Grounded: Fart In A Jar

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Posted by N7 (4159 posts) -

I didn't intend to make another blog about the subject(My first one here), but as I finish The Last of Us on Grounded Mode(The DLC super-difficulty), I just have to talk about it. Also, as I was looking through the other character clothing options I realized it never acknowledged my Hard completion. So that's annoying. Thankfully beating it on Grounded ticked the trophies for Survivor and Hard. Also spoilers.

#JustGroundedThings
#JustGroundedThings

The Enemy A.I. really doesn't do that much

The thing I talked about a lot in my previous blog is the "incredible A.I." that will distract you and flank you and try to get behind you or around you any way they could. Well, that's true. It's still more complex than the base difficulties.

One example is an enemy who lays down covering fire for his friend to move up. It was a little surprising to see something so well done, but sure enough an enemy sprayed-and-prayed to keep me behind cover while his friend moved up.

Another example of the newer and "smarter" A.I. would be an enemy that would sit behind cover and shoot train his weapon right on my position. If I were to ever aim my gun or try to move out of cover, he would fire and fire and fire seemingly forever. Like the above point it was great to see new things taken to extremes that, yeah, this guy would totally try to fucking murder me. Fun.

And the other example of one enemy, sneaked his way behind me without any prompt on my part, and killed the shit out of me while I had no idea he was even after me until he was running and grunting right behind me. I was too scared shitless to know what was even going on so I could have countered him, I just couldn't because god damn that was frightening.

The problem: It doesn't happen often enough to make it fun. In the early game, I was seeing all kinds of interesting and brutal shit from the A.I. I had never seen before, but that was about it. After the half way point in the game, give or take some chapters, it was back to "You got caught, the enemies will run to cover and wait for 10 minutes before doing anything". No enemies ever got proactive. No enemies ever decided to come after me. There was nothing new to be found anymore and it's such shit.

In a statement from Naughty Dog:

"The AI is relentless, smart, and brutal, and survival will be near impossible,"

Well... no. Not really. They are brutal, and survival was nearly impossible, but the enemies aren't relentless or smart. In fact, the enemies relented quite a bit.

In a game where life and death are mere seconds apart and checkpoints so far away, the companions block your movement and get in your way at every possible opportunity

How's that for a header?

The most immediate issue playing on Grounded: It made me hate the companions. Ellie, Bill, Sam and Henry. They constantly get in your way and just fucking stand there(!!!). There were, I'll say, hundreds of times where I'd be moving to cover to hide from an enemy, when what do I see but Ellie standing in the doorway and not moving so I have to keep pushing against her very awkwardly until she moves.

Not only do they block your movement, but they constantly get in your way. After discovering the meaning of true hatred during the wave-based-forced-combat-survival sequence near the end of the game with David, I really did think I was done with the difficulty. Enemies killing me? Sure why not. Missing important shots while dangerously low on ammo? Absolutely, it is a game after all! David CONSTANTLY GETTING IN FRONT OF ME AND BLOCKING MY SHOTS EVERY TIME ALWAYS FOREVER FUCK FUCK FUCK.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I have no shame. So I'm not ashamed in admitting that it took me over 30 tries and at least a couple of hours to get through that first sequence of survival with David in that hut while the infected are constantly coming at you. Most of the reasons is, well, it's fucking hard. But the other reason was it seemed liked David would get in my way whenever I aimed the rifle at someone running right at me. I died so many times because David got in the way, blocking a critical shot.

It would not have bothered me one bit if the checkpoints weren't stunted for this difficulty level.

A screenshot of the incredibly depressing alternate ending*
A screenshot of the incredibly depressing alternate ending*

The checkpoints being fewer and farther in between feel more like a punishment than a challenge, especially in the late game

One thing I pointed out in my last blog was the fact that there are less checkpoints in Grounded mode. As I go through the game and the engagements get bigger and longer(Unf) it really does make death feel more like a punishment and less like a challenge.

