Half-Life: Gonarch’s Lair

23rd July 2012

The Replay Experience Experiment: Half-Life: LGonarch's Lair

Freeman is made to face one of the Nihilanth’s most powerful minions: the Gonarch in her lair.

You’ll have to fight her in 3 different stages, but there is health available if you look carefully.


It is possible that Gonarch’s Lair was originally placed after Interloper because Gonarch’s Lair map names start from c4a2, while Interloper map names start from c4a1a.

The Poll


The challenges below have been set by 2muchvideogames

  • Find all 3 healing pools.
  • Advance to the next chapter without killing Gonarch.

MEDIUM: 100 Health 0 HEV [14KB]

HARD: Coming soon.


Click on the thumbnails below to open a 1024 pixel wide image.
WARNING: The screenshots contain spoilers.

The Replay Experience Experiment: Gonarch's Lair The Replay Experience Experiment: Gonarch's Lair The Replay Experience Experiment: Gonarch's Lair The Replay Experience Experiment: Gonarch's Lair The Replay Experience Experiment: Gonarch's Lair
The Replay Experience Experiment: Gonarch's Lair The Replay Experience Experiment: Gonarch's Lair The Replay Experience Experiment: Gonarch's Lair The Replay Experience Experiment: Gonarch's Lair
The Replay Experience Experiment

This post is part of the The Replay Experience Experiment 2012 event. This is a chance to replay all the Half-Life games and discuss them based on our experiences since we first played them.

Hat Tip

All text taken from the CombineOverWiki, a fan-supported, editable wiki covering the Half-Life series of games.

A Complete Half-Life Walkthrough
A Complete Half-Life Walkthrough

On the left is a complete text walkthrough for Half-Life.

It has been written by Stanley E. Dunigan and updated with all the tricks and tips from PlanetPhillip.Com readers.

It is in PDF format, meaning you can open it directly in modern browsers or download it and print it.

(Left-click to open and right-click to save)

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  1. Summary

    For such small chapter you get an awful lot of action.

    I really noticed my lack of ability to switch weapons quickly here. I really need to go from the crowbar to the most powerful ASAP – but didn’t. That made it much harder for me.

    All in all an enjoyable chapter.


    It was pretty much fire and run, fire and run, etc. Standing still in this level didn’t really work.

    Points of Interest

    Nothing, just 10 minutes of exploring really.

    G-man Sightings

    Nope, I don’t think so.

    Bugs or Errors

    I got stuck in the final stage between those spikey things and the wall. I also noticed that between stages 2 and 3 she seems to just stand still running. It’s the part where you have to drop down a shaft. I stood at the top and gave her everything I ahd – not sure if that made a difference or not.

    The Poll

    No, not the first time (I mean today) but after posting this review I am going to go back and really explore.


    – Find all 3 healing pools.
    – Advance to the next chapter without killing Gonarch.

    5 Words or Less Review

    This chick is toast
    Can you name the film I stole that line from?


    13 minutes



    1. keywc

      This chick is toast
      Can you naem the film I stole that line from?


      1. When there’s something strange, in your neighborhood, Who you gonna call?

  2. This is a boss battle chapter. In the first phase, we found ourselves in the beautiful Xen landscape. A big creature is going out of the cave, and soon we will find out where the headcrabs are coming from. We need to shoot at the creature for some time, and then it will run from us, destroying the net which blocks the cave in the process. The baby headcrabs are small and hard to hit, but the Alien Grunt’s Hand works well against them, because its projectiles are homing.

    Phase two. We pursue the creature. If we try to go back, we will be killed by the cave collapse. We go out of the cave and find ourselves in another beautiful landscape.


    It’s more dangerous here, because the place is smaller and it’s possible to fall in the pit. If the player has problems with defeating the creature, they can shoot from the pit, where it is safe, but I was fighting it on the surface using longjump + shotgun.

    Phase three. Gonarch retreats to cave, we both fall and it catches the net while we fall through it. Here we need to act quickly as there are a lot of small headcrabs. Explosives will help with them. Also we must save our health and suit energy, because when Gonarch dies, it explodes.

