King's Bounty Boss Analysis

I'd originally intended to not cover Bosses in the King's Bounty games, but there's enough weird nuance to them I ended up changing my mind recently. I won't be giving precise numberson eg Health and damage in part because it's difficult to extract useful information from most of them: the Kraken has more Health than the Giant Turtle, for example, but how much Health do they have for their respective points in the game? That's difficult to judge.

Mechanically, all bosses get infinite retaliations, as if they had Fury. The only way to get around this is to use ranged attacks, melee attackers with No Retaliation, and Talents that don't provoke retaliations. As such, even more than in regular battles, melee units that lack No Retaliation tend to be a burden. In fact, since every Boss has at least one retaliation that can hit multiple units, such units can actively bring harm down on your other units, and so may be literally worse than an empty slot!

Bosses are all immune to status effects; many of them wouldn't really matter anyway, but still. This applies both to Spell-based cases and to Talent-based cases.

Boss fights themselves deny Rage usage, though the Rage meter still builds, and in fact it's not at all unusual for it to hit max instantly. As such, crit chance gear is more useful than usual in a Boss fight (Because your crits will always hit for 170% damage) while any gear that negatively impacts Rage max or generation is not a problem.

Bosses can be compared to Gremlins, in terms of expected interactions. You can't push or pull either around (And thus generally can't target them with Talents that try to do so), and in many ways they both behave like battlefield objects rather than units. (Though note that Bosses do not count for the Siege Gun bonus) Notably, they share the 'right click for current/total Health and no other stats' thing, otherwise exclusive to objects. Nonetheless, they diverge from Gremlins in several cases, most notably being treated as living rather than as a mechanical object in cases where that matters. (There's one Boss in the next two games that is treated as mechanical, but it's the exception)

Also like Gremlins, their performance doesn't really change as they take damage. This statement is a little more complicated in later games (And slightly misleading in the Kraken's case), but for now it's reasonably accurate to say that damage to them has no effect until it actually kills them. As such, while your troops grow weaker as blows are exchanged with a Boss, they do not: this is another factor in why it's a worse idea than usual to use retaliation-causing melee attackers, as they accelerate your forces' degeneration in the face of a foe that isn't also being worn down, contrasting with typical fights where the automatic Gold cost is the primary flaw with such troops.

Note that Bosses are treated as a hostile unit for purposes of determining whether a ranged attack or Talent can be used. (ie standing next to them denies ranged attack options) This is most relevant to the Kraken, out of The Legend's Bosses, but it's worth keeping in mind with the Giant Spider as well, and it's going to be even more relevant in later games, and is worth noting just for how large Bosses are.

Also note that normal Boss behavior is to occupy an edge of the arena, instead of using space normally traversable by troops.


Giant Turtle

Baby's First Boss, the Giant Turtle is pretty much as easy as it gets. Critically, it doesn't get harder as the fight goes on. It just has a lot of Health and doesn't lose damage effectiveness as you beat it up. Notably, its Initiative is something normal like 4: it's entirely possible for your army to go before it without requiring ridiculous shenanigans.

The Giant Turtle has 3-ish moves.

1: A shockwave attack that hurts all your units, doing less damage to units further away from it. I'm pretty sure this is Physical damage, though the fight is so early in the game I haven't had much opportunity to mess around with army formations to test this for sure, and I usually endeavor to ensure it uses it as little as possible anyway.

2: A mass-Slow effect. This is not actually simply casting the Slow Spell on your units, though usually this distinction won't matter. It can affect Spell-immune units, for example, but you're not going to have Black Dragons when you fight it, and you're unlikely to have Phoenix or Book of Evil this early in the game. It would likely actually stack with a Slow Spell, but unless you cause one of your units to go out of control and Slow it while it's hostile, this isn't going to happen. And so on.

3: Melee attacks. The three tiles in front of its head will involve a bite: this is just straight Physical damage to a single target, no interesting properties. Each of its feet can also attack units in the tiles directly in front of them, in which case they do Physical damage to all the units in front of that given foot and also shove the units one tile back.

