Today’s piece uniquely examines a handful of ’lore fodder’ boss fights- fights which had little to no combat value but were filled with great lore, and had solid or even great representation of it as well. Our overall rankings take a spike as well; we’ve well moved past the low tier, irredeemably bad picks. This week, myself and guest writer Michael ”Mango” Givigliano have an overall solid selection with #s 159-150. For a reminder of the criteria used for judgment, see here.
159. Lud and Zallen, King’s Pets (Dark Souls 2)
Andrew: Yay, another reskin found in the game’s DLC! The only reason these two get a slight pass over Blue Smelter Demon is because at least they’re a reskin of a DLC boss, not a base game one. That mercifully means that the player isn’t paying more to experience what they already got in the base game. Unsurprisingly, just like Blue Smelter Demon, the original product in Aava the King’s Pet is set to show up much, much later on this list.
Like Blue Smelter Demon, challenge is about the only serious thing these two have going for them. Of course, that’s because someone at From Software took a look at Aava and decided “Hey, you know what would be better? What if there were TWO?! Can I have a raise now?” Indeed, this fight is very difficult. It’s a gank fight, meaning it’s naturally and artificially harder than Aava. Lud and Zallen each have noticeably less health than Aava. As well, Zallen won’t actually jump into the fight unless targeted initially, and will wait until Lud is at roughly 40% of its health before jumping in. When either gets low on health, they enter what’s called ‘Berserk’ where they’ll gain a new moveset and begin to hit a lot harder.
There is at least a small bit of lore to be found here, but it takes a lot of digging and ultimately isn’t worth what little there is to be found. Basically, Lud and Zallen are one of seven beasts who served the Burnt Ivory King, a third being Aava and the other four being unknown. It seems that the king gave them all specific tasks, and Lud and Zallen’s was to mercy kill people exiled from Frozen Eleum Loyce. There isn’t much of importance within this lore to the broader overall narrative of the DLC, but at least it’s better than, say, Blue Smelter Demon.
Even though this isn’t a reskin of a base game boss, it’s still a reskin. Of course, it’s still a lame gank fight that Dark Souls 2 as a whole sadly became quite known for utilizing. With a boss area not well designed for a gank, this fight predictably gets a low rating for fun. Don’t even get me started on the wonderful ‘reindeer’ of the Frigid Outskirts making the run up to this boss arguably more miserable than any other boss ever.
Mango: Having to deal with everything this boss fight offers is overwhelming and annoying, and I gave it a 15 for difficulty. As Andrew covered, this boss is basically a reskin of an important boss found earlier in this DLC, so it got a 5 in lore from me. Finally, this gank boss was simply tedious to fight, and that isn’t very fun- I gave it a 7 here.
158. Belfry Gargoyles (Dark Souls 2)
Andrew: Yet another lame gank fight. Also, this could technically be argued as a reskin, clearly resembling the vastly superior Bell Gargoyles fight from Dark Souls 1 in almost every way… except for the actual fight itself.
Challenge is definitely high, despite being artificial in nature. The player will basically get loaded with up to five Gargoyles almost all at once, without much room to maneuver and a long fall to instant death waiting if they go too far left or right. Openings are scarce as the gargoyles use attacks which overlap with one another. This one could take awhile to win.
These are gargoyles and, as it would happen, they’re guarding a bell! Woo hoo for complex lore!
The boss area was designed decently well for a gank, but not to this extent. Sure, there are statues lined up in a row on two different sides of the area that the player could use to split aggro or heal, but that doesn’t work when the numbers situation is as bad as it is here. Get prepared to do a lot of kiting or, slowly walking backward and attacking once every roughly 30 seconds or so. How thrilling!
Mango: If you didn’t fight Bell Gargoyles in Dark Souls 1, this fight will be hard for you and new players, and it got a 13 for difficulty from me. There isn’t any real lore to be found in this random optional boss, and it got a 5 from me for lore. Not many will find a gargoyle gank fight to be too entertaining, and I thought it was annoying, so I gave it a 7.
