New 'Horizon: Zero Dawn' Mode Makes Combat Easy, So You Can Enjoy The Story


More games should embrace options like this. Combat’s not for everyone.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


I find this interesting because while I laud including these modes, they are more a band-aid over the fundamental problem than a root-cause fix of it.

For players who want a “story only” mode, changing the damage/armour ratio even further from easy mode still leaves the third-person camera and dual stick movement, which is often the main barrier to entry.

This helps — it’s much less frustrating to spend 10 seconds trying to figure out how to get the camera from being pointed up at the sky when random stuff doesn’t automatically kill you in that time — but doesn’t erase the not-great experience of having that camera pointed at the sky in the first place.

That’s part of what I liked about Uncharted 4’s easiest mode. It actually made the act of playing the game easier. Not just your power level versus the bad guys


I didn’t think the combat was too hard, the enemies hit hard but that wasn’t the biggest problem I had. The claustrophobic POV when in combat was got me killed most of the time, getting stuck or running in to things because I could not see more than 1 meter ahead of me, enemies often jumped on me from outside my view.


This is super super super SUUUPER nice. I’m playing with my wife and she really hates the combat parts of this game but loves the story. Honestly every major story-driven game should have a mode like this for people who aren’t apt at the difficulty spikes of gameplay.


Nor did I. I actually think the sweet spot on the combat is at “hard” not normal, and I actually really, really liked the combat in the game.

More that making the combat super easy by giving the player character lots of damage or nerfing the enemies attacks doesn’t fix the fundamental problems for players who find some aspects of the combat tough to control or view or whom just don’t like the combat and find it tedious. Even at easy, you are going to be fighting lots and lots of robot animals in Horizon.

I remember when Mass Effect 3 came out and they added the “story” difficulty, and one of the people who worked on the game lamented to me that a “real” story difficulty would make the combat simpler or play itself rather than just very easy. IE an auto lock that swings the camera from one enemy to the next until they are all gone. That, of course, is much harder to implement development-wise than just moving the damage sliders.


I am in much the same place. On the rare occasion my wife sits and watches me play games, she doesn’t like sitting there whilst I flounder poorly at combat when she just wants to see the next story beat (see also, Uncharted).

Once the price drops I may actually now get this game.

I am sure we are in a minority, but then most people can just not use the mode.


I absolutely love this idea and hope more games take this initiative.

That being said, it was actually the story that turned me off of the game rather than the combat. I thought the mechanics of the combat system worked beautifully and I loved searching for more machines to destroy and harvest.

I became gradually disinterested in the story, finally giving up on it shortly after hologram Cedric Daniels appeared.


Yeah this twin stick controls are a pretty huge problem for people unfamiliar with modern games or with motor disabilities. I think it’s easy to forget how intimidating that control scheme can be when starting from scratch.


People clearly are interested in this, so it’s good they’re doing it. But I really just don’t understand the mindset of someone who plays this mode. Just watch a let’s play or a cutscene-movie of it at that point. You’ve already cut out everything that gives meaning to the mechanical interaction in the first place, so what you’re left with is essentially an overly complicated 3D open-world menu interface which you use to move from story-beat to story-beat.


I’m intrigued then; what is your opinion on games that are just following story beats and exploring? Totally redundant? Because what you’re saying is, in my opinion, just opening up these games to be more like story-based games, so they’re accessible and interesting to a larger range of people. From both just a ‘that’s nice’ pov and a £££ one, I don’t see how that’s a bad thing?

I’m not sure I can begin really to explain exactly why, but here’s one thing at least: take Nier Automata for example. That easy mode does, essentially, as you’ve described - remove 90% of the work from the combat - and this is how I’ve been playing it. Now, I enjoyed the moments of it I watched my boyfriend play (who had it on normal mode iirc, not hard) but there is something infinitely more enjoyable and satisfying about making the discoveries yourself, sinking the hours into a game, and seeing the rewards and outcomes of that, over just watching a letsplay.


To say it’s just a fancy 3D menu does that world a huge disservice. It’s breathtaking on regular occasions even just to wander around, plus there’s loads of cool stuff to look at and explore.

I totally agree with the comments about the camera, and Uncharted 4’s easy mode is a great shout. With any luck, removing the other areas where people might struggle could give people do may struggle with this style of game the time to get used to the camera stuff, and lead to them trying out other games they’d previously dismissed.

I’m all for this. Put it in every game. I just replayed bloodborne and found myself thinking I wish there was an easy difficulty so I could just explore that world more without having to worry about getting mauled every 5 seconds


I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a game just following story beats and exploring. I think that’s a much better approach than shoehorning bad or uninspired gameplay into a game that is really just about the story. Rather, the mechanics should be crafted around that narrative-experience. This is the reason why I am such a staunch defender of Gone Home. The way the house is designed to lead you through on a mostly linear path while still feeling like you’re just organically exploring, and the way you can open drawers and rotate every item to look for small details, it’s all centered around delivering that story through gameplay. This is in sharp contrast to games like Bioshock or The Last of Us, which I would describe as “bad games with good stories”.

To take your example of Nier: Automata, which I’ve also played, the way you describe playing it sounds incredibly boring to me. You’re essentially running around or fast-traveling all over this world to complete trivial tasks in exchange for character interactions and a slowly drip-fed narrative. I believe you when you say you enjoy it, I just can’t relate.