The third set is its retaliations: if you attack its head, it will bite, while if you attack a foot, that foot will push out and potentially hit multiple units. (Though note that if you attack its feet from the outside sides, it actually can't retaliate at all) The Giant Turtle will almost always use one of these attacks if one of your units is in reach, instead of the shockwave or mass-slow, so it's worthwhile to keep a unit adjacent to it at all times because the shockwave's total damage is far higher than the damage from an individual bite or push. It will still occasionally use the shockwave or mass slow anyway, but it's so rare it's actually unlikely to happen within a single battle.

By a similar token, it will almost always use the mass-slow on its first turn, but I've occasionally seen it use the shockwave instead.

The overall picture is that the Giant Turtle is fairly manipulable/predictable, but not quite perfectly so. (Also note that while it matters whether you attack its feet or head in terms of retaliations, it only has a single Health meter)

Its placement in the early game (As well as the fact that the plot actually forces you to fight it before you can advance) limits your ability to assemble an great army for fighting it, but Royal Snakes are very consistently available at the beginning of the game and are a great choice for soaking its melee attacks, since they've got No Retaliation, are decently durable (Including a minor Physical resistance), and can get to the Giant Turtle reasonably quickly. They can even use Lunge while staying in reach of its melee attacks by sitting in front of one foot and attacking the other foot. Archmages are another choice that's usually available and is reasonably effective, and in particular Fighting Trance can be used with impunity once you've got something drawing melee attacks -which you can use Magic Shield to reduce the punishment of, too, giving another layer of utility to bringing Archmages. If you can't assemble enough ranged attackers, you can make do with Snakes, Swamp Snakes, Robbers, or Marauders using their distance-attack Talents. If you're lucky enough to get Vampires early and can get a band of allies that don't mind Undead, they're decently effective at soaking damage (Thanks to Regeneration and decent durability for this portion of the game) in melee while adding free damage. (Though unfortunately they can't leech from the Giant Turtle in Bat form, unless I'm badly misremembering)

Ultimately, there isn't much strategy to the Giant Turtle. It shouldn't be a problem unless you hurry to its fight as fast as possible, though, as it really is very easy. Even on Impossible it's just not that hard a fight.


Kraken

The in-game description claims the Kraken is weak to Fire damage, but this is incorrect. It actually resists Fire, and has no elemental weaknesses whatsoever. Its Initiative is also something ludicrous like 15, ensuring it will always go first in a turn bar maybe ridiculous combinations of Initiative boosters. It may be more like 100 Initiative: I've never tested and Bosses aren't coded in an easily readable .txt file or the like. I just know I've never managed to go before it in a turn, and it goes before even certain exotic effects that normally always go first in a turn.

Unlike the Giant Turtle, the Kraken is actually three separate targets. (The somewhat folded-up tentacles out on the ship) Once all three of those are 'killed', the Kraken itself is out of the fight, but not beforehand. The middle tentacle has somewhat more Health than the other tentacles, so it's usually better to pick either the left tentacle or the right tentacle as your first target. These tentacles are also notable for occupying actual sections of the battlefield: once a tentacle is defeated, you can actually have troops stand where the tentacle used to be.

The Kraken only has two and a half actions.

1: Spawn two Devilfish stacks in random unoccupied tiles. The newly-spawned Devilfish won't get a turn until the next round. The size of these stacks is slightly randomized, and the later in the battle a spawn is, the more Devilfish are spawned in each stack. Note that killing the Kraken doesn't end the battle by itself: any Devilfish on the battlefield also need to be taken out. Also note the Devilfish are genuinely considered to be summons by the game, such that for instance if you Hypnosis a stack you can't use Sacrifice on it.

2: Attack with its tentacles for Physical damage. When retaliating, it will swing a single tentacle aimed at its tormentor, catching all player units in the row the tentacle hits. When the Kraken initiates this attack as its turn action, every column with player units will be attacked. Either way, the Kraken can hit every tile that starts the battle adjacent to one of its targetable tentacles. The rows that are handled by the targetable tentacles are permanently safe once their associated tentacle is 'killed'. The tentacles will never cause friendly fire, regardless of what you'd expect from the animation.

Note that if the battlefield has no empty spaces and none of your units are in reach of a tentacle, the Kraken skips its turn. This is more realistic of a situation than you might think, as it's very possible to arrange to disable some Devilfish while the others are blocked off from your forces, and the Kraken will always spawn Devilfish if there's nothing to hit with its tentacles. (And often even if there is something to hit) Of course, if you're in that kind of situation, you're probably in trouble already, but maybe you're close to killing the Kraken and just don't want it adding anymore Devilfish. It's theoretically possible.