157. Godskin Duo (Elden Ring)
Andrew: While this week’s piece was titled “Lore Fodder,” perhaps it should have instead been renamed “Lame Ganks and reskinned bosses!” For our third pick in a row on this list, that’s exactly what we get. The Godskin Apostle and the Godskin Noble will gank the player at the Crumbling Farum Azula. They’re the third-to-last mandatory boss fight before the player may fight the final boss and end the game, so naturally they’re scaled for the end game.
Challenge for this fight is pretty extreme, and for all the wrong reasons. Both of these enemies move at similar speeds, they both have projectiles and both have long lasting combos that make getting in hits without trading blows incredibly difficult. Unlike most ganks, when one of them is killed, they’ll simply return time and time again until their mutual health bar is fully depleted. Finally, while there are pillars here that initially seem promising for help with a gank fight, they’re destructible. As such, within about two minutes, they’ll all be gone and the player will have nothing to split aggro or gain any semblance of crowd control. If you thought the kiting issue with the Belfry Gargoyles was bad…
Lore for this fight is confusing and weird but is at least interesting and potentially pertinent to the main storyline. The Godskins served a being known as the Dusk-Eyed Queen. One day, Maliketh the Black Blade showed up and killed her for some reason. Most of the Godskins fled, spread out in the Lands Between, but these two didn’t. Only speculation can explain why that is. Perhaps they don’t want the player to become the new Elden Lord with Maliketh’s Destined Death at their disposal. If that’s not the case, then why do they fight the player? If they’re there, presumably it’d be to try and avenge their fallen queen and slay Maliketh, which the player also wants to do. This would seem to mean that they and the player have a common goal. Yet, they still fight, suggesting this might not be the case. Again, confusing but at least interesting and relating to the main storyline.
From Software has attempted innumerably over the years to recreate the greatness that is Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough from the first Dark Souls game. In that regard, they absolutely missed out on that here by a hundred miles, especially in the fun department. Ornstein and Smough move at very different speeds, have mostly indestructible pillars to split aggro and, as such, can be split up reasonably well enough. With the two bosses moving at different speeds, doing damage very differently in terms of speed and placing the player at a numbers disadvantage, the fight is very hard but also fair. Juxtapose that to Godskin Duo, and everything is amiss. Godskin Noble is bigger and hits harder, yet he’s also faster than Godskin Apostle for some reason and was given a projectile. Godskin Apostle has incredibly long melee reach and isn’t much slower than Godskin Noble. This has a tendency for their attacks to overlap and make it impossible for the player to hit them without trading blows. Pillars used for even the slightest crowd control are destroyed the first either of them strikes a pillar. At the very least, if the player manages to kill them both at the same time, the fight should end then and there. Yet, it does not. The very low rating for fun is thereby due to a massive lack of fairness in this fight.
Mango: Unlike most gank fights, killing one of these two won’t stop another from just appearing in its place. I gave them a 17 for difficulty. This is a reskin of each of these two bosses, as you can find both the Noble and Apostle in a lot of optional areas, so I only gave it a 5 for lore. While it is challenging and engaging, it’s also annoying due to it being a gank fight, and I gave it a 10 for fun.
156. Velstadt the Royal Aegis (Dark Souls 2)
Andrew: We’re serving up some piping hot lore fodder, and for our first course, we’ve got Velstadt. Velstadt along with King Vendrick and, to a lesser extent, Raime are hyped up big time throughout the storyline of Dark Souls 2. Yet, his fight with the player at the Undead Crypt is extremely underwhelming and disappointing considering his major role in the narrative.
Velstadt is absurdly easy to defeat. He attacks incredibly slowly, has a buff he casts on himself that leaves him incredibly wide open to lose about half his health bar without consequence, and ultimately fails to threaten the player at all even when buffed. He was given an identical moveset to the Heide Sentinels, and those are found early game! Unfortunately, his moveset is so incredibly lackluster that nobody should lose this fight.
