Dark Side Boss Analysis

Dark Side has exactly one Boss:

The Spirit of Light

It's the final fight of the game, too. So if you're wanting to avoid spoilers about the final fight, now might be the time to bail. I'm going to be talking actual plot-spoilers, in fact.

The Spirit of Light is interesting to me on several levels. Its battlefield is massive, possibly the single largest battlefield in the series, which makes its teleporting shenanigans a lot more meaningful than on prior Bosses. Even Archdemons can struggle to get to its new location in one move!

The Spirit of Light has 3 modes, which each have different behavior. Each turn, it teleports -as a free action- to one of the other four locations on the field, changing its form in the process, and then performs an actual move. It can be any form in any position, though it always starts the battle at the opposite end of the battlefield in Dwarf form.

Regardless of which form it's in, it always has a modest (25%?) Magic resistance. Also common across forms is that their summons always get to act on the very turn they were summoned, which is fairly notable as the Spirit of Light's base numbers for summoning is fairly high -though rather random. You can see a unit type get summoned with 900 members one turn, and then 2-3 turns later the exact same unit type gets summoned with 400 members. But while it varies a lot, the baseline numbers are mostly sufficiently high to make it difficult to kill units in a timely fashion. You're usually best off prioritizing the Spirit of Light over its summons, aside mass damage effects like Geyser.

Also regardless of which form it's in, the flinch animation behaves weirdly when it comes to melee units, often playing while they're still making their way over to the Boss rather than when they hit it. This has no mechanical implications I'm aware of, and you're unlikely to be using melee heavily against the Spirit of Light regardless, but it's quite jarring and is yet another piece of evidence that Dark Side wasn't properly finished before being pushed out into the world.

These forms are

Human Knight

The Human form is defined by counterattacking against everything, ranged attacks included. Thankfully, unlike the Giant Spider in Armored Princess and Warriors of the North, this is just a straight damage attack, not a multi-turn disable. Regardless, the other forms don't perform counterattacks at all, uniquely in the series for a Boss.

Visually, it's pretty clearly patterned after the Knight unit, covered in armor from head to toe and wielding a sword with the sword held point-down in front of him when idle just like the Knight unit. Hence why I named it the Human Knight form. Mildly interesting is that you can actually see some hair in the back of the model, and it's brown. There's not very many humans in the King's Bounty games that have brown hair; they trend more toward black or blonde when we can see their hair at all, and of course it's surprising that a model so clearly patterned after the Knight model is designed such that the hair is visible at all. Admittedly, this is primarily to accommodate the white mask the Spirit of Light's forms all wear...

Its actual move list is...

1: The aforementioned ranged stab. The animation is interesting; it stabs its sword into the ground, and then a sword thing extends out toward the target from it. This is aimed at a particular target for Physical damage, but it's actually a beam effect that will catch every unit along the way to the target as well, including its own allies. It also inflicts Timidity (-1 Initiative) on units it damages.

2: Summoning a random selection of Light Human units at random locations across the battlefield. The animation involved is literally just the Resurrection-as-played-on-a-corpse effect.

If you're worried about taking casualties, Human Knight is the form you should skip dealing damage to, naturally. It hits hard enough this is seriously worth considering, especially as the Spirit of Light will never pick a form twice in a row. It can alternate, such as going Dwarf-Human-Dwarf, but it won't be Human in one corner and then jump to another corner still Human. As such, you can reliably count on Human mode ending after a turn. Also, on average the Spirit of Light will distribute its time among its forms equally -I'm not sure if there's a hard-and-fast rule underlying this, but it's a sufficiently consistent trend that you can generally plan around the idea that it will only spend 33% of its time in Human mode.

The units Human mode can summon include Knights, Swordsmen, Guardsmen, Priests of Light, Inquisitors of Light, Paladins, and Bowmen. I've never seen Archmages or Horsemen, for whatever reason. Regardless, while this set of summons is somewhat slanted toward units that are prone to being unable to reach your forces for several turns, those same units can soak tremendous amounts of punishment. It's often not worth trying to kill the Knights unless you're Daert, and the Paladins, Swordsmen, and Guardsmen are almost as bad. Of the ranged units, Bowmen are the main thing that can be concerning, thanks to the percentile damage on their arrows letting them chip down even Neoline's hilariously oversized forces irritatingly quickly. Inquisitors in particular usually waste a turn on performing a Resurrection, letting you ignore them for at least one turn.

