I Should Stop Quitting Games At Boss Fights

I Should Stop Quitting Games At Boss Fights
Screenshot: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9leQYtw2AHQ">YouTube</a>

I finally got a chance to boot up Control a couple days after the game launched. Since it was late at night, I only had a little time to explore its unsettling world before I had to go to bed. I quit at the game’s first boss fight, intending to play more later. Instead I spent the next several days avoiding the game because I knew I had a boss fight waiting for me when I returned.

I don’t really like boss fights. Some of this is a function of writing about games for a living: When reviewing a game, repeatedly throwing myself at a boss fight takes time that could be better spent moving through a game’s story. I feel clever when I first figure out a boss’ patterns, but I find these fights tedious once I know what to do.

Watching a boss’ health bar slowly tick down reminds me of running on a treadmill at the gym — there’s nothing to do but repeat the same actions while a counter incrementally moves. I get frustrated if I make progress only to lose it all to a silly mistake or badly-timed button press, which makes me play worse on the next go.

Often I grow too aware of my own gameplay because I don’t want to mess up, which of course makes me mess up. I’m especially annoyed when I have to complete a boss fight to progress, because then there’s nothing to do but try something over and over until I get it right.

Usually I’ll take a break, sometimes quitting the game for the day. When I come back fresh, a boss fight is almost always easy to beat. The trouble with this strategy is it means that when I boot up a game again, the first thing I have to do is a boss fight. It’s not the most pleasant way to regain my bearings, and it’s not too fun to have to start a gameplay session doing something I don’t enjoy.

In Control, I quit for the night after struggling a bit with the fight against Tomassi, a possessed Bureau staffer who can fly. It’s a very early fight, shortly after Jesse gets the ability to telekinetically throw things.

It isn’t too tough, but I kept losing track of the guards that filter in or getting too far out of cover attempting to hit Tomassi with debris. I also fumbled with the game’s keyboard controls: On PC, Control defaults your powers to holding and releasing the E key, an awkward placement that impeded my movement. This, plus the time pressure of knowing it was getting later and later, quickly frustrated me, and I gave the boss fight only a few tries before quitting.

Having a boss fight to deal with the moment I loaded up the game again kept me away from it for several days. How to beat the fight was obvious and fairly simple — I just didn’t particularly want to do it. Knowing I’d have to start right up with an unpleasant challenge made Control feel like a chore.

My friends and my Kotaku colleagues raved about the game, which made me ache to play it, but every night for the rest of the week I’d look at it in my game library, remember the boss fight waiting for me, and change my mind. I even thought about restarting the game with a controller, just so I could do something more fun than darting around an arena throwing furniture and looking out for guards while Tomassi’s health bar slowly ticked down.

I loaded up Control this morning, popping into the offices outside the Tomassi fight with dread. I poked into the game’s menu and saw that the game binds your powers to the middle mouse button as well as E. My middle button is a little sticky, so it’s not my favourite binding, but it was a more comfortable and tactical way to play. This made the fight infinitely easier, and I completed it on my second try.

Of course this meant I instantly wanted to keep playing, only to have to get to work instead. I regretted how much of my previous free time I’d spent avoiding Control because I didn’t want to play the boss fight.

Taking a break in a game is usually a good idea when I’m stuck, but I’ve played games long enough to know quitting at a boss fight is only going to keep me away from a game. I don’t know why I keep thinking I’ll wake up as a person who will find boss fights compelling instead of dull.

When I get bored or frustrated with a boss fight, I remind myself that it would be better to just dig in and try to complete the fight, or to save and quit when I can sense a boss fight coming so I’ll have something else to do at the start of a play session. But instead I inevitably try a fight a few times and then quit, even though I know I’ll just have to do it later.

I’m looking forward to playing more Control, though I know there will be more boss fights to come. Maybe I’ll take my own advice in the future and quit the game without leaving myself a boss fight. I know myself well enough to doubt this, though. Probably, like when I play boss fights themselves, I’ll keep making the same mistake.


  • I think this boss fight is where I started to fall out of love with Control – I definitely beat my head against it a lot more than the author before I noticed the middle mouse binding.

    • Yeah, I might write something about this. I changed the key bindings immediately to mouse4/mouse5 and the fights were a cake walk. Tommasi didn’t even touch me, at least not the first time you fight anyway.

      • With the amount of useful powers you acquire, I found I had to quit kb/mouse and pick up a controller to continue on.

        • I ended up with levitate on space bar, the air dash/dodge on caps lock, shield on mouse 5 and mouse 4 for throw (as well as the guns on LMB/RMB). I only really used shield for that annoying enemy that goes invisible and creeps up behind you, otherwise I just crouched behind cover (or dashed/ran around) to dodge any fire.

          • Wow! Spoilers!

            jk… I switched to controller when I got the dash. I’m still quite early in the game despite being about 8 hours deep. I spend a lot of time exploring and taking in the amazing design. Photo mode can’t come soon enough.

