I love the Dark Souls trilogy. There have been plenty of horror stories from players all over the globe on how much these games will give you quite a beating. And that’s true. These games do not hold back on their punches. They have been plenty of times where I wanted to throw my controller across my room from how much these games kicked my teeth in. However, staying persistent and fighting against all odds will reward you with some of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had in gaming.
The difficulty made be tough, but it always because the game test your skills as a player and not because of broken mechanics or cheap additions(Most of the time anyway.). The mantra of being difficult, but fair is why I came back to this series time and time again. Amazing level design, fascinating lore, fun mechanics. These games are a complete package. And what a video game without the bosses.
In this post I will be going over the bosses from Dark Souls 2 in 10 words or less. From the base game and the DLC. At the end I will give my general thoughts on the bosses as a whole and a top five ranking for what I feel is the best and worst boss in the game. Each sentence will also be accompanied by an image(s) and/or clip(s) that I feel is representative of the boss.
And lastly why did I feel to start off this series of boss reviews with the second game in the series and not the first! Because good planning is for losers, that’s why!
The Last Giant: Eh, he’s good enough. -6/10
The Pursuer: Now this is what an opening boss fight should be! -9.5/10
Old Dragonslayer: Not the same without Smough, but decently designed. -6/10
Felix Sentry: Wonderful concept, okay design. -6/10
Ruin Sentinels: Just your standard gank boss fight. -3/10
The Lost Sinner: Good lore, good move-set, good mechanics. Good boss. -7.5/10
Executioner Chariot: A decently executed concept if a bit underwhelming. -6/10
The Skeleton Lords: It’s fun, but a complete pushover. -5.5/10
Mytha, the Baneful Queen: A good idea that could have been better executed. -5/10
Smelter Demon: Potentially brutal, but a really well-designed fight. -8/10
Old Iron King: Why couldn’t his design be as good as the lore? -3/10
Scorpioness Najka: Quaalang 2.0 is unique enough. -6.5/10
The Duke’s Dear Freja: Great lore is wasted on mediocre design. Again. -4/10
Royal Rat Vanaguard: I got some mileage out of slaughtering the vermin. -5/10
The Rotten: Those Old One fights should have been better. -4.5/10
Looking Glass Knight: A really well-designed fight set in a stunning arena. -8.5/10
Demon of Song: The area preceding it is more terrifying than this boss. -3/10
Velstadt, the Royal Aegis: Solid lore and mechanics, but feels a bit samey. -7/10
Guardian Dragon: Too easy and familer for my tastes. -4/10
Giant Lord: Great lore is wasted by mediocre design. Again. -3.5/10
Vendrick: A decent duel backed up by incredible lore. -7/10
Darklurker: A gank boss done right. Difficult, but fair. -7.5/10
Throne Defender & Throne Watcher: Decently designed gank fight, if a bit forgettable. -6/10
Nashandra: The fight doesn’t match up to the terrific lore sadly. -5.5./10
Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin: Amazing lore and buildup letdown by underwhelming design. Again. 5.5/10
Summary: The most disappointing lineup of bosses in the Souls Trilogy. -4/10
Afflicted Graverobber, Ancient Soldier Varg & Cerah the Old Explorer: Lazy design, but I had fun beating these gankers. -5/10
Elana, the Squalid Queen: Well-designed gank boss, if somewhat underwhelming. -6.5/10
Sinh, the Slumbering Dragon: This is a dragon boss fight done right. -8.5/10
Fume Knight: One of the best bosses in the series. No complaints. -10/10
Sir Alonne: Great lore, stunning arena, and an amazing duel. Simply brilliant. -9.5/10
Aava, the King’s Pet: Unique design and fair challenge. -7.5
Burnt Ivory King: A thrilling set-piece that’s thematically engaging. Fantastic final boss. -9.5/10
Summary: A huge step-up, if with a few really bad bosses. -7/10
The main game bosses are quite a letdown when all is said and done. Sure, they are a few that standout and are fun to fight against. The Pursuer, and Looking Glass Knight in particular are really solid. Unfortunately, most of the game’s bosses altogether shared major issues that are worth getting into.
