We've Always Made Our Own Easy Modes. 'Sekiro' Is No Exception

More people should be able to enjoy cool games. That’s a simple premise, right? Now imagine an incredibly complex, mechanically dense game that requires hours of investment to truly understand, and it’s expected that you're going to lose over and over before it makes sense. Now also imagine the ability to choose between a bunch of difficulty options, and the ability to tweak victory conditions, specifically so you can cater to what you’re good and bad at.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/vbw9vb/weve-always-made-our-own-easy-modes-sekiro-is-no-exception
2 Likes

I agree, as long as it is actually labeled as an easy mode. My worry is that as soon as easier difficulties are added there’ll be publisher push back to make that the “normal” difficulty and what we’ve seen so far pushed up to “prepare to die” or whatever the heck they would call it. We’ve seen this with games like Halo where it even says in the description you should play on heroic; but everyone just plays on normal because it’s, well, normal. It might also cause a problem like Kingdom Hearts has with it’s normal difficulty, where starting off the game really easy makes adding any challenge later something the player is completely unprepared for.

I’m convinced anyone making the argument that From games can’t have easier difficulties has completely missed what actually makes those games the works of art they are

7 Likes

I see someone got acquainted with snake eyes.

More to the point, one of the things I’ve found weird about the sekiro discourse is that it straight up has difficulty modes. They just only go up and and are obfuscated/have to be unlocked instead of being in menus. I’m confident from could work out an easy mode solution that still feels faithful to the core experience because they put in 2 separate hard modes (I’m not talking about ng+, to be clear). I feel like these conversations only really make sense in the context of something like I want to be The Guy because the difficulty is literally that entire game. It’s technically a platformer but there’s really no point to it other than replicating the feeling of slamming a car door on your thumb 5000 times until the car door gives way.

2 Likes

The only reason i could think of to not have a easy mode is an incredibly selfish one. Its that i know i’m mentally weak and i would just turn it on every time i’m midly struggling even though i want to rise to the challenge. Which again, is an incredibly selfish reason, so it should be disregarded. Totally should be an easy mode in every game.

(of course, i played the final 25% plus DLC of Horizon Zero Dawn on story difficulty, and i still had a great time, so idk.)

2 Likes

Halo is a bad example IMO. Nobody played through the campaign on Normal and felt cheated, but maybe they decided to try a harder difficulty after the fact and enjoyed it. I personally love playing on legendary with three friends, but the presence of easy and normal difficulty has literally no effect on how I want to play Halo. Live and let live.

The thing that frustrates me most about this is how precious people are being with From’s difficulty philosophy. Newsflash souls fans, ALL games use difficulty as a means for artistic expression. Like, there’s a reason that narrative heavy games get more difficult as you approach the climax and end, and there’s a reason that RPGs tend to get easier as you progress. But no one else is so precious as to say that you must play a game a certain way. If From games are only appealing because of their difficulty, then they are shallow games at best. But as we can see that people like the games for various reasons, that actually isn’t the case. Why not let more people enjoy them then?

1 Like

While I’m sure there’s games that are abysmal on the normal difficulty, that’s not exactly my point. My point is that if the experience the developers set out to make is relegated to any difficulty other than normal most people won’t end up ever even trying it, and I think that’s a bummer for those developers.

2 Likes

I was thinking last night as I was nearing the final boss about how difficulty levels in Sekiro would have affected me and the only real conclusion I could come to was “not at all”, I don’t really know why some get upset at the idea of easier modes.

I will say though… I feel like the accessibility argument needs to be split off from the difficulty level argument, if an easier mode or difficulty slider was put in that would not solve all accessibility issues. Patrick writes in the piece he thinks making resurrections unlimited would be one way, but that in particular doesn’t seem like it does anything at all for accessibility

9 Likes

The discourse around From Software difficulty, all the high-minded introspection about conquering the self and enduring total ego death at the hands of Artorias the Tough But Fair and being whittled down to what has laid dormant within us for all eternity and rising from the ashes as a phoenix reborn under decades of training and wisdom and the enemy is not getting weaker it is i who is getting stronger!!!

…is just fuuuuuucking ridiculous. did we do this with TMNT on NES? Or like, mario bros? the first one? It’s the same shit. It’s exactly the same shit.

The difficulty exists in the form of a big jump or some string of enemies and it will always exist in that programmatic fashion and it is up to the player to determine, memorize, and then execute the behavior needed to pass the obstacle, as it has been, as it is, and as it ever will be.

Like it’s amazing that it’s come to this. We’ve got gamers who seem to have discovered Conflict and Adversity for the very first time in Dark Souls 3 and now they worship at its altar of self-improvement, so we’re not even allowed to theorize about adding a difficulty level to a video game without giving them heart palpitations.

20 Likes

I was initially resistant to this idea for the “purity” of the experience, but I’ve come around - the ultimate point for me is that I don’t care at all how someone else plays the game, as long I get the opportunity to do that hardcore experience. I love bashing my head against a difficult game, but why should it matter if others don’t?

