Why Dark Souls Should Catch You When You Fall

Why Dark Souls Should Catch You When You Fall

Today Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki admitted he is considering adding an easier difficulty level to future games, to make them more accessible to less dedicated players. Is this the right way forward? Should a game like Dark Souls, which uses difficulty as its point of difference, makes itself more approachable to a mainstream audience? We say yes! Maybe. If it’s done correctly.

When attempting to walk a tightrope for the first time, there are certain safety mechanisms in place. Only an idiot would attempt it without a net. Climbers, when performing at their limit, will attach themselves to a rope. If you’re climbing to your fullest potential, using all the strength you possess, there is a strong chance you might fall. And you will die. That is a certainty.

When playing Dark Souls you will die, but the endgame is less tangible. It is only a video game death, but there are consequences — you will lose some of the tools used before dying. You may lose the currency you’ve accumulated. You will feel something when you die, and that is important. It is the reason why Dark Souls is so compelling.

There is no reward without risk, that’s how things work. But in life we get to manage our risks. If we’re not sure we can make to the other end of the tightrope, we set up a safety net.

Because in real life, risk is scalable.

Today Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki committed the cardinal sin of suggesting that his own game, a game renowned and celebrated for flagellating players mercilessly, is a little too difficult. Even he is coming round to the idea that Dark Souls might benefit from some sort of easy mode.

“It is true,” he said, “that Dark Souls is rather difficult and a number of people may hesitate to play. This fact is really sad to me and I am thinking about whether I should prepare another difficulty that everyone can complete or carefully send all gamers the messages behind our difficult games.”

Miyazaki wants players to celebrate the challenge of Dark Souls, not its raw difficulty.

Why Dark Souls Should Catch You When You Fall

Should Dark Souls have an easy mode? Most would baulk at the suggestion — Dark Souls is rewarding specifically because of its difficulty, why dumb it down? I would agree with that — but shouldn’t consumers be allowed to scale their own risk, tailor it to their own specific abilities. Isn’t risk the choice we all make before attempting something rewarding?

A professional, when climbing at his or her limit, will always use a rope. If not, they will fall and die. But those same climbers could scale easier walls — the ones you or I might attempt — easily, with no support mechanisms whatsoever.

A master tightrope walker would never ask you to traverse without a safety net. In real life, risk is scalable — and there’s no reason why Dark Souls can’t be the same.

In a lot of ways Dark Souls is the gaming equivalent of a difficult climb only experts should attempt, at their own risk; it’s a tightrope without a safety net. A risk that we, as experienced gamers can manage, a risk we are willing to take because the reward is within reach.

Why shouldn’t beginners be able to manage their own risk in Dark Souls? Why shouldn’t they be given some sort of rope to cling to?

Climbing a steep wall, with small holds, isn’t easier when you’re attached to a rope — it simply allows you to learn. It allows you to practice, and improve. It doesn’t make the climb itself anymore manageable; it exists only to catch you when you fall.

Dark Souls has no rope, it has no safety net.

I’ve spent the last six weeks playing nothing but Dark Souls, and I love the game. But I am an expert. Like most of you, I’ve been playing games all my life; playing Dark Souls is a risk I can manage. Surely there’s a way to make Dark Souls more accessible? Surely there’s a way to provide a safety net, one that doesn’t decrease the actual difficulty, but gives you space to learn? To make mistakes without punishment, to die without consequence.

To catch you when you fall.


  • I haven’t finished Dark Souls, I found it too hard. A lot of those bosses had crazy high HP, and I played after the weapons nerf. But I did finish Demon’s Souls, and I’m pretty proud of it. Adding difficulty would get rid of that completely, I like the fact that Dark Souls is looming over me, taunting me until I finally beat it. If it had an easy mode, the appeal would be gone.

      • Mmm. I see what you’re saying, the difficulty is a big turn off. It’s most loved feature is also it’s most hated feature. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be an accessible game though, it might remain a niche game series.

      • I’m seeing Dark Souls as my pinnacle of gaming at this point. All my other games I can finish. Dark Souls not so much. Demon Souls I did as well. But not DS… it sits there, taunting me. I know I CAN, I know I WILL but I have to get *better* at it. I don’t really think he has to do this. It’s one of those rare games that is unforgiving in its brilliance and doesn’t need to apologise for it. It’s a true hardcore gamer game. I think the best way to describe it? It’s the modern day Ghosts N Goblins…

  • I dunno, the game has never appealed to me, but is there much incentive to play if you scale down the difficulty? Are the locations fun to explore? Is the story good? (Real questions, I don’t know if they are.) If you take away the hook than the experience would be diluted, maybe? Although you make good points all round.

    • For me the hook wasn’t the “difficulty”. It was actually what was keeping me away from the game. But then I bought it for my husband and upon watching him play it I fell in love with the world, the atmosphere and the puzzle of it all.

      I think rather than making it less difficult (because it really isn’t difficult as such, it’s more about paying attention), they should making the marketing focus on something other than the “difficulty”.