First off, there are way too many badly designed gank fights. Sure, both the first and third game had a few as well. The difference is the difficulty was balanced with designs to ensured that the player wouldn’t be too overwhelmed despite being outnumbered. There is only so many times you can use the same bosses that share the same move-sets and do nothing special to make it standout before it becomes tiring. I’m looking at you Ruin Sentinels, and Twin Dragonriders. Not only is this lazy design, but it’s artificial difficulty added in to make the fight harder than what it really is. The only real gank fight that felt earned is it’s challenge was Darkluker. It started off with their just being one in the arena so the player could have time to learn it’s attacks before the second one would show up. Even then, said attacks would move at a reasonably slow pace so the gank wouldn’t be too overwhelming and unfair.
Speaking of difficulty, yikes. Normally in video games, bosses would have a rising curve when it comes to difficulty. Boss C is going to be harder to than boss A in theory. Not of course, that curve can always change depending on the player or the boss in question. Generally speaking though, the first and third game seemed too at the very least had that curve. It’s important for a game to have a natural sense of progression when it comes to difficulty. Not only to challenge the player with harder challenges, but to make the feeling of conquering those challenges more rewarding in retrospect.
Dark Souls 2 is just all over the place with this curve. In my most recent play-through, I’ve had gone through multiple bosses one by one without feeling that they provided any challenge. This really boils down to them having simple designs or mechanics that the player could take advantage of. Instead of feeling I beaten an impossible challenge, I just feel nothing. And that’s the worst feeling to have in game like Dark Souls. If it wasn’t that, I was resisting the temptation of throwing my controller because of how cheap a few of the other bosses, such as the Royal Rat Authority or Ancient Dragon. Bosses that punish the player through being poorly designed.
Speaking of poor designs however, how about them rehashes? Either their a callback to the first game that feels added on (Old Dragonslayer, Belry Gargoyles.) or just the same boss with a different coat of paint (Twin Dragonriders, Lud and Zallen, Blue Smelter Demon). They are here and are a mostly a chore to fight against. They don’t add much to the lore and are usually unfair when it comes to the challenges they provide. Dark Souls 3 would share these traits too when it came to it’s bosses, but the major difference is that they were far less of them in that game and would given something unique to them to make standout from the rest. Here, it played painfully straight.
The most disappointing bosses in Dark Souls 2 are the lore fodders. Bosses that have amazing lore surrounding them only to be letdown by their fights being underwhelming. All of the Old Ones aside from the Lost Sinner, Giant Lord, Nashandra, and Aldia come to mind. The latter two in particular are buildup throughout most of the game as a pretty big deal only to provide a middling challenge in their fights when the time came. Vendrick is the only one I enjoyed, but he’s even not particularity great. That’s such a shame.
Thankfully, the DLC would come along with a pretty big upgrade when it came to the bosses. They are a few that are awful, but the bosses that mattered to the story were excellent on the whole. Sinh, Alonne, Burnt Ivory King, and the Fume Knight in particular rank very high on my list when comes to this trilogy best bosses. Great lore and fights. They were difficult, but tested the player skills rather than through bad game design. Sadly, they are not enough for me to look over the disappointing lineup of the bosses in the main game when discussing Dark Souls 2 as a whole.
Final Verdict: Quantity over quality was the motto this game’s bosses. 5.5/10
Now with that out of the way, time to look over the bosses I felt were the best and worst to close this entire post off with.