Again, this fight only offers a cheap narrative device. Velstadt was King Vendrick’s right hand man both during his rule over Drangleic and after he fled and essentially abandoned the throne. This is evidenced by the fact that, shortly after beating Velstadt and proceeding further into the Undead Crypt, a hollowed Vendrick is found aimlessly wandering around a small, barren and dark room. Velstadt apparently stayed to defend Vendrick even long after he’d hollowed and lost all of his senses. That’s dedication! Too bad his fighting skills seem to have entirely decayed in the process, as he apparently even once managed to beat Raime the Fume Knight in a one-on-one fight. As you’ll see towards the end of this list, a rematch would almost definitely go poorly for Velstadt.
Fun is really hard to give much to Velstadt for. On one hand, his storyline is compelling and very relevant to the main storyline while also being accurate given how long Velstadt remained by Vendrick’s side. On the other, one could argue that Velstadt is a poor representation of his lore on account of how easy he is to defeat. Either way, the only real fun that can be found is in trying to appreciate Velstadt as a character, because the fight itself gives no such value.
Mango: This boss hits very hard, but is slow and quite telegraphed. I gave it a 12 for difficulty. This boss is the formal defender of King Vendrick, sticking around even after he went hollow. Because of that, I gave this fight a 14 for lore. Finally, this boss is pretty engaging, so I gave it a 15 for fun.
155. True King Allant (Demon’s Souls)
Andrew: An even more egregious form of lore fodder, True King Allant is the final boss of Demon’s Souls. As you can see, he is just a festering pile of sludge at this point, driven mad by power. This never changes at any point in the fight.
True King Allant showed up on InReview’s ten easiest bosses list and it will hardly take but a moment in this fight to realize why. He is, again, just a big lump of sludge at this point. He is incapable of moving much at all, attacks very slowly and, as such, no effort at all is required to beat him. This is obviously a fight From Software never intended for the player to lose.
Where Velstadt’s lore has some minor holes, True King Allant’s doesn’t. Not only is his lore very much relevant to the main storyline, but he is an absolutely immaculate representation of his lore. In what could be more aptly considered “life,” King Allant was initially a benevolent, fair and kind ruler of Boletaria. Towards the end of his life, however, he began to seek a proper successor or a way to ensure that peace and tranquility could be maintained after his death. This eventually manifested into him straight up seeking immortality so that he could simply remain in his position indefinitely. In this, he managed to establish contact with The Old One, the main antagonist of the game. The Old One ended up granting Allant his request, but at the cost of Allant eventually becoming drunk with power and militarizing Boletaria, to protect him not just from the demon scourge which arose, but also his once loyal subjects, whom he feared would try to take the throne from him by force. Eventually, Allant got so corrupted by power that he withered away into the pathetic pile of sludge seen in this fight, where he can do nothing to put up a real fight in his emasculated state. He is not only majorly important to the game’s narrative, but he is represented incredibly well by his own lore here, given his passive and pathetic state.
Sadly, there is no real fun to be found in this fight. Unlike with Velstadt, there is no “I am Allant, fear me!” type moment that makes the player use his lore to mentally create the experience for themselves, even when the fight becomes underwhelming.
Mango: This boss definitely shouldn’t be hard for anyone at all, and I gave it a 1 for difficulty. This boss is the ultimate end of what happened to King Allant, so I gave it a 16 for lore. Since you can win this fight with just a single button press, I gave it just a 1 for fun.
154. Vendrick (Dark Souls 2)
Andrew: Arguably the most well-done narrative character in all of From Software, Vendrick is somewhat of a ‘secret’ boss fight that the player likely won’t be able to trigger unless they specifically know how. He is fought in a small room right behind where Velstadt is fought in the Undead Crypt. If you’re on PlayStation, X-Box or Steam, there’s even an achievement earned for defeating Vendrick, unlike almost every other boss in the game.
