"Easy Mode Is For Girls"

Posted by Sweep (8817 posts) -

Easy. Medium. Hard.

The eternal dilemma.

 By default I tend to opt for Medium, a deep-seeded ethical shame preventing me from picking the Easy option. For most games this difficulty corresponds to attributes such as health, firepower and currency - each of which is dropped to increase the game's difficulty. For some games the Medium works perfectly well, providing a healthy balance of challenge and fluent progression. Hard and Expert type modes are often seen as gruelling, gauntlet type escapades that can only really be attempted if the player already has mentally mapped out the game on an easier setting. Veteran on Modern Warfare, for example, is not so much a demonstration of highly tuned skill than an exercise in trial and error. To complete each mission in one violent sweep (aha) would be a true portrayal of skill, but the gritty reality is that the mission is broken down to checkpoint-chunk sized portions which must be scaled as individual mountains of suffering. The enjoyment rating plummets, but the satisfaction-upon-completion rating shoots way, way up.
 

And then I started playing Dragon Age: Origins

a game which, when played through on Medium, began to frustrate me in a way that I found hard to comprehend. Playing through the game on medium, I was desperate to progress with the engaging storyline - but found myself repeatedly bottlenecked into impassable objectives due to my lack of skill - or perhaps my unappreciative approach to the traditionalist RPG genre. Instead of evolving my playing style to compliment the game, I merely turned the difficulty down to easy so that I could stubbornly progress with my own apparently insufficient strategies. So, who is the real loser here? Me, for being a fucking pussy and putting the game on easy, or the game for requiring me to play on easy instead of teaching me to play on medium. 
 
Well, in retrospect I would probably answer neither. The game offers such a convincing series of event in which to take part the difficulty fades into a secondary priority. As storytelling goes, Dragon Age is a game that should be experienced by all, and if to do so one must play on an easy setting, I think that small faux-pas is perhaps excusable. Just this once...
 

IN OTHER NEWS

 There's a really awesome article by Steven Poole in the back of this months EDGE which beautifully emphasises some of the stuff I clumsily tried to articulate several weeks ago:

"We are living through an age in which the fabulous ingenuity of craft is being lavished upon the realisation of a pathologically adolescent imagination."

I was just about to say that...
 

Oh and, by the way, this song is amazing.

 
  

Thanks For Reading
Love Sweep
Moderator
#1 Posted by Sweep (8817 posts) -

Easy. Medium. Hard.

The eternal dilemma.

 By default I tend to opt for Medium, a deep-seeded ethical shame preventing me from picking the Easy option. For most games this difficulty corresponds to attributes such as health, firepower and currency - each of which is dropped to increase the game's difficulty. For some games the Medium works perfectly well, providing a healthy balance of challenge and fluent progression. Hard and Expert type modes are often seen as gruelling, gauntlet type escapades that can only really be attempted if the player already has mentally mapped out the game on an easier setting. Veteran on Modern Warfare, for example, is not so much a demonstration of highly tuned skill than an exercise in trial and error. To complete each mission in one violent sweep (aha) would be a true portrayal of skill, but the gritty reality is that the mission is broken down to checkpoint-chunk sized portions which must be scaled as individual mountains of suffering. The enjoyment rating plummets, but the satisfaction-upon-completion rating shoots way, way up.
 

And then I started playing Dragon Age: Origins

a game which, when played through on Medium, began to frustrate me in a way that I found hard to comprehend. Playing through the game on medium, I was desperate to progress with the engaging storyline - but found myself repeatedly bottlenecked into impassable objectives due to my lack of skill - or perhaps my unappreciative approach to the traditionalist RPG genre. Instead of evolving my playing style to compliment the game, I merely turned the difficulty down to easy so that I could stubbornly progress with my own apparently insufficient strategies. So, who is the real loser here? Me, for being a fucking pussy and putting the game on easy, or the game for requiring me to play on easy instead of teaching me to play on medium. 
 
Well, in retrospect I would probably answer neither. The game offers such a convincing series of event in which to take part the difficulty fades into a secondary priority. As storytelling goes, Dragon Age is a game that should be experienced by all, and if to do so one must play on an easy setting, I think that small faux-pas is perhaps excusable. Just this once...
 

IN OTHER NEWS

 There's a really awesome article by Steven Poole in the back of this months EDGE which beautifully emphasises some of the stuff I clumsily tried to articulate several weeks ago:

"We are living through an age in which the fabulous ingenuity of craft is being lavished upon the realisation of a pathologically adolescent imagination."

I was just about to say that...
 

Oh and, by the way, this song is amazing.