    After the explosion, a hole in the floor appears, revealing the portal to the next level. Thankfully, there is also a healing puddle.

    Playtime: 7 minutes

  3. William

    Playtime: 8:42

  4. Just waiting for you to get to Nihilanth really…want to try a couple of things but can’t be bothered to go through the whole thing to get to it…should have saved it myself really, well probably did at the time, but that was at least 3 PC’s ago….

  5. 2muchvideogames


    There isn’t really much to explore. The big momma’s attacks are highly damaging. Longjump is your best friend here.

    There’s one healing pool in each stage. They are not difficult to find, but not straight on your path either. Heals on Xen don’t come free!

    The video above shows the really cheap way to beat the boss (by not beating it.)

    Playtime: 04’16”

    1. Ade

      ah damn, that’s where the 3rd (or 1st) pool was..

  6. Ade

    Man I remember this being almost as scary as the tentacles. Now it’s just a big creature taking lots of damage tho I’m not sure if all of it is necessary and a bit of patience can go a long way, instead. The baby headcrabs are a pain in the butt since they’re so many and can literally hold you down if you try to run by them and not kill them ALL. Not to mention they’re hard to see against the camouflage textures of Xen.
    I found 2 healing pools, unless the pond where the portal is found is the 3rd one? And of course I have no idea how to move onto the next chapter without killing Big Momma.

    Playtime: 15 minutes

  7. s.anchev

    This is the first true boss level (because Garg and Tentacles were more invincible obstacles than anything else) of the game,

    here we clearly see that Xen was really the weak point of HL1, this is just a level of shooting dumbly a giant… testicle on legs, shooting white fluid (were the developers forbidden to see their wives and girlfriends during development?),

    Although it was interesting to show us the origins of the headcrabs (as we see also the origins of Alien Grunts in Interloper), this is just a basic FPS level.

    *Insert testicles joke here*
    This boss was a great fakeout, cause you are told that you have to defeat a huge creature to close the portal and after traversing Xen you have to kill this huge creature. First time players of HL1 will think this is the final boss. A fun little mindless shooting-fest.

    Dreamcast Differences
    The crystals were orange instead of blue (http://cloud-2.steampowered.com/ugc/560947083682336383/5554624F4FEBF5E3FCA862BAB20D7FC3FAF258FF/).

    I got both the challenges. I actually helped 2muchvideogames out with these challenges, the second one was my challenge.

    Playtime: 4 minutes
    5 words or less: Xenophobia and firepower

    P.S. The last screenshot was from Interloper, not Gonarch’s Lair.

  9. Unq

    As s.anchev mentioned above this is the first boss battle in Half-Life; the other major enemies we’ve faced have been environmental puzzles. If this is your first playthrough, you might think this is the large being that the scientist alluded to before you left the Lambda Complex.

    I find this short set of maps to be a more interesting version of the Xen islands in the last chapter. There’s little jumping puzzles except to get to the healing pools and we get to see more Xen flora like the cute plantlights and the mean trees. The lighting is somehow a little disconcerting, adding to the alien feel of the planet.

    Even on Hard, I found Gonarch to be a piece of cake. In the first map, a couple of fully charged tau shots made her move on to the next map. The only time I died was missing a jump to the healing pool down below in the second map. The long jump module gives you a huge advantage out in the open, and is even handy in the tight areas for avoiding the baby headcrabs. All too easy.

    Mapper’s Corner: Well while Gonarch/Bigmomma is a unique entity in the game, she’s partially scripted and really not used to full effect in user-made mods and maps, since by default she has very little health. So instead I’m going to look at a common Xen feature: the healing pool.


    This is a nice, simple combination of entities. First, we have a partially transparent func_water to make the actual pool, with a dim blue light to make things glow a bit. For the soothing healing sound, there’s a looping ambient_generic. Three sprites are looped above the pool to catch your attention. And the key to actually healing you? A trigger_hurt, set to negative damage. Easy as can be.