I’ll speak for myself:

I don’t think watching a let’s play is even remotely equivalent to playing the game. Personally, I enjoy them in fundamentally different ways. Regardless of genre, if choice–in whatever shape that takes–is involved at all, a large aspect of the pacing is then player-controlled, and that’s a big reason for why I come to games in the first place.

Since it was already used as an example: Watching someone play Nier:Automata (or any game) means being subject to their whims, and what they think is interesting. I might love whoever’s playing, but that Venn diagram isn’t ever going to be perfect. You could skip through the boring stuff, but then, why not just read a wiki summary? In for a penny, in for a pound, I say. I think this is especially relevant for a game with as much optional content as Nier:A has.

Further, my favorite games have relied on the player’s interaction to settle whatever emotional payload they’re dropping. Nier:A isn’t one of my favorite games, but the final moments would’ve been meaningless without having shouldered the toil required to get there (and that had little to do with how difficult the gameplay was).

My point is this: The act of playing a game transforms the experience, irrespective of the mechanical complexity. Even more to the point, I believe that’s something Yoko Taro knows very well.


If money wasn’t an object, then I think it’d be easier for me to empathize with this point of view. But I can’t imagine dropping $30-60 just to have the (IMO) very slight advantage of being able to explore at my own pace and make decisions, versus getting most of the same experience for free watching a Let’s Play. And this would also be at the expense of having to trudge through all of the gameplay sections with no investment in what’s actually happening because it’s so easy I may as well just mash buttons.

Similarly, the way I often get invested into a game’s narrative is by overcoming challenge, bringing my struggles more in-line with the struggles of my character. If my player character is supposed to be struggling, but I’ve been having no trouble at all, that’s a huge disconnect for me.


I think you’re undervaluing exactly how much is gained from being the person who pushes the button. From being the one who calls the violence, or negotiates peace. Carving your own path, no matter how inelegant the tools are.

Sometimes it’s arbitrary, sure, but the player’s agency is kind of The Big Thing with this medium, right?


Could it not be that I don’t find the same level of value in being the person who pushes the button that you do? Look, I get that it’s cool just to be running around a world like NieR’s, listening to that great music as you slide down sand dunes and whatnot. I get that being able to decide exactly what you want to do in a game is different from watching what someone else wanted to do in a let’s play. I just don’t care that much. Not even close.

And it could just be that we have different tastes in games. I am generally very bored by open world games like Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed, or Skyrim, where none of the things you do are very mechanically interesting but it’s meant to be about the freedom of exploring and experiencing that world as you see fit. It doesn’t hold my interest in any way. When I play a video game I want to develop skills and be provided with opportunities to execute those skills in creative and strategic ways. I can enjoy a narrative-focused game like Gone Home or The Beginner’s Guide, but I regard them as being outside of what I generally want from a game. When I play a game on easy, I feel that the gameplay sections become nothing but filler content to string together the narrative elements. I get very little enjoyment from unearned victories.


Well, of course. But your posts in this thread have mostly centered around not understanding why someone would (willingly) play a technically involved game on easier difficulty levels. My posts were just one explanation that makes sense to me.


And what you say echoes conversations I’ve had with others about this topic. But like I said before, I just don’t relate to the mindset at all. It seems like a waste of money and time. :confused:


But none of these games MAKE you play this way? Games like Horizon, Uncharted, Nier, The Witcher 3… all games that have ways of making the game play significantly easier so that someone who either would struggle with that or has no interest in the gameplay also have super hard difficulty settings for people who want a challenge in the combat elements of those games.

As Hyetal mentioned, despite removing the “challenge” from the combat (importantly, combat in Horizon on this new mode might still be really challenging for some people), player agency remains and deciding whether to go North or South out of the gate in games with so much to discover is a huge decision, it dramatically impacts on your early experiences of that story.

Clearly this mode isn’t for you and that’s fine, people get different things out of experiencing games different ways, and surely we agree that this mode is a good thing because it lets more people experience a game they might otherwise have avoided?

Also saying you get little enjoyment from unearned victories, remember that beating Nier: Automata or The Witcher 3 or Horizon on their easiest setting might still be a huge achievement for some people!

I get that this approach is not for you but the point here is that it is for some people and saying things like “it seems like a waste of time and money” is dismissive of that way of enjoying a game.


Something you seem to be missing here is regard for a person’s background and where they’re coming at any particular game from? By which I mean, I hadn’t played many games until about a year ago. It was something I’d been interested in but not had the money to make an investment in (and wasn’t committed to putting that money aside for it, not having an attachment from childhood the way many people may), and I was also put off by what I saw in general media where it was just a lot of samey shooty boring games I wasn’t interested in. Once I became aware that wasn’t the case, and was able to be introduced to a lot of things I might find interesting thanks to friends, I took the plunge. So what you might feel is ‘just button mashing’ in a game isn’t that to me. It’s still new to me, it’s not intuitive where to go, or what to do, and it’s not at all intuitive how to fight things in games and combo etc. Nier is particularly great for this because I can start it off with everything, in that sense, pretty much being done for me, and then I can adjust and learn as I go along by messing with the chips. It eliminates a steep learning curve for me that would be put me off and actually physically prevent from getting any further in the game.

Also your thing about money at this point is kinda irrelevant; I didn’t pay jack for Nier, nor am I going to for Horizon because I’m borrowing them. I can’t afford dropping that on a game in the first place, even I wanted to play it ‘properly’.