At 9:48pm last night, I despaired. I had encountered a video game boss I was sure I couldn’t defeat. “This Stefano boss fight in The Evil Within 2 is quite the difficulty spike,” I wrote on Twitter. “Not sure my character is equipped for this.” Four minutes later, I beat him.
“Oh wait,” I wrote at 9:52pm. “I was able to craft a lot of explosive bolts. All good!”
As those who play a lot of video games know, the impossible is seldom impossible. Usually you can get past the hard parts if you try hard enough. If I think part of a game has stymied me, I’ll keep replaying it until I get through it. If I seemingly can’t, I’ve found I usually can if I just sleep on it. Many challenges in video games that have frustrated me on a Saturday afternoon have fallen on the first try on Sunday morning.
It’s easy to panic, especially when you’re in a situation you don’t want to be in. I don’t like boss battles much. I see a boss, and I just want to be done with it. Sure, I’ve fought plenty of well-designed bosses, but boss encounters often slow the rhythm of the game I’m playing. I know that some people love the challenge of chipping away at a huge enemy’s long health bar, but I just usually want to get back to exploring and adventuring.
This mindset puts me in a bad spot when I reach a tough boss and an even worse spot when it seems that my game has autosaved at a moment when the boss is about to attack and I’m out of medkits. Such was my predicament in The Evil Within 2 last night, as I fought the murderous artist Stefano. He could teleport toward me with a knife, stab my character multiple times without interruption and was being aided by a tentacle monster that could demolish my cover.
This was bad—worse still given the limits of my gaming time now that I’m a dad. I cherish the 90 minutes or so I can play each night after the kids go to bed and dinner and chores are done. I didn’t want to lose them flailing at a boss battle my character was probably too unhealthy to win. I should also mention that I was nearly out of ammo and that Stefano was proving difficult to hit with the few shotgun shells and pistol ammo I could find in the boss arena.
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I’ve enjoyed a lot of The Evil Within 2’s presentation as a horror game in a quasi-open-world with a light stat-improving character upgrade system. I’ve had fun with how the game surprises you with main and side missions at moments or in areas where you wouldn’t expect to have one begin. I’m just not playing this game—or most games!—for the boss battles.
I tried to kill Stefano and died.
I tried and tried some more.
I figured out where the ammo in the boss arena was laid out, figured out that I could craft one medkit from the supplies I was carrying, figured out an optimal route to run away, craft, heal, grab ammo and then start fighting.
He kept killing me. I was barely landing any hits.
I rushed online and googled “The Evil Within 2 Stefano boss fight.”
I found a Polygon tips article about it. Use your bow to set traps, the article suggested. Hmm. Good idea, Polygon!
I checked my inventory again. I had almost no ammo for my bow. But… I had enough to craft five explosive bolts. I restarted the fight. I ran behind cover. I crafted a medkit. I used it. I crafted five explosive bolts. I fired them in front of Stefano, one at a time as he approached, took damage, yelled at me, and then rushed me again.
Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.
I think I only needed to shoot him once.
He was dead. Another gaming boss defeated. It was stressful. It made me worry I was screwed. I got through it. I guess that’s what a video game boss battle is all about. It’s still not my thing, but I’ll take solace that the next time I think a boss battle is insurmountable, I might be doing a victory dance four minutes later.