For example: Through the final level of the game, the hospital segment, there is not a single checkpoint. You have to go through several floors of heavily armed, armored enemies who are packed tightly in a very small area all on one life. If you die, you're right back at the beginning of the level. And boy, is that fucked.

There was no amount of stress in a video game I have ever felt that compared to the constant failures during that last sequence. Worse still was when I managed to get a little further and then suddenly the stress multiplies. "Can I do it this time? No, probably not". But that didn't stop me. Although maybe it should have because I can just feel the years being shaved off of my lifespan after this ordeal.

Honestly though, the true difficulty in this game is the realistic-ish ways you can die on Grounded. For example, a headshot is instant death. But when an enemy melees you, you pretty much die instantly. When you get staggered or stunned or whatever state it is that Joel goes into after being punched, it initiates the instant kill animation and you die. So it's not that being punched is an instant death, it's that being punched leads to your instant death and there's no really anything you can do to stop it because you are stunned.

And there's nothing quite like going 25 minutes without a checkpoint to really solidify how fucking terrible it is to get punched in the face until you see that all too familiar black screen and have to do it all over again. Fuck.

This difficulty is like a magnifying glass that highlights every tiny little flaw until it's massive and unavoidable

Fuck you too, David
Fuck you too, David

When you are constantly dying and having to play through a sequence time after time after time you start to pay attention to the small details. And I mean really pay attention to the small details.

Like how hopping over small ledges/railings/windows or anything that you can hop over will produce sound that the enemies can hear... only sometimes. The most mind-boggling of the small details, definitely. Sometimes I'll hop over a window and an enemy will hear it and come and investigate. Nope, no broken glass. Nope, I didn't bump into anything. They just decided to hear it for some reason. But then I'll hop over the wall right behind an enemy and he'll continue on with his day. It was always a gamble on when to jump when I couldn't truly depend on the mechanics to explain themselves.

Enemies only notice bodies in certain areas. Sometimes you'll kill a guy and his friend will see it and everyone will begin investigating the area. Sometimes they'll walk right over it and not say anything. It's never really explained why this happens but it makes some zones easier and some zones not so easy.

While facing infected: Aiming a weapon and standing up, you produce constant noise after a second or two. That's right. Stand still and aim your gun. You will alert the entire goddamn map to your presence.

While aiming a gun with infected around: Going from a crouched stance to a standing position will also alert the hoard.

While crouch-walking up stairs, your slowest speed is increased and therefore you make a bunch more noise that will alert the enemies. You may say, "Hey, aiming a weapon slows me down considerably! Perhaps I can aim my weapon to carefully climb these stairs!" Nope.Somehow moving with weapons will attract attention.Brownie points for trying, though.

I was having a lot of trouble with the part where you're with Sam in the sewer tunnels and all of those fucking infected. I spent so long trying to find out what I was doing wrong to constantly get killed or spotted by the infected. That's one of the few areas of the game I felt was truly unfair. I eventually got through it by getting super lucky but if there was one truly fucked area of the game, it was that one.

Companions don't know when to shut the fuck up. When you have some other people with you and you try sneaking, it makes it really hard when you get caught because running away does nothing. Henry, Bill, and Tommy both react poorly under stress and don't really understand "stay back and don't shoot at enemies". Of course you can't really say that so I guess it's not their fault. One example is the forced combat section with Tommy right after your horse gets Molotov'd. I kept trying to sneak but suddenly Tommy would start shooting at people and then they would instantly know where I was and I'd be dead. That was another sequence that gave me a lot of trouble that I just barely managed to get through. Also I had very little supplies for this one so that did not help me.

Bonus: If Ellie is immune to spores, how come the Bloater can kill her with spores? Food for thought.

Bonus: While Ellie is a companion, no enemy ever sees or hears her in stealth mode. But when you play as Ellie and you sneak around, enemies can see and hear you. How come she can turn into a phantom only sometimes? What is she hiding...

