Dark Souls and Difficulty, an unfair reputation and a misundertood game.
I’m joining the club of blogging about Dark Souls. Though it’s not going to be about why I love it, or my experience with it, because we already have a few dozen of those. Just know that I love it a lot.
What I’m actually here to talk about is an issue which has been bothering me for a bit, the issue of integrating another easier difficulty level, and how that could possibly be bad.
The common sense answer to issuing an easy mode is obviously that more options are good and letting more people enjoy a game is a good thing! That is most definitely what I would think if I didn’t know as much about this game as I do. The enjoyment of Dark Souls, does not come from finishing it and it does not come from just simply seeing different environments or enemy types. You are supposed to learn, explore, and try things out. The game is entirely based on gratification of by achievement. You feel happy when you beat a hard boss, you feel happy when you figure out the patterns and level layouts to proceed forward. The sense of exploration and exhilarating risk are just overpowering and amazing in this game. So, what would happen if we made it a lot easier? Firstly it would make the game short. The meat of the game is trial and error, trying things and failing until you finally succeed. If it was possible for most people to run through everything first try. Then we would have a really mediocre, awkward 8 hour RPG, without any distinguishing features. While now it is seen as a 60-80h game filled with atmosphere and engaging mechanics. If you don’t enjoy this kind of Trial and Error learning process, then I’m sorry. This plain isn’t for you. Having everything be fun for everyone is a noble goal, but it’s ultimately impossible if we want something uniquely appealing. The Souls games are niche games, and that is something that isn’t easily changed, not without changing the entire core of the experience.
That wall of text is the first reason why a standard easymode isn’t needed. The second and most important reason is that there already is one. Don’t believe me? Dark Souls can be incredibly easy, even the first time through. All you need is information.
Every boss has a weakness, every fight has a trick. Every build or character can be made incredibly strong. The choice of difficulty come from using different methods. For example, I belive myself to be decent at this kind of game. So I chose to play it through alone. But every boss, and most areas has a way to summon a companion, human or not. A little help make bosses a cakewalk. On top of that there are easily abusable tricks to kill several bosses. The Taurus Demon for example, he is weak to fire. And you can get firebombs from enemies, the merchant and even from some chests and corpses. They are cheap and easy to find. I can take him down the normal, hack and slashy way with some effort. But if you want to, just keep the range and spam firebombs in his face. He immediately went from pretty hard to incredibly easy. And it works the other way around too, if I find Taurus to be pathetic, I can just try and go at him with a low level, or a crappy weapon. I might even try going at him naked, wielding a tiny dagger. Now the fight is stupid hard! And it goes out further with choices of equipment or stats. There is a ring whose only purpose is to make you die faster. It gives literally nothing in return. Except bragging rights and a crazy challenge. This game doesn’t need conventional difficulty modes, because it’s based on adapting to situations and gathering information. Just play however you feel will be the most enjoyable! Finding stuff out can be fun, but sharing information with others is also fun! If you have any issues or feel frustrated/stuck, look stuff up in one of the two major wikis. Or hell, just head on out to a forum and ask for advice, the community for this game is insanely helpful and nice 90% of the time. There are people literally just waiting to be of help to someone else.
So in a nutshell, the difficulty isn’t really as high as the game’s reputation. The real barrier of entry comes from the grindy/trial and error nature of the content. If you think the game sounds interesting, but are afraid of the difficulty, don’t worry. Several thousand people have your back. In any situation you could possibly get yourself in.
Thanks for reading this far, I’ll gladly take any counteropinions in the thread if you made it through that wall.
TLDR: Easymode is already built in, it’s just hidden, From Software style. Pay a a bit of attention and ask the fans, even bad players can make it through. Oh, and not all games are for everyone, I totally respect disliking this kind of game. It's niche for a reason, its just that the reason isn't difficulty, it's trial and error.