Saturday, 8 May 2010

Difficulty: EASY

Games are becoming easier, or so I keep being told. In the age of virtually every demographic playing Video Games, the notion and idea of difficulty in games has been an issue that has been leaping to the forefront of many discussions. Indeed, with the advent of achievements and trophies, the subject has become more apparent than ever, with players being awarded from embracing the higher difficulty levels. I find this subject fascinating, as people tend to have wildly differing views when it comes to difficulty, and what's right.

Trials HD. The closest you can come to self-harm with
a controller in your hand. Basically Motocross for
the NES, but with all the fun taken out.

Now, personally, I tend to play games on an easier setting. Call it wimping out, tell me I'm not enjoying the 'true' experience, but I enjoy it. I enjoy narrative in games, and with a limited time to play games now I'm a grown-up, I like to rattle through games, and not be stuck on sections to the point of frustration. I don't personally enjoy the idea of grinding heavily, or memorising enemy patterns and really crawling through a game. I'm fully aware that this kind of sadistic impulse gets some people well in the mood, but not me. I rely on the story of a game, and love to play through it, enjoying the story, almost like a movie.

I also like to feel like a bad-ass when playing games. When playing God of War 3, I wanted to feel like the son of Zeus, rather than some lackey who can't even handle a little Hippogriff. I wanna take down that bitch straight away, and breathe fire from my lungs whilst doing it. On an easier setting, the true boss battles are still challenging, but I can concentrate on dealing with the footsoldiers in creative ways, rather than shitting myself when something trivial comes along.

If Kratos is having trouble kicking a few dogs about,
How's he gonna react when Zeus shows up?

The catalyst for this little ramble was Bayonetta. I instinctly turned the difficulty down to 'easy' when I started playing. It's a rental, and I want to breeze through it, so I turned it down. Part way through the game, I decided that for a change, I'd try it on 'normal', to see what I was missing, as I thought to myself that maybe I would appreciate the challenging aspect, and maybe I was wrong.

Seriously, I lasted about 5 minutes until I got to a miniboss. After dying about 12 times, I turned the difficulty back down. The boss was so unforgiving, so relentless in it's apparent unfairness that it just baffled me as to how this curve of difficulty was so obviously out-of-wack. Why was it so crushingly hard? On normal? Who has the time these days to play the same boss over and over again? Who gets pleasure out of this?

I think it's such an out-of-date idea. Originally, the difficulty of games was artificially inflated due to the restrictions on the machines. A NES or a Master System cartridge didn't have a great deal of memory, so they couldn't offer a huge amount of gameplay. They couldn't hold a great deal of anything really. Games were shorter due to this and budget restrictions, yet more pressure was put on them to be value for money. Because of this, difficulty was ramped up artificially, making some games absolutely nails, with the worst offenders often being the cheaper end of the retail spectrum.

Notoriously difficult, The Mega Man series of games
had players scratching their eyes out on a regular basis.

So, in the days of 100+hour games, Fully immersive stories with actual plots and twists worthy of Hollywood, who wants to break the illusion by dying a thousand times just to get through that awkward choke point with the bad guys with grenades? Not me.

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