We have officially reached the halfway mark of the series, and have crossed into the territory of genuinely good boss fights. As a reminder for the criteria for judgment, see here. Without further ado, let’s continue!
99. Erdtree Avatar (Elden Ring)
It may be somewhat of a surprise to see an optional Field Boss show up this high on the list. There’s actually quite a bit to like about the Erdtree Avatar despite its many appearances across the game.
As far as challenge goes, the Erdtree Avatar is more imposing a foe than it seems at first glance. You can expect your typical Elden Ring dosage of massively delayed wind ups, super fast attacks to throw the player off and an attack that works to force melee users to back off. However, the Erdtree Avatar has one ace in the hole that can really trip someone up- every so often, it will spawn a large radiant explosion that shoots homing darts at the player, not too unlike the Stars of Ruin or Elden Stars spells. This chip damage may seem insignificant, but given the Erdtree Avatar’s impressive physical might, it could be just enough to put the player into one-shot range.
The Erdtree Avatars have some interesting lore behind them. Basically, the Avatars were once human(kid) who once swore an oath to defend the Minor Erdtrees restlessly. However, when they grew old, frail and incapable, this inevitably caused them to break their oath, thus causing a retaliatory curse to turn them into hideous, headless tree monsters. This is implied to be an eternal appointment of sorts, so depending on how you look at it, the player may be putting them out of their misery.
The Erdtree Avatar does two great things that make for entertaining experiences. For one, this is a relatively simple but statistically challenging fight, a good diversion and simplification juxtaposed to mainline Elden Ring bosses, which can provide players a brief, simple respite from such mechanically complex encounters. For another, Erdtree Avatars consistently drop amazing loot when defeated. They’ll either drop various upgrades to one’s Wondrous Physic, or they will get the avatar’s weapon itself! High reward for a relaxing, fun fight make this one pass solidly.
98. Tree Sentinel Duo (Elden Ring)
Though it may seem a simple lazy reskin turned into a gank, the Tree Sentinel Duo is actually a very compelling, surprisingly well done gank fight. The fight itself takes places on a large staircase going up, with a series of pillars separating the two stairways the Sentinels patrol.
Challenge is fittingly quite high. One Tree Sentinel alone was likely enough to give the average player all they could handle back in Limgrave, so handling two will naturally be a daunting task. The Tree Sentinels found here are also appropriately scaled to be a bit stronger than the first encounter with a solo sentinel. As a result, the player truly has their hands full here.
97. Royal Knight Loretta (Elden Ring)
Somewhat of an evolved form of the Tree Sentinel, Loretta is an appreciable alternative with interesting hidden lore. This is one of two times she can be fought, and it takes place at the optional Caria Manor area.
Challenge for this fight is high, and for the right reasons. On one hand, Loretta wields a similar melee moveset to the Tree Sentinel. This includes a complex setup of long windups, long ranged melee and the ability to close the gap quickly. To add to the Tree Sentinel’s kit, Loretta can also use powerful sorceries, making her a threat from any range. However, unlike the Tree Sentinel, Loretta’s melee attacks can actually be parried, serving as compensation to her sorcery kit. Parrying her is hard, however, which intensifies the need to be a genuinely skilled player to overcome this fight.
Lore for Loretta is easy to miss, given that she is an optional boss fight on both of her encounters. However, one may notice that her title shifts from ‘Royal Knight’ into ‘Knight of the Haligtree’, and that isn’t a mistake. It is a certainty that either Loretta found her superiors at Caria Manor to be incompetent and left them, or she respect or sought to be the consort to Malenia or Miquella at the Haligtree. This explains her change in title, as well as her shift in location while also connecting her to some big, notable names.
Loretta’s incredibly large kit of moves with distinct, varying telegraphs make this a very engaging fight. The area itself is quite large and Torrent is available for this one, giving the player the means to keep up with Loretta. All in all, with no particular deficiencies with this fight, it checks out well in the entertainment department.
96. Ancient Dragon Lanseaxx (Elden Ring)
Another recurring face, Lanseaxx has quite the interesting background and element of choice for a dragon in red lightning. She hits extraordinarily hard and shows up quite early, representing a the beginning to a soon-to-be trend of incredibly hard hitting bosses in general.
Lanseaxx is well known for her signature Glaive attacks, and she is capable of using them with terrifying lethality. This makes for a difficult overall fight where the player will want to be incredibly careful balancing their positioning with being able to see and properly respond to Lanseaxx’s attacks.
Lanseaxx is the sister of Lichdragon Fortisaxx as well as Gransax, the largest dragon in From Software history. She had previously taken on the form of a human priestess in a Dragon Cult. In doing so, she fell in love with Roundtable Knight Vyke. Lore never really clarifies how she became a dragon, but being a recurring character with relative importance makes her impactful enough to get a solid lore score.
