The Debate Over Difficulty Modes

To “git gud,” give up…or play in “baby mode”

Are these games too hard?

Recently, with the release of STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order, I entered into the realm of the “Dark Souls” genre of games. Games intentionally made with a difficulty level that is frustrating and demoralizing to the casual gamer. Don’t get me wrong here, I love STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order. I think it’s a great game. The story is fantastic, force powers and abilities are oh, so much fun and can really have a real impact on gameplay as you learn them. It is in combat where this game will either make or break you. My experiences got me thinking about the debate over difficulty modes.

Most encounters are great fun. As you learn the mechanics of combat you can have some really epic battles. The tactics you use for one enemy may not be the same for another, this is especially important as your force power arsenal grows. Mobs are challenging and in most cases just hacking and slashing will not cut it. They are going dodge, parry, strike and use any special abilities they have at their disposal and you will need to do the same. Boss fights on the other hand…holy shit!!

This is where the game can get frustrating beyond belief and where you will need to ask yourself that age old question in the debate about difficulty…

Do I play until I git gud” or do I play in story mode, “baby mode”?

Fighting the same boss over, and over, and over again isn’t fun.

Fallen Order is playable in 4 modes of difficulty. They are from easier to more difficult: Story Mode, Jedi Knight, Jedi Master, and Grand Master. I started the game with Jedi Master and did fairly well up until the point where you are forced to fight in a tournament. After fighting 4 waves of enemies over and over and over, I had to make a decision…Do I lower the difficulty? Or, do I keep trying? My first instinct was to keep trying, and I did but I still lost each time. I did indeed get better with each successive try but couldn’t get to where I wanted to be before the final fight. Finally I knew I had to change the difficulty to a lower setting and when I finally stopped at Jedi Knight I was able to move on in the game. Hated doing it, but I told myself “You weren’t playing in the hardest difficulty anyway”.

WWHD?

Having come to terms with lowering the difficulty I decided to continue the game in Jedi Knight mode. Combat was indeed a bit easier and while it bothered me, I figured I could just enjoy the story and at least play the game the way Jesus intended, or, at the very least Humperdoo…the way Humperdoo intended it to be played. That was until the Ninth Sister on Kashyyk.

Screw this guy!!

This is where I would unknowingly quit the game. After many unsuccessful attempts on an already lower difficulty I decided to take a break and come back another day. That day just never happened. Whether is was a subconscious avoidance or outright refusal to play I cannot even remember. That was it for me.

In the interim I did indeed try Dark Souls 3 and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice but even on the normal difficulty both proved way to frustrating. I didn’t even get past the first boss in Sekiro and Dark Souls just couldn’t capture me story wise so it just felt like pure torture. Eventually I returned to Fallen Order and started a new game in Jedi Knight mode. I currently find myself stuck at the tournament once again and unsure as to whether I have the resolve to continue on or to finally give in and go down to story mode. More than likely, I will just stop playing.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you enjoy overly hard games and the reward that comes from beating them? Or, Do you find them frustrating and not worth the time and effort?

So, in the debate over difficulty, what are your thoughts on games having these modes? Is changing the difficulty betraying the heart of the game? Do you think a game has an innate difficulty level? And, Does lowering difficulty betray the essence of a game?

2 thoughts on “The Debate Over Difficulty Modes”

  1. So, here is my take – on the one hand, I think for many gamers who lack the patience (and perhaps just the innate skill) to complete many games, i think that having a skill level/difficulty level setting is important so that the gaming experience doesn’t become so frustrating to that casual gamer crowd that they end up giving up on a game, being frustrated, and perhaps never coming back to it. I think we’ve all been there at one point or another, and it sucks.

    Some games certainly don’t warrant a difficulty setting, and many other still are designed without one at all, either because its sort of irrelevant, or the progression of the game is made up by the ever-increasing difficulty (ie puzzle type games, like Tetris or PacMan – as throwback examples.)

    On the other hand, you also have some very patient, dedicated and/or skilled gamers, for which having the added challenge of increasing the difficulty is just as important to them as the novice gamer who can’t get past a level or a boss. If the game is TOO EASY for them, it can be just as frustrating/boring to feel you aren’t getting your moneys’ worth.

    I think, either way, adding difficulty adjustments does not betray the games essence. Only using cheat codes, etc. really does that. That is a debate for another day!