Challenge is a similar dilemma to the Ancient Dragon; yes, Vendrick’s stats vastly outclass almost everything in the game, especially if the player does not have all five Souls of a Giant. However, Vendrick’s super complex moveset gives him a whopping two different attacks- a maneuver where he will raise his sword and slam directly in front of him with it, and an attack where he will perform a sweeping swipe with it. A player could just camp right behind his left leg, where his two attacks miss completely, and easily win without taking any damage. He doesn’t hit quite as hard as the Ancient Dragon and, likewise, the main enemy in this fight is going to be attrition.
In terms of lore, Vendrick is one of, if not the single most important character in all of Dark Souls 2. As the former ruler of Drangleic, Vendrick once presided over a land in peace and prosperity. One day, Nashandra traveled to Drangleic overseas and warned of an incoming Giant invasion. Vendrick led his men to a successful defense before promptly invading the Giants in return, taking prisoners for experimentation and routing them as a whole. At this point, the First Flame began to fade and the Undead Curse became a problem. Vendrick did everything he could to help his people, even having to handle in-house turmoil as Raime the Fume Knight, his left hand man, openly rebelled against him. In the end, Vendrick fled Drangleic Castle with Velstadt and traveled to the Undead Crypt, where he would eventually go hollow and turn into the mess that the player sees here.
Much like fighting the Ancient Dragon, the fight against Vendrick is a tedious slog with no real exhiliration or serious engagement. The fight is won by simply strafing, waiting for Vendrick to miss a swing, then punishing him. Even with all five Souls of a Giant, his defenses are massive and his health bar is too. Simply put, this fight is dreadfully boring.
Mango: Vendrick is both very tanky and hits hard, so I gave him a 15 for difficulty. Since this is the ultimate version if Vendrick, having gone Hollow, I gave it a 13 for lore. This fight is both incredibly long and not engaging, so it gets a 5 for fun.
153. Maiden Astraea (Demon’s Souls)
Andrew: An ‘end game’ boss which has absolutely zero attacking moves in her arsenal whatsoever. Gimmick of all gimmicks, at least this one has some replayability and a good deal of interesting lore.
Challenge is very, very low and potentially nonexistent. If so inclined, the player could get themselves onto a cliffside right in front of Astraea and just shoot her with arrows until she dies. Even if they embark upon the ‘hard way’ of engaging with Garl Vinland, he is slow and easy to deal with despite hitting very hard. The alternate third option is for the player to wade their way through a plague swamp littered with plague babies. These two elements will kill an unprepared player almost immediately, but a prepared one can brush the babies away with an AoE spell or a sweeping melee strike while using powerful grass to defend against the plague without issue.
Lore is, unsurprisingly, what justifies this boss’ ranking on the overall list. It’s actually rather sad but goes as far as to make the player straight up reconsider what they’ve done up to this point in the game. Astraea is a saint whose goal coming to the Valley of Defilement was to cure all the plague ridden, diseased people who had essentially been cast away and forgotten by Boletaria. In doing so, she eventually abandoned her faith under the rationale that no truly benevolent God would allow people to suffer as badly as those within the area had. Eventually, in a desperate attempt to truly save these people, Astraea accepted demonhood to better materialize her healing magics. Simply put, there is no benefit lorewise to killing her other than this potentially ill-concieved principle that the player simply needs to kill as many demons as possible. This has a way of making the player really stop and think- if killing Astraea is arguably the morally wrong thing to do, are there any other demons I’ve killed or have yet to kill that this applies to? Morality in From Software games constantly flirts with a middle ground grey area, and you’d arguably not find any better example of this than this dilemma faced here.
Fun, for the most part, is pretty much a miss. There really isn’t a ‘big bad’to be found here. Garl Vinland is hardly any different than a typical Dark Spirit, and he’s the only serious speedbump the player could encounter here. Unsurprisingly, as this fight is pretty much lore fodder, it has little to offer beyond lore itself. However, this fight has a minimal amount of replayability due to there being multiple different ways to tackle it, so that’s at least something.
