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Meodia Debates: Should an “Easy Mode” Be Added to ‘Dark Souls’?

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The following is a debate between two Meodia editors on the subject of Dark Souls: specifically, on the possibility that an “Easy Mode” could eventually be making its way to the game. If it did, who would it affect? What about the Dark Souls experience would be altered as a result? For better or for worse? These issues and more will be covered in the discussion below. We hope you enjoy what our editors have to say on the matter.

Debaters: Rick, Greg

Moderator: Kylan K.

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Earlier this month the creator of ‘Dark Souls’, Hidetaka Miyazaki, was quoted as saying he was considering adding an “easy mode” to the game. Namco Bandai later claimed it was a translation error, which is something now being disputed. Whether or not Miyazaki is planning an easy mode for the game, it brings up an interesting question: should ‘Dark Souls’, a game whose difficulty is considered by many to be intrinsic to its worth, receive an easy mode?

Rick, let’s start with you. Should Dark Souls receive an easy mode? 

Rick: If the developers of Dark Souls want to add an easy mode, so more people can approach their game, then I don’t see why not.

Thanks Rick, that is definitely an egalitarian point of view on this argument. Now I’ll turn to you Greg. Do you agree or disagree with Rick’s assessment that ‘Dark Souls’ should receive an easy mode?

Greg: I strongly disagree. The inclusion of an easy mode would completely negate what Dark Souls is all about; that rewarding sense of accomplishment you get when beating a boss would diminish when you know other players are taking the easy way through. Dark Souls would be less of a game and an experience than it is now.

Thanks Greg. It seems that is definitely the popular view among the game’s fanbase, but I wonder if Rick could respond to one of the statements you’ve just made. Rick, what do you think of Greg’s statement that the sense of reward could be affected by knowing players on an Easy Difficulty aren’t having to confront as big of obstacles as yourself? 

Rick: Is knowing that other people are playing on easy going to ruin the experience? I don’t think so. Those that play(ed) the game as originally intended aren’t going to have the difficulty and atmosphere of Dark Souls instantly erased from their memory. A lot of difficult games have an easy mode and it hasn’t bothered anyone before. Mega Man 10 has an easy mode and it didn’t shatter my enjoyment of the game. Anyone who does let it bother them, I believe, is thinking about it too much.

Greg. I’d like to give you a moment to respond to that before we move on. Rick began with an open question. Would you like to answer it?

Greg: Dark Souls shouldn’t be compared to other hard games such as Mega Man or Devil May Cry that have adjustable difficulty. The whole concept of Dark Souls was designed with specific gameplay mechanics, such as blood stains that show how others have died, and helpful hints left by others. These wouldn’t survive the transition as they would become trivial distractions instead of important key elements on the road to beating the challenge. But back to the Mega Man and DMC comparison, Dark Souls isn’t a hard game reflex-wise, it’s a hard game knowledge-wise. Everything can easily be beaten if you know how to approach it, playing Dark Souls is about discovering and learning that knowledge through your own mistakes, it’s about your own progression as much as it is about your character’s progression. Reduce enemy strength, remove traps and many other tricks and players would suddenly start to whine about how Dark Souls is a short game, with barely any depth and a lacking story, but those are not what it’s actually about.

Rick, do you think it’s true that ‘Dark Souls’ wouldn’t have depth if its difficulty was greatly reduced? Secondly, and on a more personalized note, would you play on Easy Difficulty if it was implemented?? Do you believe ‘Dark Souls’ would still be a top-tier RPG experience without as much player demand and punishment? Simply, do you think the game would maintain its attributes if it was an easier experience? 

Rick: Not much of anything has been said about this easy mode though. FromSoftware is talented and I think they can make the game more accessible without adding an “instant win button” that Dark Souls fans seem to think an easy mode will be. Personally, I would not play it on easy mode. I like the game the way it is. But if there’s demand for a more accessible version of the game and the developers want to provide it then I see nothing wrong with it. Yes, I think it could ,because the less experienced gamers (or those who don’t have the patience) will likely die over and over again even on easy mode. I would hope that easy mode just tweaks things a bit to make the game approachable, not turns it into a cakewalk.