Also note that the Kraken strongly prefers to attack your units with its tentacles over spawning Devilfish, though this isn't an absolute rule. Putting a disposable summon in its strike zone can be a useful way to reduce the pressure on you. Royal Thorns and Dryads are ideal for this, since they have a reloading summon that can make more meatshields that make more meatshields, and while Royal Thorns have the obvious advantage of being a ranged attacker Dryads can intermittently put all the Devilfish to sleep for a turn, potentially buying you a precious turn of peace, and their No Retaliation means they're just fine for keeping the Devilfish under control, even if putting them in reach of the tentacles is unnecessarily dangerous.

Clearing out one tentacle as fast as possible gives you a lot more room to maneuver in safety, and so should be one of your first priorities.

In terms of army composition splash damage is valuable for letting you get damage on the Kraken while still keeping the Devilfish under control (Alchemists using their spray are fantastic, and their retaliation has No Melee Penalty), and effects that are especially effective against low-Level units (Such as Beholder Paralyzing Rays) are unusually useful thanks to the hordes of Level 1 Devilfish you'll be wading through. Ranged units are complicated, because they're better for doing damage to the tentacles than melee units (Which have to get in reach of the tentacles, and unlike the Giant Turtle there's no way to distribute your forces that prevents the Boss from hitting multiple of them at once), but the constant Devilfish swarms make it tricky to actually let them use their ranged attacks at all. Ideally you'll try to physically blockade them from Devilfish, such as with spawned units (Royal Thorns are quite useful if you've got access to them), so they can't be prevented from attacking the Kraken. No Melee Penalty ranged attackers are generally best in this regard. (Conveniently, Beholders have No Melee Penalty, while also being able to lock down Devilfish with their ranged attack)

Sea Dogs deserve a mention because Fury Attack tends to be very effective/useful against the Kraken, and you're 100% guaranteed to have access to Hordes of them on the Isles of Freedom. If you've got access to Giants for some reason -maybe you decided to put off the Kraken until after you'd made some progress in Kordar- they're actually really effective at keeping the Devilfish swarming under control while contributing chip damage on the Kraken's tentacles. Cyclops can contribute as ranged attackers and also help protect other ranged units from the Devilfish using their body quite effectively, though their actual damage output is a bit lackluster. (Their awful Initiative isn't that big a deal, since Devilfish go before the majority of units anyway, and the Kraken would go first regardless as well)

Necromancers seem like they should be useful, but are questionable, as Devilfish can't be targeted with necromancy and the Necromancer's damage output per se isn't so great. (Magic Shackles is useless, and Plague doesn't effect the Kraken, which is the thing you want help against) Orc Shaman can contribute a surprising amount via Totems (Totems of Death placed well can end up doing a lot of damage to the Devilfish swarms, and both Totem types are also useful for distracting Devilfish), and if you're using beefy units like Giants even the Dancing Axes will be pulling fairly useful double-duty.

A special anti-mention worth noting is Druids, which really seem like they should be great against the Kraken (A summon, splash damage, and the ability to steal an enemy animal once per battle), but really isn't. (The summon is terrible, their stats are terrible, and Devilfish don't count as an 'animal') In the next game is another matter, but for the moment? Don't succumb to the temptation.

The Kraken can be maddeningly difficult, but thankfully it's a strictly optional Boss. (This isn't necessarily obvious the first time you play through the game, unfortunately) Unlike the Giant Turtle, you can always back off and come back later once your army is bigger and you've leveled your Skills and so on, or even ignore it entirely. The only caveat to this is that if you want Mirabella to join you, you've got to kill the Kraken first.


Giant Spider

The Giant Spider is substantially resistant to Poison. This isn't really a big deal, since most Poison-using units aren't very good from the player's perspective, but it does mean you should avoid bringing eg Alchemists. Otherwise its resistances are non-notable. Like the Kraken, it has some ridiculous Initiative value that basically means it's guaranteed to go first. Unlike the Kraken, it's only a single big target.

The Giant Spider has 3 and a half actions.

1: Summon 2-3 stacks of Venomous Spiders to randomly chosen empty tiles. (3 is more common than 2) Like the Kraken's Devilfish, these Venomous Spider stacks have to wait a round for a turn and are fully treated as summons, and they all have to die in addition to the Giant Spider to end the battle.