Mango: Astraea herself is no problem whatsoever, but her guard Garl Vinland definitely is. I gave it a 10 for difficulty. Since she is the Archdemon of the Valley of Defilement, I gave her a 7 for lore. This boss is simple and not very enjoyable, so I only gave it a 5 for fun.
152. Vanguard Demon (Demon’s Souls)
Andrew: As a precursor, this specifically applies to Vanguard Demon when it’s actually a boss, not a mini boss as seen at the Shrine of Storms.
Where True King Allant was almost definitely intentionally designed for the player to never lose, so too did the very same game offer a tutorial boss that the player was likely never intended to beat. Vanguard Demon’s stats are significantly superior to the player’s as a tutorial boss. It will kill in two hits at the absolute most and takes forever to kill, as the player has a meager weak starting weapon at this point.
While the opening paragraph seems to suggest that this boss is unbeatable, this isn’t quite the case. Like Ancient Dragon, while Vanguard Demon easily kills in two hits at the absolute most, its moveset is very basic and cumbersome. It has very long windups and lengthy cooldown on all of its attacks. The bigger issue is that the player won’t have much in the manner of resources at all, since they haven’t even had the chance to visit the Nexus just yet and buy things. This isn’t the case in previously mentioned fights of this caliber, making winning attrition a significantly harder experience.
Lore for this boss is minimal and a bit obscure, while also being hard to both find and especially appreciate. The Vanguard Demon is basically an army general if you will of all the demons which have come to Boletaria. It is exclusively unique for dropping a soul when defeated, yet not impacting the player’s character tendency. This suggests it is a mature demon with full grasp over its thoughts and actions, but it’s not a particularly powerful lore based entity.
The player will constantly be walking on eggshells around this boss, as any one hit could immediately end the fight. Additionally, the player cannot access this fight again if they lose until they begin a new playthrough. The overall unique caliber of the challenge and its one-and-done nature does add a degree of prestige to this fight; it is definitely a brag-worthy accomplishment to claim victory over this vicious demon, and the prospect of this gives it some fun at the very least. Still, it’s a very unfair boss, deliberately designed to be so, and those not interested in a brutally difficult fight won’t get much of value here.
Mango: This is the tutorial boss of the game, the first real fight the player will encounter, so it got a 10 for difficulty from me. Since, in the grand scheme of things, this guy is pretty much just a big, random demon, it gets a 3 in lore from me. This fight as a whole is just too slow and predictable to be much fun for me, so I only gave it a 5.
151. Dragon God (Demon’s Souls)
Andrew: Long ago, when the original Demon’s Souls was in the marketing stage, Dragon God received a ridiculous amount of hype. If you didn’t know any better, you might wonder if this guy was the main antagonist or some kind of centralizing character in the narrative. Did Dragon God live up to the hype? Sadly, it didn’t come close. It’s a gimmick fight, the very first (and hopefully last) ‘stealth’ fight where the player must do a lot of sneaking around and evading its detection in order to make it to three ballistae to shoot it to death. There is no actual fighting that takes place here. The player is meant to advance through a few tight areas while avoiding the Dragon God’s attention. Along the way, they’ll have to balance smashing some boulders in their way and making sure to maintain cover, as these boulders are within plain sight of the Dragon God.
In terms of challenge, giving this fight anything higher than a 0 is being generous. Still, a player who doesn’t fully understand its mechanics can easily die, and fast, to this boss, so a few points had to be given at the very least. Depending on your build, smashing the boulders impeding the player without attracting the lethal attention of Dragon God could potentially be tricky as well.
This fight actually has some really interesting lore that offers a lot of perspective. Essentially, the Dragon God’s entire boss area was designed for it by a large amount of followers who essentially worshipped it. While the area conveniently makes worship easy, it has the added utility of being perfect for the Dragon God to essentially be chained to the ground by its own followers, who feared it may one day get corrupted and attempt to kill them all. Basically, Dragon God has been sitting here for a very long time against its will, kept in captivity. Is it any wonder it looks angry?
