The best bosses are pretty easy to pick out for me; they're the ones that hit all the right notes in terms of challenge and whatnot. But the expected counterpart is the worst bosses, and... really, there are a lot of factors that can play into the term worst. So, I'm not pointing out the worst as much as I'm pointing out the disappointments. The top five of each, in rough order. Enjoy.
The best of the best
5. Aiatar (Brayflox's Longstop)
I make no secret of the fact that I absolutely adore Brayflox, and the final boss is one of the reasons. The trick is that the boss is actually very simple to face, with only a couple of abilities that anyone needs to worry about. But the complexity all comes entirely down to execution. Tanks have to learn to dodge his breath and drag him, DPS has to react quickly to pools and positioning, and healers either force through the slowly accumulating poison or clear it off.
This is also a fight where a lot of people struggle, partly because keeping track of all the subtle ways things change can be a really hard skill to learn. Tanks especially have to learn that the breath is about where most dodged abilities will be later in the game -- you do not have a wide margin for error. When you see it, move.
4. Garuda (The Howling Eye)
In stark contrast to Aiatar, both versions of Garuda have a lot of stuff going on at once. Unlike a lot of fights, though, Garuda isn't a battle with a single failure point. There are ways to screw up that still result in a clear, albeit a harder one. So the trick becomes minimizing those mistakes rather than having a flawless run and learning to recover after something goes cross-eyed.
When I first did Garuda's story version, our tank opined that Garuda is the fight that teaches you how to wipe and learn. I think it's an appropriate description. The good groups with Garuda might not pull her down the first time, but each try will bring you a little closer. That's commendable.
3. Batraal (Dzemael Darkhold)
By now it's pretty obvious that I prefer fights wherein everyone has to be on the ball in order to win. Batraal doesn't let anyone off the hook in terms of performance; one lazy member can easily wipe the group regardless of gear. More than that, though, there's something achingly fun going on in this fight, and it's more than just dodging lasers and pools while breaking down crystals.
Batraal actually feels dangerous. Your assault on Darkhold isn't meant to stop an urgent threat, really, but despite that this boss has a sense of malevolence and intent. In a just world he would be sitting at the end of Amdapor Keep, leering and threatening, even his defeat feeling like it's only a temporary respite. Alas, it wasn't to be, but he's still really cool.
2. Isgebind (Stone Vigil)
This one hits all the notes. The mechanics of the fight are reasonably simple to understand and create a challenging and shifting layout. Everyone in the group has to be on the ball. No one thing will cause a wipe, but an accumulation of mistakes will. And you get a sense of Isgebind before you fight him as he drops in and assaults you during an earlier boss fight. Classic stuff.
How much do I love Stone Vigil? It's the one dungeon I'll run with classes that no longer gain anything from it; I might be at the level cap and no longer need the drops, but I'll still sign on for trips through. So what could beat out Isgebind?
1. Ultima Weapon (Praetorium)
Look, Ultima Weapon is cake. You can wipe on this fight, but you have to be really bad at dodging things; odds are good that everyone will be up and ready to go on his second stage countdown and able to smash him to pieces. Despite that, this fight wins out because darn it, the whole thing feels unbelievably epic, and that's a hard trick to pull off.
Most games give you a seemingly invincible foe and then make him significantly easier to fight than you'd expect, which winds up creating an anticlimax. Or the boss is hidden behind huge numbers, so you have to gather two dozen friends to fight him and you basically swarm him to death. But Ultima Weapon is legitimately powerful, and you get legitimate reasons for why you were able to bring him down with only seven other people as backup. I look forward to the Omega version.
The biggest disappointments
5. Demon Wall (Amdapor Keep)
Before someone fires off that I'm just bitter, let me be clear: I'm not saying that this fight is too hard. If I pull Wallace and he doesn't go down on the first round, either I'm with a bad group or the group is just having a bad day. This fight is not nearly as bad as advertised.
That being said, Wally here is an example of stacking too much into a single boss fight. The DPS race with simple mechanics is great, but obviously the design team realized that this was just a little too simple and threw in gnats to make tracking the pattern more difficult. But it comes off as arbitrary; rather than a clever way to distract players it just feels like "now there are adds here, whoa." It nicely flummoxes new players into making mistakes, but it's a cheap shot.
What else could be done? I don't know. But I know that the current version feels like about 80 percent of a great skillcheck and 20 percent of arbitrary addition. Which is a real disappointment.
4. Lady Amandine (Haukke Manor)
Look, ladypants doesn't even get a special model. She doesn't even get much in the way of special mechanics. She's built up wonderfully as a threat, but then she fails to be interesting on almost every level. The one thing you can say is she's rough enough to waste uncoordinated groups, and even that winds up feeling arbitrary. For such a charming thematic dungeon, Haukke really winds up being lackluster.
3. Rhitalyn sas Arvina (Cape Westwind)
I hate Cape Westwind. The story mode Primal battles prepare you for the Hard Mode fights, that's fair. But Westwind prepares you for... well, nothing. It's a big setpiece fight to have a big setpiece fight and it mostly just dissolves into a game of dogpiling the dude with gun-shields.
The real kicker is that the actual mechanics of the fight are decent enough, even if they're about at the complexity level of a dungeon boss. But Rhitalyn winds up just being a big pointless fight in the middle of interesting things happening, and I think it was ultimately a mistake.
2. Giant Tunnel Worm (Cutter's Cry)
Cutter's Cry serves up many disappointments, but this is one of the biggest ones. If this was truly a simple case of beating down something with a big pool of health, that would be one problem, but the worm does have mechanics. They just don't matter at all.
I like fights that have things which can slowly build up but don't cause an immediate failure. The worm is the opposite; he has things that slowly build up and barely make an impact. That's what's really disappointing, not that he's easy or gross-looking or any of that. It's the reality that you have to be trying to lose this fight, and otherwise you will succeed. Boring.
1. Livia sas Junius (Castrum Meridianum)
Castrum Meridianum is a boring dungeon filled with boring bosses that all wind up as more or less the same stupid fight. Which is sort of dumb, but it happens; you have to make something for people to farm tomestones, I suppose. What's really awful here is that the last fight is against a character who by all rights should be a major challenge, a woman who we know to be smart, capable, and dangerous.
Instead she's a chump, a pushover, a footnote. It's a running joke to see who tanks her during the first phase because she's so utterly ineffectual. When a major villain is reduced to a minor obstacle between you and tomestones, that's disappointment right there.
As always, feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let's talk a little bit about the way that Final Fantasy XIV's current endgame is structured and what the first patch needs to bring to the table. The week after that, I want to teach you about the markets.
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