A Study In Terrible Boss Design

I have played a lot of video games of varying quality, and many of them have had bad or aggravating boss battles. But I have never played one that is as badly designed as General Raze in Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga.

Here is the scenario you are thrown into:

In the small room where you fight General Raze there are two transporters toward the front that just ceaselessly spawn enemies. They don’t stop at two or four or ten, they might stop at fifty but I didn’t count. All I know is that if you don’t keep killing them the place becomes full of them. They’re not high-level but goddamn are they annoying. Especially when you are surrounded by a zillion of them or they come out of nowhere and hit you from behind and interrupt whatever it was you were trying to do.

Once you get General Raze down to about 50% of his health he runs into a healing room–there are two at opposite sites of the room in the back–and he goes back up to 100%. You can turn these rooms off using levers in front of them for a whole 15 seconds! If you time it right and Raze goes to a shutdown room he runs over to the other side to give the other one a try. He goes back and forth until he finds one that works so you have to simultaneously keep the spawned creatures at bay, try to hit Raze and run around trying to keep the rooms turned off.

You may think that you can use the legion of enemies against Raze and corner him or lure them into blocking the healing rooms, but if you try this you’ll find that he just…magically teleports into the room and is healed. There is no creative option available to the player, you must beat this boss exactly as the game designers decided was appropriate. Several times when Raze’s health was low my creatures and I were pounded him and the scene that shows him in the rooms captured him not standing up but getting knocked around by blows that weren’t happening.

On top of the annoying design and heavy-handedness of the fight, there was a particular technical problem that drive me nuts. After you ¬†use a level it cuts into a short movie of the room turning off (and it does this every time, not just the first to let you know what your action does). When the game cuts back from the movie, there is a slight delay before you can move but not before all the enemies around can. This cuts down the already short time that you have to run back and forth by precious seconds, and also gives any enemies nearby the chance to get in your way. I am playing through on PC so I didn’t have a controller to throw but I sort of wish I did.

Hard boss battles do not bother me, at all. The whole point of a boss battle as far as I can tell is to give the player something different/harder than the other parts of the game. So hard is fine. I’ve dug in and beaten plenty of excruciatingly hard bosses in the past, and I generally find it pretty satisfying as long as we’re not talking about Hoshigami levels of difficulty here. But when the whole thing is muddled up with questionable design and takes out most of the creativity these battles usually ask for it makes me wonder why I bother.

The good news is that Raze is not a mandatory battle. Yay! The bad news is that to upgrade your Battle Tower and get a set of good armor you have to beat him. Boo! Since I am a crazy person who couldn’t possibly not upgrade her base all the way, I did eventually defeat Raze hours later after doing almost everything else possible, at about six levels higher than him and re-adjusting all my skill points to suit the battle as much as possible.