Forced combat sections are the devil

Pictured: Forced combat sections
Pictured: Forced combat sections

When I first played The Last of Us, even when I second played The Last of Us, and even third played The Last of Us, I never had an issue with the forced combat sections. Sometimes I died, sometimes I died a lot. It was the ebb and flow of video games. Life goes on. And you have a complete lack of information, like no HUD whatsoever, no listen mode, no health bar(That goes with HUD but I'd like to specify that no, you cannot see your health bar. Not even while healing. Not knowing what your health is like can affect your decision to jump into battle, and when you have no choice in the matter, everything sucks.

Really, I don't have anything intelligent to say here. Forced combat sections made my Grounded playthrough feel like I was dying. It was terrible. You would progress through a level and think oh boy I've done it and then 8 more people run through a door and the fight continues. I say "fight", but it's more like opening a constant fart in a jar; It's not very pleasant but over time you enjoy it, and you hate yourself for you, but that doesn't stop you from opening more jars.

I should point out, just to be clear, because I am a talentless hack writer who can't get my point across without overbearing amounts of italics, I liked, no, loved, the forced combat on Hard and Normal. I'm not giving a commentary on the mechanic as it exists, just the forced combat on Grounded. And also to be clear, I'm not actually complaining or anything. I'm not saying this should be changed or anything. I'm using the metaphorical sense of "this sucks" like, wow, there's 19 guys in this room and they are all gonna take turns playing bullet ping-pong with my asshole. You know. That kind of thing.

Jerry's Final Thought

Once you get past the initial wow of seeing the A.I. work together in new and interesting ways, it begins to get really frustrating on multiple levels.

Really, "crazy A.I." should have been some kind of modifier you choose for any difficulty instead of being locked to Grounded, because while I don't think it's as groundbreaking as I initially thought, it certainly is welcome to see enemies really try hard to kick your shit in. In this case, it's frustrating on the level that I want to see more of these tactics. I wanted to be surprised by enemies popping up out of nowhere. Unless you are in a forced combat section, the enemies will only ever react to you. It's so refreshing to react to enemies acting on their own volition rather than walking back and forth and saying the same dialog over and over again.

It's also frustrating because sometimes you die fucking quick. And so it'd be really refreshing to see A.I. that makes you react while also not having the fear of having to repeat a 25 minute long sequence that could surprise me with surprise forced combat at any second.

I have had a lot of trouble out of the melee as well. It's notoriously unreliable. So reliable that I had actually kept a melee weapon across multiple sections of the game because I was too afraid of trying to use it, missing, and then restarting from the checkpoint a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

I will see an enemy, hit him, and even though I hit him, because he did his "instant kill" dance, I die immediately. It's the worst. It was like this in Uncharted, too. Sometimes enemies just have to hit you first. The only downside here is that it results in instant death.

Several times throughout the game, I'll go ahead and say "hundreds" of times, I'll hit a guy, maybe hit him again, but then suddenly he just hits me out of nowhere and then I'm stunned and then I'm dead. It was particularly frustrating as Ellie in which I actually had a guy in the execution animation(Knife in the stomach, zoom in on the face) only for him to not die and then grab and strangle Ellie. All within fractions of a second.

Really, even though I suffered through some pretty unfortunate situations, I'm glad I played Grounded. I think, personally, the only challenge you will face in that game is the challenge to your patience. I wanted to give up so many times. I just didn't enjoy a lot of the forced combat sections, and when you play Grounded you realize very quickly that there are a lot of forced combat sections. Some of the stealth sections had crazy difficulty spikes and sometimes I just didn't understand why certain things were happening like they were.

I never had these experience on normal or hard, and though I never played survivor, I doubt it was as intense as Grounded. I certainly knew what I was getting into, but man, this was challenging. Half of the time I wanted to give up, and half of the time I was disappointed that there were so many neat things in a difficulty that I didn't get to really see because I was too busy dying all of the time.

