What does the evil overlord do when they're not stomping adventurers into the last save? A whole lot of paperwork, according to free little pencil-pusher The Final Boss (opens in new tab).
Inspired by Papers, Please and free to play in your browser over on Itch, The Final Boss is a fun little imagining of what, say, Elden Ring's Godrick might get up to in his 9-to-5. Every morning, you wake up to a pile of policy propositions—raising the minimum wage for your minions, building another lava castle, selling off the kidnapped princesses trinkets, that sort of thing.
You can either sign them or leave them be before pushing them to your outbox, gaining or spending funds from the lair's coffers as you do. At the end of each day you'll get an update on how your evil empire is faring in defense, employment satisfaction, and financials. 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'd buggered off at the end of the day to go start their own empire. Mine subsequently collapsed, my evil lairs left completely unguarded.
The Final Boss is one of dozens of delightful little experiments on developer Cakestorm's Itch page, and the relatively small scale does show through in parts. There are only 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 shuffling papers in Papers, Please, and there's a fantastic framework for some satirical fantasy storytelling here should the developer choose to ever take it further.
Of course, there's been no shortage of interesting twists on Papers, Please, putting their own spin on that game's particul brand of authoritarian bureaucracy. Mind Scanners (opens in new tab) took the format to cyberpunk, rooting around in people's brains for deviant behavious, while Dirty Land: Thrill of the Sale (opens in new tab) pits you as a slimy real-estate salesperson in a loving homage to '90s film classic Glengarry Glen Ross.
Each recognises that there's a particular kind of grim joy to be had in routine paperwork, embedding you in the mundanity of its setting even as you plug machines into people's brains or scan migrants for hidden explosives. The Final Boss has potential to do the same thing for high fantasy—after all, haven't we all wondered how much World of Warcraft's kobolds actually get paid?
As it stands, The Final Boss is a still great wee distraction. And any game that lets you draw the cool S (opens in new tab) on a hardwood table is a winner in my books.