Difficulty, how did they miss the mark twice in a row?

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#1 Edited by Red_Piano (280 posts) -

Hello duders.

So I was severely disappointed by The Last of Us when it came out and here's why.

It's a bad game above normal, there's too much combat, illogical ammo drops and enemy ammo count and just in general the game was too hard on survivor difficulty, which is what I played the game on first(my sister completed the game before I played it.)

The reason this disappointed me so so much is that the game was being touted as this survivalist, every encounter is dangerous type of game. So this had me expecting that survival mode would be a bit like the Metro series' "Ranger Mode" difficulty. But unfortunately it was the opposite, where Ranger Mode made Metro harder, it also made it easier at the same time and it did this by making you weaker, but ALSO making the enemies weaker and this is where The Last of Us falls flat on it's damn face for me, because on the harder difficulty, you're weaker and every enemy is 10x stronger and ammo just magically vanishes from enemy bodies to force ammo scarcity. If you shoot an arrow into someone on survival difficulty, it's probably going to disappear, why? It's breaking? When being shot into a soft body? I do archery in reality and I've only broken an arrow when I shot it and it hit a metal pole or a rock, not into a soft cloth target. And enemies will sit and fire their guns at you forever, they don't run out of ammo, then you kill a guy who has been blasting shotgun rounds at your face for 3 minutes straight and his body drops zero rounds, which is a regular occurrence.

Now I just got the remastered version for PS4 and I see they have "grounded difficulty" and when I google it to figure out what that means...it's anything but grounded, it literally does the exact same thing as survivor mode, but even more so, all the hints, hud and special gameplay conceits like listening mode are gone, enemies deal 10x damage, melee weapons are non-existent. Basically you die to one gunshot most times and can't tell when you need to heal. So I picked this mode and got to the first gunfight and lo and behold it's the same crap, enemies take 6+ shots and you take one shot.

So how can they have missed such a great opportunity twice in a row, Ranger Mode is one of the best features in the Metro games because it's so refreshing to me, to be able to shoot a guy once or twice and have him go down, while I also go down in one or two shots, instead of this constant lopsided battle that just artificially makes the game a challenge so that masochistic people can enjoy it. I would think more developers at this point would learn from Dark Souls and go towards methodical, strategic but fair type difficulty, instead of the good old lopsided call of duty gameplay where enemies blast your face constantly and take a hundred bullets to put down.

So what did you think of the higher difficulties and do you think my criticisms are valid, if not, why not?

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#2 Posted by ShadowConqueror (3413 posts) -

So it's the game's fault you played on the (then) hardest difficulty, which is only unlocked by beating the game once? I haven't played survivor, instead skipping right to grounded after beating the game once on hard, but I didn't find the ammo drops on grounded to be as illogically scarce as you make it sound. Should the enemies probably drop more ammo if the game was attempting realism, sure, and that's what they do on hard, but on the harder difficulties enemies are capable of dropping ammo, it's just at a lower RNG amount. I never found that the arrows breaking was that odd either, as again that seems tied to RNG (as well as the ragdoll to some degree, as sometimes arrows will be retrievable but won't show up as so until you move the body around a bit, which is admittedly a bit silly but not terribly far off from reality). I also don't get why enemies taking 6+ shots to die is a big deal when stealth grapples are instant kills, headshots are instant kills (or take two shots with a helmet and no armor piercing), and thrown weapons are instant kills. It forces you to be more careful with your shots and aim for the head instead of the body. I found grounded mode to be challenging yet still incredibly fun and rewarding.

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#3 Posted by bceagles128 (788 posts) -

You did your first playthrough on a NG+ only difficulty and now you are complaining that it was too hard? Troll a little harder.

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#4 Posted by NoelVeiga (1394 posts) -

I'm not sure that not being the game you wanted it to be counts as missing the mark. I mean, you seem to have put together a set of mechanics in your head, regardless of what the game was, just based on pre-reléase materials. I don't think the game owed it to you to be designed in the way you had made up.

I think the harder difficulties are there to enhance stealth by making it harder to survive through combat, and resource management, to make it a bigger decisión to pop an ítem to get past a situation. On that front, that balance is doing its job. You wanted it to be a very realistic, logically driven "what if you were really in this scenario" Day Z thing, and they were never going for that.

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#5 Edited by Red_Piano (280 posts) -

@shadowconqueror : I think the game has too much combat whether you play on survival or not and it's at odds with the story and world, you're a single guy in an apocalyptic setting and every encounter is intended to be a big deal, yet you go through the game and by the end of the story you've probably killed 100-300 people/clickers/baddies.