But I guess it did deliver on its promise as being idiotically hard. It was pretty hard.

*Alternate ending does not actual exist. See store for details.

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#1 Posted by DarthOrange (4213 posts) -

I have really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this difficulty mode. It sounds super frustrating and very not fun. Also this might be the most beautiful string of words I have ever read:

@n7 said:

Really, I don't have anything intelligent to say here. Forced combat sections made my Grounded playthrough feel like I was dying. It was terrible. You would progress through a level and think oh boy I've done it and then 8 more people run through a door and the fight continues. I say "fight", but it's more like opening a constant fart in a jar; It's not very pleasant but over time you enjoy it, and you hate yourself for you, but that doesn't stop you from opening more jars.

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#2 Posted by N7 (4159 posts) -

@darthorange: It has its moments. It feels more like a niche than anything. Getting through those insanely difficult sections makes you feel like you've actually accomplished something, but there's so many issues getting in the way that it feels like a hollow victory.

Really I can't understate how awesome it was to get caught so off guard by that one hunter. But that was it. One and done. Across my over 20 hour playthrough, I only had one instance of "OH WHOAAAAAAAAA DID YOU SEE THAT". Most of the enemies just ran around in circles like their pathing was broken or something.

Also thanks. Farts in jars are pretty sophisticated so I figured yeah, it was apt to compare it with The Last of Us.

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#3 Posted by Justin258 (15646 posts) -

So this DLC difficulty is basically an exacerbation of TLOU's biggest issues?

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#4 Posted by nasp (652 posts) -

so yeah i said in the previous blog thread that the more i heard of the difficulty the more dumb it sounded.it was a great idea,but overall is just plagued with problems and annoyances.which sucks because unlike others i loved the gameplay and combat and would have liked a realistic difficulty to play on.instead you get a unfair,horrible time.im happy just to play hard because its the best balance imo.

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#5 Posted by N7 (4159 posts) -

So this DLC difficulty is basically an exacerbation of TLOU's biggest issues?

Yes. Sorry I didn't get around to this earlier, but notifications are borked. I played the game on hard and really that felt like the way it was meant to be played. It was just challenging enough but still pretty easy, you know? Grounded is like "Fuck you" at every turn. Companions getting in your way could get you killed, melee doesn't usually work so well, mechanics seem to change just subtly enough for you to not understand them. Things like that.

It was almost like it wasn't... how should I say this, "balanced"? Honestly, even though I was initially very impressed with it and am now absolutely unimpressed, I feel like if they would have gone into Grounded and tweaked a lot of the game to work better with it, to allow a better flow of mechanics, it would have been fucking insane, but in a good way.

Really, as Grounded exists now, it's a sure-fire way to get you to dislike The Last of Us.

@nasp said:

so yeah i said in the previous blog thread that the more i heard of the difficulty the more dumb it sounded.it was a great idea,but overall is just plagued with problems and annoyances.which sucks because unlike others i loved the gameplay and combat and would have liked a realistic difficulty to play on.instead you get a unfair,horrible time.im happy just to play hard because its the best balance imo.

I agree. Hopefully they can get something like Grounded built into whatever sequel they're sure to do, that way they have time to actually build a whole game around this difficulty instead of building a difficulty around a game.

Hard ends up striking a great balance between fun and challenge. Grounded is just Heaven and Hell mode from Devil May Cry, where you pretty much die in one hit.

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#6 Posted by csl316 (14959 posts) -

I have an alternate difficulty for you to try on a subsequent playthrough.

Have your friend play for the first time and use all of your supplies. "This game's easy, he'll say." Then when it's your turn, you'll have like 3 bullets and no supplies or secondary items. Build your arsenal back up, surviving by the skin of your teeth and stressing out a bunch. When you need a break, hand it back to you friend and watch him blow all your gear. "Easy ass game."

Then lower the difficulty and get scolded, but at least you can sleep at night.

