fact, I didn't even know there was something I had to do before fighting him; I kept trying to find a way to dodge his initial flame attack by running to a safe zone, which seemed to work at first, except for the fact that he'll keep doing this until you're killed. The frustration that builds from failing over and over again to even lay a finger on the beast makes its eventual defeat all the more satisfying! Take that, you damned unkillable dragon!
5. Dragon Slayer Ornstein & Executioner Smough (Dark Souls)
The Maneaters and the Belfry Gargoyles may have done it first, but in my opinion, Ornstein and Smough are the ultimate duo boss fight. What makes this fight so interesting is how different the two bosses' fighting styles are. Ornstein is quick and agile, able to attack you from a distance or zoom up to you and get up in your business. Smough is slow and lumbering, but with extremely powerful attacks that you definitely want to avoid. You have to make sure you can see both bosses at all times, or one of them could easily sneak up behind you and ruin your day. You'll probably want to focus on one of them and try to get rid of them before going after the other.
However, defeating one of the duo leads to the other interesting aspect of this fight. Once one falls, the other will absorb their fallen partner's power. You may choose to take out Smough first, as he's the slowest and easiest to target. Doing so, however, will cause Ornstein to inherit Smough's size, resulting in a giant, yet still speedy dragon slayer. He can be quite overwhelming, so in your next attempt you may choose to take out Ornstein first, so you won't have to deal with the enormous version of him. Going this route, however, will cause Smough to inherit Ornstein's lightning abilities, making it even more difficult to get close to him. Either option can be very challenging, but depending on your playstyle, you probably have a preference. I definitely prefer to take down Ornstein first, because giant Ornstein is just way too agile for my liking. Both options yield different rewards though, so you'll probably want to try beating them both ways at some point.
This fight is all about learning your enemies' behaviors (as is the same for most fights in the Souls series), as well as adapting to changes in behavior halfway through the fight. It can be a very taxing battle, and seems to be the one that most players tend to get stuck on during their first playthrough. Despite the difficulty, however, the fight remains completely fair and entirely possible, even when playing solo. It just might take a few tries before you achieve victory.
4. Sif, the Great Grey Wolf (Dark Souls)
So far, there have only ever been two bosses in the Souls series that I felt absolutely terrible about killing. The first was Maiden Astraea, and then we have Sif, the Great Grey Wolf. Sif is an enormous fuzzy wolf, who watches over the grave of Artorias. Upon invading the grave, Sif appears and attacks the player, wielding a huge greatsword with his mouth! The wolf is quite agile, and is very good with a sword, as it turns out. The battle can be difficult, as he leaps about, attacking in a very wide range.
As you whittle down his health, the Great Grey Wolf will become noticeably weaker. As he begins feebly limping around the arena, his once impressive sword swings will cause him to topple over. Well, I already didn't want to kill him since he was an adorable wolf protecting his friend's grave, but now he's all weakened and limping too? Unfortunately, you can't spare Sif's life if you ever want to beat the game, since he drops a necessary item, so he must be killed. Way to make me feel like a complete asshole, game!
Upon exploring the DLC area, the fate of Sif becomes even more unbearable. You can rescue a young Sif from the shield that Artorias placed upon him in an attempt to save the wolf's life. Afterwards, you can even summon Sif to help you fight Manus, Father of the Abyss. If you do all of this before fighting Sif in the main game, you'll get to see a new cutscene before the fight, during which he recognizes you as the person who saved his life, howls in sadness at the moon, but unfortunately picks up the sword to fight you anyway. Don't make me do this, Sif... why can't we just be friends?
3. Gwyn, Lord of Cinder (Dark Souls)
The battle against Gwyn is, in my opinion, the ultimate final boss fight for a game like Dark Souls. There's no grandeur of some epic arena, with an impressive, gigantic final boss. It's just you, pitted against another man of approximately the same size, with exceptionally powerful swordsmanship skills. Gwyn is also the ultimate example of the agility-centered boss fights, as seen in the Flamelurker and Pursuer examples. As you enter his decrepit, ashy arena, he takes a few steps towards you and then suddenly leaps at you with incredible speed, never letting up for the remainder of the fight. You must time every action perfectly, because if you screw up for even a second, you could easily be killed. Block or dodge his attacks, then choose the perfect opportunity to land a few strikes or take a chug of Estus before going back into defense mode. It's the most tense I've ever felt during a boss fight, and he also took me the longest to beat out of any other boss in the game, appropriately. The countless deaths may have been frustrating, but man did it feel satisfying to finally see him fall! What a perfect way to end such a phenomenal game!
2. Looking Glass Knight (Dark Souls II)
By himself, the Looking Glass Knight is not too terribly difficult to defeat. He does look very impressive, however, with his pristine, shiny armor sparkling in the thunderstorm that you fight him in. He may have a few cool tricks, including some dangerous lightning attacks, and a huge shield that can block any attack and even deflect many magic attacks, but he's rather slow, making it easy to get several hits in after he attacks.
But the Looking Glass Knight by himself is not what makes this boss fight so awesome. You see, the Looking Glass Knight has one more trick up his sleeve. At some point during the fight, the knight will hide behind his eponymous looking glass shield, and call upon a phantom to help him fight. The phantom will then burst forth from the looking glass, and suddenly the battle has become two against one. Now you have one agile enemy and one slow, yet powerful enemy to keep track of.
But that's not all! Remember that ingenious boss fight from Demon's Souls, the Old Monk? The one where he could actually summon other players to fight for him? It was one of the coolest ideas for a boss fight, one that I can't think of any other game attempting. Well, they've brought back that idea for the Looking Glass Knight, and in my opinion, it's even better than the Old Monk fight! When he summons a phantom from the looking glass, there's a chance he can summon another player who has laid an invasion sign nearby. So, unlike the Old Monk fight, where you only have to fight another player, now you have to fight another player AND the Looking Glass Knight! Good luck with that!
As of now, I haven't actually beaten the Looking Glass Knight after he's summoned another player. Summoning an NPC is really no big deal, but other players are unpredictable and dangerous. One day I'd like to win a battle against another player summoned from the looking glass, defeating the boss in the process, but I have a feeling it may be one of the toughest challenges yet!
1. Tower Knight (Demon's Souls)
Ah, the Tower Knight... a boss I once believed to be an impossibility, before I learned how to really play Demon's Souls. After trying and trying, and never even managing to make so much as a dent in his health bar, I soon gave up, and put the game back on the shelf as something not meant for an unskilled gamer such as myself. But even so, the game never really left my thoughts. I kept thinking how glorious it would feel to be able to defeat the mighty Tower Knight, the massive, towering, armored knight who must be fifty feet tall, at least. How would you even damage him? Poke at his ankles with your puny weapon?
Exactly. That is precisely what you must do. Attacking his ankles (or his Achilles' heels, if you will) might seem futile, but hit them enough and he'll start to lose his balance. Eventually, he'll topple over, giving you free reign to attack any part of his body you wish. At this point, you'll probably consider going for the head, which is an excellent instinct. Start wailing on his head, and you'll notice you're doing considerably greater damage than when you were poking at his ankles! He'll get back up eventually, but just repeat the process and he should be finished in no time.
And oh, how glorious it felt to finally defeat the mighty Tower Knight! Afterwards, I felt like I could take on the world, and I continued to defeat the rest of the game's bosses, one after the other, until I had defeated Demon's Souls and promptly fallen in love with the series. And it was all thanks to the Tower Knight for teaching me how to properly think things through while trying to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles!