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The hardest Baldur's Gate 3 boss fight is also its most delightful

baldur's gate iii boss fight spectatorImage: Larian Studios

Baldur’s Gate III has its hooks in me, hard. I’ve been eschewing other big fall releases like Starfield and Cyberpunk: Phantom Liberty because I can’t resist this game’s deep D&D combat or its wonderfully rich characters and stories. I’m on my second playthrough at the moment, taking the evil Dark Urge character origin (basically a fantasy Dexter Morgan) and indulging in some of the setting’s more dastardly role-playing options. Herein lies one of the best boss fights I’ve played in years.

LArian Studios

Warning: this article contains late-game spoilers for Baldur’s Gate III!

Playing through a second time allows me to go deeper down the rabbit hole on some of the game’s more crucial choices, much more so than a basic save scum to see what happens on the next Choose Your Own Adventure page. My mustache-twirling Gloomstalker Ranger (with a few levels in Rogue just for extra sneakiness) decided to betray the main helper character, who’s been hanging out in the party’s brains and keeping them from turning into betentacled mind flayers. This involves breaking into one of the hells — D&D lore has nine different flavors — and stealing a big magic hammer from a devil’s mansion.

Now, Baldur’s Gate III has been hyping up this devil, Raphael, for almost the entire game. He shows up shortly into the first act, taunting you with some old world charm and the ability to solve pretty much all your problems with the snap of a finger. It’s a classic Faustian bargain — Raphael’s dad in the lore is even named Mephistopheles. He shows up again and again, archly teasing you and hinting at his grander ambitions, chewing the scenery like a Tim Curry villain in every conversation. Through various interactions the game makes it clear that this guy is one of the bigger bad guys you’ll encounter and taking him on directly is nearly impossible.

There are big choices to be made before you’re even in a position to steal Raphael’s prize. You have to betray your brain roomie in favor of helping a species who haven’t been especially nice to you, find a way into his hellish mansion, then make a plan to get the hammer and get out. The long mission is basically what would happen if you hired Ocean’s Eleven instead of the Fellowship of the Ring.

At this point in the game, you’re near the end and should be about at the height of your leveled-up power. You’ve been taking on tough boss fights for twenty or thirty hours. You’ve got a party full of martial and magical badasses brimming with top-tier gear. You think it might just be possible to step up to a devil. Even so, when it’s revealed that you’re here to rob the joint, several of the mansion’s named characters won’t even bother fighting you. They tell you in no uncertain terms that the moment Raphael arrives, he’s going to slam-dunk your severed head into the nearest infernal chamber pot.

But you’re committed. You’ve looted the mansion for all it’s worth, and faced a handful of monsters that would have wiped your party a few hours ago. You’ve exercised all your skills of trickery and thievery, possibly taking detours to rescue a halfling damsel and/or bang a shape-shifting incubus in the boudoir (yeah, Baldur’s Gate III isn’t afraid to get naughty). You’re ready to make a break for it and the stage is set for the biggest fight you’ve seen yet.

Larian Studios

You run for the door. Raphael shows up, infernally angry but still unconcerned by a handful of high-level adventurers. He summons a room full of demons, plus one of the hardest bosses you fought in the story’s second act, more or less just to hold his fancy coat. He shifts into his classic devil look, complete with horns, wings, and spikey tail.

And then he starts singing.

Up to this point, Baldur’s Gate III has stuck with some fairly standard orchestral music. You’ve heard a couple of vocal performances, but they’ve been limited to ominous chanting in a fantasy language you don’t understand. Raphael gets a full-on villain song, something you’d expect to hear as a Disney bad guy taunts a princess. Again, I can’t help but be reminded of Tim Curry, since Raphael is basically a perfect mix of Legend’s Darkness and The Three Musketeers‘ Count Richelieu.

And here’s the amazing thing: This villain song isn’t a scripted and motion-captured cutscene, it’s background music. It isn’t a showpiece, like the James Bond-inspired intro to Metal Gear Solid 3 or the much-loved (and thematically similar!) musical number that comes out of nowhere in Saints Row: Gat out of Hell. Nope, this song was written, performed, and produced, just to give ambiance to this fight. And it’s perfect, putting a final flourish on Andrew Wincott’s vocal performance as an demonic drama queen.

If you’re playing through Baldur’s Gate III, you owe it to yourself to try stealing the Orphic Hammer at least once, just to hear the song. But if you just can’t help yourself, here it is:

The boss fight, as promised, is incredibly difficult. Even with a maxed-out party I got wiped on my first try. In order to clear it, I resorted to having my necromantic wizard summon an army of critters and setting my cleric to boost everyone’s stats and heal constantly. But through it all, hearing Raphael musically taunt me was delightful. The song was a wonderful surprise, and a testament to the effort that Larian Studios has put into this title. It’s easily the most fun I’ve had with a video game this year.

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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