Dodging in and taking advantage of Lanseaxx’s exposed head makes this fight a massive eggshell walking feat; either get hit and quickly lose, or dodge and inflict major damage. This simple but fast paced dynamic along with fighting an intimidating dragon make this fight fitfully engaging and enjoyable.
95. Decaying Ekzykes (Elden Ring)
One of Elden Ring’s elemental dragons, Ekzykes wields the power of scarlet rot in his breath. An Elden Ring exclusive status, scarlet rot essentially functions as toxic did in other Soulsborne games, making Ekzykes incredibly deadly.
Challenge is unsurprisingly incredibly high. Use of Torrent is nigh mandatory in order to win. If the player gets afflicted by rot even once, which is very easy, then the fight is effectively over. The player will be under too much pressure having to quickly apply a bolus to remove the rot in front of the aggressive Ekzykes, and between this maneuver and needing to balance healing, it will be an extreme stress onto player resources. That’s especially the case if the player didn’t expect to fight Ekzykes, thus not having a good amount of boluses, or just not having any in their hot bar. Resource management and a dodge-rot-at-all-costs approach are therefore the main challenge here.
When defeated, Ekzykes drops a Dragon Heart, used to purchase dragon incantations at the Cathedral of Dragon Communion. The cathedral is tied to an informal dragon cult, mentioned during the Lanseaxx analysis. This presumably ties Ekzykes to this cult, which incidentally allows the player to purchase the Ekzykes Decay, a spell where they form the head of Ekzykes to breath rot all over the targeted area. As such, Ekzykes has more narrative impact than it initially seems.
Contending with a powerful, aggressive dragon and micromanaging scarlet rot build up create an incredibly memorable boss fight. The reward for this boss is quite high as well, making it worth the trek for that alone. As such, this is one of the better Elden Ring dragon boss fights.
94. Micolash, Host of the Nightmare (Bloodborne)
One of my personal favorites and one who has been hyped up here on InReview quite a bit, Micolash is one of the most polarizing bosses in franchise history- you either love him or hate him, no in between. That makes his positioning in the direct middle of the list out to be rather ironic.
Challenge would definitely have to be the main criticism, especially on repeat playthrough. Micolash has a moveset consisting of just one attack in first phase, up to three attacks in second phase, with one of them being a pathetic punching move for crying out loud. As well, Micolash can be parried, backstabbed and staggered relatively easily. His AI is also absurdly exploitable, as he is sure to want to use Auger of Ebrietas anytime the player gets in his face. This means the player can simply back him in a corner, then effortlessly strafe to the left and right to dodge and punish his predictable usage of this attack. Micolash gets points in difficulty for one thing- A Call Beyond. He can use this in second phase, and it can be very hard to dodge, whereupon failure to do so can easily annihilate the player’s health bar swiftly. He doesn’t use this attack unless the player gets far away, and even then, it can be interrupted by timely gunfire from the player. That said, it does command respect still.
Micolash is a walking lore machine. As the player makes their way over towards him and as a cutscene plays before his fight begins, Micolash will yell and mumble all sorts of lore relevant lines that can really help tell a story. He prays to the god Kos, he proves a connection to the Healing Church by asking Kos to ‘grant us eyesK and ‘cleanse us of our beastly idiocy’ serves as an acknowledgment of the hunt and nightmare endless cycle. Micolash is connected to the nightmare, hence his title.
Atmospherically, this fight is golden. A small amount of fog played at the character’s legs along with the horrifying soundtrack set an incredible, unique mood of genuine horror that is perfectly complemented by Micolash’s deluded ramblings and even werewolf-esque howling. This is a gimmick fight, where the player will need to chase and corner Micolash into two rooms for each of his phases. When he gets to half health, he will make fake death wails and disappear, only to have a ‘just kidding!’ moment and reappear as an unnerving, intimidating voice in the player’s head. All in all, this is a spectacle fight that does a good job including a darker Lovecraftian take on being a spectacle. It works immaculately.
93. Vordt of the Boreal Valley (Dar
Vordt is almost certainly going to be the second boss the player ends up defeating on their average Dark Souls 3 playthrough. Where Iudex Gundyr showed the player what to expect from a humanoid boss, Vordt showcases a basic example of a more beastlike brawl. He is quadrupedal and attacks with a large, frost imbued hammer.
For a first time player, Vordt can be a tricky assailant. He is much more aggressive and quite a bit larger than mostly anything the player has faced to this point. His attacks deal good damage, and Frostbite can get scary. However, his moveset is one dimensional and easy to predict, while his ice breath attack in second phase is stupid easy to dodge and inflict massive punishment on him for. As a result, Vordt is an appropriate challenge for a newer player.
Vordt is one of many outrider knights positioned in Lothric, commandeered by the Pontiff Sulyvahn. Vordt has been driven mad by one of the rings Sulyvahn bestowed upon him, and is almost entirely under Sulvyahn’s control as well. Vordt is positioned close to the Dancer of the Boreal Valley, and seems to hold himself as her watchdog of sorts.
