What difficulty do you play your games on?

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Posted by BojackHorseman (690 posts) 2 years, 5 months ago

Poll: What difficulty do you play your games on? (398 votes)

Default 61%
Easier than default 6%
Harder than default 25%
Easiest option 4%
Hardest option 5%

Okay, so I was thinking about this while playing my masochist run of The Witcher 3 on NG+ Death March. What difficulty do you normally play your games on? Personally, presented with the classic four options (easy, normal, hard, very hard), I usually go with the Hard option. Typically, I play the game of the second highest difficulty, and if I like it, I usually end up playing on the hardest difficulty as well. Recently did this with the Bioshock collection (1 and Infinite).

Wasn't quite sure which options were best for the poll, but I think this works pretty well. Anyway, interested to see your choices. Elaborate on your choices as well!

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#1 Posted by poobumbutt (962 posts) -

The vast majority will be on the default difficulty for me. Sometimes I think it's funny that I wouldn't even consider playing a game I just bought on "hard" or "Nightmare" difficulty, yet love the Hell out of the Souls series, which is definitely defaulted to something harder than your average game. Maybe it's about moderation? If I played all games on DS difficulty, I probably wouldn't have a working TV right now.

In extreme cases, I'll bump up the difficulty on games/series I love, even the first time; I think it's some sense of duty or of "being a fan". Was considering playing Yakuza 0 on hard, but backed down. Still ruminating on whether I should play Persona 5 on Difficult - I think that's the designation - but it doesn't feel very genuine. Like, I don't think I'd be making it more fun for myself. It's just that I have this mindset of "I'm a huge fan of this series, I should be cool and play through on the hardest mode!" (read: get frustrated and stressed and consider restarting partway through the second dungeon).

Thanks for triggering this introspection, Bojack!

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#2 Posted by OldGuy (1687 posts) -

90% of the time it's one step down from the hardest option regardless of the default.

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#3 Posted by Zevvion (5965 posts) -

Usually the hardest option that is available. Most often means one down from the hardest, since that is usually locked until game completion. Reason is very simple: I want to figure a game out. If it is a mechanically good game, it can be mastered. The way games are developed, none of them require you to interact with the full potential of a game's possibilities when you play on the default setting. I learned this somewhat early on with The Chronicles of Riddick. Another perfect example of it is Mass Effect 3. You don't need to engage with the combo's at all if you don't play on Insanity. Which is crazy. That's like saying you don't have to engage with stealth in Hitman; the entire scope of its core is concealed still.

That said, there are some games I'm just not a natural talent for but want to play regardless. I usually play those on Normal, then bump it up if I feel confident.

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#4 Posted by TakyonDG (59 posts) -

Usually start at Hard, but not Harder. When I used to use GameFly I got sick of just running through games without any challenges. Only a small handful of games have ever made me switch to normal (Witcher 2 haha).
It's different if its the kind of game that rolls your experience or skills over to the new difficulty. Games like DMC and Bayonetta are meant to be played on normal (which will actually challenge you after the first few missions) first then moved on. I LOVE this approach. You start NG+ on hard and the tutorial mission is just a tad bit harder than the end-game stuff you just beat.
These days I play way fewer titles and spend a lot of time of the ones I do get. I love a challenge in my games and that's what I look for more than story, or graphics, or anything. XCOM, Dark Souls, Nioh, Darkest Dungeon, FTL. A lot of these games don't have difficulty options, they just are what they are.
My biggest peeve with the Assassin's Creed games is how braindead easy they are and no difficulty setting. All the upgrades and follower assists and more health are pointless when I can kill 30+ guards no sweat right out the gate. I will die maybe 4 times in my whole playthrough and all of them will be from falling. I don't play these games (or any Ubi games for that matter) anymore because of this.

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#5 Posted by JasonMasters (292 posts) -

Default. I'm not a time budget so I would like to see as much as possible, as quickly as possible.

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#6 Posted by redyoshi (1426 posts) -

It depends on if the game has good mechanics that would make it more fun to play at a higher difficulty, and what I'm looking for out of a game. If I just want to get in, finish the story, and then get out, I'll keep it at default. However for games like Bayonetta or something similar, I'll play on Hard.