As for the comment on length, there are a lot of short games out there and I don’t see that as much of an argument. Right now the game is already down to half price and will likely be a third or less of the original price by the time this easy mode is implemented.

That’s true. We can’t say for sure how an “Easy Mode” would operate in ‘Dark Souls’. FromSoftware often seems to have a unique approach to every component of their games. Greg, do you think ‘Dark Souls’ length, or lack-thereof, boils down in some way to an issue of the game’s price? Or are we discussing the game more as an experience than a product? 

Greg: Price of a game is most commonly tied with its length. A high price for a short game makes people feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth and I indeed think this might be a case in the scenario we are discussing.

But let’s go a step back, examine why exactly do other people want to play Dark Souls now but hardly anyone cared about Demon’s Souls? Because the “hardcore” players had such an amazing experience with both games. Word got out and now everyone want’s a piece of the cake, they want to see the rest of the game but they think the “difficulty” isn’t letting them, when in fact there’s hardly anything else to see apart from how the game works, how it teaches you to approach it.

People today grew accustomed to the idea that they should be entitled to finish a game completely simply because they paid for it. You don’t walk into a Chinese restaurant ,order the daily special, and then complain how bad it tastes and demand the head chef changes the recipe because you didn’t like whatever they served; either you eat it or you don’t. You don’t buy a car and then complain that the manufacturer needs to add auto-pilot simply because you never took driving lessons.

We saw what happened recently when FromSoftware listened to it’s “fans” and ported Dark Souls over to PC. PC players weren’t happy, even though FromSoftware went out of their way to dabble into something they had no idea how to. People are now raging because they got the exact same thing they signed the petition for, a game everyone else played on consoles, with also brand new content included, but even that wasn’t enough.

Blindly listening to what other people want, that don’t understand the point of the game, is not a good idea. This issue of including an easy difficulty does not only affect Dark Souls, but also any other upcoming sequel and Souls title as well.

Rick, do you believe the same sense of foreboding atmosphere could stay in-tact for those who play the game on Easy Difficulty? 

Rick: Yes, so long as the easy mode is implemented well. Weakening some of the bosses a bit won’t turn them into complete pushovers and players will still have to be careful. Especially considering that it’s these players who don’t have the patience or will to complete the original game. If FromSoftware takes the time to make it work, it can open the game to new players. Who knows, after trying easy mode maybe many will move on to the original difficulty after they’ve had some time with it. That could be good for everyone and create more success for the series by the time the sequel comes. If easy mode is rushed and breaks the game it could be a problem and steer people away, but I don’t think it would come to that. If they want to do an easy mode, they’ll take the time to do it properly. Dark Souls has done pretty well so I don’t think Namco would be breathing down their necks about it.

I’d like to respond to Greg’s comment on reactions to the PC version of Dark Souls: people don’t always like what they ask for. Sure, Dark Souls on the PC got a lot of complaints because they were hoping for more. Dark Souls in general doesn’t suddenly have a bad reputation now. If I order a Whopper and ask them to put barbeque sauce on, and don’t like it, then it doesn’t mean I’ll never order anything from Burger King again. I believe Dark Souls with an easy mode could work if implemented properly. And if people get what they’re asking for and don’t like it, they’ll move on. Fans of Dark Souls won’t avoid the sequel now just because an easy mode was added. If easy mode is a success then the next Souls game may have it from the start, but so long as “easy” isn’t the only difficulty, it shouldn’t be a problem. Knowing that others are playing on easy still wouldn’t bother me.

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Greg is in fact a cute little fluffy kitten that likes cake, games... and undead. Thinks that Zombies are so 2008, and would like to see some skeletons and wraiths take the spotlight for a change, they need love too!