    • The locations are fun to explore, but imho, the reason they’re so fun can be partially attributed to the difficulty. The entire atmosphere of the game is based around exploration, and the monsters add to the feel. You see that giant knight thing, four times your size, standing guard over there? That thing really will kill you if you’re not incredibly careful in how you fight it. See those zombie dudes wandering around on these battlements? A few hits from them and you’ll die. I like to think of the game as being realistic rather than difficult, and I find that adds to the atmosphere and additionally the scale of the game. There are a few things they could do to make the game more accessible without adding to the difficulty, for example, adding more AI summons, allowing you to summon while hollowed, etc, which would make some of the ridiculously hard boss fights a bit easier, but at the same time be completely optional, and maintaining the feeling of difficulty through enemies which still do damage feeling equal to their size, but at the same time having other targets to attack, making it a bit easier for the player. I mean seriously, Ornstein and Smough are just way too hard – I’m up to them on three different characters, and the furthest I’ve ever gotten was killing just one of them, and I’ve never gotten the second below full health before he’s killed me. With, I don’t know, one extra summons , that boss fight could have been made significantly more accessible and removed the feeling of being “impossible”.

    • What are these summons you speak of? I just bet those guys with nothing but a sword and shield. My god it took me a lot of tries. I didn’t even know how the spell mechanic worked up until that point, because I needed to look for something else to use to beat them, but of course, I haven’t leveled up any spell stats, and therefore can’t use them. haha.

      I’m not opposed to an easy difficulty. Just as the article says, normal for me is challenging. Friends who aren’t as skilled, just couldn’t beat it. Not possible.
      Why not make it easier, we still get our challenge, and others less skilled than us get a challenge suited to their abilities. It’s still just as hard for them as it is us, because they’re not as good to begin with.

  • The tight rope analogy is seriously flawed and ignores the fact that Dark Souls already has a ‘safety mechanism ‘ in place. You respawn and can try again. It isn’t asking you to Iron-man the game. Also, you don’t lose equipment when you die, only unspent souls. Perhaps you should play the game to refresh your memory a little bit.

    • I should add to that. No, players shouldn’t be able to choose their difficulty . If you want to make the argument that games are art (as I’ve seen many times on this site) then the difficulty is part of the artistic vision and should be maintained.

      It’d be like buying Finnegans Wake and at the start of the book being asked if you want to read it as it was originally written or a simplified version that’s less challenging.

      • Exactly what I was thinking.

        Walking a tightrope without a net? You fall and die – you do not respawn.
        Walking a tightrope WITH a net? You fall – you climb back up and try again.

        Playing Dark Souls without a net? You die – you do not respawn.
        Playing Dark Souls WITH a net? You die – you respawn and try again

        Dying really has little consequence in Dark Souls. Yes, you lose your currently held souls and humanity. Both can be easily regained by spending a small amount of time killing respawning enemies too. Why were you walking around with more than you could consume right now? If your answer is (farming or increasing drop rates, you don’t need a safety net)

    • Equipment is probably the wrong word — I’m talking about stuff like Humanity, and all the other gear you don’t get to use once you respawn. The more you die in Dark Souls the more difficult it is. I’m not saying the basic mode should be more or less difficult, I’m just saying that an option might be helpful for those intimidated by it.

        • You don’t lose all consumable items. You temporarily lose your Humanity and your Souls. Both can be reclaimed if you can reach your bloodstain without dying a second time, or if you’re wearing the ring of sacrifice before death you will lose nothing. If you make the attempt to reach your bloodstain while wearing a ring of sacrifice death will not cause your bloodstain to disappear.

          Furthermore the game gets progressively easier as you keep dying because each death gives you experience and in Dark Souls the player’s skill and knowledge is more important than your character’s statistics or equipment.

          • When I started playing Dark Souls I was super frustrated. I felt as though I was gaining nothing. I was used to being spoon fed check points and upgrades. But you’re right — dying is always worthwhile because you get to ask yourself why you died, and how to better avoid it next time.

          • My problem is that I just find I don’t have the time to spend on it these days. Even compared to a few years back – I played and finished Demon’s Souls, difficulty and all. But when it came to Dark Souls, I found myself questioning why I was spending all this time doing the same areas over and over again for incremental gains each time, and in the end I gave up on it. Part of that, I think, was the open-world kind of structure instead of the hub/world structure used by Dark Souls which I felt broke the game down into more manageable pieces, while Dark Souls I spent a lot more time just navigating my way around to get to the area I wanted to go.

            None of this is to say they should change the game to pander to me. They should stick to their vision and stand or fall on that. But as much as I loved Demon’s Souls and liked Dark Souls, I don’t think I’ll go back for a third helping if/when they do another one.

  • No, difficulty should not be a player’s choice. Having multiple difficulty levels is retarded.
    Sure, hold their hand for the first hour or so, but after that, feel the pain.

    • I agree, to a point.
      In the original max payne and, I think, some of the later ones, difficulty was scaled if you were dying too much.
      While the death level should be higher in a game like dark souls, perhaps the game should offer hints for those who repreatedly struggle at certain points.
      Not hand-holding, but a friiendly gesture.
      On 360, you don’t even see the tips left by others unless you have a Gold subscription, and I refuse to pay for multiplayer service.

  • I couldn’t disagree more. The whole mantra he had of learning from your mistakes is perfect. I hate being patronised in every other game (besides Super Meat Boy) of late by holding my hand and giving me a safety net—it makes me sick, having grown up with a SNES and MS2 to see how developers/publishers pander to a greater audience by making it “accessible”.

    If you’re not an idiot, you’ll learn how to play around the game’s challenges and get the reward—just like real life (and I think this is the ONLY comparison you can make to RL, none of the tightrope walker makes sense to me when talking about computer games).

    Games that respect players are certainly part of a niche market these days, but I hope it stays. I’m not mentally challenged, please don’t treat me like I am.

      • Oh man…that game was awful. I only played because my husband bought it for me for Christmas, that babying tutorial would have been enough for me to burn it, otherwise. When I was about 2/3 of the way through I stopped playing because I wasn’t having any fun at all.