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#7 Edited by Nodima (2635 posts) -

I almost always play on Normal/default. I find most Hard difficulties to expect too much out of people; I don't really interpret it the way a lot of people seem to where "Hard" is the way the game was "meant to be played" so much as just ramping up the A.I.'s ability to be better than you with more health, more damage, more skills.

I can't think of a single game other than sports games where I've got more enjoyment out of something by knocking the difficulty up a notch or two higher. Well, I suppose I did beat Goldeneye on 007 Mode to unlock all the perks for multiplayer but that was the only game I owned back then.

There have been a few games I've played on Easy as well when I don't care much about the game itself as well. Binary Domain and the Uncharted remasters are examples of this.

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#8 Edited by Castiel (3488 posts) -


It really depends on the game but I have definitely also played games that become less fun the higher you raise the difficulty. The enemies just become bullet sponges and can hit a fly from 500 yards right between the eyes. Also you are pretty much in a one hit kill scenario. That is obviously an extreme example and it's only in extremely bad cases where a game does multiple of the above but it does happen if the developers are lazy.

The only game I can think of in recent years that was really well made in terms of having each difficulty feel unique and tailormade is "The Last of Us". I have played through that game multiple times starting from normal and up. Each difficulty feels a little different in a really cool way. In the highest difficulty you also lose your listen ability (so you can't "see through" walls anymore when you listen). So you have to be extremely cautious and aware of your surroundings.

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#9 Posted by John1912 (2504 posts) -

Typically default unless its too easy. Then the harder ones for new game play throughs.

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#10 Posted by ll_Exile_ll (3017 posts) -

If there are more than three difficulties I almost always go for the one a notch below the hardest setting. If it's only easy/normal/hard I go with hard.

Of course, I'm a big fan of replaying games, so I often up playing a game again the hardest difficulty if I didn't on the first run through. I'd probably always go for the hardest the first time around if I weren't entertaining the idea of playing the game again.

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#11 Posted by Naoiko (1677 posts) -

It really depends on the game for me. If its a game known to be so hard its infuriating I'll tone down the difficulty. Other than that I go with normal, or hard if its a super easy game.

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#12 Posted by gamer_152 (14776 posts) -

Almost always "normal"/"default". Not only can harder difficulties be frustrating, they can cause a lot of replaying of the same content, and a lot of the time they kill the rhythm and pacing of levels for me.

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#13 Posted by Underscore_Underscore (33 posts) -

I usually stick with the default, and adjust it in game (if the game allows it) if necessary. Some games like Halo are better with going up one notch on difficulty.

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#14 Posted by Laethe (45 posts) -

I usually go for the hardest setting, unless it's a notoriously difficult game. Sometimes this backfires, as some games just make all enemies super bullet spongy to up the difficulty, which makes the game more tedious than challenging.

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#15 Posted by glots (4382 posts) -

Might try a hard setting for some games, but usually I stick to normal/default. I just can't be bothered to bash my head against a wall and potentially lose interest with the whole game. I also very rarely get any "OH MY GOD I DID IT!" sensations from beating a frustarting part in a game, so don't have that as a reason to try it.

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#16 Posted by BojackHorseman (690 posts) -

Default getting a lot of love, which is really surprising. Personally, I feel most games coming out today are configured to have a default difficulty that correlates to what once was easy, which is only natural considering gaming has a more diverse audience now.

I will say one thing about The Witcher 3 that I really disliked while playing on DM and NG+. Geralt would literally die from one hit with a blackjack throughout most of the game, even when I had my shields up. That thought me to be crazy good at the game, and most of the time it felt fair and more authentic, but it kinda brakes it when a normal ass dude in a sheepskin tunic can take upwards of ten hits or more. Geralt is supposed to be this badass mutant, but a random dude is more durable? I guess I want my swordplay in general to be about 2 or 3 hits in those types of games.

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#17 Posted by csl316 (15000 posts) -

I used to go as difficult as possible, these days I'm usually good playing on hard. I avoid easy or normal because they don't really require you to dig into the mechanics. Higher difficulties usually make me feel like I'm getting more out of a game's systems.

I've been working on Witcher 3's Death March since release, and it's been satisfying to get a handle on that game and feel like I'm overcoming an overwhelming challenge.

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#18 Edited by ThatOneDudeNick (1576 posts) -

Usually one above default if it's a genre I'm good at, then adjust if I need to.

