Nitpick: Bosses that aren't fun
Over the past weekend, I played a new game called Tales of Xillia 2. Don’t expect this game to come stateside anytime soon, by the way, considering that the first one hasn’t even been released yet. Much to my joy, the game is fun and it has been a great experience for the most part especially since I was disappointed at how the original failed to live up to the standards of the franchise. However, one particular aspect of the game has made a considerable impression on me to the point where it became the focus of this week’s nitpick: boss fights.
I’ll make one point clear straight from the get-go: I’m not a bad player when it comes to Tales games. In fact, I play every single Tales game on the hardest difficulty available from beginning to end. I understand what strategies I can use to beat bosses, and I understand the intricacies that make up the deep combat system to overwhelm my foes. Having said that, the bosses in Xillia 2 gave me trouble to the point that I found it flat out ridiculous. I’ll give you two examples where the boss fights felt unnecessarily cheap or difficult, and why. Note that while I will be talking about the bosses, their identities will be remain hidden for the sake of spoilers.
One of the first bosses you fight in the game starts out completely rough. Rather than just combatting the boss, you also have to deal with two of his henchmen, which don’t go down easily. Although I had a full party with decent amount of healing items and skills, the entire encounter was a challenge due to the beginning section and one annoying aspect of the boss, which I’ll get into in a bit. While I’m trying to take down the henchman, the main boss will dish out loads of damage to either me or my other party members, and make no mistake, he hits very hard. It’s frustrating when you realize that after taking down his henchmen — which should be an encounter in and of itself just because of how annoying they are, with their magic being casted all over the place — the boss is still no cakewalk. I love challenges just as much as the next guy, but this boss would just roll over me.
So why exactly was this boss so hard, frustrating and annoying? To start off, using close-range attacks are out of the question. If you get within a certain distance of him, he will drop on you like a cannonball landing on the ground. Not only does it do massive damage but it also leaves you stunned on the ground for a few seconds. To further add to the problem, the attack is an area-of-effect, meaning anyone in the vicinity will also suffer the same effects. Often times, if I end up attacking up close against the bosses, some of my party members will follow and do the same, as well. The sad thing is when the boss completely annihilates me using that one particular attack, often leaving me at the game over screen. Note that I have to complete first part before dealing with the boss independently, otherwise, it’s just a stupid way of undertaking an already difficult task.
The second boss that I had to fight was more of a challenge than the first one, and I almost broke my controller out sheer anger. I must have attempted to beat this sucker at least 20 times until I finally figured out the most effective way to kill him, and even then it was an extremely cheap method of killing him. The boss fight starts out exactly like the previous example I gave you, except there are now four minions to deal with rather than two. Luckily, these guys are pushovers and taking them down isn’t much of an annoyance, especially considering the fact that they don’t really do all that much other than pester every now and then. The not so great part? These guys can call in more guys to distract you if you don’t kill all of them fast enough. One time, I spent the entire boss fight trying to kill all of the henchmen before I died before even tackling the big honcho himself — pretty sad really.
If the problem was with the henchmen themselves and the main boss kept attacking me, then that wouldn’t be so much of a problem that would make me almost destroy my controller. The boss himself is by far the hardest in game up to that point — which makes sense. What makes him so hard is the moveset he has. Many of his moves will leave you stunned for a while if you’re not defending. However, if you’re defending too often then he will grab you and toss you, which also leaves you stunned. So what does this mean? You’re on the ground a lot or you’ll end up eating a series of attacks that you can’t avoid or dodge since you’re constantly stunned. Quite the nuisance, right? It doesn’t end there.
Tales of Xillia 2 has an odd system that leaves you with a set party for certain segments of the game. While you’ll sometimes have someone who can heal or revive your party members, the section leading up to this boss has no such thing. The party feels completely out of place, and the choice to make the party have an extremely limited pool of healing abilities just makes the already frustrating boss fight even more frustrating. This was pretty much the tipping point.
I wanted to take a moment to nitpick about bosses in Tales of Xillia 2 because boss encounters are possibly one of the best aspects in JRPGs. The challenging, engaging, and usually awesome bosses provide a memorable experience. If friends are playing the same game, then you can share stories about how difficult it was and how you overcame it. However, when your boss fights go beyond the point of challenging and have features that work against the player’s ability to have fun, then the intent of creating such an experience is missed. Bosses should be fun and cool. Bosses in Tales of Xillia 2 are generally not.