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Boss Reviews: Vordt of the Boreal Valley

  • November 15, 2019

    This series is designed to cover each of the Bosses from Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, Dark Souls 3, Bloodborne, Sekiro and maybe Elden Ring and Demon Souls (when the former comes out and I can access the latter). The concept behind this is two-fold, first is to essentially review the boss as a subjective feature of the game. For clarification, I don't care about their Lore, Story or the actual move pools or how to beat the boss, rather I want to examine whether they succesfully work as a boss in a game (and specifically a FromSoft game). The second aspect of this series is to suggest a few of my own changes to the boss and maybe have a bit of a discussion about how you could make a boss better, more consistant or more interesting. 

    Vordt of the Boreal Valley

    Vordt is an interesting boss when you consider where he's located in the game (not the location per se, but the point in the story). He's basically the first 'real' boss of the game but also doesn't really have a point in terms of game design outside of the introduction of Frostbite. He doesn't have a moveset that provides anything overly new, isn't overly different from Iudex Gundyr in terms of movement and just isn't unique. But, Frostbite is (as far as I know) a new mechanic, and I think Vordt is designed to introduce it as something new. 

    If we don't provide this slight benefit of the doubt, then Vordt becomes a purely Lore based boss designed to I guess extend the story of the Boreal Valley (or introduce you to it) which is perfectly fine but not the point of this series. 

    Moveset: So it's pretty fair to call his moveset basic but effective. All his melee attacks are fairly simplistic, and if that was all he had it'd suck but I think his phase shift and AoE attacks at least make him somewhat more effective as a Boss. Ice Breath is a potentially difficult attack to avoid but once you figure out the trick provides a huge opportunity to counter him. It's relatively forgiving by being easy to figure out but is rather hard to avoid if you've already fallen for it (once you get hit it's hard to not continually get hit by it). This is a pretty nice medium for the early-game but is let down a little by his charge being incredibly predictable, easy to avoid and the fact that his phase shift ruins any variety that he has. 

    Because of this, I think he sits at around a 6/10 or 7/10 with the context that he's an early game boss and isn't supposed to be an insanely difficult fight. If he were the third or fourth fight it'd be a lot worsse and I'd struggle at that point to compare him to anything other than a random mook. 

    Arena: Quite simply, the arena for Vordt is nothing. It's an area with no defining features (other than looking pretty damn amazing once the door opens), no mechanics that make it operate in a unique way or even a cool shape. It's just a place to fight a Boss which isn't bad by default, but I think it limits any potential for introducing you to a cool boss fight. Vordt is very simple, and his arena quite honestly make him rather boring. I don't think you need to make it stupidly complex, but I think it would be interesting to be able to compare him to the Taurus Demon from Dark Souls 1, where his arena provides an interesting mechanic that you don't always get to see (the thin platform with a massive enemy that can't just be trolled off the side). 

    Overall Opinion: Honestly, I think he works well for where he's placed. I think it's incredibly telling that he becomes a pretty consistant fight throughout the game (well, other Boreal Valley Knights at least). Since I've already started using numbers to rate him I guess I'll go with a 5 or 6/10. He's perfectly fine at what he does where he does it and I think the changes I would make to the fight aren't required to make him a decent boss. He isn't amazing and some of the other early bosses I'll mention earlier are going to rate far higher, because Vordt is average, maybe slightly above if you only consider him a Mentor on Frostbite. 

    My Changes

    So, my changes for this fight are two-fold and only apply to New Game+ (as most of the changes will in each Review). I'm very much a fan of the idea of NG+ changing the way you fight bosses rather than just giving them a Health or Damage boost. Making them different and more interesting allows for a more creative approach to the game without thrusting new players into really complex or difficult fights. So yeah, two changes. The first is a slight change to an otherwise really good moveset by adding in moreunique versions of Icy Breath. The first is a thinner but faster version which requires more precise dodging but the second effect is a wider AoE that effects the entire arena, last longer (around 10 seconds) but does less damage. It's effectively more of a DoT effect that is impossible to avoid bar the changes I'll make to the Arena. Basically, his moveset is slightly expanded providing more variety and forcing the player to counter him in different ways, I'd also probably add another attack to his melee options which requires a backstep/roll backwards to force you outside of his immediete area. Also he no longer only charges during his second phase but it is added to his movepool after he 'Buffs'.

    New Moves: Frost Breath (large AoE), Icy Beam (smaller, faster Frost attack), Sweep (New Melee Attack).

    Other Changes: Buff doesn't lock him into Charges.

    I like the idea of Arenas being the true defining points that revolves around Braziers scattered throughout the arena. These fully block his frost attacks but can be broken by his charges. It creates a unique, interesting fight where you constantly need to be aware of the arena and the exact moves that Vordt is using, positioning yourself in the wrong place causes a brazier to be destroyed making it harder to continue surviving. Doing the wrong thing in response to his attacks causes more issues than just getting hit. 

    Arena Changes: Braziers block Frostbite damage but are destroyable by Charge. If all Braziers are destroyed makes Frost Breath impossible to dodge.

    Closing Notes:

    So yeah, that's sort of my take on the fight alongside a few of my personal changes to what I would've enjoyed as a change to the fight. I don't know if I'm going to come back and edit this (I mean, I will to include links to other Boss Reviews as I write them) because the direction of the series isn't entirely clear now. This is sort of the core of what I want to do, but at the same time I could easily write an entire framing essay about how Boss Fights should work in Video Games to provide more context...Basically, if you guys let me I could talk forever and nothing would stop me :P

    But yeah, should have these go up weekly (roughly). I'm going to jump from game to game and I think the next one is going to be Dark Souls 2, followed by Bloodborne, Sekiro, Dark Souls 1. That's a rough schedule, I may decide that the Tauros Demon is too fun to talk about (because man that'll be a fun one) and do it way earlier but yeah...that's what I'm sticking with for now. 

    If you have any thoughts, counter-points, arguments or just comments then drop 'em below. I'm really interested in what people think of the series as a concept and Vordt as a boss (and my changes I suppose).