Sekiro facing off against one of the game’s many boss fights. Taken from the game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, by FromSoftware.
Opinion by Alex Curthew-Sanders
There are many difficult games out there, but do these games need to be more accessible with an ‘easy’ mode?
A year ago, developers FromSoftware released the now GOTY (Game of the Year) Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. A game that deserved all the accolades that it was awarded. But upon its initial release, it was heavily criticised for being too difficult. The game is challenging, yes and at no point, personally, did I feel like the challenge was insurmountable. The vast majority of players took this stance as well, but it didn’t stop the game journalists asking for an easy mode. This got me thinking: how deeply baked into the game is this difficulty and what would happen if you were to remove it.
Now, before we dig into this further, it’s no government conspiracy that FromSoftware games over the years have been known for their steep challenge. The Dark Souls series comes to mind, which is often referred to as such. Sekiro is a lot more challenging than Dark Souls; however, so it makes some sense as to why there was a big outcry for an easier mode for Sekiro. But this begs the question: what would happen to the game if there was an easy mode? This leads me to a core aspect of not only Sekiro, but most FromSoftware games in general and that’s to do with player accomplishment.
A core tenet of these challenging games is that feeling of accomplishment that you obtain periodically after overcoming a seemingly impossible task. To quote the internet, it’s when you finally “git gud”. It’s a feeling that isn’t matched by many others, so much so that the games have garnered their own genre. Ultimately, it ends up being something that the games themselves are built around. Taking away this accomplishment removes the requirement for the player to overcome challenge so to put simply: remove the challenge and you remove the satisfaction. Without the satisfaction, a large reason for how entertaining these games can be is ripped away.
As a result, you diminish the experience that was intended. By granting players an easy mode, you actively defeat the reason people play these games in the first place. It’s a case of FromSoftware knowing their audience and it had me wondering… Why do people only create noise around ‘easy’ modes for games?
Why should games have easy modes if, say, books don’t have easy modes? Some books are more challenging to read than others, but you don’t see a more comprehendible version of books being sold because that would diminish their experience. You could apply the same reasoning to a film if you really wanted to.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to audience. FromSoftware know their audience; they know that people enjoy their games partly because of the challenges that are put forward to them. An easy mode would be completely redundant to that audience. So, I think it’s high time that the game journalists either git out or git gud.