In a series of tweets, Jason de Heras - design director Respawn's Star Wars games and former senior combat designer on God of War 3 - broke down his interpretation of "the purpose of a boss," using God of War's opening Dauoi Kaupmaor fight to illustrate his points.
What’s the purpose of a boss? Depends on the game, but usually bosses serve as a skill test, provide a sense of mastery, a set piece or a genuinely hard challenge. But, secretly, some are the ILLUSION of challenge. Let’s look at God of War’s first boss. #gamedesign #combatdesign pic.twitter.com/rm7FQdKJWbFebruary 13, 2021
de Heras says that the point of a boss fight often "depends on the game," and that most of the time "bosses serve as a skill test, provide a sense of mastery, a set piece, or a genuinely hard challenge. But, secretly, some are the illusion of challenge."
He goes on to point out how the clearly-signposted attack of Kratos' early-game foe can easily be blocked, pushing the player just out of harm's way of the follow-up, a move which doubles up as an encouragement to teach the player to dodge.
Elsewhere, de Heras explains how the specific timing of the boss' stomp attack teaches players to make use of their sprint ability, and how a change in its attack pattern later in the fight encourages a new approach. With all of these tricks in mind, the developer explains that in this instance, the fight is little more than a "glorified tutorial" to help players through the rest of the game.
If de Heras' credentials weren't enough already, God of War director Cory Barlog chimed in to praise the breakdown and offer some insight into the amount of work that goes into creating a fight like this. It takes "a team of 30-45 people over a year and a half to make a GOW boss," which presumably means that all those Valkyrie fights took a stupendous number of work hours to develop.
Speaking of, here's how to beat the God of War Valkyries.