And hard difficulty doesn't drop more ammo I don't think, I don't see why they would. The wiki for the game specifically says hard makes supplies rarer, survival makes them very rare and grounded makes them almost non existent.

As for how the ammo thing is illogical, it's just silly to see an enemy -as I said in the OP- sit and fire round after round, wasting ammo shooting into the cover I'm sitting behind, I kill that guy and he drops zero bullets. And on survival especially, the arrows breaking is just ridiculous, you end up having no safe weapon to fall back on because even arrows are a scarce commodity and that's only the case because they break so often and I believe, though I'm not certain that on higher difficulties the arrows break more often. Whereas in Metro on Ranger Mode, you have throwing knives and if you kill someone with a throwing knife you can walk up and retrieve it no matter what, they don't just magically vanish or "break." And also with metro, the ammo you get from bodies is the ammo that they have on them, like physically on their body, you can see it and you kill a guy and walk up and you can pick it up. It's realistic and it makes sense in the setting.

But, it is their fault that the devs/publisher/whoever continually marketed the game as a survivalist challenge, every encounter will feel dangerous and real and then the game comes out and it's basically just like any other third person shooter, ramp up difficulty and enemies become unfairly difficult while you become unfairly weak. Yeah sure you can kill people in a single shot with a headshot, but they can kill you in a couple shots to the body, again it just makes no sense, it's lopsided balance for the sake of challenge rather than making the game more realistically balanced and toned to fit with the game world and story. This is why I played games like ArmA 1-3, you die with a headshot, you die with a couple body shots, so does the enemy. Same thing with Ranger mode in Metro, the enemy dies in a couple shots, you die in a couple shots.

And again, this is all just at odds with the entire story and world and the tone they try to set, why are there big groups of bad guys around every corner, why does combat always take place in a big wide open space with a bunch of overturned cars or boxes to use as cover, why do arrows break like they're made of glass, why is the enemy able to endlessly pump rounds in my direction but when I kill them their gear magically vanishes.

I'm not saying the game is horrible because of this, it's just I think they could have done a better job and very few people seem to be critical of any of this, while it bothers the hell out of me playing the game.

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#6 Posted by Red_Piano (280 posts) -

@noelveiga: Of course it doesn't owe me anything and yes my disappointment stems from their marketing and my interpretation of what they intended the game to be.

I do not however think that detracts from my criticisms, I simply think the game could have been better by making the higher difficulties hard but fair instead of just hard. Because again, Ranger Mode in Metro is praised for this very thing, Dark Souls is praised for this very thing and The Last of Us was a perfect environment for this type of balancing and they blew it and instead went for the typical shooter bullshit mantra, enemies are bullet sponges, you're a piece of paper, don't get rained on!

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#7 Edited by Maajin (1181 posts) -

@red_piano: Yeah, the way they made it harder is probably a little too game-y. But it completely worked for me. Between the original game and the remaster, I probably finished Survivor Mode at least six times and Grounded two times. Grounded is a bit too much as they remove all mid-encounter checkpoints, making some parts a real nightmare. But Survivor is perfect. I recognize I'm in the minority though, as I just can't get enough of TLoU's combat.

The damage modeling is pretty equal between Joel and the enemies on Survivor. Three shots to the body at full health will kill Joel and most enemies (except when they're wearing body armor, helmets and so on, thats why one of the most useful weapon upgrades is piercing ammo).

About the rarity of drops, what most people don't realize is that if you have 4 shotgun rounds and avoid using them because you're saving for when you have a couple more, you will never use the shotgun because the game will almost never give you more. The moment you run out of ammo though, you'll drop what you need immediately. Just use everything you have, you're supposed to have almost nothing all the time and trust the game will never let you starve.

Also, I guess you can look at these harder difficulties as Joel having worse and worse luck. The enemy was firing a lot of bullets and then you kill them just after firing the last one! =P

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#8 Posted by Red_Piano (280 posts) -

@maajin: Yes that sums it up fairly well, it just feels too gamey in a setting they intend to be more realistic and well "grounded."

The damage in survivor wasn't too bad I can agree, it wasn't even necessarily that difficult save for a few specific encounters. So my problem isn't necessarily that it's too hard -on survivor that is-, just that it feels like everything is stacked against you in a silly way, rather than being stacked against you in a fair way, number of enemies and things like that, rather than ammo vanishing and supply being arbitrarily rare.

