thoughts/ramblings on Hard/1999 difficulties (spoilers)

#1 Edited by strangecargo (70 posts) -

I think the modern (and unfortunate) trend in game design is to tune the default/normal difficulties so that players can ignore/underutilize many gameplay mechanics yet still succeed; it isn't until you turn up the difficulty that you're really required to play many games as they were designed.

In the case of BioShock Infinite, I think this is definitely the case. I played through the game the first time on Hard and had major issues getting past the same encounters that many people have complained about. It wasn't until the first Siren battle that I had my "Aha!" breakthrough. I finally decided to rethink my approach after 2 hours of trying (I'm stubborn) and discovered that the encounter was a trivial 15 second affair with the Hand Cannon and Murder of Crows w/Crow Traps Aid. This approach didn't work for the second encounter with Lady Comstock (the minions in the bank are immune to crows), so I had to come up with a different strategy (in this case, Shotgun + Charge w/Charge Aid). Once I had gotten it into my mind that I could be very creative (and non-traditional, in FPS terms) with my gameplay, I started having a lot more fun. In fact, I liked the Shotgun + Charge combo so much, I further explored that style of play for my 1999 Mode play through, where I luckily found all the right gear:

  • Hat: Electric Punch (70% chance for melee to stun for 4 seconds)
  • Vest: Blood to Salt (40% chance for salts on kill)
  • Pants: Brittle Skinned (melee targets take 2x damage for 5 seconds)
  • Boots: Overkill (killing with excessive damage stuns nearby enemies)

Since Charge and skyline/skyhook attacks both count as melee attacks, this was a lot of fun and allowed one set of gear to work in basically all situations. I upgraded Charge with Charge Aid (grants invulnerability and starts recharging shields immediately after Charge) and used Return to Sender heavily in the late game. This equipment/vigor combo totally changed the pace of combat for me. My gameplay loop went from the traditional shooter tropes (popping in and out of cover, waiting for my shields to recharge, backpedaling frantically away from heavies) to something that felt quite similar to the Vanguard class from Mass Effect (rush in, kill before the invulnerability runs out, chain stun, repeat until everything is dead).

After my first time through, I considered the biggest difficulty spikes to be the Lady Comstock encounters and some of the big, chaotic battle arena sequences. After playing BioShock Infinite a second time, however, I think the hardest part of the game is the first battle sequence, right after the raffle, where you have to deal with two turrets and several armed guards with no shields and nothing but the pistol and the expensive version of Possession. It's at this point that you have nothing but the most basic tools to work with and the game feels like most any other shooter.

I think you could fault the game a bit for not encouraging the creative approach to gameplay more, but I have to admit that I was pretty embarrassed at myself for playing a BioShock game like a traditional shooter to begin with. Considering how much time I spent playing the previous games, I should have learned my lesson the first two times.

It's interesting that opinions on Hard/1999 seem to vacillate between "too hard" and "kind of easy", particularly because the suggested play styles of the people in the "easy" camp vary so greatly. I think that's a testament to the depth of the systems that there are so many ways to succeed, but I think one of BioShock Infinite's flaws is that you can get away with old-school FPSing for so long. Many games have early gear/skill check sequences (ie: how they teach you to use Possession) to introduce you to certain ideas; I can't help but think that this game could have benefitted from some kind of "creative problem solving check" to get you in the right mindset.

#2 Edited by jbreezycp (6 posts) -

One thing and one thing only, you can go through hard mode with an FPS style and have no problem (except with the handyman who are very agile for whatever reason). I literally sat back with an upgraded sniper rifle for lady comstock, you don't ever have to move from a sniping position aside to melee a few brave grunts. Most of them you can just focus on popping in and out of cover, and pow, sniper rifle to her and she's down in like 8 shots. Which is trivial amount even if you're not an accurate sniper.

The game isn't that hard for someone with strategy, whether you use vigors or not, and i think they open the door for you to choose in infinite (I think because of this I actually like infinite 10 times better than the original). I would like to come up with a way to tackle the handymen easily on Hard, but I think part of that is finding the gear that gives you full health on respawn and doesn't give enemies health back. But I mean an actual combat way.