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#19 Posted by Xaviar (20 posts) -

I don't really play games for challenge. I like to consume interesting new systems. 90% of the time default is the best way to do that, with a few exceptions. (IE, Dead Space seems like its systems were designed with hard in mind, but the the publisher made them scale it back. That might all be conjecture but that's how it felt.)

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#20 Edited by ds9143 (272 posts) -

depends on the game, if I really enjoy it and feel it adds to the experience I play on hard, like Doom 2016 and Wolfenstein: the New Order, and the witcher 2/3. I enjoyed the exploration and story of dragon age inquisition but hated the combat with the rage of a thousand burning suns, so I played on casual basically for the sake of content tourism. Most games I leave it on default.

And Fuck dragon age.

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#21 Posted by master_prophet (151 posts) -

It honestly depends on the game and/or franchise for me. For example on Halo I always play on Legendary and up until Black Ops 3 I usually played Call of Duty games on Veteran. I finally just got to a point where I decided that I don't need to deal with the pressure of the hardest difficulty setting. I also stopped playing the campaign of Black Ops 3 as it is terrible, and I've only played two missions of Infinite Warfare, which I thought has a pretty solid campaign, but I haven't gone back to play anymore of it because there's just too many other games to play right now. Then other games like Dark Souls/Bloodborne/Nioh have conditioned me to just expect the hardest difficulty off the bat. It really depends on the game and the franchise.

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#22 Edited by Zeik (5221 posts) -

Depends entirely on the game. I would say I default to normal more often than not, but sometimes I know I want more of a challenge going in and will start on the next highest difficulty, especially if it's a franchise I've played before. I remember starting Persona 4 on hard after playing P3 and feeling confident enough to handle it, and even on replays I've never considered dropping it lower, so I'll most likely do the same for P5. Nier: Automata is out soon and I think I want to start on hard, despite not having played the original, or even having much character action/Platinum experience, simply because I enjoyed the demo enough that I want to explore the potential of the combat beyond the basic level. (And I know I can drop it down if I have to.)

Ultimately I think that's what it comes down to: how much I enjoy, or expect to enjoy, the combat and mechanics and want to explore it to its fullest. Most normal difficulties are designed to only force the player to undergo a cursory exploration of the mechanics, and sometimes that's all I need, but sometimes I know I want more. You could argue I should start on normal and bump it up if I have to, but sometimes you need to get thrown into the deep end to force yourself to explore everything at your disposal.

As a counter-example I'll probably never start a Bethesda RPG on hard, because I've never played one where the mechanics left me wanting to explore them deeper, coupled with the fact that the higher difficulties are always so poorly balanced. Or another example might be the shooter genre in general. It might be the most perfectly designed shooter ever made, but I don't feel confident enough in my skills within that genre to risk starting higher than the default.

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#23 Posted by SloppyDetective (1618 posts) -

@bojackhorseman:what you're describing is my biggest problem with increased difficulty. Just an increase in the enemies' abilities and a decrease in your own. Geralt can only take one hit (which would break immersion for me) and enemies can take up to ten hits?

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#24 Posted by Christoffer (2377 posts) -

Harder than easy. Yeah, I'm harcore.

Usually Normal.

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#25 Edited by Zeik (5221 posts) -

@sloppydetective: In a game like The Witcher that's not so bad, because you have so many tools at your disposal that are often completely overlooked on easier difficulties but can be game changers on the higher difficulties. You can kinda faceroll stuff on the lower difficulties while barely worrying about oils and potions and signs, which is why I found it way more fun on Blood and Broken Bones and eventually Deathmarch, because I could really explore those mechanics.

But if it's a more static game where you don't have much choice beyond just spending more time whacking away at them that's potentially less fun. Especially if the mechanics don't support that well. I brought up Bethesda RPGs in my post, but those are often a perfect example of that. Harder difficulties mostly just scale up the enemy health and damage, but there's not enough skill in the combat for it to feel rewarding. You're often just chugging more health recovery items, or abusing certain mechanics like stealth to cheese your way past the difficulty.