 
  

Thanks For Reading
Love Sweep
Moderator
#2 Posted by MikkaQ (10268 posts) -

Oh man, you've summed up my views right there. 
 
I try to play medium most of the time, but DA:O just kicked my ass. I wanted to slice through enemies like butter mindlessly, so I could get to some juicy dialogue. 
 
This is probably why I'm more partial of ME2 right now, it's easy as sin to play, so there's not a lot of frustration stopping you from getting to the next bit of dialogue.

#3 Posted by Inf225 (503 posts) -

I usually find myself going for the easy mode... yeah yeah... i know I'm lame. I just find it better to play a game that's a bit easier than something I'm constantly having to retry things in... But then again... i am really bad at games...

#4 Posted by Colf (144 posts) -

I do not recall a medium difficulty choice for Dragon Age so I wonder what game you were actually playing. Anyway, to answer your question, you are the loser here because the game was not hard on NORMAL. (Mind blast, Force field, cone of cold, sleep,)

#5 Posted by CaptainObvious (2993 posts) -

I don't feel ashamed by picking Easy mode for games. 

#6 Posted by dbz1995 (4790 posts) -

N00BS YOU ARENT HARDCORE ENOUGH TO PLAY NORMAL LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL 73SSS

#7 Edited by Snail (8579 posts) -

I feel you. 
 
Difficulty settings are something we take for granted, but there is a lot to it, in order to keep each difficulty setting equally balanced and functional.
 
I usually go for the hardest difficulty available, especially when you can unlock a harder difficulty, which is a feature in video games that fucking pisses me off. First thing. Seriously, there is no point to that, not allowing the player to play the game as he desires. You have to complete the game at least once in order to get a harder difficulty. That is not to say that there are not cases when this is often forgivable, such is the case of Mass Effect, when the game expects you to have more than one playthrough, that's just how the game rolls, and, as such, has not one, but two unlockable difficulty settings. Then there are cases such as the one of Uncharted 2, which is mildly forgivable, since the Hard experience is so frustrating that whoever is willing to complete the game on Crushing difficulty is probably willing to complete the game on Hard, or at least shouldn't mind too much. Then we have the unforgivable case of games such as House of the Dead: Overkill, when one can only play the game on either Easy or Medium, before unlocking Hard, so if you're looking for a challenge you are out of luck. 
 
That being said, there is yet another issue related to difficulty setting, which is mentioned in your blog post. The unbalanced difficulty settings. Lowering your health, increasing the damage done by enemies and increasing enemies' health does not make a Hard setting, it simply makes a game way more frustrating and least enjoyable, such is the case of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Although Force Unleashed is more forgivable than Arkham Asylum since it is, at its very core, more of  a classic platformer than Batman: AA, I find Force Unleashed to have quite a retro feel about it, with basic platforming controls and gameplay, you know, force stuff aside. 
 
I completely agree with that quote, cheers, my consideration for EDGE has considerably increased, I've been thinking about signing up for a subscription. I think I just might go ahead with that.
 
Oh, and that music. I won't even listen to it. They wrote Electricity with a K. That's all I need to know.

#8 Posted by ryanwho (12082 posts) -

People who are proud that they're exceptionally good at something that has zero practical application, to the point that they make fun of people who have a life and do other things therefore aren't as good, make me sad. What a pitiful bunch, those "real gamers".

#9 Edited by AndrewB (7489 posts) -

I'm in the same boat. I usually opt for the normal/medium difficulty range, and got my ass handed to me numerous times within probably 50 hours in to playing Dragon Age. By the end, though, I had everything figured out. On my second playthrough, I probably should have bumped things up to hard/hardest, because I was murdering enemies before they even had a chance to hit me.
 
A good tip for the lesser enemies: put down a glyph of repulsion at a choke point between you and the enemies, where able. Then have your mage, or multiple mages, cast their area-effect damage spells like inferno or blizzard. Getting multiples up while the enemy can't do anything to reach you means they'll be dead within a matter of seconds, and you won't have even engaged them in combat.
 
Also ended the game with multiple stacks of 99 health poultices/lyrium potions.

#10 Posted by crystalskull2 (437 posts) -

Normally i play on medium as it generally presented a healthy challenge. But now most games are made easy so that many people can play them. So,now i go for hard.

I still haven't played DA:O yet but if its really challenging on normal, it would be most welcome to me.

#11 Posted by StarFoxA (5138 posts) -

I tend to play on normal/medium, but if I'll have a lot more fun (and there are no achievements for difficulty), then I'll typically switch to easy. For example, I played through Red Faction Guerrilla on easy, and that was a lot of fun because I could just run behind enemy lines, blow crap up, hammer down dudes, etc.