#3 Edited by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

I feel like BI's difficulty depends too heavily on your loadout. You can be crippled by finding the wrong random pieces of gear. Conversely, finding a good combination can make 1999 Mode seem like a breeze. Electric, Blood to Salt, Last Man Standing, and Vampire's Embrace combined with upgraded Charge made me essentially invincible through the latter third of the game.

While I enjoyed feeling like I found a way to break the game, I sort of wish there was a greater challenge available to seek out.

#4 Edited by strangecargo (70 posts) -

@jbreezycp said:

One thing and one thing only, you can go through hard mode with an FPS style and have no problem (except with the handyman who are very agile for whatever reason). I literally sat back with an upgraded sniper rifle for lady comstock, you don't ever have to move from a sniping position aside to melee a few brave grunts. Most of them you can just focus on popping in and out of cover, and pow, sniper rifle to her and she's down in like 8 shots. Which is trivial amount even if you're not an accurate sniper.

The game isn't that hard for someone with strategy, whether you use vigors or not, and i think they open the door for you to choose in infinite (I think because of this I actually like infinite 10 times better than the original). I would like to come up with a way to tackle the handymen easily on Hard, but I think part of that is finding the gear that gives you full health on respawn and doesn't give enemies health back. But I mean an actual combat way.

I don't think I had the sniper rifle for this encounter (or perhaps mine wasn't upgraded and I ran out of ammo). I can definitely see it working out though, as I managed to get the job done the first time with the hand cannon. I think the point I was trying to make was that for me, at least, the game got a ton more fun (and easier) once I stopped trying to play it like other shooters and started really leaning into all of the mechanics made available to me.

The thing about the upgraded Charge/Shotgun combo is that it works equally well for Lady Comstock, Patriots, and especially Handymen. The momentarily invulnerability combined with the Electric Punch/Overkill stun effect and the 2X damage boost from Brittle Skinned is incredibly effective in taking down packs of enemies as well as the heavy hitters. I think Handymen and Lady Comstock are both immune to stun, but invulnerability + 2X damage is enough to handle them as long as you're efficient about Salt conservation. The +Salts from Blood to Salt gives you some extra sustain. I was using Executioner to great effect before I found that piece of gear, but I think it was a little too dicey in the risk/reward department during the longer fights.

It just occurred to me that during the window of Charge invulnerability, a point-blank Rocket Launcher blast (and maybe the Nitro Vest) would be gloriously messy. I might have to try that when I get home.

#5 Edited by strangecargo (70 posts) -

@ravenlight said:

I feel like BI's difficulty depends too heavily on your loadout. You can be crippled by finding the wrong random pieces of gear. Conversely, finding a good combination can make 1999 Mode seem like a breeze. Electric, Blood to Salt, Last Man Standing, and Vampire's Embrace combined with upgraded Charge made me essentially invincible through the latter third of the game.

While I enjoyed feeling like I found a way to break the game, I sort of wish there was a greater challenge available to seek out.

I definitely agree about this. I think some of the weakest gear in the game is the stuff that gives skyline-specific boosts; it's so situational. It's a real bummer when you get this gear early in the game, since it's basically useless for large swaths of the early game. I think it would have been better if there was a skyhook-specific gear slot or each piece of gear also had a secondary skyline-specific boost alongside the primary boost.

I think part of the fun of the gameplay of BI is seeing what pieces of gear you get and then trying to play accordingly. I've played the game twice on PC and I just started 1999 Mode on 360 (I may go for the triple crown of 100% completion on all 3 platforms... because I'm crazy). I'm hoping that this time through, I'll find the right gear to do a Possession/ghostly allies build, just to see how it works out.

#6 Posted by Yodasdarkside (276 posts) -

I am so bad at this game, but I'm glad that people are finding creative ways to enjoy 1999. I can't beat the Vox Populi Handyman in the factory on 1999, and that's where I'm stuck. Can take out the dudes and the fire-guy no worries, but the Handyman wastes me every time.

#7 Posted by The_Laughing_Man (13629 posts) -

I beat 1999 with ease. Even did it without using the dollar bill machines. What I want to know is where the hell is the DLC?!

#8 Posted by Aetheldod (3514 posts) -

I think that this was the only mistake of BI .... as you said its is brilliant when you combine the gears effect and vigors etc. A more progression system would´ve benefited this game a lot ... but luckily I had the right gear to make the combat incredibly fun for me :D

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