    Playtime: 9 minutes

  10. Gonarch’s Lair. The first boss fight where you have no choice but to kill it yourself. Back in the days, I hated this level. I was always getting killed by the white spit because I wasn’t looking enough in the air. I was also spending all my ammo on it while it was moving between waypoints, so wasting previous ammo. Now I can say I like this level a lot, it’s not very hard when you know how it works, there is plenty of health (in pools) and suit batteries if you really want some. Not very much to say here, except that I like the fact that we can end the level by breaking the floor manually at the end, and spare this poor gonarch’s life. I still think if xenians were nice to us and we teamed up, it would be easy. He/She/It could have broken those walls right off the bat and let me go, and that would have kept it, me and it’s babies from much pain.

    Once again, no deaths 😀
    I really think I won’t die anymore in the game, except if I miss one the grenade jumps in interloper.

    Five words or less review
    Why isn’t it’s “bag” censored?

    2 minutes 31 seconds 667 milliseconds


    Another relatively short chapter, is Xen going to turn out much shorter than I had expected?

    The Gonarch does seem to have a lot a health, more than I remember. I didn’t even die once from the boss itself but lots of times from falling into the hole in the ground, the floaty gravity didn’t help.

    Playtime: 10 minutes

  12. Gonarch’s Lair (“Gonarchs Versteck”)

    No mono/dialogues here.

    Gonarch’s chapter is a boss fight in 3 acts. It’s some sort of Garg monster who’s mostly vulnerable to massive damage, so contact grenades or rockets do a good job here.
    As soon as Gonarch took enough damage he flees to another, now accessible area.
    If the fights get a little nasty there are healing pools to use for getting up to 100 HP again. Besides that, there are a few HEV batteries here and there and also ammo packs containing crossbow bolts for example.

    Phase 1 and 2 are outside on the surface and there’s the typical music, Gonarchs theme if you want so. Pretty cool. I also like the design of the maps and the layouts as you can decide how to approach Gonarch in a tactical way and not just being thrown into a boxy arena and simply shoot & run. I’m pretty sure there are spots where you can attack Gonarch without taking any damage of him while standing still there, the only damage is of his almost invisible minions who are more annoying than headcrabs in my opinion.

    In Phase 3 Gonarch flees into a cave and you have to trace the spider-like looking monster.
    According to one of the challenges I still don’t know how to proceed to the next chapter without killing Gonarch, this includes that I haven’t seen any video walkthrough to this part yet.
    So I just couldn’t proceed without killing Gonarch… challenge not accomplished.
    The other one is pretty easy if you know the spots of the healing pools. They get harder to find each time but it’s not impossible or too hard to find them if you explore for a while.

    The chapter is decent but just like “Xen” very short. I don’t like Xen in general but that’s one of the better parts of it, the worst will come soon…

    Poll: I voted yes, because on hard you need every single healting, powering possibility.

    Deaths: A few, but not caused by Gonarch. Fallen into space once, killed by minions or blew myself up when firing a contact grenade standing too close to Gonarch 🙂


    -Find all 3 healing pools. – Yes
    -Advance to the next chapter without killing Gonarch. – No, how??

    5 words or less review: Special weapons and tactics. (SWAT)

    Playtime: 7 minutes

  13. Stanley Dunigan

    Ah, the old Gonad Monarch! What a fun and freaky chapter this always is to play. And really hard, too, after I started playing Half-Life on the highest difficulty setting with no cheats several years ago. I eventually came up with some good strategies for all three stages of the Gonarch combat, including ways to finish the thing off using only the hornet gun.

    In fact, I present that as a special challenge: Play through the entire chapter using *only* the hornet gun. See the detailed walkthough that’s above these comments for tips on how to accomplish it. To make it even more challenging, play the chapter on the highest difficulty setting with no cheats, and try to make it all the way through without taking even one point of damage from anything. Even I find that to be very hard and tedious, though frequent quicksaving and quickrestoring is a big help. I suppose you could further extend the challenge to include not ever restoring a game at any point, but that would just be nuts!

