Wednesday, April 13, 2016

There are countless lists of hard bosses and levels lurking around the internet, but in my experience, enemies are the thing that’s far more likely to drive you up the proverbial wall (or crashing through a real one). In any decent single player experience, you’re going to run into a wide variety of different foes. Some of them will be easy to kill, some of them will be thrilling to challenge and some of them will be utter bullshit.

Whether it be from an imbalance of effective attacks, being disproportionately more powerful than the area they reside in, or simply because they somehow take advantage of a mechanic in the game that isn’t quite up to standard, these 8 motherfuckers are probably cumulatively responsible for the destruction of hundreds of controller pads, keyboards and things which happened to be within reach at the time.

1. Zubat – Pokemon Red & Blue

The first enemy on this list is something of an outlier, firstly because you can catch it and repurpose it to your own advantage, and partly because dispatching it is typically easy. That’s kind of the point though. During the course of the first generation Pokemon games you have to muddle your way through a series of increasingly labyrinthian caves. The number of challenges you have to overcome, HMs you have to implement and wild Pokemon you face builds out each time you reach a new one, but the one constant? Fucking Zubats.

Every 5 or 6 paces you’ll stumble into one of these screechy bastards and only after the absurdly long battle animation finishes can you select the run option and scarper. At first you try and fight them all but the realisation that it’s not worth the hassle sets in fairly quickly, or after the first time one of them hits you with supersonic and you have to sit uncomfortably while your best Pokemon repeatedly slaps itself in the chops.

Even when you’re wise to their act, sometimes they won’t even let you run, despite standing absolutely zero chance of winning the battle. On some occasions they will block your escape, land one piddly little attack and then let you run, almost as if they’re trying to spite you. The tragic irony is that once trained up, they have the potential to be a deadly ally, but by the time you’re clear of Mt. Moon you hate them so much that even watching Batman Begins would make your blood pressure jack.

2. Mirelurk – Fallout 3/4/New Vegas

I could fill this list with foes from the Fallout series that pose a serious threat to stress levels. The constant through all 3 of the more recent titles is this: bugs are bullshit. Fallout 3 has the bloatfly, New Vegas has the cazador and Fallout 4 has the stingwing but one enemy appears in all 3 games and never ceases to make my balls cripple with fury: mirelurks.

These nasty, relentlessly aggressive roided up Zoidbergs are infuriating to fight, especially early in the game, for a number of reasons. Firstly – you’re highly unlikely to ever catch one by itself, secondly – despite looking so bulky and cumbersome, they are stupidly fast, thirdly – some variations can also spit at you and finally – their weak spot is guarded by heavy armour and it’s the size of a microbe’s nipple.

After a certain amount of time playing, you almost reflexively avoid standing water or swampy-looking areas for fear that a clutch of these glorified STDs will come scuttling out the gloom and eviscerate you, but no Fallout enemy can be avoided forever and there are several notable levels in all 3 games where you have no choice but to face them down. One particularly nasty one appears in the Point Lookout DLC for Fallout 3, which has you swearing your way through a swamp infested with them, along with the more powerful hunters and the utterly intolerable queens. It’s one of the worst areas in the entire game for this exact reason.

3. Banshee – Mass Effect 3

For a generation of gamers, there’s a particular screeching sound that will make their blood run cold and boil all at the same time. That’s how awful banshees are, they send you into an emotional state so potent that it defies the laws of physics. The husks are an established, creepy part of the Mass Effect series, and all of them are horrible to fight. The standard ones just gank you, which is bad enough, but then when Mass Effect 2 came along the scions arrived, with their stupid carpet bomb attack which could disable your shield and push you out of cover all at once. Apparently that wasn’t good enough for Bioware though, as the next game heralded the banshees.

The thing about banshees is that they’re almost as frightening and upsetting as they are awful to face down. Hideous, zombified corruptions of the once beautiful Asari, they ominously hover their way around the battlefield, scanning it with their ravaged eyes. Given the way they look, and the noise they make, your instinct tends to be to steer clear, and they seem harmless from a distance, but then one of them teleports and before you can say ‘I should go’ the fucker is right on top of you. And then can one-shot you. And they have a full shield and barrier. And they have projectile attacks.

Eventually, any sense of dread brought about by that screech that announces their arrival is replaced by a frustrated groan as you realise that whatever strategy you had been employed has just been mercilessly defenestrated. Whatever else might be bearing down on you, your sole focus in that moment is to get rid of the damn thing before it zaps itself into range and sticks a clawed hand through your chest.

4. Wheel Skeletons – Dark Souls

There are so many enemies from Dark Souls that could have landed on this list, the cowardly magic hurling channellers from The Duke’s Archives, the smarmy blowgun midgets from Blighttown or those motherfucking archers in Anor Londo. Ultimately though, the gold-crested fuck you award was always going to go to the wheel skeletons.

Skeletons in Dark Souls are generally pretty nasty. The standard ones keep reconstructing themselves until the nearby necromancer is dealt with, the giant ones have a multi-hit attack which will plant you in the ground like a tent-peg if it lands and the less said about the skeleton beasts, the better. The wheel skeletons are a different affair altogether though. Dark Souls is designed around caution, shielding and stamina management. That strategy simply does not work on wheel skeletons.

They move back from you so you can’t target them, and their main attack – spinning straight at you with their giant spiked wheel – is notoriously tricky to dodge and if you block it head on it will break your guard and shave off a huge chunk of your health. What’s worse is that there are usually at least 2 or 3 of them and they spot you from such a distance away that being able to aggro them one by one is an art unto itself. The cellar in The Painted World of Aramis has got to be one of the most horrendously frustrating pieces of level design ever conceived, largely because it’s crawling with these bellends.