Top Five Worst Bosses:
5. Lud, the King’s Pet & Zallen, the King’s Pet
Lud and Zallen represents the major issue with Dark Souls 2 bosses. It’s a rehash and it’s a gank. After going through the no man’s land that is the Frigid Outskirts, you have to go up against these two giant felines with appearance and mechanics taken straight from Aava. A boss that comes from the same DLC content (Crown of the Ivory King) mind you. Putting the copy-paste design aside, this fight is just cheap difficultly. The two of them move quickly around the arena and can easily pin you up against a corner. Do this boss with NPCs or other players, or you will suffer a brutal end. Or just don’t do this boss fight at all. That works too.
4. Twin Dragonriders
Oh look, a rehashed gank boss! This time, coming from the base game. The original Dragonrider is a complete pushover that you could easily beat under 2 minutes just by moving right around him. It’s not even a well-designed fight that had anything that made it stand out from the pack. So it really makes me wonder why did anyone behind the scenes thought this would make a good followup. It only increase the difficultly by a slight margin as one of them will be shooting from above with arrows while you fight the other one. Though at a certain point, the archer will come join his partner only to get murdered in five seconds because of how little he has in hit points. Once again, the difficulty is artificial.
While Lud and Zallen is terrible, that fight is an optional boss in a DLC. Twin Dragonriders is a mandatory boss fight that takes place in one of the game’s best areas. Just frustratingly lazy design all around for this boss.
3. Belfry Gargoyles
Man, this game really love it rehashed gank bosses doesn’t it? This time copied from the first game’s Bell Gargoyles, and done 10 times worse in this game. While the original Gargoyles was also a gank fight, it naturally taught the player the mechanics through gameplay for a period of time before adding the second Gargoyle. Here, all FIVE of the Gargoyles swarm you in the arena one after the other will little time for the player to have a grasp to understand what even is going on. Once again, difficult for the sake of being difficult and misses the point of what made Dark Souls the hit that it is.
2. Royal Rat Authority
When going through Dark Souls 2 again, I was sure for certain that this pest and his little minions would take the top spot. Played the game again, and it turns this boss is only the second worst thing ever in this game! That’s not a complaint towards this boss though. Far from it.
The difficulty for this boss is strangely uneven. It can end up being cheap as hell if you get swarmed by the little rats that showed up before the boss and inflict toxin on you. If that happens, then there isn’t much you can do as there will be too much to handle. If you kill the rats without getting toxin, then the big rat is stupidly easy. His attacks are very telegraphed and give you plenty of time to dodge or take advantage of. A dreadful boss that once again goes against Dark Soul’s mantra of difficult, but fair.
1. Ancient Dragon
Ancient Dragon is the type of boss that awakens the hidden rage within me.
I know I keep bringing up cheap difficulty in this countdown, but no boss goes further beyond in being the cheapest piece of garbage like the Ancient Dragon. In theory, his difficultly would make sense. He’s a gigantic dragon who’s kind could only be taken down by the might of gods. He should have a huge health pool and highly damaging attacks. It only the most logical route for a boss like this. So what’s the problem?
Well the problem is that he is incredibly boring.
First off. he doesn’t have a very interesting move-set to fight against. All he does is breathe fire, stomp and bite you. Again fine as a concept, but he doesn’t really get you that engaged in the fight. I don’t feel like I’m fighting a mighty dragon. I feel like I’m hitting a very big, angry sponge. Speaking of those attacks, most of them aren’t too bad to deal with except for when he goes into the air and covers a decent portion of the arena in fire. This attack covers quite a bit of ground and can be a one-shot even if you have a lot of health. Scholar of the First Sin did tone down the attack damage and range a bit, but it is still quite deadly.
The only reason I beat this boss in my recent play-through was simply due to RNG. He positioned himself towards a corner of the arena and would not move towards anywhere else on the arena. I used that to get some free hits and move back to avoid getting hit by his fire attacks. Back and forth without nothing else happening until the boss is dead. And you want to know how long this lasted?
Ten minutes of pure boredom until the fight was over. At least with all the other bosses on this list, the pain was short. Here, this fight felt like it was never going to end. Doing the same thing over and over. It’s one of the most tedious experiences I’ve ever had in a video game.