Elven Huntress

The Elven form is a woman, and much like Blackie's Demoness form, it's inexplicably the only form where we can see actual skin. Because she's mostly naked. Dangit, Dark Side...

She also wields a staff, which is a bit striking as the Druid is the only Elven unit in the series to do so. Most of the Elven humanoids are actually completely unarmed, relying on innate magical murder ability to get by, with the archers and Druid the only exceptions. NPC Elves aren't particularly prone to being depicted with staves either. A staff is a typical fantasy setting indicator of a magic user, but in the case of King's Bounty Elves it feels a bit out of place if it's not being specifically associated with a nature focus. Which... the Spirit of Light's Elven form doesn't have going on.

The Elven Huntress's actual move list is...

1: Creating Ice Spikes in random locations on the battlefield.

2: Summoning a random selection of Light Elf units at random locations across the battlefield. As with the Human form, this animation is derived from Resurrecting a corpse.

3: 'Turmoil', which can randomize a bunch of units' locations, throwing them all over the battlefield. More often than not, it just wastes the Boss' turn -and I don't mean because randomized swapping is a waste of time. I mean that even with beating the game three times, every time the game announced the use of 'Turmoil' nothing happened. It was only when I was doing a test run on the Boss fight to try to get better information on it that it finally did what it's supposed to do.

Oddly, I've also seen the Huntress form use Turmoil successfully with this simultaneously creating a bunch of Ice Spikes across the battlefield.

The Huntress seems to be the buggiest of the three forms, and additionally I've never seen it perform an actual attack action. It really seems to be limited to messing around with battlefield conditions and summoning Elves.

Anyway, the Huntress will spawn Elves-the-unit, Rangers, Druids, Fauns, and Dryads. I've never seen Werewolf Elves, Ents, Ancient Ents (Probably Ents and Ancient Ents don't have Resurrection animations coded), Unicorns, Lake Fairies, or Forest Fairies. It's a strangely limited list, particularly considering how its other capabilities emphasize inflicting chaos. I'm curious why.

Broadly speaking, the Elven form tends to be a breather form in practice, particularly if your army is focused on long-ranged forces like Dark Elves-the-unit or Hunters. Randomizing locations and generating Ice Spikes often isn't a big deal, and the Elven unit selection, while fairly consistently able to attack your forces or harry them with Talents, is also fairly easy to kill. Depending on your force composition you may well be able to largely ignore the summons as well. In conjunction with the lack of retaliations, the Elven form is usually the form that helps you catch up if you were starting to get a bit overwhelmed.

Dwarven Warrior

The Dwarven form is even more armor-clad than the Human form, and has an appropriately Dwarfy impressive beard. And an axe, of course, because dwarf. Interestingly, its hair is bright red, which I don't think is a color we see on any dwarf in the series, whether unit type or NPC portrait/model. The move-list for the Dwarven form is...

1: Generates a shockwave of some sort (The animation is very confusing, honestly, and the behavior is similarly unclear), which does minor Physical damage and petrifies all units in its path (Which extends all the way to the edge of the battlefield), friend or foe. Petrification lasts for one turn, causes the unit to miss its turn, and also lowers all its resistances, making it easier to kill.

2: Summons a random selection of Light Dwarf units at random locations across the battlefield. Again, Resurrecting a corpse is the basis of the animation.

On the first turn of the battle, the Dwarven form always summons a bunch of Dwarves and fires off a shockwave -in the reverse order, so no it won't be catching any of its new summons. Outside that first turn. I've never seen the Spirit of Light do two actions in one turn, aside the maybe-case of the Elven Huntress spawning Ice Spikes alongside the teleportation -and frankly I suspect the incidents where I was seeing just Ice Spikes spawn was bugs at work and that Turmoil and Ice Spike generation are supposed to always go hand-in-hand.