#12 Posted by Daryl (1781 posts) -

Using easy on Mass Effect 1 at the moment as the combat is awful and I want it over with as soon as possible. 

#13 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -

I wrote a blog about this same game when I went the easy route.
 
This


Became this


I've still had some pretty rough skirmishes even on easy.
#14 Posted by brukaoru (5079 posts) -

I used to play a lot of games on easy, but now I opt for normal mode most of the time. I'm not ashamed of playing on easy difficulty though. I rather complete a game on easy than become so frustrated on a harder difficulty that I stop playing it. 
 
I dig that song, too. Thanks for posting. :) 

#15 Posted by Sweep (8817 posts) -
@Claude said:
" I wrote a blog about this same game when I went the easy route.
 
I've still had some pretty rough skirmishes even on easy. "
Yeah I read it and I share many of your feelings. How far through the game are you now? I'm about level 11... have cleared the Elves, Wizards, Zombie Castle, and got Shale as well.
Moderator
#16 Posted by Video_Game_King (35990 posts) -

I play on Normal difficulty, too. For some reason, this pisses people off to no end.

Online
#17 Posted by Symphony (1912 posts) -

Well said and  I tend to feel the same, choosing "normal" difficulty by default in the vast majority of games. Though back in the SNES days I often went Hard by default as there were a ton of games that didn't give the "true" ending unless you did it on hard difficulty (those sadistic bastards). And if Hard offers a decent reward (eg more story, more loot, etc) without an insane bump in difficulty I'll often opt for that... or if normal is just too easy such as in Torchlight or Modern Warfare 2 (Hardened was challenging but still enjoyable and didn't feel super trial and error like Veteran).
 
DA:O was definitely one game I had no problem going down to easy on as the story is all I really cared about. Pausing to issue commands every 5 seconds is not appealing to me in any way whatsoever, so it was nice I was able to let the computer do their thing and not get my ass handed to me fighting trash mobs in the first dungeon. The only other game I've done this for that I can think of is The World Ends with You, where the combat just had wayyyy too many things you had to micromanage all at the same time on the higher difficulties towards the end of the game.

#18 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6086 posts) -

I eventually had to turn the difficulty to Dragon Age in easy as well.  There's no shame in it.  It's still a great game either way, and if a game is so frustrating as to piss me off, why shouldn't I? 
Moderator
#19 Posted by Scooper (7882 posts) -

When I was a kid I'd play on easy but now I like to play on Normal as a minimum but I'll go to hard or hardest setting if I feel like a challenge.

#20 Edited by Evilsbane (4531 posts) -
@Sweep: Nah dude don't feel bad, I was playing on Medium as well, right up to where I had to fight that baby dragon and it took me 30 try's to kill him, and than in the very next room I got attacked by 20+ skeletons and got murdered, that room FORCED me to switch I just couldn't beat it with the team I had at the time.
#21 Posted by Jimbo (9772 posts) -

I wouldn't say the combat in Dragon Age was engaging enough or important enough to worry about turning the difficulty down.  Mastering the combat isn't the draw of that game.  Sure, the combat is competent enough as RPGs go I guess, but it won't be what you remember about that game when you're done with it.
 
The difficulty labels are also kinda arbitrary.  If you happen to set up your party well - which is at least partly down to luck, because nothing is really explained very well in the skill tree - then Normal can be a breeze right the way through, but if you happen to not set it up so well, I could see you having trouble with virtually any fight in the game.
 
If the difficulty is so high in any game that you can only advance by trial and error, rather than reasoning on the fly, then I really have no interest in playing that game at that difficulty.

#22 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -
@Sweep said:
" @Claude said:
" I wrote a blog about this same game when I went the easy route.
 
I've still had some pretty rough skirmishes even on easy. "
Yeah I read it and I share many of your feelings. How far through the game are you now? I'm about level 11... have cleared the Elves, Wizards, Zombie Castle, and got Shale as well. "
I'm a level 12, basically done the sames things as you. I haven't got Shale. Some side missions have taken up a little time.
#23 Posted by Sweep (8817 posts) -
@Evilsbane said:
" @Sweep: Nah dude don't feel bad, I was playing on Medium as well, right up to where I had to fight that baby dragon and it took me 30 try's to kill him, and than in the very next room I got attacked by 20+ skeletons and got murdered, that room FORCED me to switch I just couldn't beat it with the team I had at the time. "
haha that's exactly the same point I went down to Easy. That dragon was a bitch :D
Moderator
#24 Posted by Evilsbane (4531 posts) -
@Sweep said:
" @Evilsbane said:
" @Sweep: Nah dude don't feel bad, I was playing on Medium as well, right up to where I had to fight that baby dragon and it took me 30 try's to kill him, and than in the very next room I got attacked by 20+ skeletons and got murdered, that room FORCED me to switch I just couldn't beat it with the team I had at the time. "
haha that's exactly the same point I went down to Easy. That dragon was a bitch :D "
Dude that little dragon made me NERD RAGE hard. Like I stopped the game, picked up a phone, and started calling people to tell them how impossible it was lol.
#25 Posted by crunchUK (5963 posts) -

Lol yes. I started up RE5 and i felt really manly by starting off on hard mode. Sad/weird as it sounds.