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#9 Edited by CptBedlam (4557 posts) -

@red_piano: I think it's a "bad" game ON normal difficulty since the game becomes a mindless shooter on that difficulty setting. I found the hard difficulty (not survivor or grounded) to be perfect for game since it brings the survival aspect of the game to the forefront while not being frustratingly hard (no trial & error sequences etc.; you just have to learn how to properly play the game and deal with the various enemy types, using your surroundings etc.).

So yeah, I think they missed the mark here but in the opposite direction: by making normal too easy. Hard should be the game's default difficulty.

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#10 Posted by DarthOrange (4213 posts) -

I concur 100%. A one to two shots = kill scenario would have been much more interesting and fun. The Last of Us has quite a bit of gamey stuff that bugs me though, not the least of which is that damn flamethrower. I mean seriously? A fucking flamethrower?

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#11 Posted by rethla (3725 posts) -

These are the guys that make the Unchartered combat how can yoy expect anything else?

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#12 Posted by Lysergica33 (601 posts) -

It's like suspension of disbelief isn't a thing for people anymore or something.

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#13 Posted by Justin258 (15641 posts) -

I don't think you get the listening thing in Survivor either.

In any case, yes, I think that The Last of Us is a poorly balanced game on higher difficulties. The difficulty is increased in such gamey ways, which isn't good for a game aiming for atmosphere. I first played the game on Hard and didn't like the gameplay much, then I replayed it on Normal and thought much higher of it. Naughty Dog just isn't all that good at third person shooter mechanics.

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#14 Posted by Hunter5024 (6706 posts) -

It sounds like you're mostly upset that it's not realistic enough. If that's important to you then The Last of Us probably isn't your cup of tea. It does seem unfair to play the game a specific way and then criticize it for not conforming to your expectations though. If you could get past your expectations then you might be able to enjoy the game for what it is, even if it isn't what you wanted it to be.

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#15 Edited by Red_Piano (280 posts) -

@believer258: I'm enjoying it more on normal/hard now on my second playthrough in the remastered version for sure.

@hunter5024: I suppose you could put it that way, but yes, because they stack the odds against you to arbitrarily make it more challenging.

I don't think it's unfair though, if you go back and read the game informer articles on the game prior to release and I think some of the stage demos as well, they specifically talk at length about how they want the game to feel like you're a survivor, that they want the enemy encounters to feel dangerous and not just another shootout, that you'll regularly be out of supplies and have to improvise, things like this.

So for me, everything they were saying about the game prior to launch, combined with just the naming scheme of their difficulty levels even, I mean really, Hard mode sounds like a difficult mode, survivor though sounds more to me like a re-balance type thing a la Metro's ranger mode, not just Very Hard mode. But all these things combined, built up an idea of what they were going for with this game, and while I think the game is perfectly fine, it disappointed me that survivor mode was nothing more than a call of duty style difficulty increase, rather than a mode that made it more 'survival' focused as the name implies.

Why this matters I think as a criticism towards the game and not just my own disappointment is that The Last of Us is very clearly going for a heavy atmosphere as @believer258 suggests with a survival of the fittest sort of focus. So this was the exact sort of game that a special balance mode would have slotted right into perfectly and the difficult levels as they are, are simply at odds with the atmosphere and tone of the game.

Even grounded is ridiculous, I don't know about you but "grounded" doesn't sound like "ULTRA HARD MODE!!!" it sounds like, here's the realism mode, here's the mode where enemies die just as fast as you, here's the mode where enemies have just as little ammo as you, where arrows don't break like glass and we don't make the game difficult in unreal, arbitrary ways.

Something like Gears of War's naming scheme would be more fitting I think to TLOU than their current names, HARDCORE, INSANE!!!

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#16 Posted by Hunter5024 (6706 posts) -

@red_piano: If you don't feel like Survivor mode is enough of a survival game, or Grounded is grounded enough, then the names are really the problem, not the modes themselves. Maybe the names should be different, but other than that I just don't feel like they misrepresented the game at all. There's no disconnect between what they said and what the product is, the disconnect comes from where your imagination filled in the blanks. And it's okay if you don't like it because of that, but criticizing a game for not being what you expected it to be still seems unfair to me, unless they misrepresented it, which I don't feel they did.

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#17 Posted by Brendan (9212 posts) -

It sounds like they made ng+ difficult in a game-y way that doesn't mesh well with the world they built. That's a shame. I still have yet to get into it on my PS4 but I'll probably play it once on normal and let that be that.

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#18 Posted by CornBREDX (7364 posts) -

Careful. When you share your dislike for this game people come out of the woodwork to bully you and stomp you out for not liking the game they liked.

I agree with you, though. I didn't like it as much as a lot of other people either. The difficulty settings not making sense are just the tip of the ice berg.