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#7 Edited by Yummylee (24646 posts) -

Welp, at least you can say you did it! It sounds like it was quite the challenge (understatement of the first day of the year perhaps), though for me I think it's the extra long stretches of playing the game with no checkpoints that sounds like the worst of it all.

And that first image just what in the. It took me a couple of minutes for my brain to decipher just what in the Hell I was looking at. Kinda looks like The Last of Us: Dead Space Edition.

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#8 Posted by Ghostiet (5832 posts) -

That's too bad, especially considering your previous blog post. My time on Survivor was hard, but the challenge was enjoyable - it wasn't quite as ricockulous as what you've described.

I'll probably get around to playing Grounded Mode at some point, though. I paid for it after all, but it's going to be in quite a while.

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#9 Posted by ThunderSlash (2605 posts) -

@csl316 said:

I have an alternate difficulty for you to try on a subsequent playthrough.

Have your friend play for the first time and use all of your supplies. "This game's easy, he'll say." Then when it's your turn, you'll have like 3 bullets and no supplies or secondary items. Build your arsenal back up, surviving by the skin of your teeth and stressing out a bunch. When you need a break, hand it back to you friend and watch him blow all your gear. "Easy ass game."

Then lower the difficulty and get scolded, but at least you can sleep at night.

I laughed. You should've blown all of your items right before you had to hand the controller over to your friend.

Man N7, you make it sound like Grounded mode was tacked on by the developers. The AI stuff from your previous blog made it sound hella cool though. It's too bad they couldn't have just added that as a modifier to the other game modes. Having no way to check your health sounds like straight up bad design. I get that it's supposed to be all realistic, but even in reality you know how much in pain you are because of... pain. And developers need to find a better way to punish people for dying in single player games that is more than just "You get dropped at the last checkpoint."

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#10 Posted by csl316 (14959 posts) -

The checkpoint thing kind of reminds me of Shovel Knight discussions. To make it harder, don't hit all the checkpoints!

I enjoy a challenge, but sending you back a ways just isn't fun to me anymore.

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#11 Posted by nasp (652 posts) -

@thunderslash: bad design is exactly why grounded doesnt work.its just not consistent.sometimes they see a dead body from across the map,sometimes they walk by one.sometimes they one hit kill you with melee,sometimes they dont.the main thing that hurts it is that its not consistent.which when you are playing a game thats hard and has hard rules to follow,the game needs to follow the rules and be consistent with those rules.if they can see enemies that are dead,then they need to do that every time,not off and on.good thing is that its not like this as much with the other difficultys.its mainly just grounded difficulty.i would agree with the idea that it was tacked on as well,its just too inconsistent not to be imo.

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#12 Edited by N7 (4159 posts) -

Man, I didn't get any notifications from this blog. For all I knew it faded into obscurity.

@csl316 said:

I have an alternate difficulty for you to try on a subsequent playthrough.

Have your friend play for the first time and use all of your supplies. "This game's easy, he'll say." Then when it's your turn, you'll have like 3 bullets and no supplies or secondary items. Build your arsenal back up, surviving by the skin of your teeth and stressing out a bunch. When you need a break, hand it back to you friend and watch him blow all your gear. "Easy ass game."

Then lower the difficulty and get scolded, but at least you can sleep at night.

That would require friends though :(

@yummylee said:

Welp, at least you can say you did it! It sounds like it was quite the challenge (understatement of the first day of the year perhaps), though for me I think it's the extra long stretches of playing the game with no checkpoints that sounds like the worst of it all.

And that first image just what in the. It took me a couple of minutes for my brain to decipher just what in the Hell I was looking at. Kinda looks like The Last of Us: Dead Space Edition.

I'm glad I played it. I enjoyed about half of it, then the it's basically forced combat after forced combat and a few stealth segments that don't really allow you to sneak through them. My friends all tell me I'm dumb and that Grounded was super easy, and it's not that it's "hard", per se. If I were a better writer I'd be able to accurately describe it. The challenge is getting to the next part of the game. The challenge is holding onto your supplies long enough to actually get some use out of them. Bill gave me a bomb and I wasted the shit out of it, and every point from there on made me feel like I was supposed to use the bomb here, or there, but nope, I didn't have another one. And I didn't get another one for far too long afterwards.