5. Chozo Ghost – Metroid Prime

For the most part, the enemies you fight in Metroid Prime follow the ‘harsh but fair’ maxim – if you’re struggling with them, it’s because you haven’t taken the time to scan them and figure out their weaknesses and attack patterns. Some of them become much more annoying when the level design is holding you back, like the utterly hateful Phazon Mines, but it doesn’t matter where you are, or how well you’ve prepared for a Chozo Ghost – it is going to suck.

You’ll be moving through a new area, keeping your eyes peeled for pickups and secret passages, and then as if from nowhere one will appear to ruin your day. Their signature theme music has a kind of piercing urgency to it and after a while you’ll learn to hate it. The combat of Prime is designed around targeting, you stay locked on to your foe, cycling around them and keep shooting until they go away, Chozo Ghosts have no time in their schedule for that shit.

Their ability to vanish and reappear at will wouldn’t be so bad if your other scanners could pick them up, but they can’t, once they’ve vanished, you just have to keep wheeling around until they reappear and target them again. Half the time they’ll be hanging a few feet in their, already locked on with an energy blast. Add to this the fact that only your weakest weapon and the finite, precious super missiles are effective against them and you have one of the most bullshitty foes in the whole of gamedom.

6. Ice Wraith – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda are really good, perhaps too good, at designing enemies that force you to think outside the box. As you move through the various dungeons and caves of Skyrim, you’ll refine whatever approach you prefer, from running in screaming with a huge sword to sneaking around corners with an arrow notched – all have their merits. How many of these strategies work on an ice wraith? Oh, that’s right, none.

You might be noticing a pattern developing with the enemies on this list, they all push you well out of your comfort zone as far as strategy is concerned. The other issue with ice wraiths is that you literally cannot see them until it’s already too late, nine times out of ten. They only live out in the snowiest areas of the game, and more often than not the air is warped with sleet or snowfall. Ice wraiths are light blue, translucent, tiny, and zip around about 5 feet off the ground. They’ll fly in, bite you a few times and then back off again while you desperately cycle around trying to get a lock on them.

On their own, they’re very unlikely to kill you but if you’re having to deal with a litany of other foes at the same time, ice wraiths can sometimes spell the difference between success and death. Once you land a hit, that’s usually all it will take, which is even more annoying because while they’re still alive, making you miserable, you’re mired in the knowledge that every missed swing or blast of flame would have ended this sorry farce of a fight. Ice wraiths have no right to be picking a fight with anyone. Frosty jerks.

7. Brainsucker – Bloodborne

Ah, the enemy that inspired/enraged me into writing this list in the first place. If, like me, you went From Dark Souls to Bloodborne (see what I did there), there were a few basic skills you had to unlearn. The foremost was the shielded approach, since Bloodborne doesn’t have them, and the second is rolling back when things are getting dicey. You recover health if you hit back straight away, so it’s far better to really get in close and wail on your aggressor until they fall down, keeping one eye on your stamina as you do.

Brainsuckers don’t care a fig for such silliness. If you go after one of these awful cretins head on, he will make your life a living hell. Every single attack the brainsucker throws at you is geared towards one purpose – immobilising you so that they can perform their drain attack. The drain attack involves them latching themselves onto your cranium and sucking away until about 90% of your health is gone, along with 2 or 3 points of precious insight. They are the only enemy in the game that can take it away and by god they’re good at it.

To make matters worse, they have extremely good physical defensive, so only heavy attacks with a standard weapon will really make a dent, they’re weak to fire too, but that means having fire infused weapon or a healthy supply of molotov cocktails to hand every time one turns up, and they turn up more than you’d think. The Upper Cathedral Ward, which would otherwise be a small, innocuous optional area, houses about 9 of these thirsty bitches, and some of them are even grouped together. They’re bad enough one-on-one but pair them up and you’re in for a world of hurt.

8. Malboro – Final Fantasy

It doesn’t matter which iteration of the FF series you’re playing, these toxic wankers are in nearly every single one from II onwards and we hate them, oh how we hate them. When you’re wandering around grinding or just generally progressing, you’ll eventually get a feel for all the monsters you encounter within that given area, but regardless, malboros elicit one response, and one only – ‘oh fuck’.

You could argue that the tonberry, which just is availed of a ridiculous amount of health and just shuffles towards you relentlessly until it’s close enough to one-shot you with its stupid dagger is the worse recurring FF foe, but the malboros, while less likely to kill your party, exist purely to make life more difficult for you. Why? Their signature move is called ‘bad breath’, and it is capable of inflicting just about any status ailment you care to name, but you won’t know which until it has already happened. That in mind, the only way to be prepared for them is to have your party equipped with every kind of negating gear you can find, and what kind of madman would do that just to cope with one recurring enemy?

So what, then, run away? Well yes, but the problem is that in all likelihood, this hulking pile of cunt-vegetable will get at least one shot at you before you can get away, at which point your entire party will be reduced to a pack of confused infants, running in circles or attacking themselves as you desperately cue up a cure spell over and over again. In earlier games, like VI, they will sometime be polite enough to wait until the other enemies are dead before the halitosis blast arrives, but in VIII they always, ALWAYS, use it on turn 1. All I can assume is that the developers wanted to discourage players from smoking by instilling them with a pathological hatred of one of the popular brands.


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