#26 Edited by OldGuy (1511 posts) -

So, curious, PC or Console version? I'm on hard (I liked the idea of FF damage, but couldn't commit to 100% FF) on the 360 and (once I figured out how to play [let the melee dude(tte)s do their thing and play as the mage/support {as the thing that the tactics seem to do the worst is keeping a ranged fighter AT RANGE}]) I've had little trouble. I pause a bunch for spell casting, but don't tend to work the other people unless I want to keep them away from trouble and continue to use their bow - you've using a bow dammit, unless you get swarmed back up and KEEP FIRING, urgh.
 
I still want a 6 Char party (my brain will NOT let go of SSI Gold Box style strategy) but I've made do. I know that the PC version is supposed to be quite a bit harder but my 5 year old rig will not run this and I didn't want to wait till this coming December when the rebuild for our game rigs will fit into the budget. But I would think that that should be offset by the ease of selecting who targets what and uses which spell/talent (as well as the lovely and classic Baldur's Gate top down view - one of the reasons that I don't micromanage as much as I want to is the annoyance of the targeting and talent selecting, sure it's as good as I suppose you can get with the limitations of a game pad but...).
 
I think I will try out the hardest setting next playthru (when I don't feel obligated to spam every conversation with every character and read every new entry in the Codex).

#27 Posted by Fallen189 (4940 posts) -

I play on easy because there are too many games nowadays, and I don't have time to be arsing about with something thats artificially imbalanced.
 
I'm looking at you ANY CASTER from dragon age

Online
#28 Posted by vidiot (2737 posts) -
The problem with Dragon Age's difficulty is that it's inconsistent. 
I have rarely felt while playing this game that there is a difficulty curve at all, never a moment to slowly learn the in's-and-out's of battle aside from a few gimped fights during your origins story. It's pretty bad, and most certainly left my initial impressions quite negative. The hardest fights I've seen have been during the beginning, not based upon a lack of skill but the fact you are initially given such a poor party to work with. Once you get mages that can both attack and heal, you will wonder how you got through the first portion of the game.  
 
But like I said it's inconsistent. I'm playing on Normal, there are times in which battles are a breeze and other times in which it feels like you stated: You're being bottle-necked all of a sudden, and without any warning half your party is dead.
 
I've played traditional RPG's in the past, and I can't quite recall running into certain fights as tedious and as demoralizing as this. After fending off the zombie attack in RedCliff I asked my friend if the fight was supposed to be 20 mins long...and endless to point that I felt like I was being punked. He's currently playing through the game on Hard, and he had some pretty funny things to say about that exact fight. Another acquaintance said that he prefers the game on consoles over the PC simply because of the difficulty, and while I don't agree with that statement at all, I can most certainly see where he's coming from. 
 
So far most of my fights have involved backtracking and luring enemies, versus running head-long at them (Not exactly fun, especially when you have made your character into a tank, but whatever). Make use of the hold position, and using buffs and area attacks. (Again, mages) I've gotten pretty far with this strategy.
#29 Posted by Liminality (444 posts) -
@Scooper said:
" When I was a kid I'd play on easy but now I like to play on Normal as a minimum but I'll go to hard or hardest setting if I feel like a challenge. "
This.
 
Only problem I had so far is that I started F.E.A.R. 2 on hard and haven't finished yet, they kill me with 1 - 3 bullets, but I refuse to lower the difficulty!
#30 Posted by Sweep (8817 posts) -
@OldGuy said:
" So, curious, PC or Console version?  "
PC version, though I could have got it on 360. I just heard the PC version was better. I don't even know what the differences are between them.
Moderator
#31 Posted by Tireyo (6409 posts) -

I'll play a game on easy if it's required to get an achievement, or to get to the next level and such.

#32 Posted by Tennmuerti (7998 posts) -

I always find it strange that so many people found DA:O so difficult on normal setting.
My guess is it because people have not played traditional RPG's in a while or something.
The medium difficulty to me felt PERFECT in terms of balance. Most fights were medium difficulty with occasional harder fights. It felt right, if all fights were the same difficulty and offered no challenge it would be fucking boring. After the first play through I read up on starts and tips and builds and went for a second round on Hard and it felt just like Medium the first time.
To answer your question at the end: in this particular case imho the problem was with you.
 
