'We Never Really Felt The Need For Boss Monsters' In Dishonored, Designer Says

There are no boss battles in Dishonored, no massive, drawn-out fights where the doors suddenly close and you have to take down a really tough enemy to get to the next level. There are some difficult encounters — like the Tallboys, pictured above — but there are no bosses.

It's an interesting design choice, something that might have improved last year's Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which was excellent nonetheless). But it's also something of an anomaly in gaming.

So while chatting with Dishonored designer Harvey Smith yesterday, I asked why he and his team at Arkane Studios chose not to include any sort of boss battles. Here's his answer, in full:

We also, we faced some of that on Deus Ex I think. The thing is, we're very conscious of tropes in video games that are kind of lazy, frankly. Or dogmatic is the better word perhaps. You know: here's a boss, he reveals his weak spot, you gotta hit it three times and then three times again, whatever.

In the same way that we did not call the game steampunk initially, we called it sort of retro future. We're working with this world class industrial designer Viktor Antonov (Half-Life 2). Our art director [Sebastien Mitton (BioShock 2)], we call him a world class video game art director. Those guys are not just regurgitating steampunk elements seen elsewhere, they are designing things, right? And so Viktor did his thing and Sebastien did his thing, and only then people online started using the term steampunk.

And internally one of our tenets was no cliche steampunk elements. So no brass and rivets and guys in tin helmets or whatever the fuck. And it's fine if people see it as a very innovative take on steampunk, that's great, we don't mind that, it's just that one of our tenets was avoid this overly familiar — because god, if you're gonna spend X dollars on something and X years of your life, you don't have to do exactly what everybody else has done or what you've seen. You don't have to draw your inspirations from what else is on the shelf.

So roundabout way of answering, I guess, is that we never really felt the need for boss monsters. And it seems like a dogmatic feature. And sometimes it's brilliant, right? One of my favourite games of all time was Shadow of the Colossus. If you count those as boss monsters, then wow — way to take that whole feature and make it your whole game and do something utterly brilliant. And it's one of the best 100 games of all time in my opinion.

But in our case it wasn't the focus, and we are kind of careful about avoiding those kind of dogmatic tropes that video games are built on.

Dishonored comes out next week for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.


    Glad to hear it. No one thing should be a necessity for any game, that's what makes it a creative endeavour.

    Good news - only some games need bosses, like Bayonetta.

    I have to say, I like the cut of Harvey Smith's jib.

    Boss fights can be good, but sometimes can just detract from an otherwise amazing game - Arkham Asylum & Bioshock to name 2.

    I agree with the lad. Boss have their place. If it likely that there would be a boss of whatever lowly minions you're fighting then maybe put him/her in. Otherwise it's cool to leave them out if they distract from the story and gameplay.

    I am even more excited about this game now. Boss fights shoehorned into every game is something I've long questioned the need for. Good to see that game designers are also questioning things, keeps things from getting stagnant.

      Me too. Boss fights are almost always dull. Arkham Asylum was a brilliant game marred by annoying boss battles. At least Arkham City made the bosses interesting though. I really didnt mind them. And Dark Souls had excellent bosses. But apart from small exceptions like those two games, I generally don't like a boss fight at all.

    Pre-loading on Steam is so cruel... Dishonored is just sitting there on my HDD, and I can't play it til the 9th!!!

      I've pre-ordered a console version with JB which means I have to wait until Thursday, so at least you'll be able to play it before I do! Then you'll be able to be cruel yourself and gloat to me about playing it. :P

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now