2: Move from its current location to one of two other locations.

3: Perform a melee attack for Physical damage. Like the Giant Turtle, it will respond to a strike against its head with a bite that only hits one target for straight damage, while strikes against its legs will strike two tiles for Physical damage. (Unlike the Giant Turtle, there's no shove involved) The leg attack has no friendly fire.

The Giant Spider is a joke. It's placed later in the game than the Kraken, but it's far, far easier. Venomous Spiders have poor damage output and are easily killed, even before considering that their damage type being Poison means it's easy to cripple their damage output with non-terrible force composition, the Giant Spider likes to periodically waste its turn by moving (When your damage output is probably primarily ranged anyway, so it's not like it's forcing you to lose damage because you're chasing it), and instead of being able to strike 2/3rds of the battlefield all at once, it can just hit the little strip of tiles directly in front of it. If you stand back and shoot it, it's wholly reliant on its summons to do damage, and they're terrible at that job. I've twice stumbled into the Giant Spider fight without realizing that's what I was doing (I'd honestly forgotten what Quest it was attached to, the second time, because the Giant Spider isn't memorable at all) and promptly stomped it with minimal casualties.

The only really interesting thing about it is that it's one of the few places Book of Evil is fairly useful in the mid-game: since Books of Evil are strongly resistant to Poison (And Venomous Spiders have almost no Attack) and Bosses are only ever targeted with damage Spells by Random Spell, it's actually possible to have Books of Evil that get spawned in, zap the Giant Spider, attack a Venomous Spider for a recharge, and repeat a few times without being killed.

Though if you're using above Level 1 Book of Evil, it's irritatingly likely that you'll end up frying your own forces with Lightning at some point.

Still, it's at least a cool little novelty to be able to get real use out of Book of Evil in The Legend.

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I think Bosses are sort of a neat concept, but the implementation is wonky.

The thing is, Bosses have this weird quality where they tend to either be satisfying and interesting tests of your abilities, right up until you finally lose, or you stomp them completely effortlessly in no time flat. Part of this is that they don't lose combat effectiveness as they take damage the way your own troops do: the longer a fight takes, the more your troops are worn down, which means a fight that isn't over quickly is a fight you do less and less damage while continuing to take the same amount of damage. Anything the Boss does that's threatening at the beginning of the fight will rapidly become completely overwhelming. The Kraken and Giant Spider further exacerbate this by incorporating summons, and in particular by having the numbers they summon each turn grow. If the summons start the battle being a meaningful obstacle to your troops, you're probably just going to die. If they don't, you're probably so far ahead of the Boss you're going to overwhelm it in little time with minimal casualties.

The fact that Rage is meant to be the Warrior's specialty is also a bit of a slap in the face. The Mage never has to worry about being unable to use Spells in a fight, not even against something like a swarm of Black Dragons, and the Warrior is already probably the weakest class in the game. Having a situation their already-weak specialty is outright inaccessible in is frustrating when they struggle so much as-is, and Bosses aren't really tuned to account for this difference in class focus.

Unfortunately, Bosses is one of the few cases where the King's Bounty games don't really seem to learn much going forward. Rage never becomes usable in Boss fights (And yet remains the Warrior's big specialty in every game), summons become standard (With all their design problems intact, and indeed in some ways getting worse as you go forward), and new bosses are usually still a single part -the Kraken being three attackable segments and losing a portion of its strike zone when losing a tentacle means it actually does get a little easier as you do damage, even if the damage a given tentacle does doesn't change. In my opinion, it's the best Boss in the entire series, precisely because of this quality, so the lack of later Bosses with an equivalent dynamic is disappointing. (Not counting Armored Princess' White Kraken, which is mostly just a minor reskin of the Kraken anyway)

Worse, as we'll eventually see, the developers seem to have taken away from each game the idea that Bosses are too easy or exploitable, and made them more and more nasty with each game. (Except that Dark Side largely ignores Bosses as a mechanic... most likely due to their complexity meaning it wasn't really within its budget/time to have more than one)

It's sad, because having something to shake up the general pattern of battles is definitely a cool idea, but the actual implementation really needed to be refined, and never was.

Next time, we wrap up The Legend with the Companions. There's also a bonus update to the side covering damage types and Initiative tiers, if you're interested.

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