/shrug

#33 Edited by PenguinDust (12450 posts) -

I've had to drop Dragon Age Origins down to "Easy Mode" on occasion, too to progress.  I am slightly ashamed but only slightly.  I know that if I was able to buy or manufacture enough health, mana potions and injury kits I could do okay after a few tries, but I've usually used up my supply just reaching the boss encounter.  By then, my team is beaten up and bleeding out all over the place.  So, I drop it down and move onward with the hope that at higher levels I'll be able to keep a better stock.  With the encounter is over, I bump the game back to "Normal" and go back to adventuring.  Nothing about this has dimmed my love for the game.  In fact, I am thankful I can do this.  Most games lock you into a specific difficulty at the start and any change requires a restart.

#34 Posted by Oni (2094 posts) -

Dragon Age is an interesting example because apparently (i only played on normal) it's a completely different game on Easy, more akin to a hack-n-slash than a tactical RPG, which is what it is on Normal. If that's true, Medium should have been hard and normal should have been  a better balance. There were definitely a few spots on Normal that took me a fair few attempts and some trial and error, but at the end of the day I found the tactical depth to be very rewarding on Normal, most of the time I really felt I deserved that win because I used tactics accordingly, and that's a good feeling.

#35 Posted by Sweep (8817 posts) -
@Oni said:
" Dragon Age is an interesting example because apparently (i only played on normal) it's a completely different game on Easy, more akin to a hack-n-slash than a tactical RPG, which is what it is on Normal. If that's true, Medium should have been hard and normal should have been  a better balance. There were definitely a few spots on Normal that took me a fair few attempts and some trial and error, but at the end of the day I found the tactical depth to be very rewarding on Normal, most of the time I really felt I deserved that win because I used tactics accordingly, and that's a good feeling. "
By putting it on easy I found I could play a lot more like World Of Warcraft, less pausing and more just clicking on the abilities as I needed them. I also let the computer players do their own thing 90% of the time, unless a specific attack was required or I needed to heal them. This is what I meant about me stubbornly working my way through with my typical approach to computer games instead of finding a new way of playing the game on Medium. Instead of pushing at getting appropriate loot and using runes and all sorts of that stuff I just wanted to run in with whatever I currently had and win. Maybe I just lack patience....
Moderator
#36 Posted by Fallen189 (4940 posts) -
@Sweep said:
" @Oni said:
" Dragon Age is an interesting example because apparently (i only played on normal) it's a completely different game on Easy, more akin to a hack-n-slash than a tactical RPG, which is what it is on Normal. If that's true, Medium should have been hard and normal should have been  a better balance. There were definitely a few spots on Normal that took me a fair few attempts and some trial and error, but at the end of the day I found the tactical depth to be very rewarding on Normal, most of the time I really felt I deserved that win because I used tactics accordingly, and that's a good feeling. "
By putting it on easy I found I could play a lot more like World Of Warcraft, less pausing and more just clicking on the abilities as I needed them. I also let the computer players do their own thing 90% of the time, unless a specific attack was required or I needed to heal them. This is what I meant about me stubbornly working my way through with my typical approach to computer games instead of finding a new way of playing the game on Medium. Instead of pushing at getting appropriate loot and using runes and all sorts of that stuff I just wanted to run in with whatever I currently had and win. Maybe I just lack patience.... "
I was the exact same, however. Runes and all that are fine, but unless you're playing on hard or higher, there's no real need, you just run in and smack them with maces. As long as you set <50% hp to use potions, and set Wynne to heal, you're golden.
 
Now if only I could find an Oghren romance path..
Online
#37 Posted by Binman88 (3684 posts) -

As soon as you get a character to learn Cone of Cold, all the combat becomes way easier.

#38 Posted by Baillie (4036 posts) -

You guys have it easy. I have my Xbox setup so my games are always played on the hardest mode. This can be a total pain. Sometimes I get so annoyed I never play that game again, lol.

#39 Posted by DrRandle (1202 posts) -

I'm putting Mass Effect 2 on Easy  because I'm sick of dying. I'm honestly not a fan of that game's combat and it's not helping me play it that I keep dying. The lack of a solid radar on the game screen is just dumb, amongst about 20 other problems I have with it. The only way I'm going to care enough to get through that game is Easy. Maybe down the road it'll click for me (as I am apparently the only person on Earth who feels this way), but right now... It's not happening.

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