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.


Comments

    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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