    Note that it’s best to try this challenge using Steam’s Source version of the game, since every other version (including Steam’s non-Source version) is likely to glitch and make Gonarch invincible during the second stage of combat if you drop down into the “pit” area and shoot up at it from there (which you’d have to do in order to get away with only using the hornet gun). The glitch seems to be less likely to happen if you use the trapezoid-shaped hole rather than dropping directly onto one of the pit’s ledges.

    If the glitch happens, you can use the pit area’s alien “whoosh” thing to get back up onto the main ground and chase Gonarch off, but you’d have to use rockets, the gluon gun, etc. If you make a regular save right before entering the second-stage combat area, you could try restoring it and repeating the second stage combat to see if the glitch will be nice enough to not happen again.

    That challenge is probably too tedious and error-prone for all but the most hardcore Half-Life junkies. As for the two official challenges posted for this chapter, the first one has to do with finding the three healing pools, which are all mentioned in the detailed walkthrough. The other one refers to the fact that the floor section that Gonarch blows up when it dies can be blown up by you. Drop down there and quickly set a bunch of tripmines and satchel charges on the floor section, then detonate them, following up with rockets and/or AR grenades if necessary. (Note that in the Source version of the game, the floor has a lot less “health,” so it’s easier to blow it up quickly and make your escape.)

  14. Vic

    Gonarch’s Lair is… well, a boss battle chapter. Setting aside the fact that boss battles in general are not particularly interesting or enjoyable, this one is not that great anyway.

    The biggest problem here is the fact that the Gonarch doesn’t actually take damage unless it’s reached a certain point it’s scripted to move towards. But most players don’t know that, and they empty their ammo reserves in an attempt to kill off the damned thing as quickly as possible. To make matters worse, there’s very little ammo throughout this chapter, so if you run out, you’re kind of screwed.

    Then there’s the baby headcrabs she gives birth to. Those things are probably the most irritating and frustrating enemy in Half-Life history. Not only are they small and attack in quick succession, but they also move quickly. Not very well balanced.

    Not much narrative or artistic background to provide here, but I’ll try. The Gonarch is the “queen headcrab”, although how exactly it evolved to this stage, we don’t quite know. Certain… sexual traits can be spotted in the Gonarch’s design – namely, the large hanging ballsack, and that strange white goo it sprays at you from a distance.

    The death of the Gonarch is a pretty significant point in the Half-Life progression, though. At the start of the next chapter, the Nihilanth even asks: “Done… what have you done?!”, implying that it may be the last of its kind. Interestingly, from there on out we never encounter a single headcrab throughout the rest of the game.

    Of course, they do return in Half-Life 2, but we don’t actually know how. However, as it turns out, in the very early development stages of the game, there were no Headcrab Shells, and Ravenholm was to instead be infested using “Big Momma Birthing Pods”. These were the Gonarch’s ballsacks, mounted and pierced by a large metallic Combine apparatus, perpetually producing headcrabs.

    While they never appear in the final version of the game, it can be safely assumed that they do exist in some form, otherwise the Combine would have had no way of weaponizing the headcrabs.

    Once the Gonarch dies, it disintegrates in a violent explosion (for some unspecified reason), and actually breaks part of the ground, revealing a small cave with a portal in it. No idea why portals are so common-place on Xen, but hey – as long as it helps us out, who cares?

    In conclusion, Gonarch’s Lair is a pretty weak chapter. Not only does it consist of the player constantly shooting at a single enemy (monotonous, and ultimately, not very enjoyable), but the way it is built and designed offers us an overly scripted, almost dysfunctional gameplay experience.

    Besides, is Half-Life the kind of game that warrants such primitive, unintelligent gameplay encounters? I think not.

    Still, it ends relatively quickly, so that’s that. Next, we move onto Interloper, originally meant to be a part of the previous chapter, Xen.

    Five Words Or Less: Tedious, but maybe somewhat fun.

    Play time: 12 minutes

  15. THE WORST chapter. A boss fight in a traditional meaning, especially one this difficult and frustrating, is just too out of place in Half-Life. Gonarch is annoying, baby headcrabs are annoying, falling off the isand is annoying. I guess this chapter might be the reason why people hated Xen, and it’s a shame, because aside from this flop, I really like Xen.

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