“Cholera, typhoid, consumption, halitosis!
Black plague, white plague, bloody red and brown plague!
Canker, waster, foot-and-mouth fester!”
Oh boy, it’s that time again, when I have too much time on my hands and put out my thoughts!
Since Vermintide has Lord fights, and we’ve gotten a new one in Nurgloth, the topic of bosses is coming up more and more.
I think that Fatshark have done a good job of developing these boss fights - traditionally, boss fights in FP games always seem to be kind of lame or lacking. The first three lords in VT2 aren’t spectacular, but they work. Nurgloth, though, shows where they’re really experimenting and taking cues from the right direction.
That is, from MMOs. I used to play these - WoW and FF14, with friends. Never really my cup of tea, tbh, but the dungeon and raid bosses are, IMO, by far the best parts of those games. Each and every boss features unique mechanics - and I see many echoes of those mechanics in FS boss fights.
First, in having phases. Not unique to MMO bosses, but standard for them. I’m going to focus on Nurgloth, who has the clearest phases and is generally the best done.
Fighting waves of adds while the boss attacks from range isn’t too exciting, but his phase where he comes down is better. Showing where the rings will explode is a vast improvement over Burblespue’s barely-noticeable ranged blasts are only a minor annoyance, but should have this kind of detail. This feature isn’t common in WoW, but is standard in FF14 and makes the fights much better. In that game, it is common for bosses to cover the entire arena in deadly spots, with only small gaps of safety for players to scramble into. While these typically only do big damage, sometimes there’s no edge to the map and so you can easily get one-shot and thrown off!
Nurgloth’s final “enrage” phase is also very standard for MMOs, and just like in those, players in VT2 have learned to save all their resources for that time. We used to call that the Burn Phase in raids; typically you’d save all your buffs with very long cooldowns for that moment, and even just before you got there you’d be getting into position and storing up whatever resources you had just for that phase. It was the most critical part of the fight.
In another thread, Daemons came up, and ignoring for a moment whether the U5 could deal with a Greater Daemon, a Great Unclean One could make a fantastic boss fight.
If we just assume for a moment the U5 can face one and not instantly die (just work with me on this; it’s an example), I can see just how such a fight could go down.
One problem brought up is the sheer size of a GUO; if one were standing in-game and you were in melee range, his belly button would probably be above your head. This is a real problem, but not unsolvable.
For its base phase, it’s immobile. It is a fat lump sitting in an arena, and you can wail on it. He’ll swing his sword at you - either a vertical chop or a wide swing, with clear telegraphs, and you have to dodge appropriately. He’ll turn, too, to focus different players. He might change targets after each attack, randomly, rather than have aggro.
If you try to just stay at range he throws large pus blobs that explode for nasty AoE damage that is very hard to avoid. Not a winning strategy, though as long as some players are in range you could have ranged classes staying back.
He also targets players occasionally with different kinds of pox, represented by colored blobs that come out of him and move towards players; some will insta-down a player a few seconds after infection, but can be negated if they all stand together (how? Character dialogue can make clear that it’s the combined power of the blessings of good gods that protect them). Others causes a DoT that spreads, so the affected player wants to spread out to avoid that. The infected player has to just run away from them until it wears off (not super long so it’s not boring; the point is to make players have to recognize what the threat is and react accordingly). In either case, pop-up information on screen will inform players of the threat.
In phase 2, he’ll stand up and start walking, chasing one player while swinging his sword. That player has to lead the boss away from the others, while he leaves a damaging AoE in his wake. He’s hard to keep up with to hit, and to break him out of this phase will require destroying buboes that pop up around the arena, while chaff enemies appear to hinder you. This makes it less boring than a typical add wave, as you also have an objective and a clear reason to hurry. When the buboes are all popped, the chaff enemies die (the daemon is annoyed at them for failing!) and the GUO sits with his back against a wall.
A modified phase 1 starts now. Trickles of adds can create more tension, if necessary. At times, the Daemon can just disappear, with more adds coming in, while bloblets of pus drip from the ceiling (with indicators). So you have a lot of tough mobs to fight, like Chaos Warriors and Maulers, while having to avoid the bad.
There are endless amounts of possible mechanics, and while you wouldn’t want to pack them all in, the point is that there are a lot of options.
Other potential ideas; perhaps the GUO moves to a higher floor, and acid starts to rise. Players have to jump up platforms to escape. The point isn’t to make the platforming difficult (we all hate first-person platforming), but to force a sense of being rushed for the players. I wouldn’t even make the platforming challenging, but you’ll be hurried all the same and it will break up the flow of the fight to make it less “hitting a thing for ten minutes”. And if you fall in, you can still get to a platform and try again, you’ll just take damage.
Other options include having the boss start giving unavoidable stacking curse that will eventually kill you. He’ll keep attacking you in the meantime, so you have to deal with a shrinking health pool and kiting him while one player goes into a difficult location to break a buboe or smash an idol or something, that clears the curse off. You can even debuff the player doing it so that they can’t do it again, forcing more coordination. “Handmaiden goes for the first one, after that the Zealot . . .” Mobility ults would be great here, but not mandatory.
This probably all sounds really annoying and exhausting to face at the end of a long map. That’s why it should not BE at the end of a long map, but should be its own type of map, where you just face one of these Raid Bosses.
Fatshark really wants to come up with new ways to play the game, and so here is my suggestion; stand-alone maps where you fight one huge, multi-phase boss. It can even give you loot! How can it be fair, you ask? Seems too easy if it can be just ten minutes.
Well, you can give a default level of chest, and then give optional side-objective that increase the difficulty. Maybe you have the option of breaking an altar at the beginning that gives you all some curse for the duration of the map, and that gives you one extra tier of chest. Maybe you have to kill x number of Chaos Warriors instead of letting them be killed by popping all the buboes. There’s lots of options here that can allow players to dynamically up the ante and get better rewards at the expense of difficulty.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Here’s a nurgle frog for your time.