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#26 Posted by UlquioKani (1418 posts) -

I usually go one notch above the default, if there are more than 3 options. The middle ground between hardest and normal is usually not much more difficult than normal so I don't usually have a problem. I refrain from selecting the hardest option because they always seem to fuck up the balance in such a way that mechanics that were viable on easier difficulties become redundant. When choosing a difficultly, I try to select something that will be close to what the developer intended while still giving me some level of challenge.

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#27 Edited by Cameron (1055 posts) -

Really depends on the game for me. If it's a story-based game, then usually easy, though I'll go down to easiest if I just want to get through it. I don't find any fun in having to repeat checkpoints over and over again, especially if there is repeating dialogue. In strategy games, I'll usually stay at the default, and go up from there if it's too easy.

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#28 Posted by gunflame88 (395 posts) -

"Hard", unless it's a grand strategy. Many modern games are rather boring to me on normal.

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#29 Posted by GuitarGod (134 posts) -

depends on the game

if the game lets me switch difficulty mid-game then i'll start with the very hardest option and if the game gets to frustrating then i'll drop it down a notch, like Uncharted crushing difficulty. Pretty much gave up on GOD OF WAR 3 because i started it on hard and the game didn't let me change it mid-game, pretty stupid for the developers to do something like that.

I like games that keep it simple and don't even have options like bloodborne/darksouls -- makes the game way more interesting, and you feel like you NEED to push on, because there's only one setting to play on.

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#30 Posted by Brackstone (939 posts) -

I find that usually the 2nd hardest difficulty is the best balanced. It forces you to engage with the game's mechanics to a higher degree than normal, and the devs usually keep the really unfair stuff for the highest difficulty, and the highest difficulty usually makes the game worse. However, sometimes the 2nd highest ends up being normal, if there's only 3 or even 2 difficultly levels, but even then my point stands, 2nd highest is always the best.

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#31 Posted by soimadeanaccount (628 posts) -

I almost always start from the easiest.

I usually play story focus games and prefer the least amount of trouble going through it.

The gameplay of a game has to interests me enough for me to dive into higher difficulty. Or if a game offers reward or design to replay in higher difficulty I will take a look.

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#32 Posted by vocalcannibal (407 posts) -

It really depends on whether or not I can change the setting in-game. The last thing I want is to get stuck with a difficulty that's way more frustrating than fun and not have a way to fix it without starting over.

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#33 Posted by Nev (778 posts) -

Normal, and occasionally, according to the game, I may go Easy. I don't think I've played through a single game above the default, if there was an option to. Difficulty is just not what I come to games for.

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#34 Posted by BojackHorseman (690 posts) -

Yeah, I agree with the sentiment of most people who say they play on the harder difficulties; you actually have to engage with the mechanics of the game. Easy and normal usually means you can just mash your way through the game without much thought, and it feels unrewarding.

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#35 Edited by mems1224 (2511 posts) -

Depends on the type of game. Most shooters I'll play at one level above normal unless the gameplay is absolute trash. For example, I had to turn down the difficulty in Uncharted 4 because the gameplay was just boring and in the way. For sports games I'll normally play on all pro or all star and then spend a ton of time tweaking sliders so that I get realistic stats while keeping the game fun. Most other games I generally play on normal.

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#36 Posted by Sinusoidal (3608 posts) -

Normal. Always normal. I wish they'd do away with difficulty choices anyway. It's not doing game design any favors.

Didn't we just have this thread?

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#37 Posted by Zevvion (5965 posts) -

Normal. Always normal. I wish they'd do away with difficulty choices anyway. It's not doing game design any favors.

Apparently they do though. If we go to one standardized difficulty, then either you will think they are shit stupid unfair, or other people will think they are not engaging.

Take Mass Effect 3 for instance. I love that game because it has by far the best gameplay of the three and not just that: the best third person shooter I've ever played. If you bump down the difficulty, I'd just think it was 'OK'. How do you solve that problem as a developer with one difficulty? You either make it just 'OK' instead of 'amazing' for someone like me, or you force people who just want the story to play out these extremely challenging scenario's and engage with the game's mechanics which they don't want to do to that extend.

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#38 Posted by Sinusoidal (3608 posts) -

@zevvion said:
@sinusoidal said:

Normal. Always normal. I wish they'd do away with difficulty choices anyway. It's not doing game design any favors.

Apparently they do though. If we go to one standardized difficulty, then either you will think they are shit stupid unfair, or other people will think they are not engaging.