  • This is a terrible idea and instantly reminded me of what’s happening in World of Warcraft. Everything gets dumbed down and homeginised and suddenly the game loses its personality. It isn’t as if people buy this game not knowing what they’re getting themselves in to. Keep it tough and rewarding I say, it’s the one thing that separates this game from the millions of other hum drum games we get these days.

  • To me the only things I hated about Demon’s Souls difficulty (haven’t played Dark Souls) was: falling off of tiny-ass ledges, what you lost when you died (not that bad really) and a lack of checkpoints before bosses. Me and my friend literally quit before the False King because we have to go to through so much shit just to get to him.

    and of course: World tendency and arbitrary effects, I’m more than happy for a hard game as long as I actually get a reward and not a random yes/no/maybe for my reward.

  • I was too scared (for want of a better word) to start playing it because of the reported difficulty. The idea of starting playing made me tense up in advacne, and I decided that I’d rather play something more comfortable instead.

    I finally started playing this weekend and am enjoying it. Quite a lot. I do like how you feel like you have achieved something when you, say, kill the Taurus demon and avoid the dragon’s flames as I did last night. It does not feel like you are just performing the creators’ pre-determined actions – even though ultimately this is still what is happening. There is already some guidance to make things easier if you pay attention, too. I realised that kicking away the shields of spear carriers was the best option by watching ghosts do it.

    But I still find myself worried about exploring. The risks feel too great and sometimes it’s just easier to run around grinding the same guys you’ve killed countless times before.

    So it’s a tough one. A safety net would have enticed me start playing earlier, and let me feel confident enough to strike out into the game world to enjoy the sights. But if an easier mode was an option, would I ever bother to ramp up the difficulty? Given my modern time contraints, probably not. And then it would just become an experience similar to pretty much every other game out there.

    Ultimately, I think the difficulty defines the game, and is intrinsically linked with the experience. Making the game easier would ruin this experience. The only way I can see to do it would be to make the easier version less rewarding in a very tangible sense – possibly by locking off the bulk of the game world?

    And Mark – you lose the equipment you were using if you die? Mistake in the article, or do I have even more punishment to be worried about at some point in the future??

    • Oh, and I should point out that I’m usually a staunch defender of devices to make games easier. For example, the super powerups after dying too many times in recent Mario games. Those types of things make it easier for people with less ability to play, but are easy to avoid for people who want to do it the hard way.

      But it’s different with Dark Souls. Most players would reach a point where the lure of the aid is too great, take it, then regret it for the rest of the game. It really needs to be a game where you toughen up or go home.

    • Yeah equipment is the wrong word — I’ll change it. I was talking about stuff like humanity, arrows, etc — you don’t get them back once you fire/use them. The world has that permanence. But you know that already!

      • *phew* I knew about souls and humanity well and truly. I was just worried that I was going to head out on an excursion one time, get eaten by some particularly evil enemy, and re-spawn without my drake’s sword. Then I would cry.

          • lol – I’m playing on PC with controller and didn’t realise I could shoot arrows WITHOUT manual aim. doh!

          • Oh my God. Without the bow-aim I don’t know that I would have got past a LOT of the game. It’s essential.

          • With a bow you can go into first person aiming (not a crossbow though). On 360 or PC with 360 controller – Y to double hand the bow, RB to pull back an arrow, LB to go into first person mode. D pad to zoom. I only found this our recently (as well as releasing and hitting B again to jump after a run), so when I shot the tail off I did it by manually lining up my character under the bridge and firing from the hip.

            I love my Drake sword, but be careful not to abuse it’s double handed heavy attack, it’ll kill your sword as well as your enemies.

          • I used a crossbow without the first-person aiming. But I bought loads of bolts and eventually found the sweet spot. Then stayed perfectly still and shot the bolt at the same point in the tail’s swaying action each time.

            I’m not quite able to hold the sword single-handedly so I found out about the endurance degradation very quickly. Luckily I had the equipment and souls to repair it, and I’ll beef up my strength to wield it properly tonight.

          • Yeah same, I wasn’t strong enough to wield it single handedly, and when I saw the heavy attack I was like “woo, awesome! BAM BAM BAM! Line em up, knock em down!” – wtf, why is my sword almost broken?

          • I think you are far enough in that you won’t need the Drake Sword.
            But in a funny kind of way it actually is the safety net you’re after, kind of like magic was in the first game. Things are easier while you’re learning to play the game if you have the Drake Sword.

    • I totally agree with this. I get so worked up going even a short distance in this game that I can rarely play for more than about 45 minutes. I love that feeling – getting worked up about a game is something that hasn’t happened to me for years.

      There’s a real beauty to this game design, to its risk/reward paradigm, to its unforgiving yet fair difficulty, to the permanence of actions… it’s as close to perfect as I can imagine right now.

  • D.C., the locations are the main draw for me. I agree that an easy mode would be a service to the game, but only for the actual combat. It’s not the difficulty that defined DS for me, it was the game world itself, and the process of learning about it. The game isn’t bloated with archaic lore, and as a result you genuinely *wonder* about it. Dark Souls never labours to explain anything, and that, to my mind, is the element of difficulty that should remain at all costs. It’s actually a beautiful game.

  • Personally, I think this is a bad idea. Not so much for players, but for prospective buyers. There are an abundance of games where incredibly hard difficulty settings, but for me, the initial attraction to the game and the reason it was such a common name to be thrown around was because it was so goddamn difficult. Not even being able to change the settings to make it better. It drew me in as a challenge. The thing that kept me playing was the same thing. My gaming ego was bruised and I kept trying just to prove myself; which is not an effect you can experience when you’re allowed to change the difficulty.