Also, can’t wait for Pat to discover video capture technology.

1 Like

I feel like something similar to Celeste’s modifiers would be applicable to Sekiro’s systems, and what makes it difficult. One could be adding a modifier to slow down enemy attacks, or make any blocked hit actually a parry, or extending the window for the perilous attacks, or adjusting the amount of times you can revive. All methods that would help alleviate the gatekeeping that gets put up by Sekiro’s less varied build options and lack of co-op.

The misguided “Git Gud” kind of person that has existed for a long time but particularly with recent games notorious for their difficulty now cling tightly to FromSoft games and it’s toxic for many reasons, again coming from someone who is generally pretty well versed in these games, the difficulty of these games is not what makes them special.

3 Likes

Honestly, that was on Bungie. There’s no reason they couldn’t have shifted all the difficulties down and made Heroic the default difficulty if they really meant what they said. But I’ve been a day one Halo fan and experience has shown that the discourse around Heroic to be chest thumping bullshit. Normal is a perfectly valid way to play. You still get the combat sandbox, “smart” enemies, and even a risk of failure. People aren’t “missing out”, they’re still getting the core experience.

And even if people are missing out, there are so many more that got acquainted with console FPS games by playing Halo on Easy or Normal. I bet if you asked Bungie, they’d be more than happy with the impact they had on gaming by crafting an adjustable experience rather than sticking with how their game was “meant” to be played.

I’ll paraphrase something that Heather Alexander said recently; there has never been a game that was ruined by the addition of easier difficulties. She is not talking about a “dumbed down” sequel or adjustment to the standard difficulty itself, but modes that make the game more accessible to more people. I think that’s a pretty solid statement, one that From fans should consider.

6 Likes

Here’s my extremely hot take on putting an easy difficulty in From’s games…

It’s up to From.

Wish they would but… [shrug].

3 Likes

I think Celeste Developers quote is probably the most concise argument

“Assist Mode breaks the game. I spent many hours fine-tuning the difficulty of Celeste , so it’s easy for me to feel precious about my designs. But ultimately, we want to empower the player and give them a good experience, and sometimes that means letting go.”

Curious what From Software thinks about the whole discourse.

Also if you want to play the game and you are on PC…I think cheat engine already there right?

8 Likes

^extremely this. I gave that Dark Souls line to everyone who would listen, and then at some point I played super mario bros. When I realized any older game provided the same experience of “conquering the self” that DS argument lost all meaning for me

2 Likes

I feel like people have very weird views about exploiting games. I think I’m prone to seeing the skeleton of a game through the skin its wearing far more quickly than most, so when I heard Austin talking about using the lunge attack to push an enemy into a predictable attack string, which could then be parried consistently, that in my eyes is no different in terms of abusing the AI of a game than just using something like firecrackers to stunlock a boss.

I don’t think this is bad or something to be ashamed of in either situation, I just find it interesting how two things that seem very similar to me are often talked about in very different terms. Both instances you are using an input to get a predictable output form the game engine which allows you to progress.

2 Likes

Okay, that’s the thing that’s bugging me, though. Is that selfish?

I have ADD, and analysis paralysis is a huge problem in games for me. The more minute control over the experience that I have, the more mental load I have to deal with, and the less accessible enjoying the game becomes. Is that selfish? Should it be disregarded?

I guess I’m just frustrated that no one on the (obviously correct) side of the discourse is also acknowledging that there is a cost to giving all players minute control over the experience. It’s not just a straightforward win.

There are people like me who absolutely will get overwhelmed by options and will optimize the long-term fun out of the game because we don’t have the mental bandwidth to stop ourselves from taking the easy out when it’s available.

I mean I guess the answer is that every game should also have XCOM’s Iron Man mode in addition to lots of accessibility options, right? As long as I can make a single, opt-in, non-reversible choice to not have those options available to me in a particular playthrough, then it’s fine.

I wish more people would acknowledge that giving unmitigated, minute control over a game’s experience has accessibility costs along with benefits.

16 Likes

They’re saying it’s selfish to not want an easy mode, in this case because their lack of self control could backfire in the face of the challenge.

I think we’re all with you in that we want everyone, whether through disability or lack of experience should be able to in the very least play comfortably these kinds of games too.

1 Like

I’ve always liked when games locked the harder mode away until you’ve beaten the game once. I can’t guve in to the temptation of dialing difficulty down if I’m struggling and conversely, can make the decision not to play the harder mode at all.

Edit: it would probably be better to say… not that I liked it, but liked when unlocking the new mode felt like an optional challenge presented as a reward.

1 Like

I grabbed a trainer and give myself infinite health. I’m still having fun just running around and seeing things and experiencing the game, even if I’m not having the same experience as a mid-term exam or finding cheese or pushing myself to conquer. I’m here to see a weird world. And I get to see it without getting bored by certain boss fights and it’s fantastic.

2 Likes