Elden Ring 2’s bosses need to do more than wait around to die

Sam Smith
Miquella & Radahn

An Elden Ring 2 or another Souls game is inevitable, but it’s time to shake up the boss fights.

Hunting, fighting, and overcoming terrifying boss encounters is what the Souls games are all about. Nothing beats that feeling of triumph when you conquer what previously felt like an impossible task. 

This rush is what keeps players coming back to the masochistic delights of Elden Ring and its predecessors, not to mention the legion of Soulslike games that have been developed by studios other than FromSoftware. 

Every Souls player has been there, be it in Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or most recently, Elden Ring. We’ve all felt the dread of walking into a suspiciously large arena or fog gate; we know what awaits us there. Of course, it’s a boss encounter, and the cycle of determination, despair, and euphoria starts again. 

Fog gate Elden Ring
Here we go again.

Mr Tarnished, I’ve been expecting you

Usually, the boss is expecting us, like Messmer from Shadow of the Erdtree; they often launch into a soliloquy about their plight and how it all comes down to this battle. Others, such as the heartbreaking encounter with Great Wolf Sif in Dark Souls, will silently, perhaps even reluctantly, prepare for combat, while some will jump at you before you can even breathe – looking at you, Commander Gaius.

However, apart from a few notable exceptions, most Souls bosses are simply waiting around for you to come and kill them – and this is starting to get old. Sure, many are guarding something very specific, as is the case with Sif – by killing you, he’s trying to save you from a fate worse than death – but for others, surely there are better things for them to be doing than waiting around?

Take Messmer the Impaler, the ruler of the Shadowlands, for example. We get he’s mad at his mother, feels abandoned, and has essentially been stitched up by a devious little brother with a god complex, but how long has he been sat in his Dark Chamber brooding and talking to snakes? Messmer will have known that a Tarnished with a penchant for god-slaying is storming his castle, surely he could have been a bit more proactive? 

This is something that’s repeated across the Souls series and really started to become noticeable in Elden Ring, and borderline laughable by the time Shadow of the Erdtree came along. Many Souls bosses are remnants, survivors of a lost era, still moving around in a dead world. Some of them are still functional, though, and the fact that they fight you with such determination shows they’re not ready to go to the great beyond just yet. 

messmer the impaler elden ring
Messmer has just been sitting in the dark, waiting for us to confront him.

Nothing better to do?

Across all the Souls games, many of these bosses have been waiting for centuries, even millennia in some cases, for someone to disturb their slumber. Most of them are powerful figures, deities, or heroes from ages past. While immortality may have caused them to become apathetic, we have to ask, what have they been doing for all this time? 

Have they honestly been sitting there for thousands of years, waiting for someone to walk through the fog? Was there not a more productive way they could have secured their eternal power base? This was fine in Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls 1, but time has moved on.

To be fair, it makes sense from a lore perspective for many of these characters. Marika has been imprisoned, the Fire Giant is cursed to guard “The Flame”, and Gwyn is waiting for another to take his place. But what about the bosses who have more agency? Those who aren’t stuck, trapped, or cursed, and rather like their little dead empire.

Surely, Gravelord Nito from Dark Souls knew we were coming to take his soul. Were there no preventative measures he could take? Imagine all the fun ways this could translate to gameplay. When the gods he was allied with started dropping like flies to a Chosen Undead, the Gravelord could have sent his minions to eliminate the threat. 

elden ring fire giant 3
The Fire Giant can’t leave his post, but many can.

More dynamic bosses

There are exceptions, though, and these offer a refreshing change from the established norm. Margit, for example, in Elden Ring, actively hunts and kills Tarnished who’ve stumbled back into the Lands Between and seek to overthrow him. He even has his agents patrolling the open world, looking for you once you escape his clutches.

While you face Margit early on in Elden Ring in what feels like a traditional fog gate boss fight, again later in an ambush, and then one final time in his throne room, the fact that Margit / King Morgott is taking steps to hinder your progress makes things personal between you and him. He didn’t just wait around to die; he wanted to live, and those who look into his lore will understand why. To him, you’re the bad guy. 

Another example of this is Godfrey in his second encounter when, like Margit, he also reveals a dual identity. While this is technically a traditional Souls boss fight, the game does a good job of making it feel dynamic. Godfrey and the player are the last two Tarnished standing, and only one of you can move on. The fact that this battle ties so heavily to two different important NPC quests also lends it some gravitas. 

This is why battles with NPCs in Souls games, including Elden Ring, are so memorable and often tragic. Needle Knight Leda and her troupe’s descent into paranoia and madness in Shadow of the Erdtree is a prime example of this. We got to know each of these characters, we learned their stories, but as is typical for NPCs in Souls games, a grim fate awaits, and we had to butcher them all to fulfill our destiny. 

Margit takes the fight to the player directly.

Make us care

Many players will have identified more with Leda and her fellow Followers of Miquella than they would have with Messmer, Rellana, or the Dancing Lion. FromSoft would be wise to adopt this approach to their bosses in a potential Elden Ring 2, Dark Souls 4, or whatever comes next from the marvelously twisted mind of Hidetaka Miyazaki

Of course, we know the lore for these bosses is always there for us to find. We’re not asking for this breadcrumbs approach to storytelling to change, just for bosses to be a bit more dynamic – like NPCs are. 

If there’s more they can do besides sitting in a dark room, waiting to be our next trophy, then they should do it. We love walking through fog gates, but the enemy that waits within needs to do more than simply wait around to die.