    Personally, I think it’s the game’s major calling card, and changing that would be like taking away Cole’s lightning powers or removing portals from Portal.

  • Hmmm interesting question, I think it depends on how the “easy” mode is handled. If you make the enemies easier to kill / do leas damage then no, that won’t work. However, if you decrease the penalty for dieing (only lost 1/4 of current souls or lose 1 humanity for ever 10 you currently have) I think it could work. Also the developers need to make clear which difficulty they intended that game to be played on.

  • The problem with this is people. In theory adding an easy difficulty should be fine. People want to play the game with less of a challenge they set the game to easy. People want to play the game with its current challenge level they keep it set on what it currently is. Unfortunately, in reality, people don’t think like that. Many would see the game having an easy difficulty as it ruining the game entirely, dumbing it down and wrecking the franchise. Even though they’d still be able to play the game as it is currently, the exact same difficulty level, they’d still feel the game has been ruined. That anyone and their mum can now beat it so what’s the point?

    The only way I can see implementing an easy setting working and not being rejected by the players is if they also implemented some sort of ultra hard setting. The God of War games have an easy setting yet they’re still well known and praised for their difficulty because they offer super hard modes in addition to easy, normal and hard. I can maybe see the same thing working here, though there’s always the chance that because the series did not launch with that set up that people would still reject it.

  • There is nothing better than overcoming an obstacle in a Souls game. You feel like Superman, He-Man and Jesus all rolled into one.

    I’m weak. If there was an option to scale down the difficulty, I would have taken it. And I would have missed out on that feeling. The knowledge that with practice and perseverence comes reward. It’s a life lesson: life doesn’t have an adjustable difficulty setting.

    It’s challenging, but it isn’t petty or punitive. It’s not a hardcore game… it just shuns the modern hand-holding-between-flashy-cinematics-paradigm. It’s a true game.

    Now, if you’ll indulge me, here’s something I wrote re: Demon’s Souls a while back for “Let Off Some Steam” that was never published. I think it underlines my arguments.

    How Demon’s Souls restored my faith in games and reminded me how to live life

    I am a willing victim of declining video game difficulty. I loved the forgiving pre-battle checkpoints in Final Fantasy XIII and the permanent full-health my characters enjoyed between battles. I appreciated the Uncharted games making a checkpoint for me before and after every gun fight. I liked that Assassin’s Creed missions only took a handful of minutes to complete and could be replayed ad infinitum without penalty.

    I’ve played a seemingly endless array of AAA titles on my consoles to completion, racking up a decent gamerscore in the process, but never feeling like I’ve earned most of the achievements. I have come to the sad realisation that the bloo-bloop sound of an achievement is a subliminal mind-control device that brainwashes into believing that you’ve actually achieved something. Gaming had become less fun somehow; even as the games got bigger and better made and flashier, as the stories and game mechanics got more sophisticated, somehow there was still something missing. It had become a mindless pastime for me, something I did out of habit more than anything.

    Enjoyment of course was still there, but gone was that feeling. That intangible engagement you get, that irrepressible feeling that for some reason you can’t quite put your finger on, this is the best possible thing you could be doing right now.

    Had games changed, or had I? I assumed I was just getting older, and that feeling had (quite correctly) migrated from video games to family life.

    But then our very own Strange gifted me a copy of Demon’s Souls.

    Here’s how Demon’s Souls restored my faith in games, and some of the lessons that it teaches for real life.

    I can only show you the door. You must walk through it.

    For a while, I missed having access to a minimap. I missed having a dynamic map in the pause menu, showing me where I’d been, and where I hadn’t yet explored. I missed having a GPS pointing me towards my goal. I missed being able to pause a game to catch my breath, check out the map, plan my strategy. But there is no map. I’ll say it again. There is no map. Playing GTA IV, I spent more time setting waypoints and watching the little GPS screen in the bottom corner than I did the rest of the screen. I could barely tell you anything about the city I was in, and I sure as hell couldn’t find my way around it without a map.

    Demon’s Souls quite forcibly makes the gamer actually look at their environment. You get familiar with it by wandering around. There are multiple paths, and no guides. Boletaria feels like a huge neighbourhood that you’ve just moved into. You don’t explore a new neighbourhood by reading a GPS screen; you talk a walk around it, you get to know the trees and houses and people, get a feel for the dangers and safe spots. In this way, Demon’s Souls feels much more like an allegory for life than games steeped in ‘gritty realism’.

    You must find your own way through Boletaria. No one will sell you a map, and your character won’t draw it himself. His memory is your memory. You are forced to engage your senses, to commit every aspect of the world to memory in order to traverse it safely. And although you might have help along the way, your life is still yours alone to live.

    This is a game that prepares you for the solitary moments of life, the tough choices, the blind groping for direction.

    Do or do not. There is no try.

    The other day I watched my little girl attempt to climb up onto the sofa while clutching her precious ‘Pink Baby’ doll. She struggled for a while, then fell on her bottom. The doll sprawled to the ground. Reasonably unfussed, she picked herself up and began again, remembering only when halfway up that she’d forgotten to pick the doll back up. So down she went, picked up Pink Baby, and started again. She struggled, teetered on the edge of the seat, and then triumphantly threw her leg over the top and climbed up. Then she got overconfident, stood up and bounced on the sofa, and stumbled. She stayed on the sofa, but the doll fell to the floor below.