Fun is almost entirely awarded for a unique gimmick that hasn’t been replicated to this day. It hasn’t been attempted again on account of how overall mediocre it is, but being fresh and unique is at least something. Plus, there is some aspect of spectacle to this fight aesthetically, trying to hide from a massive monster who could kill you almost immediately.
Mango: While Dragon God does hit incredibly hard, he’s also very gimmicky. Once the gimmick is up, there isn’t any sort of challenge, I gave him a 10 for difficulty. As an Archstone Demon, Dragon God is somewhat important to the game’s narrative and I gave him a 10 for lore. This is more like solving a puzzle than it is actually fighting something, so it only got a 5 for fun.
150. Mytha the Baneful Queen (Dark Souls 2)
Andrew: Mytha is overall an average, relatively forgettable boss with funny lore and an interesting boss room. Her lore directly entwines itself with the Covetous Demon, discussed earlier, in a highly amusing way. Incidentally, she is our first boss on this list to receive double digits in each of the three categories.
In terms of challenge, this is highly dependent on two crucial questions: did you burn the Harvest Valley’s windmill prior to entering the room, and did you summon Jester Thomas the NPC to help fight her with you? If the answer to either of those is ‘yes’, this fight becomes a total joke, and it’s mind numbingly easy if the answer to both of those questions is yes. If, however, the answer to one or especially both is a no, you’ve got a good fight on your hands. Mytha’s boss room is entirely loaded with poison which will constantly heal herself while damaging the player. It can be quite overwhelming trying to maintain the player’s own health due to the poison, while also doing enough damage to Mytha to stop her from healing too much. On the other hand, she is seriously weak to fire, Jester Thomas is a pyromancer and, with the poison gone, this becomes a fairly basic fight against a big enemy with a large weapon. Thomas can solo her, poison or no poison, without issue. Because difficulty is so volatile, a middling grade seems appropriate.
It takes a lot of effort to find just a little bit of lore, but what is found is both weird and amusing. The Covetous Demon has a romantic interest in Mytha, which prompted him to gorge himself to an unbelievable extreme in order to seem more attractive to her. The reason he went to this extent in the first place was because his feelings were not requited. But if you think his idea on how to woo someone is drastic, Mytha actually has him beat. She had a romantic interest in King Vendrick, who had already been betrothed to Nashandra. In an effort to steal his heart, she decided it was a good idea to poison herself throughly to the point of becoming some kind of Medusa snake monster. Seriously, who keeps giving these people relationship advice?
Overall, this fight is quite plain, especially if nobody is summoned and the windmill is burnt. Mytha is pretty much just a big thing with a giant stick for a weapon, which the player will have faced in droves by this point of the game. Having said that, connecting the fight to the run up to the fight is a pretty neat idea that gives the fight some nice replayability. Having volatile difficulty pending some player decisions reinforces the replayability aspect.
Mango: If either you forget or choose not to drain the poison from her boss room, this fight can get really hard. I gave it a 12 for difficulty. Mytha is pretty much just some random snake woman for a boss, not important to the game’s storyline, so I only gave her a 3 for lore. Finally, like Andrew has said, fighting her is very basic as she only has a handful of attacks and is very predictable. I gave her a 7 for fun.
Michael ”Mango” Givigliano, is a woodworker residing in the town of Alvin, Texas. He has managed to finish a ’Soul Level 1’ playthrough of Dark Souls 3, a run where Mango did not at any point spend Souls to level up his character before finishing the base game and DLC. He has also finished a ”broken-broken straightsword” play through, where he used the game’s weakest weapon with even weaker stats as a result of depleting its durability to beat the game. His favorite From Software game is Dark Souls 3, and his favorite boss fight would be against Slave Knight Gael. You can find his YouTube channel, where he occasionally uploads Elden Ring and Dark Souls 3 content, here