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Dark Souls II has plenty of boss fights. Some are great and some are less than stellar; here's a look at my picks for the best boss fights in the entire game. Take note: I'm looking at this from a multitude of perspectives and not just which fights were the most challenging. Some of these bosses are in fact hard, others are easier but all of them, for me, were incredibly well designed.
As is most likely obvious at this point, this list contains spoilers.
1. Prowling Magus and the Congregation
Prowling Magus makes the list not necessarily for the fight itself–in essence, you're just fighting a standard enemy horde and a few powered-up spellcasters, but because its design is really interesting. The idea of fighting a wizard and his congregation of moaning zombies is wonderfully evocative and sets itself apart from most of the other bosses.
And let's not forget the basic panic that goes on the first time you step into this boss fight and realize it's twenty on one. Overall, it's not all that tough, and From Software provides some interesting help to players, such as the fact that the congregation's pews actually shield you from the spellcasters' magical attacks, as well as funnel the zombies into easy to deal with bottlenecks.
Definitely one of the more unique boss fights throughout the game.
2. The Looking Glass Knight
In my review of Dark Souls II, I criticized two main elements that I found From Software used often in regards to boss fights. The first was the abundance of enemy designs that were all essentially a big guy swinging a large hand-weapon around. The second was the repeated tactic of having two enemies fight you at the same time in order to increase the difficulty.
The Looking Glass Knight has both of these problems but is let off the hook because of how it implements them. Rather than having just having a second knight back it up, the boss actually summons additional fighters through its looking glass shield. What's even more interesting is how it can actually summon other players to fight you, making combat even more unpredictable.
It also makes the list because of its overall design. There's a slight Alice in Wonderland feel to the boss' aesthetic, and his name obviously alludes to Lewis Caroll's novel so I doubt that this connection was lost on the developers as they were creating it.
Visually impressive, and boasting a wide number of attacks makes this a genuinely challenging (and fun) boss and avoids resorting to a few simple gimmicks.
3. The Last Giant
This is a win for visual design. All in all, fantasy is a very homogeneous genre at times, especially when it comes to the more traditional high-fantasy style that became the most prevalent fantasy aesthetic after the popularity of The Lord of the Rings.
The Last Giant is not a particularly challenging fight, in fact, the giant has very little variety to its attacks; usually stopping with its feet or trying to take a lumbering swipe at your character. There is, however, something of a depressing tone to the whole battle. Considering that this is indeed the last of its kind, you can't help but feel a little guilty at having to end its life.
The Last Giant fight is From Software attempting to use a similar atmosphere and tone to what was used in Shadow of the Colossus, and for that reason this boss fight stood out.
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4. The Lost Sinner
One of the four greater souls that are essentially your main quest throughout the game, The Lost Sinner is typically the first one that you'll encounter.
Whilst armed with a hefty great sword, The Lost Sinner is no lumbering giant. Fighting her involves having to constantly keep an eye on her as she jumps, flips and somersaults about the level like some creepy-looking Master Yoda.
She's also one of the few bosses that can be made easier with a little preparation work. By lighting the braziers that flank both sides of the room where you fight her, she's unable to lose you as easily when she begins going on a gymnastics spree. It's a great example of From Software of trying to make the environment of a boss fight just as important as the boss themselves.
5. The Rotten
Another greater soul, The Rotten is no super-agile swordsman, however. Being comprised of a mass of human bodies, The Rotten is an example of From Software channelling some horror into their fantasy designs.
Wielding a rusty old butcher's knife, the fight itself isn't all that complex, although there is the added worry of stepping into several pits of fire that dot the area.
What makes The Rotten a memorable fight is once again From Software's ability to soak a fight in some tremendous atmosphere and at the same time make the whole experience slightly unsettling.
Worst Fight: Royal Rat Authority
As a small extra, this is what I found to be the worst boss fight in the game. It's not because it's excessively difficult (although it certainly isn't easy) but because the solution of how to beat it involves doing things that contradict everything that you've been taught up until this point.
After disposing of his litter of small henchmen, the first thing you learn is not to block. You've been blocking all throughout the game, but because the Royal Rat Authority hits you with so much force, you're more than likely going to end up being staggered after the second hit. More importantly, his charge attack (his only other attack), will stagger you instantly resulting in a quick death.
The actual solution to the fight is to not lock on and keep close to his back legs, where he's unable to reach you with his paw swipes. This also negates his charge, given that, by sticking close to him, he's out of position to actually hit you.
The problem here is that the overall tactic feels more like an exploit than an actual strategy. Most bosses can be dismantled with different tactics depending on how your character is built. Not so for this boss. In addition to this, as previously mentioned, the boss manages to break many of the combat rules that you've been taught leading up to this fight (such as blocking) and once he's defeated you'll encounter nothing like him again.
So there's my breakdown of my five best (and one worst) boss fights in Dark Souls II. What are yours, do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments.
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Debraj taurean on September 30, 2014:
The review is nice...one has to accept that such insights are always going to be a bit subjective...but then again, a nice insight overall. I disagree however, on the royal rat authority part. I defeated the boss by locking on...the tactic was to sprint under it whenever it would jump away to launch into its charge and land precious blows when it was busy pawing about. I definitely believe defeating that fucking rat is also as satisfying as defeating Taurus demon.