    If that’s not a direct analogy of Demon’s Souls I don’t know what is.

    Most games involve some level of practice makes perfect, of training in the game mechanics. This is as true for easy games like Assassin’s Creed as it is for brutally difficult ones like Super Meat Boy. Somehow, Demon’s Souls seems to go beyond that. Yes, you have to get familiar with the gaming mechanics – of course you do, but you also have to train yourself. There are no forgiving checkpoints; again and again you will have to start from the very beginning of the stage, and work your way all the way through to the end. It’s the same kind of punishing training that Super Meat Boy brought to the gaming world, but instead of encouraging gamers to develop lightning reflexes and muscle memory, Demon’s Souls goes deeper.

    You must unlearn what you have learned.

    Patience. Persistence. Danger.

    Three words missing from most AAA titles. You can’t play Demon’s Souls this way. Your mantra becomes patience, persistence, danger, or your avatar will fail embarrassingly quickly, falling at the first hurdle over and over again.

    I am constantly reminded of the risk that is living. Of the bigger risks of chasing progress. Of the occasional triumphs, of the occasional defeats, of the considerable investment of time and energy often required to progress even a single step.

    What’s it like to play Demon’s Souls?
    Struggle. Defeat. Renewal. Trepidation. Caution. Triumph. Pride. Overconfidence. Defeat.

    What does it mean to live?
    Struggle. Defeat. Renewal. Trepidation. Caution. Triumph. Pride. Overconfidence. Defeat.

    Again. And again.

    Life. Demon’s Souls.

    With an adjustable difficulty setting, the Souls games would lose these magical qualities, and sink back into the quagmire of average games.

  • It’s the companies choice at the end of the day, to do what makes them more money, to develop not only more games, but higher budget games. However, Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls are revered for what they are. We all need to remember where Demon’s Souls came from and how we first became acquainted with the game. For a significant period after it’s initial release in Asia, we all had to import it (those of us that were aware of it) because the idea of the game’s success in Western countries was completely out of the question to the producers.

    A game this difficult, could only appeal to a niche market and according to From Software, the Western market was beyond that appeal. Soon From Software learned, through a unpredicted quantity of private importing, their game not only appealed to a sizable market in Western Culture, but they were wrong to generalize Western gamers simply from what developers have been offering us.

    Dark Souls complimented the mystifying success of Demon’s Souls, it said “Thank You” to gamers around the globe… in a brutal, die horribly 10000 times kind of way. The appeal these games have to their fans is unique, it’s a staple in gaming history. However, underneath the media and hype surrounding the difficulty, the brutality and the unforgiving nature of these games, lies an unparallelled atmosphere, genius level design and a signature that nothing could have prepared us for. From the gloriously clunky controls and beautifully designed, yet modest, combat system, these games live through their difficulty. The remaining content still awaiting you on the disc taunts you relentlessly, over and over and over again with each hopeless attempt at the brutal challenge put before you.

    All of these aspects give the gamer a true appreciation for the content, because they earned the content, they fought and died endlessly for it. You want to make the game easy? Sure why not, but you’re not selling the same experience, you’re selling out.

  • One more comment: one genius part of the game design is that it makes you feel like you’ve come further than you actually have.

    What I mean is: once you’re used to an area, you could blow through it in 1-2 minutes. Five at the most. But the first time you venture into an unknown region, you’ll be walking slow, shield up, and it’ll probably take you upwards of an hour between checkpoints.

    The difficulty makes the world seem bigger, not because you’re retracing your steps or grinding, but simply because it takes you longer to walk through it. Because you’re concentrating on every corner and crest, rather than just charging fearlessly for the finish line, you notice it, you drink it in, and you feel like you’ve processed enough data for 10 Uncharteds.

    Dark Souls is not a small game, but it feels a LOT bigger than it actually is.

      • Oh man, the way all the sections of the world fit together is just magic. I am in awe of the world builders at From.

        • I can’t help but wonder if it would have the same magic if it wasn’t such an ordeal to discover these paths and shortcuts!

    • Man so true. It’s an awesome feeilng to just dominate an area, not because you’re levelled up and decked out, but because you have the experience and you know what to do. But that same feeling can get you in trouble – I just lost 20k souls because I thought I had dropped them in an easy area with simple enemies that I could 1-hit, so I pranced through to pick them back up and was promptly destroyed by a group of ‘easy’ enemies within a few metres of my bloodstain.

    • I’m only a couple of hours into the game but I completely agree – in the Undead Burg it felt really large initially. By the end of that region I’d zoom through to where I died in a minute or two. Although, if I rushed even faster, I usually died. 🙂

  • I’d say that giving the user an option of playing through an ‘easy mode’ of Dark Souls is less like walking a tightrope with a safety net and more like reading the cliffnotes of Gravity’s Rainbow without attempting the book itself, or if David Lynch went and made a version of Mulholland Dr. that implicitly outlined everything and left the viewer with no questions. I’m yet to really jump into Dark Souls, because it intimidates me a bit, but I’m glad that there are games like it out there that dare to challenge with mechanics rather than subject matter. Giving the user an ‘opt-out’ would take away from the clarity of Dark Souls’ design philosophy.

    • Why not add in Easy mode but give it the same status as reading the cliff notes – if you can’t see yourself getting a grip on the mechanics, play on Easy – but the proper way to play is on Normal and you will only be doing yourself a disservice?