Aggressive, fast paced bosses are always going to make for fun fights, and Vordt is no exception. The side effect of having to deal with Frostbite build up can be a lot for a newer player to manage as well, but is quite fair. Some points were taken for a somewhat one dimensional moveset, but otherwise, this one is rock solid.
92. Asylum Demon (Dark Souls 1)
It may be surprising to note that Demon Firesage and Stray Demon, two bosses entirely copying this one, showed up at the absolute bottom of the list, while Asylum Demon appears just on the good half of it. However, there’s quite a lot to like about the one who did it first. This is the tutorial boss of the game, the first one the player will always face. It is a really good teacher as well, properly preparing the player to face larger enemies in general.
Challenge for a newer player is quite high, as winning the fight does rely on a fairly high degree of intuition and environmental awareness. The first time the player can actually fight the demon, they’ll have nothing but a broken straight sword that does laughable damage to the demon. However, a sharp eye might be able to notice a portcullis leading the player into another part of the Undead Asylum. By quickly running towards it, they can arm themselves with an actual weapon and properly fight the demon later. As well, the demon will show the player that flanking large opponents in general is the way to go; the player clearly cannot afford to simply trade blows with the demon, so maneuvering around and punishing its attacks is the way to go.
The Asylum Demon’s ultimate motives are up to interpretation. Either the demon serves as a warden of sorts for the asylum, determined to prevent anyone from escaping, or the demon serves as a means to test the mettle of the player as they endeavor to escape the asylum. The latter seems the most plausible, as random people such as Oscar of Astora seem to be aware of the player’s prophetic status. This would make it hardly unreasonable that the demon itself wouldn’t be aware, and was perhaps commissioned to test the Chosen Undead.
Asylum Demon occupies an important niche of being a useful tutorial boss, with many different ways to approach fighting it. Did you know that defeating the demon with a broken straight sword, while taking forever and being quite difficult, will result in the demon dropping its massive hammer? This offers a unique benefit to more experienced players as to not waste their time with redundant tutorial nonsense, while also providing the tutorial experience to new players who need it. As such, this was an excellently designed boss for what it set out to achieve.
91. Cleric Beast (Bloodborne)
Almost all of what was said about the Asylum Demon can be said about the Cleric Beast as well. Cleric Beast is essentially Bloodborne’s tutorial boss, showcasing the absolute basics of fighting a beastlike boss. It’s moveset is surprisingly complex, but is simple enough for experienced players to handle easily.
Challenge for a new player will be surprisingly high. Like other beasts, positioning against Cleric Beast is crucial, and a new player is unlikely to understand this. Simply put, you always want to be behind the Cleric Beast, as to easily dodge it’s attacks, influence it’s AI away from using its harder hitting ones, and getting easier, safer hits against it. As well, the Cleric Beast is decent at punishing panic rolls, a common trait found in new players. These obstacles are all relatively easy, but represent the first real learning curve the average player will encounter.
The Cleric Beast is representative of the failure on the Healing Church to contain the scourge of beasts that they themselves caused. In studying and experimenting the impact of healing blood, many members of the Healing Church, including the founder Laurence and Holy Blade Ludwig, succumbed to beast hood. Like it does in combat, this makes the Cleric Beast also work as a useful tool to introduce the player to the broader narrative at large in a masterful way.
The Cleric Beast has an incredibly awesome entrance, jumping onto the Great Bridge from up high to confront the player. As well, it represents a major rise in tension and pace of play which will be sure to invoke some adrenaline into newer players. As such, it isn’t flawed in the fun department in any real way.
90. Elder Dragon Greyoll (Elden Ring)
Greyoll officially hoists the honor as being the largest fightable dragon in From Software history, beating out even behemoths such as Dark Souls 2’s Ancient Dragon or Demon’s Souls’ Dragon God. Unfortunately, that may not make the fight too difficult, but it at least makes it a sight to behold.
Difficulty isn’t embarrassingly low, but isn’t very high here. This is a gank fight where all combatants involved are sluggish and surprisingly fragile considering Greyoll’s size. Greyoll’s health bar is tied to five ‘children’ dragons who will be the main force fighting the player as Greyoll hilariously tries to contribute. This may be a gank fight, but her children go down too quickly for it to feel seriously threatening.
As previously mentioned, Greyoll is From Software’s largest fightable dragon. Her brother Gransax takes the cake for largest dragon period. Greyoll is described in game lore as the mother of all dragons, a title not hard to understand given her size. As a result, Greyoll plays a prominent role in the game’s narrative.
This is a fun, interesting dynamic for a fight that provides a new take on an otherwise standard looking boss fight. It was relieving to see Elden Ring refrain from recreating Ancient Dragon for certain, instead favoring a unique concept that works quite well.