    • This boss fight was infuriating, and the stuttering framerate didn’t help. Not to mention that each time I died (of which there were many), there was a one to two minute load time, which would dump me back at the control point rather than at the start of the boss battle.

      I really want to like this game but it’s making it so difficult

  • I have that feeling about Bad Boss Fights, not all, just the bad ones were it feels like the whole game has changed… where its the opposite of the games usual flow, or it adds a new mechanic just for that fight and never to be used or seen again. If I have to google “How to beat…”

    The worst offender in the game I actually loved… Dues Ex Human Revolution. The boss fights were oit sourced to another company and they were impossible for stealth non-lethal players who specialised in hacking and takedowns. They quickly admitted fault and changed it in later update, but that actually made me stop and restart theg game months later.

    • It’s astonishing just how much better the boss fights are in the Director’s Cut version of DXHR. The first boss fight in the original release is absolute, unmitigated garbage. In the DC it’s… fun and really cool to do the stealthy way.

  • I did this as well. At the end of the Atlanta’s DLC in Assassins Creed. I was thrown into a pit and a 3 headed dog boss fight started. Tried a couple times then gave up. Moved onto another game. Dont want to go back now.

  • I’m not a fan of the boss fight in general. I mean there are some games where they’re kind of the main focus of the game, and in that sort of context they’re fine eg Dark Souls, Metal Gear, Shadow of the Colossus, etc.

    But too often they just seem to be there because “this is a video game and video games have boss fights”. Classic example is Uncharted 2. One of the greatest games ever made, but it stumbles at the last hurdle because they just couldn’t help but end it with a long, dull boss fight that added nothing to the game.

      • Contrast that to how Naughty Dog handled the end of The Last Of Us. No boss battle and it really doesn’t feel like anything is missing without one.

  • I picked up Wolfenstein 2: The New Collossus when it came out but got stuck at the fight at the trial that turns out to be a dream . Bashed my head against that level several times but just couldn’t seem to get past it, so i put it down and haven’t gone back to it. That’s probably close to 2 years ago now.

    • I also got stuck there and found it almost impossible on normal, but you can at least downgrade the difficulty in this game to get past it and then change the difficulty back up. I gave up at the end of the previous game in the final boss fight. I dislike them in general. It almost made me quite Halo 2 with the Heretic and Halo 5 with the 3 Wardens. Just downright annoying.

      More recently gave up on Recore (reissued fixed version) which I was really starting to like but I hit a point about halfway through where I actually died 30 times in a row that I gave up.

      Games should include an option so that it detects a large number of attempts and eases off on the difficulty if the player chooses to play this way. Personally I hate boss fights. Thats what I really loved about the original Halo game was the complete lack of Boss fights.

  • I just started playing monster hunter world and its pretty much all boss fights…..

    Atleast i know what im in for when starting the game up.

  • same, the next day I decided to get my PS4 controller to work with it (it took a little bit of effort)
    and then found it feels a lot better than a keyboard.
    (I think it might be time to change WASD to old school numpad(more accessible keys)

  • This game is a lot easier with a controller. If a game is designed with a controller in mind then I will play with a controller otherwise I will stick with KB+M when it comes to FPS, RTS & Isometric RPG’s. It’s important to become familiar & comfortable with both a controller & KB+M for an optimal gaming experience imo.

  • Oof, I’m getting a vivid flashback reading this article: me, as a kid in 2004, putting the first Kingdom Hearts game down for six months after dozens of losses against Riku-Ansem in Hollow Bastion. I didn’t have the good sense to mute the unskippable cutscene ahead of it, so the dialogue is tattooed on my brain. Playing it again a few months ago ahead of Kingdom Hearts III was surreal – I think it took two or three tries, but the HD edition allowed me to cut straight to the fight, and it was much more achievable than I remember. Funny how rose-tinted glasses can make certain things darker.

  • I Should Stop Quitting Games At Boss Fights

    Nah. Life’s too short to play all the cool games, let alone play games past the point that they stop being fun. Fuckit, SEPTEMBER is too short to play all the cool games. Just move on. Whatever you’re missing will be rapidly filled by so much fucking awesome shit.

    • (Also, thanks to our online connected future, game devs can often tell when you stop playing at a boss. They should look long and hard at those figures and reflect on them with a deep sense of shame that motivates them to stop doing that shit.)

  • There’s not to many but a few like dead island that I have shelved, because when the final boss fight arrives the difficulty is bumped up dramatically, or the bosses require a build different to your characters.

  • Tomassi with debris
    There is your problem right there – the flying enemies are deisgned to be resistant to telekenetic abilities – it tells you this on the intel.
    You are supposed to shoot the boss and use the debris to kill the minions to recover health.
    This fight is actually really easy once you know that and find a good spot to take cover, fire a couple of rounds then take cover again.

    • Thanks for the tip! I haven’t actually got this far yet, but it’s good to know in advance that it’s important to read the intel.

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