  • The difficulty also comes from the level design and scripted events that cannot be changed. In truth the ai could be said to be already easy to outsmart, simply lowering the damage counters would speed progress for the minority of new bloods, not open a huge new market. Stupidity. Irony is that classic gameplay focus is now a risky cutting edge philosophy.

  • Shane I also love how, even after completing the game several times, foes you’ve slain 100 times over can still knock the chip off your shoulder, reminding you “This is Demon’s Souls”.

    • Yep, it’s pretty much crucial to never get cocky.

      I started NG+ Demon’s Souls, and the very first dregling almost killed me! 😛

  • pfft. you want hard, play dark souls on the PC with just the mouse and keyboard and dont even attempt to change the basic key mapping. If your playing it on the PC with a 360/ps3 controller, then your playing it in easy mode.

    • If you’re playing it with a 360/ps3 controller, you’re playing it the way it was designed to be played. If you’re using a keyboard with default mapping, you’re making it unnecessarily more difficult on yourself. If you manage to complete the game however, I commend you good sir.

    • imo The controls are responsive its not a button masher you have to be precise with every move you make and time your strikes well.

  • Proof that PC gamers are not the master race they thought they were. From only started talking about the easy difficulty after you PC players bitched about how difficult it is.

  • Dragon’s Dogma recently introduced an easy mode via a patch. It’s not on by default, and when you die its available as an option, or selectable in the options menu. I think this is a good way to do it.

  • I have heard of people making half way through the game not realising things like you can “lock on” or “free aim” or even “jump”.
    I think people just need to read the manual or something cause it’s not all that frustratingly hard if you make use of the abilitys you have and the online messages/summons. (when they work).
    Accept that your gonna die alot. This game is a challenge but face it, this game would suck if it was a cake walk.

  • If you make it easier you would be missing out on what makes it good.
    The story and getting to the end is not the point of the game – learning the skills, overcoming the challenge, the frustration of defeat and exultation of victory over a foe that has constantly killed you – the moment by moment struggle forward: that is Dark Souls.
    If you make it easier a player will not experience that, to them it will just be an alright action game with a incomprehensible story.
    Dark Souls IS the hard climbing wall and other, easier games are the training ones.

    • Well said. This is the reason people value that first play through so much. It’s never the same struggle once you’ve conquered it.

  • I just hope that it was just an off the cuff comment. Surely after the success they’ve had with the slogan “prepare to die” they wouldn’t abandon that philosophy moving forward.

    • From what I’ve seen, these guys are really open about the process of game-making. It could be that this is a very early high-level conept idea that was never actually going to be actioned. They’ve just shared their textas and butcher’s paper with the world instead of keeping it locked in a safe! 🙂

  • The major stumbling points for me are the boss battles. An option to redo a boss battle after multiple failed at an easier difficulty would be nice PROVIDING there is a consequence for doing so. For instance missing out on any souls for defeating the boss and and special equipment that came from beating them.

  • Such a shame the PC “port” is so shockingly awful.. would really have liked to give this one a bash.. but it really is a bare-bones port.. one of the worst ports for quite some time infact. Rather than spending time and money making a new difficulty level.. maybe they should fix the PC version first and make it more appealing to a new audience in that way.

  • I finished the game and no I don’t think the difficulty should be scaled down. I agree the tight rope analogy is a bit forced too because alot of games are made for the masses and they do offer scalable difficulties. Dark Souls simply is not designed for those type of gamers and never should be. I prefer an Olympics analogy. That competition is not for regular people and never will be. There never should be a leg up to get everyone involved and help them towards a gold medal. It celebrates the best and poses a challenge to match.

  • Having only the one (extinguishable) central fireplace would be epic, im sure it was on the drawing board at some point.

  • My opinion: Don’t tone down the game. Don’t even give the option of an easy mode, because it’s one step further to From Software becoming a bunch of sell outs and catering the casual market. Thereby ruining the Souls series entire image.

    I could see it becoming a generic 3rd person game.

  • The Drake Sword comments give me an idea for an easy mode that might work in Dark Souls, why not offer a set of equipment or a build at the start that makes the game easier to deal with in the beginning (because let’s face it this is really the only difficult part as you start to learn the rules), you could make it so the equipment makes you lose only half your souls from being lost when you die (got to go back to get the other half) and could significantly boost stats like stamina and health. The catch is it decays over game time while equipped, so if you’re confident enough you can remove it to re-use it when you next hit a difficulty spike but after say 5 or 10 hours that’s it, no more handholding. You could also set it so that if you’re invaded the equipment gets removed so as not to disrupt or nerf the multiplayer as well.

    Anything more than this though will break the game, it has a fantastic atmosphere but a big part of it is irrevocably damaged by the loss of fear an easy mode would bring to the player, the player engages with the game on a primal level as much as the game messes with our own primal fears. Much of the claustrophobia and nail-biting horror I get playing this game is due to the fact that death is always around the next corner.

  • Dark souls is like a single malt scotch. Its perfect as it is unadulterated, a bit painful, complex, lingering and makes me beat my wife.

  • this game was designed hard like demons souls, its not even hard, adding a easy mode will break the best game and i will sell my copy

  • I started playing it again. I think rather then add a difficulty setting in they could just add closer checkpoints to bosses but then again I guess that takes a lot out of the game. Dying wasn’t the big issue I had it was just having to continue to do the easy shit to get to the boss (in certain circumstances).

    Anyone have major issues should change their tactics. AKA heavy armour (or spell), no knockover = easy

  • There are ways to add an easy mode without it being too pervasive or diluting the experience. Things like only losing part of your resources when you die have already been mentioned. Having the difficulty setting be only settable before starting the game is another way. But doing a classically simplistic health/damage scaling easy mode that you can switch to at any point in the game? No, thanks.