All in all, when I beat the game, I had only crafted 1 smoke bomb(Which was actually incredible and allowed me to take down like 7 guys at once), 2 bombs(Sans the one Bill gives you), 4 or 5 molotov's, one medkit which was a waste because since you die in one hit, it is useless to heal yourself, 4 shivs(You pretty much get all 3 shivs early in the game but once they're gone, they are GONE. I was only able to craft another shiv at the end of the game in the hospital, but I choose to build a bomb instead)

@csl316 said:

I have an alternate difficulty for you to try on a subsequent playthrough.

Have your friend play for the first time and use all of your supplies. "This game's easy, he'll say." Then when it's your turn, you'll have like 3 bullets and no supplies or secondary items. Build your arsenal back up, surviving by the skin of your teeth and stressing out a bunch. When you need a break, hand it back to you friend and watch him blow all your gear. "Easy ass game."

Then lower the difficulty and get scolded, but at least you can sleep at night.

I laughed. You should've blown all of your items right before you had to hand the controller over to your friend.

Man N7, you make it sound like Grounded mode was tacked on by the developers. The AI stuff from your previous blog made it sound hella cool though. It's too bad they couldn't have just added that as a modifier to the other game modes. Having no way to check your health sounds like straight up bad design. I get that it's supposed to be all realistic, but even in reality you know how much in pain you are because of... pain. And developers need to find a better way to punish people for dying in single player games that is more than just "You get dropped at the last checkpoint."

@nasp said:

@thunderslash: bad design is exactly why grounded doesnt work.its just not consistent.sometimes they see a dead body from across the map,sometimes they walk by one.sometimes they one hit kill you with melee,sometimes they dont.the main thing that hurts it is that its not consistent.which when you are playing a game thats hard and has hard rules to follow,the game needs to follow the rules and be consistent with those rules.if they can see enemies that are dead,then they need to do that every time,not off and on.good thing is that its not like this as much with the other difficultys.its mainly just grounded difficulty.i would agree with the idea that it was tacked on as well,its just too inconsistent not to be imo.

I will agree and disagree, sort of. I think not being able to see you health was awesome. This was the first thing I noticed and it really helped establish that initial thought that Grounded mode does not fuck around. The thing is, since you die in pretty much one hit, it makes it a bit useless, doesn't it? Not being able to see your health would work better in a way that you could potentially be completely full and okay, or on the immediate verge of death. It would be psychological, which ties back into the survival horror interpretation.

Really, it does feel tacked on. It feels like they hit a few check marks and then published it on the Playstation Store. "Okay, enemies do more damage than any other difficulty, headshots are an instant kill, you make more noise and enemies have better hearing, resources are less abundant and also let's make some shit up about the A.I. being new and improved or something".

The more I think of it, the more I think Grounded shouldn't have been a difficulty but something like XCOM's modifiers. I know I already said this, but it seems like something that would have benefited from being "different" and not "super hard". The mechanics of the game do not suit this type of difficulty, as I've already pointed out. And the awkwardly inconsistent stuff like movement speed on stairs and how you emit noise from aiming a weapon and standing up. Like, what? How does that happen? How does that add challenge to the game? It doesn't, it's just there to make it "SUPER HARD".

Truthfully, I want to see other people play Grounded and get back to me, or rather make their own blogs or something. I'm absolutely sure someone read my blog and went "No, you just misunderstood something and are also a crazy person". It would be great to have other people see these glaring inconsistencies that were just small blemishes on lower difficulties.

