What does the evil lord do when he’s not crushing adventurers in the last save? A lot of paperwork, according to little pencil dealer The Final Boss.
Inspired by Papers, Please and free to play in your browser at Itch, The Final Boss is a fun little imagination of what, say, Elden Ring’s Godrick can do in his 9-to-5. Every morning, you wake up with a pile of policy proposals – raising the minimum wage for your minions, building another lava castle, selling trinkets from kidnapped princesses, that sort of thing.
You can sign them or leave them alone before shoving them into your outbox, earning or spending funds from the lair vaults as you do. At the end of each day, you’ll get an update on how your evil empire is doing in defense, job satisfaction, and finances. Let any of these fall too low, and your empire will crumble.
In one instance, I overworked and underpaid my minions, only to find they had left at the end of the day to start their own empire. Mine later collapsed, my evil lairs left completely unprotected.
The Final Boss is one of dozens of delightful little experiments on the Cakestorm developer’s Itch page, and the relatively small scale shows up in parts. There are so many proposals to sign, with me getting four minimum wage requests in a row at one point. But it’s a game that understands the tactile joy of paper shuffling in Papers, Please, and there’s a fantastic framework for some satirical fantasy stories here, should the developer choose to take it further.
Of course, there was no shortage of interesting twists in Papers, Please, putting their own spin on that game’s particular brand of authoritarian bureaucracy. Mind Scanners took the format into cyberpunk, scanning people’s brains for deviant behavior, while Dirty Land: Thrill of the Sale casts you as a slimy real estate salesman in a loving homage to the ’90s classic Glengarry Glen Ross.
Each recognizes that there is a particular kind of dark joy in routine paperwork, embedding you in the mundanity of your setting, even as you plug machines into people’s brains or scan migrants for hidden explosives. The Final Boss has the potential to do the same thing for high fantasy – after all, don’t we all wonder how much World of Warcraft kobolds really get paid?
As it stands, The Final Boss is still a great distraction. And any game that lets you draw the cool S on a wooden table is a winner in my books.