Thanks, ‘Prey’, for Not Making Easy Mode a Guilty Pleasure

Arkane’s reboot doesn’t lock anything behind higher-difficulty modes, and that’s a Very Good Thing.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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super interested in what exactly it was about dishonored that made you feel uncomfortable playing on easy mode; that example seems a little different from the others in that maybe it’s more about how playing the game doesn’t fit together with the story, and if you made me defend difficulty (at gunpoint, probably) it’d go along the lines of: corvo is fundamentally alone and feels like the world is against him and you don’t really get that if you just breeze through it

whereas on the other hand i (am slightly ashamed to admit i) have been playing the saints row games and the concept of difficulty is so wildly out of place there? they have a better conception of the mechanics of power than any game that takes itself more seriously and thrive on either giving the player complete control or taking it away from them, and it’s just not a story that can get away with arbitrary challenges that force the player to work hard or keep dying to get anywhere

hi i’m eve, i’m trans, i play games with cheats on whenever i have the option, yes the two are connected, end masculinity,


I think part of it also depends on how one wants to play Dishonored. The game’s default options and settings are very flexible in ways that not enough games do, and I could see playing it on easy making one feel like they’re missing out if they’re doing a more action focused run and not worrying about being stealthy all the time because of that.

I really love how Dishonored handles that, it has difficulty levels one can choose, but on top of that every single bit of information the player gets about the game world and themselves can be adjusted independently of each other. So one could play the game on easy, but also turn off those indicators of how alert nearby enemies are, but keep other aspects of the HUD on. I had a lot of fun playing around with it to see what combination of those settings makes the game too easy or difficult for me.

Going back in time, my least favorite trend in old arcade games ever is the small number of ones where you cannot continue while fighting the game’s final enemy. I appreciate how some of them (NAM-1975 is cool for this) have an actual bad ending instead of just the regular game over screen, but those games are already designed around taking your quarters regularly. It’s like an ultimate fuck you to put in the time and money and then not actually be able to see the ending.

I like how several Platinum games also offer a difficulty mode where the content is the same, but the complexity of the controls are what get simplified, players can focus on how cool the action looks instead of worrying about executing the right combo or dashing around in just the right way. SNK used to do that with some of their fighting games, so instead of having to learn a bunch of specific motions for each character a new player could easily perform moves and see all the game’s cool looking stuff.

I didn’t even realize there was a difficulty setting. I just assumed the game had a fixed difficulty at the start.

“…the ‘regular’ player, he or she…”

But for a constructive comment not about linguistic prescriptivism and the gender binary… I haven’t played a new game with a difficulty option in quite a while (my computer is garbage and I can’t afford new consoles, my next goal is to save up for a PS3 and wait for Wii U prices to drop) so it is nice hearing about a game that does difficulty well. My biggest frustration with older (mostly PS2) games was when I set the difficulty to normal, hit a wall, and had to choose between throwing myself at a boss forever, starting the game over from the beginning, or just giving up on the game. So from my outdated perspective, just being able to adjust difficulty mid-game is fantastic and novel.

As far as shame over choosing difficulty, that’s never really been a factor for me, I always set difficulty based on what I want out of a game: sometimes a challenge is fun, sometimes I want to experience the story and the world of the game. Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a game mocking me for lower difficulty, just being locked off from certain minor rewards (like the secret endings in the Kingdom Hearts series), so I wonder if that kind of shame specifically comes from having played those games.

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Same, but the opposite. I can’t stand it when games include five or six difficulty modes and no reward for completing any one over any other. I shouldn’t care about it, but I really do! Ubisoft open world games are the worst for this, because so much of the gameplay involves clearing out combat centres or surviving nature encounters. When you can blow through them by lowering the difficulty, why shouldn’t you? Games are an illusion made of systems, and in my head, the whole thing falls apart.

The reward for playing on higher difficulties probably shouldn’t come in the form of “content”. It’s a pretty trivial solution to put an “unlock all” option/cheat in the settings – many indie games do, like VVVVVV – and open your content to all users. You can still keep your unlock progression for the 99% of people who won’t change anything. But – for me, at least – there has to be something. Trophies/Achievements are perfect for this, because they stay out of the way while giving those who care about them a reason to push through a challenge. There doesn’t even need to be one for every difficulty! I just need a reason to not dial the game down to zero. Otherwise it feels like nobody bothered to balance the thing.

For games that are not designed around difficulty, this is fine. But for something like Volgarr the Viking, where difficulty is basically the whole point, I’m glad there isn’t an easier mode to play on.

I should contextualize this properly though: I love classic-style, brutally hard games. I pretty much always play games on hard.

But anyway, I’m glad the author was able to play and enjoy prey without getting punished over and over by difficulty. Most games should probably have an easy mode that doesn’t punish the player for using it.

I don’t mind a fair challenge, but I’ve definitely come to appreciate the presence of easy modes. Especially as I’ve found myself more and more exhausted of games with ridiculously high levels of challenge. Just don’t have the time or energy for most of them anymore. Nice to be able to drop the difficulty and just play through a game at my own leisurely pace.

I think there were some games in the PS2 days that locked away the easy difficulty until you died a certain number of times on normal. Always hated those. Felt real patronizing to see “easy mode unlocked!” after falling just short of besting whatever obstacle stood my way several times. Why make me suffer through a bunch of deaths just so I can unlock a difficulty level I’d feel more comfortable playing on? Never made any sense. Very glad games have stepped away from that attitude.