    Or have the difficulty only lowerable in the Undead Asylum, either only during the first section, or afterwards – hell, make people work to enable easy mode, rather than just changing a setting in an options menu. That’d give people the option, but make people not want to change down unless they really feel that they have to, while at the same time allowing people to change down during the tutorial if they feel like they need to.

  • An easy mode would be difficult to implement with regards to multiplayer, unless you made gear weaker or disabled pvp entirely for it.

    People easily farming up gear and then invading does not a good pvp make, and dark souls pvp is some of the funnest around.

  • The only problem I see with adding an easy difficulty is that it means online component will be split in half, which means half of an already small amount of people that will summon me, though I suppose you could allow Easy players to summon Hard players but not vice-versa, also invaders and PVP’ers will have half as many options available .

    The second problem is once they finnish the game on easy they would either be bumped up to NG+ which would be skipping a whole difficulty and ubber hard or playing on normal which would give them an unfair advantage as well as next to no exp for half the game (since they’d be around level 60), or their easy character would become unplayable further.

    I’m all for extra difficulty options in games since I believe it adds replayability and one difficulty results in either a dumbed down experience for everyone or a painful experience for newbies.

  • I’m not interested in playing Dark Souls because of the difficulty – I get too frustrated. But I don’t think they should change that… it’s a selling point for the game, it distinguishes it. It’d be a less valuable experience. While in general I like the idea of an ‘easy’ mode for the player not seeking that challenge, when that’s the the primary feature of the game… it seems backwards to include it. I don’t feel like Dark Souls should have catered to me – I wasn’t it’s audience, and that’s okay.

  • I personally haven’t bothered with the game. I know I’m more likely to throw my controller/mouse/keyboard at the screen than have any sort of fun with it. I’ve always thought those who believe having an easy mode was sacraligious were being a bit selfish. A game should be able to be enjoyed by everyone, not by a select few dedicated gamers (assuming the easy mode is done correctly of course). Don’t like easy? Don’t play it on easy. I realise that this isn’t as simple as I’ve put it as some love the challenge with no easy way around which is fair enough. But again, I just can’t help but feel that this is kinda selfish.

    I guess the counter argument would be that if you don’t like hard games, don’t play them. If that’s the case, now you’re denying the developer money because of people like me who would prefer not to waste their money on a game they would never enjoy. The only feasible argument I see is that people like me just weren’t part of the target audience. Fair enough. Though, I still don’t see the harm in just having the option there for those of us who still want to give the game a go. They can still be enjoyed by people even if you are “dumbing it down” for them. I want to buy Dark Souls, I really do. It’s an RPG, I love RPGs but that lack of accessibility just destroys everything.

    Those who dismiss the easy difficulty really need to see this in the a “crappy” gamer’s shoes. Some of us really love our games, we’re just horrible at them. I’ve tried to see it in your shoes and I understand why you don’t want an easy mode. I just don’t see the harm in having it there.

    • Having never played it I can understand why you wouldn’t see the harm. Easy mode would completely cripple the experience. Irreparably. If people don’t want to play something with a reputation for being brutally hard (but fair) then there’s a world of other games out there. I don’t understand why dragging something down to mediocrity always seems like a reasonable option. From have earned themselves the very definition of a rabid fanbase off the back of these games – the difficulty is merely the prism through which the experience of playing the Souls games is refracted – and to take this away leaves the experience duller.

  • There are so many valid reasons not to add an ‘easy mode’ its to pick a topic to begin with. I understand the desire to appeal to a larger target audience in order to turn a higher profit. But this is not the right way of going about it. If the game is too hard, and you (the player) do not have the time/effort/skill to complete it, or are turned off by its level of difficulty then this is not a game for you. With any genre game. I won’t make comparisons to FPS’s, RPG’s or RTS’s because all of those games (among many other) take a considerable about of time in order to simply PLAY the game. To be ‘good’ at them, you need a large selection of things including the ability to look beyond the game and start thinking about each move you are going to make. Demons/Dark Souls is no different and if an easier difficulty is placed into the game, you can be damn sure there are going to be a lot more of “Run from A to B the quest” parts of the game to increase game-play length instead of challenging the player. I strongly disagree with this theory and hope that this will not happen. In a time where there are very few interesting games, it would be a heavy blow to the gaming market and a harsh slap in the face to those gamers who enjoy the rewarding feeling of beating a boss that a lot of people can’t. This is just a money game, but if an easy mode is added to future games, my cash won’t be leaving my account for games any longer.

    • There’s a lot to like about this comment. Especially the idea that without the difficulty, Dark Souls would be a much shorter game, and would therefore be padded out with a very different game design ethos.

      • Agreed! My first playthrough was nearly 100 hours, but with my skill and knowledge alone now I can cruise through in 20 fairly leisurely. And that’s not even mentioning the people who can punch through in less than 2…

  • Heh think I got lucky, I got the black knights sword near the start of the game and it was kinda easy from then on…. Even the 450 or do power dragon sword from the god creature in the secret underground area you access from the swamp wasn’t as good as a powered up black knight sword – cant wait for the next game tbh

  • Dark Souls is as niche market. Nothing wrong with it. But the simple fact is only a specific segment of the gamers would ever buy it.

    Adding easier modes would make “hard core” gamers feel like their little private club is being invaded by inferior players. Can’t help that. But if the game company is happy to limit their own profits then that’s their choice.

