Tanner is a writer for Parallax Media
Games like From Software’s Dark Souls and Bloodborne have always interested me on the basis of their unique style alone, but unfortunately, there’s always been this wall up between me and getting into them.
Now that Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is out, I’ve been forced to revisit that wall.
I tried playing Dark Souls a few years ago but after three hours of trying to kill the Taurus Demon, then succeeding and realizing I didn’t get any satisfaction from it, just exhaustion, I realized the game wasn’t for me.
I’ve never been great at video games but I’ve never been horrible either. I’m average at best. If there’s a normal difficulty, that’s where you’ll find me. I’ll probably die a couple times but not enough to where I’m not having fun. When games like Sekiro come around and have an art style I’m totally down for but is being held back by the difficulty, I’m disappointed. I want to experience that game but is it really worth it, and is it really what I need?
Life kicks my ass enough, do I really need a video game to kick my ass as well?
I’ve never been afraid of a good challenge in a video game. In fact I love it. I love the feeling of overcoming a difficult boss battle but when the difficulty is too much and feels unnecessary, that’s when I’m turned off.
Most recently I experienced unnecessary difficulty spikes when I played through Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. I loved Wolfenstein: The New Order and while the game was tough at points, it never became too much and it didn’t hold back the story. With Wolfenstein 2, however, there were too many points in the beginning where I was dying a lot and it was starting to distract from the game’s incredible story.
In the gaming world there’s a stigma around playing on easy. People will say you’re not a “real gamer.” They’ll say you’re weak and should just get better instead of changing the difficulty. They imply you’re not enjoying the game the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
After a certain point in Wolfenstein 2 I put it on easy and immediately I was having a blast. On easy the game plays just like 2016’s Doom so taking that gameplay style and applying it to killing Nazis just felt so… right. I was shredding through enemies, having a ton of fun and loving the story even more. Putting the game on easy made the game genuinely better for me. I can’t help but think that if Dark Souls or Sekiro had some kind of easy mode or assist mode that I would absolutely adore those games.
So how can people say that putting a game on easy is a bad thing?
I know that not everyone plays video games the same way I do. I play games for the story, the connection I make with the characters and to experience a world different from my own. For others, they need challenge in a video game. I know plenty of people who can’t enjoy a game if it’s too easy. Sure it might have a great story but they might find themselves bored after a while.
I understand that From Software’s games have always been about challenge and then overcoming those challenges. In an interview with Gamespot in February 2019, Hidetaka Miyazaki, Sekiro director and From Software president, explained their reasoning for not having difficulty options.
“We want everyone to feel that sense of accomplishment. We want everyone to feel elated and to join that discussion on the same level. We feel if there’s different difficulties, that’s going to segment and fragment the user base. People will have different experiences based on that [differing difficulty level]. This is something we take to heart when we design games. It’s been the same way for previous titles and it’s very much the same with Sekiro,” he said.
The process of repeatedly failing is necessary. That’s how you learn how to play the game and “get good.” For many people that’s satisfying and I totally understand that. Overcoming challenge in life and in video games is equally fun and important. It’s just that for me and where I’m at in my life right now with being a senior in college, I don’t need another challenge to overcome. Even if I’m not going to use it, the comfort of having an easy option or an assist mode makes jumping into a game I’m not entirely sure about so much easier.