He can set himself on fire for all I care.
Top Five Best Bosses:
5. Sinh, the Slumbering Dragon
Leave it to the DLC to provide an actual worthwhile dragon fight. Sinh is similar to the Ancient Dragon in that he deals high damage and has a lot of hit points. So what the big difference? Sinh is actually well-designed boss. He has plenty of attacks to keep players on their toes be it on the ground or in the air. What important though is that his attacks cover a fair amount of ground, but give the player enough room and time to work around. Unlike a certain other dragon…
There also the fact that during the DLC(Crown of the Sunken King) he has quite a nice bit of buildup that demonstrates his power and how cause the city of Shulva to fall apart. The lore of him being the city’s center of worship until an idiot decides to stab him with a spear causing the dragon to unleash toxic flumes is the type of foundation you can build an entire game around.
Just a really great fight. Why cant the dragons in the base game be this good?
4. The Pursuer
Well done Pursuer, you’re the only boss from the base game that ended up on my best of list! It really says something about the quality of that games bosses, but also about how great of a boss you are!
I do mean that too. The Pursuer is an excellent opening boss. Sure veteran players can work around his attacks with ease, but his attacks do a good amount of damage for an early game boss and require paying close attention in order to not get hit. For new players, The Pursuer provides a great opportunity for them to learn shield parrying and using the environment to their advantage.
There is also his simple, but effective lore. He hunts down Curse bearers(You) to claim their souls. Scholar of the First Sin takes it up a notch by having multiple Pursuers show up randomly throughout you’re travels to add a bit of pressure on the player.
Such a shame that the peak of Dark Souls 2 main game bosses was the second one, but oh well.
3. Burnt Ivory King
Talk about a spectacle. Descending down to his arena with the Loyce Knights you recruited throughout you’re adventure and battling the Ivory King knights is thrilling. The King himself is just as thrilling. Requiring precise movements and dodging, this is a remarkable duel. Made all the more memorable by the lore. Being the one who puts him and his knights to rest after he gave his being to the old chaos is thematically compelling and a lot of context to the fight. The perfect note to end the DLC end on.
2. Sir Alonne
Samurai in my Dark Souls? Yes please!
An eastern knight who aided a lord who he saw potential in. This lord would become the Old Iron King with the Knight’s help. When the curse would plague the lord kingdom, the king started to resort to morally questionable methods to get rid of it. Distraught with the Old Iron, Alonne parted ways to look back on his own decisions. This is where we found him at mediating in what is one of the best boss arenas in the series where he will accept your challenge.
Oh dear, those pretty colors! It’s also perfect place for what this type of fight is. A duel between two warriors seeking to prove who’s strongest. And what a duel it is. Sir Alonne is quick on feet and unrelenting. Do not underestimate him, for he will punish you player will absolute precision and force. It’s hard not to get sucked into this intense fight.
1. Fume Knight
For all the flak I given to many bosses in Dark Souls 2, when the game gets it right. Well, it really gets it right. And there is no boss that demonstrates that better then the Fume Knight. He’s has everything you want in a Dark Souls boss.
Great mechanics and move-set? He comes packing with many combos to catch unwary players off-guard and punish others for poor positioning. He demands you’re complete attention throughout the entire fight and will not stop his assault for a split-second.
Great lore? Originally one of King Vendrick most trusted knights until his heel-face turn. He fought and lost to Velstadt in combat. Deemed a traitor, the Fume Knight would travel to Brume Tower in search of greater strength. They he would find such strength. His weapons infused with darkness of Nadalia, the Bride of Ash.
Fume Knight is just the perfect challenge and demonstrates what makes Dark Souls work so well. He is quite challenging, but is fair. There really nothing in the fight that comes from him that I would describe as unfair. It’s a pure test of the players skills. Plain and simple. Fume Knight isn’t just the best boss in Dark Souls 2, but one of the best bosses in the trilogy.
You did good Fume Knight, you did good.