One thing I do want to touch on is the melee. nasp is right that sometimes they will one hit kill you and sometimes they'll just hit you once and stop for a second. There were plenty of times that I got hit and thought "FUCKING SHIT NOOOOOOOO" only for them to just kind of stand there and allow me to give them a wallop or too. Another problem I had was I'd hit them and then I'd just be instakilled. Like... what? 99% of the part where you play as Ellie ended on such a defeated note because I'd stab some guy and then he'd just grab me and strangle me. I fucking stabbed you! DIE!

Though it does feel a bit like I'm preaching to the choir here because The Last of Us is like the most critically acclaimed game ever. And I still totally love that game, but man Grounded could have been handled better.

@csl316 said:

The checkpoint thing kind of reminds me of Shovel Knight discussions. To make it harder, don't hit all the checkpoints!

I enjoy a challenge, but sending you back a ways just isn't fun to me anymore.

It can be rough sometimes. There's a couple of parts of the game I went through and went "Well at least I've got my checkpoint now!" only to look and see, nope, no checkpoint. And again, that ENTIRE last level of the game is on ONE CHECKPOINT. It's almost impossible to sneak through and to make it better everyone has fucking assault rifles and shotguns and El Diablo's and some guy had laser eyes. It was very rough.

The problem is, they didn't really know when to quit with Grounded mode. There's an argument to be made that the game is a lot more rewarding with less checkpoints because you really do feel like you're riding on a mix of luck and skill, but then they go "BUT NOW GO THROUGH THIS WHOLE SECTION WITHOUT A CHECKPOINT! HA HA HA!" like a cruel dungeon master. It felt bipolar. A bipolar fart in a jar.

Goddamnit... I have to stop writing blogs in my blogs. I'm gonna hit a word limit and get my account suspended or some shit. Or taken back to the asylum.

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#13 Posted by emfromthesea (2262 posts) -

Your point on the increased difficulty highlighting flaws in the design of the game is really interesting, because it's apparent in a lot of different games. Controls are usually the first thing I notice if the difficulty is unforgiving. Say, Killzone 2 for example. The slow, weighty controls help give that game a unique shooter feeling. On normal or hard. On the highest difficulty, they get in your way of surviving encounters. Then there's something like Dead Space 2, which has some really cool combat. But on Hardcore mode where you can't afford to die, the encounter design is suddenly under a lot more scrutiny.

I'm sure the developers are aware of these shortcomings in the design, but perhaps they feel that the majority of players will play it on a difficultly where the faults in the design don't matter, and therefor they can afford to not spend the time addressing the problems. Or perhaps in an effort to appeal to a wide audience, offering several difficulties, they unintentionally overlook the problems. The Grounded dlc is a curious case, because that was added in later. It'd be interesting to hear why the faults you highlighted are still present.

Anyway, that was a great write-up. It's always interesting reading about difficulty in games, and the players that subject themselves to the tougher ordeals.

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#14 Edited by nasp (652 posts) -

@n7: like i said in the other blog thread,i watched alot of streams and playthroughs on grounded.you are not crazy and the problems we are talking about are real and not a one off thing.i love the last of us ALOT as well,but we are looking at the grounded difficulty and its just bad.grounded doesnt hurt my opinion of the game because it wasnt with the main game and its obviously tacked on.so you say someone is thinking that you or we are crazy,but to me if anyone thinks grounded is balanced and isnt complety plagued with problems,they havent watched people play or played it themselves on grounded.

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#15 Posted by citizencoffeecake (1538 posts) -

Wow, again, thanks for your thoughts on this. I decided to go through on Survivor my second time after reading your first post and I've been having fun. I just made it to the high school in Bill's town but I remember this being a rough spot for me even on hard so I'm not looking forward to it, can't imagine some of these forced combat sections on Grounded, how did you deal with them? I just get swarmed by damn runners.

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#16 Posted by N7 (4159 posts) -

Your point on the increased difficulty highlighting flaws in the design of the game is really interesting, because it's apparent in a lot of different games. Controls are usually the first thing I notice if the difficulty is unforgiving. Say, Killzone 2 for example. The slow, weighty controls help give that game a unique shooter feeling. On normal or hard. On the highest difficulty, they get in your way of surviving encounters. Then there's something like Dead Space 2, which has some really cool combat. But on Hardcore mode where you can't afford to die, the encounter design is suddenly under a lot more scrutiny.