Speaking of its summons, I've only ever seen it summon Dwarves-the-unit, Alchemists, and Cannoneers. No Miners, Foremen, Engineers, or Giants, and less surprisingly no Guard Droids or Repair Droids. (Which almost certainly lack Resurrection animations and aren't properly Dwarven units in Dark Side anyway) It's a strangely limited list, and probably the least problematic of the bunch, with the main concern being that Alchemists can inflict percentile damage on your forces. Dwarves-the-unit can often be ignored for several turns, and while Cannoneers have high range the battlefield is so massive that they'll often be doing halved damage to your forces regardless. 

Surprisingly, the Spirit of Light is actually a really easy fight overall, especially if you're not leaning heavily on melee damage. Even Bagyr, who you'd expect to be crippled by the Rage loss, holds up just fine. Its Health is surprisingly low for being an end-game Boss, it doesn't have any significant resistances, the stacks it summons start out tiny, and it just doesn't have the crazy capacity for murdering your units that eg Warriors of the North's Bosses have. It's a really cool, interesting Boss that has fun with paralleling Blackie turning into Orc/Demoness/Vampire forms, and it's not unfettered, unfair, horrible nonsense. I like it, flaws and all.

It's also nice that Dark Side provides an actual justification for lacking Rage in the final fight: Blackie leaves you, because it's... somehow... the Spirit of Light. Honestly, this twist is bizarre and nonsensical, but it's pretty clear Dark Side's ending isn't taking itself very seriously, and I have to admit the prior games' endings weren't great themselves. They weren't bad or anything, but they were... strange, just in a different way from Dark Side's irreverent disregard for the fourth wall and narrative causality. The Legend just sort of arbitrarily ends: the plot honestly didn't lead up to its villain properly, and it's not very clear why this particular threat is the point the game ends at, beyond that this is a video game and there's no more content. Armored Princess has a more natural ending, but if you try to think of the story from an in-universe standpoint, you've basically got that the entire game was Amelie power-training in a Hyperbolic Time Chamber, full-on Dragon Ball Z style, so she can take on Baal: the game makes no effort to suggest that the allies you made were relevant, or that Teana-the-world-turtle provided some assistance to make Baal easier to defeat, or anything else that would make Amelie running around in Teana-the-world narratively connected to the Baal fight. Even Warriors of the North's ending has a few weird, somewhat jarring qualities, like how Gilford being the final boss who can turn into a dragon etc is never really justified. So Dark Side's ending being strange is primarily notable in that it's pretty jarringly obvious up front, and not something that creeps up on you if you think deeper on it like the prior games.

And regardless of the strangeness of the twist, it both ties into the nature of the fight and, again, provides a real explanation for not getting to use Rage in a Boss fight. So I'm a fan of the Spirit of Light's fight all-around.

Strategy-wise, you shouldn't need much of one. The only caveat is that ranged units are vastly preferable over melee units, since the Spirit of Light's constant teleportation covers so much ground that, as I mentioned earlier, even Archdemons struggle to keep up. Physical resistance is also nice, but not essential -while the Spirit of Light actually hits fairly hard and can potentially hit multiple stacks at once with both its attacking forms, it's so fragile it's fairly easy to kill. The only strategy point of note is that you'll ideally have a save dropped before you open the gate needing the three keys -opening that gate is what triggers Blackie to leave, and without Blackie you can't teleport to the Shelter! As such, if you (somehow) have trouble with the Spirit of Light and want to change up your list, not having a save before Blackie leaves you will have you stuck without access to the main sources of your best troops. 

That aside, though, feel free to try out stuff. Melee will be slower to win than ranged options, but the fight is easy enough you can probably get through even with seriously sub-optimal forces. Go crazy! Have fun!


And... aside one last bonus post, we're done with Dark Side, and indeed the entire King's Bounty series!

Assuming no new entries get made, anyway.

And looking back... I'm surprised to realize it's taken not that much more than a year to get to this point. I was sure it had taken at least two full years.

In any event, that's this site's first Really Big Project done. Not sure what, if anything, is next. Maybe X-COM 2, if luck is with me? We'll see, I suppose.


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