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FTL: Faster than Light has what I consider to be one of the best final bosses in gaming and a fantastic example of enemy deisgn

FTL is a roguelike game where you control a spaceship and must jump through space. You get stronger and stronger as you go on by buying and upgrading a mix of offensive and defensive systems. You also have a good number of weaponry, each one with its advantages and disadvantages. In combination, they create many avenues of attack and ways to defend your ship that will hopefully lead you to victory.

In other words, FTL is a game that, like most games, have many gameplay mechanics.

And what makes the Rebel Flagship so brilliant is how it asks a significant level of mastery over virtually all gameplay aspects of the game.

Playing FTL you will constantly struggle with limited resources while you try to balance your ship to be able to kill others vessels while also not being killed in return. There is a tendency to leave weak spots, that might or might not be exploited by enemy warships. For example: boarding. You can generally reach the final boss with a ship that is not particular adept in repelling boarders…

But if you're not ready to deal with it by the time you get to the flaship? Odds are you're going down. It's a boss divided in three fights that constantly attacks and defends itself in different ways, ever demading a different approach. If you rely too much in one tactic, there is a good chance one of those phases will counter it. Even when you have a great ship, things will go wrong and you'll have to deal with them accordingly. You're ever reevaluating where the fight is and how you can move it to a direction with a happy ending.

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It's a boss that encapsulates the entire game in one epic encounter.

I can't think of any other one like that, one of the first that come to my mind is the Metroid Prime in, I can't recall the name of the game… in that game, the final boss with demand that Samus – and the player – uses almost every ability that you gathered during your journey. Yet it doesn't require any particular mastery, and the fact that you will most definitely have all the abilities needed to defeat the boss makes eveything more predictable.

Another example that I wish to bring up is The Witcher 3. Its combat has a lot of elements to it. Magic that can upgraded in different ways, melee attacks, dodges, bombs, potions… yet what does the final boss asks of you? The very same the game asks from the very first enemy. Dodge, attack. And in virtually the same way.

One of the reasons for that is that the game can't demand you to have any particular ability. When everything is optional, and the final boss must be defeated, then you can't ask anything from the player other than what is already there when the game begins.

Dark Souls is another interesting example. You can argue the only thing the game demands from the player is a weapon that deals damage and skill with dodge (and/or maybe a good shield). A Rebel Flagship analogue in that game would demand the player to know how to dodge and also how to parry. To beat it you would need many equipments, not just one. Shields, swords, bows… the boss would require them all.

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Which brings me to my final point. I don't think Dark Souls bosses are necessary weaker because of that, nor that the Metroid Prime is inherently worse than the Rebel Flagship because its approach to gameplay. In the end, great bosses are those that are memorable, exciting and offer a great experience to the player. And that can be achieved in any numbers of ways. What the Rebel Flagship does however feels almost universal, and the pinnacle of a certain approach. Any game can make a great boss by having it asking the player to use the skills they learned, and indeed this is what most bosses do, but that can be pushed very far, and I don't see any other game that pushes it as far as FTL does. And some of them are weaker for it.

Source: reddit.com

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