I'm sure the developers are aware of these shortcomings in the design, but perhaps they feel that the majority of players will play it on a difficultly where the faults in the design don't matter, and therefor they can afford to not spend the time addressing the problems. Or perhaps in an effort to appeal to a wide audience, offering several difficulties, they unintentionally overlook the problems. The Grounded dlc is a curious case, because that was added in later. It'd be interesting to hear why the faults you highlighted are still present.

Anyway, that was a great write-up. It's always interesting reading about difficulty in games, and the players that subject themselves to the tougher ordeals.

The most interesting part is that Grounded is DLC. It costs money. You can't just go to the store and download it for free like some sort of "challenging bonus". You either pay $15 for the Season Pass or $5 for Grounded alone. While I'm no authority on anything really, it seems a little strange that Grounded is so wonky. I mean, it's Naughty Dog here. You'd think if anyone would go the extra mile to get something to work great, it'd be them.

While I'm by no means saying "Shame on them! How dare they!" it does make me ask... why? Why release Grounded at all? When the cracks in the mechanics are so exposed on such a higher difficulty, could it have been so important to release this at all?

Not to get vitriolic here, but my train of thought goes something like: Grounded costs money, people put a lot of work into this. And while I'd have to be a buffoon to say that they didn't put a lot of work into it, it just feels too rough around the edges for me to see it myself.

But then, as you say, how many people were going to play this anyway? It's just a little bonus for Season Pass holders that they are also selling on its own. Just look at the responses in this blog and the other and see just how many people actually own Grounded and haven't played it yet.

Wow, again, thanks for your thoughts on this. I decided to go through on Survivor my second time after reading your first post and I've been having fun. I just made it to the high school in Bill's town but I remember this being a rough spot for me even on hard so I'm not looking forward to it, can't imagine some of these forced combat sections on Grounded, how did you deal with them? I just get swarmed by damn runners.

I was surprised a lot during my Grounded playthrough. There were a ton of areas I would enter and think "Oh boy, this area is a problem for me. This is gonna suck" only to pretty much walk right through it.

The only areas that were a problem for me were: The clicker tunnel with Sam, the sniper area after the tunnel, the entire survival sequence with David, the entire "escape the town" sequence, the end bit in the hospital and every second of the hydroelectric dam. That whole dam section sucked for me. Thankfully though the game is just like Call of Duty in that you can run to the next checkpoint area(Even though there are no checkpoints in Grounded) and it'll kill everyone behind you. Once I figured that out it I was actually able to finish that segment in about a minute. But the hours and hours I put into it before that were not fun.

Protip: At least on Grounded, when facing infected, forget everything else. Just try to go from Point A to Point B and get it over with. Don't linger, just go to the end of the level as slowly as you can. Runners CAN see you from a distance, just like humans so stay away from them. They also have the hearing levels of Clickers as they will hear you from a good distance away. The plus side is Joel's takedowns make no noise so you can eliminate people and infected right next to other people and infected and they won't hear you. And for what it's worth, just so you don't have to wonder like I did: Bloaters are blind, so you can sneak directly in front of them without worry. And sprinting will alert the entire level to your position so don't ever sprint ever unless it's to run away.

Also protip: Ellie's stealth kills makes noise sometimes. This is one of those inconsistencies I was talking about. Sometimes you'll stealth kill a guy and no one will even know, but sometimes you'll do it and it'll either alert them straight up, or cause them to investigate. It has nothing to do with how close or far away they are and it doesn't matter if they are facing you or not. It's strange, and it made escaping a goddamn nightmare as I had no idea when I should try to kill people or just tuck and run. But on Grounded, every choice you make is the wrong one so it really never matters.

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