Baldur’s Gate 3 is full of unique challenges that other RPGs don’t offer, like having to rescue a gnome strapped to a windmill. But for every goofy quest, I run into a tough encounter that forces me to strategize. This is especially true for boss fights; Larian absolutely loves to pit me against encounters that test my wits — and sometimes my patience. No two boss fights are ever quite the same, thanks to the range of boss enemy types and arenas. But the companions I roll around with also give me different dialogue options for handling the game’s big bads. These boss fights showcase Baldur’s Gate 3’s ethos of creative freedom, even if they’re sometimes a pain. And they’ve made me a better player.
I’m playing as an assassin, along with my true love Astarion, best pal Shadowheart, and grumpy githyanki Lae’zel. I figured out how to exploit their combined talents early on. Lae’zel opens fights, hitting enemies with Distracting Strike, giving everyone else on our team advantage, and then Astarion and I sneak-attack any adversaries left standing. It’s our bonding activity as a couple, and it’s also how I steamrolled through big chunks of the game so far.
Occasionally, though, the game gets devious, and I’m faced with a boss fight that forces me to rethink my strategy entirely. Early on, the Spider Matriarch was the first lesson that I had to stop horsing around and actually use my brain. My usual strategy wasn’t working due to the hypermobile swarms of baby spiders, and I eventually employed a combination of Karlach’s sweeping attacks and environmental damage from falling rocks, which made me feel like a genius.
The game has also consistently delivered creative and entertaining boss arenas. One brawl takes place in the Underdark, and everyone is surrounded by deep channels of lava. Any player with even a crumb of cruelty will quickly come to the conclusion: “Why use my traditional abilities like a sucker when I can simply use knockback abilities to outsource that work to lava?” Knockback is actually a surprisingly useful and entertaining solution to a couple of tough fights.
To be fair, I don’t have to get into all of these scraps. I can often use persuasion — or deception, if I’m feeling spicy — to get out of even the most embarrassing or sticky situations. Sure, the prison warden in Moonrise Tower may have caught me wrist-deep in a hidden chest, but that doesn’t mean I’m guilty. With a little confidence, my elf can gaslight her way out of fighting an area boss she hadn’t meant to antagonize — as long as the dice don’t betray me.
But I’m a sucker for my beautiful boyfriend Astarion, whose caprices betrayed me during one particularly nasty boss fight. I found myself facing down a demon, a displacer beast, and a horde of infernal goons. To my pleasant surprise, I found that I could talk to the demon. But Astarion didn’t like that, and he hissed at me to shut up and just start murdering. Relationships are about compromise, so I threw myself at that particular fight for the better part of a day before I finally got lucky with a string of critical rolls. Even though I started the fight reluctantly, the game rewarded me with inspiration from my pleased party members, and I went into the next boss fights wiser from the experience.
There have only been a handful of times, in my playthrough, where boss fight conditions have felt less fair — or where creative solutions didn’t seem to make a huge difference. The ambush at Last Light Inn in Act 2, where a fail condition is tied to one hapless cleric, was a particular struggle. She gets swarmed by gargoyles, which isn’t her fault, but she does flee from them in a panic — which then triggers multiple attacks of opportunity. I eventually got through this fight as well, but it was an uphill battle against the person I was meant to save.
It feels as though leveling up is only half of the reason I feel so much stronger; the other half is that I’ve figured out some ridiculous tactics that I can pull off with a basic set of supplies. Sure, I learned some of these tactics in desperation after the game backed me into a corner, but I learned others through delightful revelations on the battleground.
The strength of Baldur’s Gate 3 lies in its dialogue, branching choices, and characterization. But I’m enjoying the gameplay as well, and the memorable boss fights are a big part of that. I’m fighting against foes I have legitimate grudges against, and bigger and weirder foes keep cropping up over the course of the campaign. As I head into Act 3, I’m looking forward to seeing what else the game has in store — and hopefully there aren’t any other Last Light-style surprises in my future.