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.

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.


    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.

      Durante mod. Gamepad.
      Shame about GFWL tho.

    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.

    Two options to add

    1. Easy mode
    2. Easy mode with perma-death

    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.

    instead of adding a easy mode, i would rather fix the game, cloning items and botomless box glitch.

    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.

    Meh, I was actually disappointed with the difficulty. I expected it to be harder.

    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.

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