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#19 Edited by Nodima (2598 posts) -

I personally felt the gameplay slipped in the final few chapters anyway, there were situations where you'd die and then the enemy A.I. would be completely on the fritz on a respond making it nearly impossible to set up any kind of stealth since enemies were still scrambling around like they were on high alert. This was especially true in the Ellie winter section and the final hospital battles.

I never play games higher than Hard, and Hard is rare for me maybe one game a year if not every two years, so I can't imagine those experiences would be any more fun if they were made even harder. This was still my second favorite game of the year, and truthfully left a stronger impression on me than GTA V emotionally and probably defines 2013 more for me since I've continued playing GTA V last and current gen through 2014, but the gameplay did not hold up through the entire game. Certain scenarios were just too frustrating and made even more frustrating if you happened to die, when the game was probably intended to give you the same scenario every time instead of random aggro.

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#20 Posted by nickhead (1258 posts) -

I played this game on easy because all I was concerned with was the story. I've been told I "didn't experience the game correctly" but I have a hard time seeing how Uncharted gun play added anything.

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#21 Posted by Fredchuckdave (10824 posts) -

It's okay to play on normal (no one actually cares if you play on hard or not).

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#22 Posted by TobbRobb (6582 posts) -

Meh. Play it on easy. The stealth sucks anyways, might as well just shoot your way through. It's an alright shooter, and some of the areas are a lot of fun for flanking.

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#23 Posted by Hunter5024 (6706 posts) -

@nickhead said:

I played this game on easy because all I was concerned with was the story. I've been told I "didn't experience the game correctly" but I have a hard time seeing how Uncharted gun play added anything.

I would say that's a perfectly valid way to play The Last of Us. Although I wouldn't call the combat Uncharted gun play, if it was I probably would have had more fun.

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#24 Posted by csl316 (14959 posts) -

Hello duders.

So I was severely disappointed by The Last of Us when it came out and here's why.

It's a bad game above normal.

I stopped reading there for a second, but soldiered on. Seems like you're biggest gripe is that it isn't like Metro.

It's strange, I found the difficulty in TLoU to be incredibly effective. Sneaking up on guys and taking them down in one shot (which you say Ranger mode does) felt satisfying because each kill feels earned. I'm avoiding hits, outmaneuvering enemies, picking my opportunities, and striking quickly when there's an opening. It never felt unfair to me since the only enemy that felt like a bullet sponge was a bloater. And even then, a molotov and some shotgun shells made short work of them.

The controls took some getting used to, but once I did I was doing exactly what I wanted at all times. Every encounter felt tense to me, and the general sense of dread made it feel like the first true survival horror game in a decade.

What I'm trying to say is, pick your moment and shoot them in the face. Or knock down the difficulty, I dunno.

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#25 Edited by Newfangled (302 posts) -

I'm begrudgingly agreeing with this guy based on my experience of Hard and Normal. I put three or four hours into it on and off today (borrowed from a friend). I think the skewed difficulty complaint is the most grounded I've come across thus far (as an aside, I do find it hilarious how seemingly everyone--even a fellow with a rational criticism (and a comparison, one of the fundamental pillars of an argument!) is called a 'troll' these days). Boy, the setting is exceptionally well-realised, the opening pre-apocalypse chapter was a jaw-dropping introduction to the world, the dialogue and delivery, peerless--even a tired zombie cliché given a new lease of life, and yet... oof. This gameplay. Seeing stealth encouraged, not just as an alternative, but as the primary means of progression delighted me, but one animation for 'stealth kills'? One? Really? It got old before the second hour. Compatriot A.I. is hideous. Seeing NPCs bash into guards repeatedly, hop manically over obstacles, and sprint through a pack of clickers without ruffling a single Infected feather is painful to watch. I spent so long meticulously crouching along corridors only to be endlessly distracted by A.I. characters buzzing around me like mosquitos. My suspension of disbelief (and patience) has a maximum load, unfortunately.

I need not elaborate on the original post. It hits the mark for me. Philosophically, the fundamental difficulty/balance is at such enormous odds with practically every other facet of The Last of Us. It's a gorgeous game--narratively and aesthetically--but it's a dog to play. No bones about it. I mean, if I'm spotted, grabbed by a clicker, jumped by a gang of infected, it's basically game over anyway--I'm weak as anything. That's awesome. But it would be great to have parity--for all corporeal beings to exhibit the same threshold for injury and incapacitation.

I'll be surprised if I come back to it.

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#26 Posted by 49th (3895 posts) -

The game wasn't too hard you're just not good enough at games. oWNED

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