Ragnarök brings a significant change to boss battles

A big beast launches at Kratos' head.

Screenshot: sony

There are few more controversial issues in modern gaming than boss fights. I would have thought that was a ridiculous claim to make if I hadn’t received real death threats during previously suggesting boss fights should be skippable. There is therefore no doubt that there will be a combination of dismay and joy at the news that God of War: Ragnarok introduces mid-boss checkpoints for those who want them.

Having not dared to say so before, due to the appallingly complicated list of the various embargoes on Ragnarok code review, I’ve been secretly thrilled to discover this incredibly useful feature over the last week or so. I can finally share it! In God of War: RagnarokAccessibility settings are an option to give miniboss fights a mid-point checkpoint.

Now, let’s be very clear: this is a option. It’s disabled by default, it’s not trumpeted by the game, but amidst the awesome collection of over 70 accessibility options, under the Combat section, appears “Miniboss Checkpoints”. Enabling this means that if you can fight a boss halfway through their health bar and then lose, it will be at that midpoint when you restart.

The game notes, “This option is meant to be activated if a Miniboss has provided an insurmountable challenge. It is locked on No Mercy and God Of War difficulty. But of course, for people who just hate boss fights (and we’re legion), it’s an option that makes those annoying difficulty walls less frustrating.

Such news is never greeted gracefully. When accessibility advocate Steve Saylor tweeted his enthusiasm for the option, making it clear that he too believed it was a boon for all gamers, not just the disabled, of course, people rushed to point out how terrible it was. Always using reductio ad absurdum to explain how a slippery slope this is, people’s particular fear is that this type of option will somehow be forced upon them if it proves popular with someone else.

Read more: God of War Ragnarök: The Kotaku Review

“Isn’t that just defeating the purpose of a boss battle?” demanded a typical response on Twitter, continuing, “At this point, just make the game an interactive movie or something.” It’s such a strange refusal to understand the stakes, given that Ragnarok is a game based primarily on constant combat, occasionally interrupted by much more difficult boss fights. This stupid idea that giving a clearer path through these spikes somehow reduces the whole game to a passive experience is persistent frustrating.

The alternative, which those who fiercely defend boss fights so often seem unable to understand, is to give up. You paid $70 for a copy of a game, but you run into a situation early on that no matter how many times you try, you can’t get out of it. That’s it. The game is over for you, your wasted huge amount of money. At this point, the only option to see what happens beyond this point, ironically, is an entirely passive experience: watching it on YouTube.

Making boss fights something much easier to pass, for those who want it, is such a positive move for gaming, and I sincerely hope others will ignore the sound of “git-gud” assholes and copy Santa Monica’s actions here. Or even take it a step further and set options to just ignore them, to continue playing the remaining 95% of the game. And no, no one is suggesting that happens to Ring of Elden or whatever. But where boss fights are insurmountable challenges that stall the majority of a game, it’s pride in refusing to concede ground.

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