Take Mass Effect 3 for instance. I love that game because it has by far the best gameplay of the three and not just that: the best third person shooter I've ever played. If you bump down the difficulty, I'd just think it was 'OK'. How do you solve that problem as a developer with one difficulty? You either make it just 'OK' instead of 'amazing' for someone like me, or you force people who just want the story to play out these extremely challenging scenario's and engage with the game's mechanics which they don't want to do to that extend.

Is harder really more engaging though? Why can't game designers make games more engaging in other ways? If developers didn't have to waste so much time balancing various difficulty levels, I bet we'd see better game design - particularly A.I. which has stagnated horribly in video games - to compensate.

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#39 Edited by thomasnash (1106 posts) -

I pretty much always go for the hardest difficulty available. It's partly just a holdover from when I cared about Achievements and trophies, but I enjoy the challenge as well.

I struggle sometimes to accept when this is a mistake and bump the difficulty down though. The times I've done so it's because I'm stuck on one specific part and I know that if I can just push through it will be manageable again. I think the last game I did that for was the original Bioshock.

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#40 Edited by BoOzak (2645 posts) -

Default the first time unless it's a sequel to a game I was good at. (I played TW3 on DM too)

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#41 Edited by JohnyMyko (1895 posts) -

I always go for the easiest option (unless it's way too easy). I don't play games to get stressed and anxious and to spend a bunch of time grinding and replaying the same thing over and over and being defeated a bunch of times, that just seems extremely annoying to me. I play them after work, I'm tired and don't have much time, I just want to relax, enjoy the story and have a overall nice experience. Rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band are pretty much the only types of games where I go to the hardest difficulty.

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#42 Posted by chobobot (233 posts) -

Normal. If I find the game harder on normal, I will drop it down to Easy. Just don't have the time these days to slog through game on Hard difficulty which can be time consuming.

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#43 Posted by Do_The_Manta_Ray (1643 posts) -

Hardest option, or close to it if the game offers 5 or more. I get bored unless I'm constantly challenged with very rare exceptions where the world itself is mesmerizing enough to keep me. And I enjoy immersing myself within a game and its systems and actually having to make use of all the tools available. It's a fairly good mindset for "getting gud", and would you believe it, I actually am kind of competitive.

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#44 Posted by FlashFlood_29 (4452 posts) -

Depends on how it's balanced. I prefer a well balanced harder difficulty for that arbitrary feeling of achievement.

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#45 Posted by SamanthaK (225 posts) -

I play on Normal most of the time and if i really like the game i replay it on hard.

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#46 Posted by Marz (6095 posts) -

most difficult unless it has perma death, then i drop it down a notch.

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#47 Posted by sparky_buzzsaw (8927 posts) -

If it's a turn-based RPG, usually medium or higher. Anything else I usually just play on the easiest setting. I have less and less time I can devote to games nowadays, and action games in general tend to be a bit hard for me given my bad eyesight. I'm happy to just blow through whatever I'm playing, so long as it's still fun on its easier settings.

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#48 Posted by doctordonkey (1854 posts) -

"Normal" stopped being normal sometime around 2010-2011. If you actually want to be somewhat challenged now you have to at least go with Hard. Maybe Dark Souls has irreversibly changed me, but normal just doesn't do it for me anymore. Except Xcom 2, even normal is brutal.

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#49 Edited by pyrodactyl (4221 posts) -

I feel like normal has become kind of the baby mode. The mode that doesn't require you to think about much of anything to succeed. A very basic understanding of the game mechanics is the only thing required for beating the game. So if you optimize your playstyle, min max or play well the whole thing turns into a cake walk yawn fest.

There are a few exeptions to this rule. I wish I would've played Uncharted 4 on normal for example as most of the fun tools they give you don't work well on hard. You don't feel like a rogue badass when you get shot down over and over from the rope swinging swash buckling gameplay that is suppose to be the main appeal of the combat.

But hard is often the sweet spot with the hardest being the soul grinding mode for a second playthrough.

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#50 Posted by triviaman09 (1035 posts) -

Easier than Normal, my gaming time is much more limited now, want to get through as much as possible. I just don't have time to replay content anymore. Do I miss out on some nuance? Probably. You usually don't have to engage very deeply with all of a game's systems on easy.