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Thursday, 4 August 2016

Editorial: The Top 10 Souls-Series Bosses, Part 2.

Editorial: The Top 10 Souls-Series Bosses
Part 2, 5-1.

First part is over here, and as with that one, we're looking at bosses from Demon Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, Bloodborne, and Dark Souls III.

5. The Orphan of Kos, Bloodborne. 

A terrifying fusion between hunter and Great One, the Orphan of Kos is the (sort of) final boss of Bloodborne's The Old Hunters DLC. 

From a lore standpoint it's a slightly odd one, as nobody can exactly agree on what it is: While it is obviously either the product of or representative of the crime that the Old Hunters committed against the Fishing Hamlet and Kos herself, and the source of the Nightmare, it's never made clear exactly what it is and what its connection to Gehrman is. It's not even made clear if it ever really existed, or if it's just allegorical, a physical representation of the Old Hunters' collective guilt.

Fast and furious and seemingly completely set on murdering you and wearing your insides like a hat, the Orphan of Kos has barely crawled out of its mothers body before it is flinging itself at you to attack you with its giant bladed placenta, a rather gruesome parody of a hunters' trick weapon. Like all bosses in The Old Hunters, it has multiple stage - and its second stage involves getting lightning powers, because the only thing that can make 'emaciated horror of flesh attacking you with a sharp-edged placenta' worse is 'skin cape and the power to electrocute you.'

In a game full of mysteries, the Orphan is possibly one of the most intriguing, and what's more, it's a very memorable boss battle. It's technically not the final boss, but considering the actual final boss is non-hostile and dies in a single hit, it functionally may as well be.

4. Aldrich, Saint of the Deep, Lord of Cinder, Dark Souls III.

Aldrich gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that if Dark Souls III could be said to have a villain (and it can't, really, but never mind), it would be Aldrich. As you traverse the game, his influence can be felt everywhere: Either his or his servants seem to have a hand in nearly every problem that affects the various nations you encounter. 

His right-hand man, Pontiff Sulyvahn, is not only linked with Aldrich, but also with the Profaned Flame that destroyed Yhorm's kingdom; his connections with the Way of White, his preoccupation with Gwyn's children, and his explicit involvement with 'the royal family' also suggest that he may well have had a hand in the tragic history of Lothric.

Aldrich himself is arguably linked with the Abyss, but even if he weren't, he looms large over the story, set up early on as the closest thing to a purely and unremittingly evil being in the Dark Souls universe, with his appetite both for feasting on people (and gods) and for corrupting others made very clear to us.

The story weight that Aldrich has alone would make him a memorable boss battle, but he also makes for a pretty interesting and unique boss battle, as you mostly fight the form of Gwyndolin protruding from his black sludge, showering you with moonlight themed attacks, while he pursues you around a ruined, sludge-filled cathedral, a pale shadow of the church you fought Ornstein and Smough in back in the first game.

Not to mention, as a Lord of Cinder, he has a second form where he catches fire. That's always a lot of fun.

3. Artorias the Abyss Walker, Dark Souls.

So, here's a thought: Artorias is terrifying.

It takes a rare talent to be terrifying with a broken arm, but he manages it: While he's one of the smaller Dark Souls enemies, you still only reach his waist, and he's both absurdly fast and ridiculously strong, wielding that big greatsword of his with more than enough skill to carve you up in a matter of seconds. 

What really sells him as a pants-wettingly frightening boss, though, is his infection by the Abyss, manifesting as him leaving globules and trails of damaging black goo, and being constantly surrounded with an aura of darkness that often means that the line between where his armour ends and where the environmental shadows of the boss arena begin is difficult to make out.

Like another character on this list, Artorias is essentially a whirling dervish of destruction that leaves damaging after-effects in his wake, and in a lot of ways, he acts like a player character souped up to nine-thousand. 

If From Software ever were to decide to do a Dark Souls IV, then utilising the time-bendy mechanics of the universe to give us a fight with Artorias using both arms would be a pretty great idea, even though we would all die horribly.

2. The Nameless King, Dark Souls III.

We were all so sure that Solaire was Gwyn's son. It seemed obvious, right? His name's Solaire, for god's sake, and Dark Souls seemed full of little hints that our favourite sunbro was actually Gwyn's kid. It was not to be, however, as Dark Souls III introduces us to the Nameless King, a dragon-riding and lightning-spear-wielding optional boss.

The Nameless King starts off riding a dragon, swooping about and alternating between trying to jab you with his spear, throwing bolts of lightning at you (very Gwyn of him), and having his dragon breathe fire. But, in a turn no doubt deliberately reminiscent of the Lords of Cinder, and very reminiscent of Ornstein and Smough, the Nameless King has a second stage, where he absorbs the soul of his dragon and comes after you with his now lightning-imbued spear.

This boss isn't half as fast as some of the others on this list, but he makes up for that with no end of shock and awe, as he tosses lightning around the arena, sends waves of electricity outwards, and generally subjects you to a combination of angry spear-wielding giant and a localised storm that's out to get you.

1. Maria of the Astral Clocktower, Bloodborne.

Maria fascinates me. One of the Old Hunters, a relative of Queen Annalise, and an object of obsession for Gehrman, we encounter her standing guard in the Astral Clocktower, blocking the way to the nightmare fishing hamlet. It's never entirely clear what she's protecting: If she's protecting the Old Hunters' secret, trying to prevent anyone from discovering their secret shame, or if she's protecting Kos' body and her orphan, trying to keep anyone from doing further harm to them.

Her weight in the story is immediately obvious, as she becomes one of the first bosses to prompt an emotional reaction from the protagonist, as her face - identical to that of the Doll's - causes them to step back in surprise.

As a battle, she's pretty striking as well. A three-stage boss battle, she starts off like a souped up hunter, wielding her Rakuyo twin blades with deadly efficiency. In her second stage, though, she indulges in the trademark Cainhurst blood magic, and in a move nabbed straight from Artorias, starts leaving after-effects of blood wherever she strikes, create patches of danger around herself as she fights, as well as adding damaging blasts of blood to her arsenal. Her third phase has these trails of blood catch on fire moments later, prolonging the damaging after-effect and adding an extra level of shock and awe to the fight with her.

What makes Maria truly an excellent boss battle, though, is that every stage is an obvious continuation of the last. 

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