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LONG BLOG

Boss Balance Issues: Strategy RPGs.

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Some of my Favorite games are strategy rpgs. These games just scratch a particular itch and I find them very engaging, however there is something I have noticed about them over the course of playing so many of them. The final bosses suck. They are simply way too easy. Even one of the classic examples of the genre, Final Fantasy Tactics is even guilty of this. Take a look at this video. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Yp2SvbERw8

As you can see, the boss only took a few hits to kill, and didn't really do a whole lot. It just melees a nearby character and stands there taking your hits. The person in the video above was also only leveled in the mid 40s when the game has a level cap of 99. What is the point of such a high level cap if the last boss is so easy? Considering the epic scope of the rest of the game, the boss fight is pretty underwhelming; especially considering the amazing boss battles Final Fantasy games usually have. I remember beating this boss as a kid and being like wtf, that was kind of lame; and it stuck with me. 

Another series I have noticed this issue with is the Fire Emblem series. I have played a few of them now, and the last bosses in them are incredibly underwhelming. The original game in the series, remade as Shadow Dragon for the Nintendo DS has a comcially easy last boss battle. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_046Jeu1Rk

One freaking hit! It can be argued that the level itself is the "boss" as it it splits your party up into smaller parties and such; but as you can see in the video, it can be totally cheesed. It kind of tarnishes the epicness of the game when the final level can be completely cheesed and the boss felled in one hit. The other DS Fire Emblem game, New Mystery of the Emblem, has this issue as well. My Cain character killed the boss in one hit. It could be argued that these are old games and that is part of the issue; but I recently beat Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, and it had the same issue. I just went straight for the boss and basically ignored the enemies around him, and killed him with a couple of hits, in one turn. For the buildup it sure didn't deliver on the actual battle. Though the bosses you fight as you go through a Fire Emblem game can be challenging, especially in the early going; your characters just become so powerful that you will most likely steamroll the last few levels. They clog the levels with lots of respawning enemies to try to make up for this, but it doesn't really work, and most of the bosses will still die in one or two attacks. While a great series, the final battles are a bit of a letdown for such epic stories.

One series that has a unique take on the strategy rpg genre is the Disgaea series, known for having a max level cap of 9999 and tons of grinding. I have spent the most time with the second game in the series; about 250 hours, but I still never completed the final super mega endboss, Pringer-X Unleashed, after reading up on it. It requires hours upon hours of grinding and going into 100 floor random dungeons again and again to power up items. I will try to briefly explain what is required for this fight to put it into perspective. First of all you need to level a character to 9999, then you have to reset them to level 1 and do it again, several times, as the stats required to to even land a hit on the boss are extremely high. This of course takes a a lot of time. You also have to have a couple other characters that are least leveled into the several thousands as back up for your main attacker. The boss fight itself has 8 copies of Pringer-X, and each time you hit one they all become immune to whatever spell or ability you hit them (or missed) with. This means that you ideally want to kill them in one hit; so you have to level up your spells until they are powerful enough to make more than a dent, as your spells level up in this series as well. This of course requires even more grinding. You ALSO have to level up your items to ideally level 200, which requires hours upon hours of resetting the game to get a particular spawn every three floors in a random dungeon;and is really quite maddening and kind of kills the game a bit. Resetting a game for hours at a time is most definitely something I didn't like doing and was pretty much the deal breaker for this game. The game is just exhausting, but that isn't really the point of this particular article. The fact is after all of the insane preparation it takes to be able to kill the Pringer-Xs, they die in one hit and really poses no challenge to you, so the issue of the genre having easy last boss battles stands in that particular game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2fkcUNW3mY

One example of better last boss fight was Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. The first phase of the battle forces you to fight exact copies of your entire party, with equal stats and gear, which is pretty nervewracking. It doesn't get easier by overleveling either so it is kind of unique in that aspect. The second phase where the actual boss fights you is pretty easy compared to the first phase, so even though this example is clever, it still kind of drops the ball in the second phase and relies on a gimmick.

I'm not sure what I would do to fix this issue in these games. It could be very difficult to balance bosses for this genre. I'm no programmer so I can't really comment on that side of it, but I wish they would come up with something a little more challenging in strategy rpgs. I'll keep playing them anyway. 

- I don't know ka-rate but I know ca-razy.


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About Deatheagleone of us since 1:26 AM on 09.14.2017

My name is Julian and I've been playing video games as long as I can remember, dating back to the old atari systems in the early 80's. My first rpg was Shadowrun for the Sega Genesis. After it I discovered Secret of Mana, which led me to some of my all time favorites, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6. Other favorites include Earthbound, Disgaea, Final Fantasy Tactics games, Fire Emblem series, and World of Warcraft, though I no longer play WoW.

Currently Playing: Fire Emblem series, XCOM, basically tactical rpgs all around