Video Game Musing: Fighting Bosses Underleveled or Overleveled?
This is always apparent in RPGs where numbers dictate how strong your characters are, especially your levels. Can’t beat a boss? Well, just grind and come back to it, and you can probably beat it with ease.
Now admittedly, it’s not like I like grinding or anything. Just a little is fine, but I dislike it when I literally require days of grinding just so I can fight on par with some bosses, it disrupts story progression a little too much even for me. The best RPGs are the ones where the difficulty of the bosses are balanced well, each one only stronger than the previous a little. This sense of progression slowly but naturally absorbs you into the gameplay and makes you try out newer things in the mechanics as you progress from one boss to the next.
I actually enjoy figuring out the best strategy and equipment to defeat a boss, and I also like figuring out what should I do mid-battle where perhaps even a simple choice between “Attack” or “Defend” can cost my life. Where am I going with this? Well, long story short, if you were to ask me whether I prefer fighting bosses underleveled or overleveled, I would prefer the former without a doubt. When you enter a boss fight and you find out you can defeat a boss just by spamming the attack button, that’s when you really have overleveled, what’s the fun in that?
Though I don’t like grinding, I have to admit there are games where they are pretty creative in their approach to grinding. Xenoblade Chronicles is one such game — you barely get any EXP from killing monsters. In fact, most of your EXP comes from discovering landmarks, exploring the world, completing quests, etc… It’s a system I hope more RPGs would use as well as it really forces you to explore the game’s world rather than just repetitively and mechanically killing monsters. If “fun grinding” ever exists, then that’s definitely my idea of “fun grinding”.
Either way, that’s exactly why most of my favorite RPG bosses are the ones where it gave me a nice challenge and also where the immediate answer is not “grind more”. In fact, I recall when I was playing The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC, one of the end-game bosses whooped my ass even when I’m at level 90+. See, now that’s a challenge, that’s a good boss design — it forces me to scrutinize my equipment, setup and brainstorming a strategy; grinding more is pointless here since my levels are already so high. This is what a good end-game boss should be like, incredibly hard, challenging, but not where you can easily beat him just by grinding aggressively and overleveling. For this reason, I also greatly enjoyed Bravely Default’s bosses, it’s “job system” forces you to think of a strategy and to really explore the gameplay mechanics. Trying out the vast number of jobs in that game and making good use of their different styles is one of the best part of that game, it makes boss fights dynamic since you have a multitude of ways to defeat them. That kind of versatility is what I like in RPGs.
At the end of the day, I just prefer a little challenge in RPGs, and what challenge is there when I have overleveled to the point that I can destroy my foes by just simply spamming the attack button? At the same time, a video game design also played a big role in this too, and some games can make their bosses challenging regardless of overleveling and underleveling – and that is a clear sign of a game with good design. Indeed, at the end of the day, I just desire a little bit of challenge, so I guess it’s less to do with overleveling and underleveling and more to do with a game’s design, and if a game’s difficulty really IS dictated by how much I level, then I would definitely underlevel without a doubt.
What do you think of underleveling/overleveling in video games?
PS: I’m not gonna lie. This post is inspired by Yuru Yuri.