  • I think that the balance of Dark Souls is what we find most appealing about it- that it’s perfectly weighted to reward your persistence. I think taking that away would really be taking away a big part of the Dark Souls experience.

  • I cant imagine what the game would be like, the only reason you ever get good at dark/demon souls is from practice. Why do you practice, cause you get killed and then have to try again, you learn you evolve to fight every enemy.

    You take away that you take away the game

  • If you can’t handle the game how it was made to be played, you shouldn’t be playing at all. The tagline for the game is “Prepare to Die” if you buy the game and complain about difficulty, you’re an idiot. The game isn’t even that hard, it just has a learning curve. Adding an easy mode is stupid. And From would be betraying their loyal fans (myself included) for making the game any easier.
    If they add in any modes, they should add a Hard mode.

  • Having never played the game, yet knowing that it’s hard and that that’s part of the appeal, I’d say the “safety net” should be other games.

    I’m a bit unco and as a result I find basketball to be really difficult. Trying to bounce and control direction of the ball while running full pelt trying to get past defenders etc. is something I just cannot do.

    So my options are: A – Play something else that’s easier or better fits my existing skillset, or B – drill the crap out of basketball fundamentals until I get good at it, and thereby gain enjoyment from playing and learning a new skill.

    At no point would there be an option C – remove bouncing from the game. That would be silly, it wouldn’t be basketball any more!

  • One thousand times NO.
    The “Souls” games are going to be remembered generations down the line for completely bucking the trend on difficulty in a way that was integral to the gaming experience, putting an Easy Mode (or “Girlfriend Mode” as I’ve heard it referred to with many LOLs) detracts from the fact that you have to EARN your place in the world of Boletaria/Lordran. (And for the record Dark Souls HAS an easy mode, it’s called summoning two phantoms).
    Are From only listening to the vocal whiners on this issue? If you aren’t prepared to learn the mechanics and get the rewards by fighting for them, then these aren’t the games for you. Go and play any one of the millions of other titles happy to casually flick “achievements” your way so you feel the illusion of accomplishment.
    It wasn’t as prevalent when the console versions released, largely because those who knew previous games knew what to expect: unforgiving, unmatchable accountability to the player. Now we have an age where you can buy your way past a point that’s not even that hard just because you tried a few times and couldn’t be bothered to learn the mechanic. THIS is what is destroying AAA titles! I mean, New Super Mario Brothers II has the option to freaking nerf the entire level if you get stuck! Don’t bother learning or improving! If it’s too hard, just skip ahead!
    Here’s where I show my age some: I remember playing Super Mario Bros on the NES and I never beat the game. Ever. I’ve owned a copy for over 20 years and the fact that I hit a wall around World 6 does not detract from my adoration or willingness to play one bit.
    Even Zelda games feel tragically like going through the motions because you’re pointed in the right direction every single step of the way, because godfuckingforbid someone actually had to work something out for themself.
    Yes, easy mode is great for some games where you just want to be a part of an interactive movie and not have to struggle especially (it’s how I play all the Uncharted games after beating them proper now), but tacking on an arbitrary difficulty mode on something where the experience itself is founded on overcoming extraordinarily stacked odds just reeks pathetically of “PLEASE LIKE ME”.
    Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go slam my head against the wall as I try and survive the Capra Demon fight for more than 6 seconds. I am going to be SO overjoyed when I finally cut his jerk head off. Try and match THAT, easymode.

  • Adding an easy mode to a game that is meant to be difficult sounds a bit silly…
    It is difficult, but not impossible! I finished my first playthrough in 47 hours. 47 hours i hated and loved at the same time. I died countless times, and sometimes it took me more than a day to get rid of a single boss, but after defeating that boss, every single minute spent to get there felt like it was time well spent, the emotional reward is amazing. Some bosses are almost impossible to tackle alone (Ornstein and Smough, especially in NG+), but that is why there is the co-op component.
    Many people complained that Amalur was too easy in any difficulty level, but when they are given something harder, they all want games to go back to “amalur” difficulty or they will quit and sell the game.
    Just accept that there games more suitable for a specific type of gamer than others.
    I understand the creator point of view… if more people can play this game, more people will buy it, and more money will fly into my wallet… Sooner or later they will all sell their principles for some money, i was hoping they would release a third game of the same style before that happened.

  • People saying it’ll ruin the game sounds like a wank to me. Beating, say, the Halo games on Legendary or Call of Duty on Veteran or whatever still fills you with pride, because it still takes skill to do. That isn’t diminished by your friend being able to do it on a lower difficulty level. The memories of finishing those games on their hardest difficulty is burnt into my memory, if you can’t treasure that sort of thing on its own merits then I feel sorry for you.

  • In my opinion, the only thing Dark Souls actually offers is just repetative ‘almost impossible’ case scenarios. You -WILL- die, that is a fact. However, what the game failed to mention up front was that when you die (which you will) you have to redo the entire part you’ve just cleared and kill everything again just to try that one harder mob again. Why make players kill every easy part a gazillion times to try (and likely) fail on the harder part again? That’s not difficulty – that’s merely adding in a lot of repetition in order to lengthen a game that already lacks greatly in story. Seriously, if it wasn’t for the respawns, this game would NEVER deliver the 100+ hours of gameplay mentioned everywhere. I’d be over sooner than Portal.

    Sad excuse for a game imo. Favouring repetition and just overly unfair scenarios as opposed to a smooth gameplay experience and a chance to actually try and discover the story without having to pass enemy 1-16 from part 4-1 again for 30+ times.

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