The Potential Angst Of Difficulty Settings

infamous 02

Earlier this week I was thinking about if it was okay to be terrible at certain games. This invariably evolved into thoughts about the difficulty settings of games and how we choose to take advantage of them.

My default difficulty is normal. I feel it to be the general way in which the designers wanted the game to be experienced, so this is my go-to choice. It typically results in a well-balanced experience, and I appreciate that.

That being said, I’m not averse to alternate settings. I do, however, find it to be a bit of a jerk move if you can’t alter the difficulty setting mid-game. How will you know (in certain games) if you will be good at it or not?

When I began Knack, I started on normal and it ramped up quickly in a ruthless fashion. Perhaps I wasn’t accustomed to that style of game, but I would have loved to have switched the difficulty setting mid-game. I ended up plowing through on normal, and I have to say, towards the end of the game, I really wasn’t enjoying myself.

When I started playing Infamous, during the first chunk of the game, it told me it thought I should be playing on hard based on my current style. I thought, well, sure! So I changed the difficulty accordingly.

Throughout the game, I wasn’t struggling much, and I felt it was a good fit. Until the final boss.

Now I won’t ruin anything for anyone (for if you haven’t played either of the first two Infamous games, I highly encourage you to do so), but that final boss wrecked me. I kept at it and was getting exceedingly frustrated. I didn’t understand why I had made it through the rest of the game easy-peasy until this sweaty-palmed final boss sequence.

After trying it for who knows how long (and swearing a lot), my partner asked me if I wanted him to give it a shot, and in less than 15 minutes, he beat it.

Now I still feel pretty cheesy for not beating the final boss in a game in which I did everything else, but you know what?

Oh friggin’ well.

I still love the game.

alice madness returns 01

When I started in on Alice: Madness Returns, I had the difficulty set to normal as per usual. I was in awe of the incredible visual style of the game, and would stare in wonder at the environments while taking in the completely appropriate (and beautiful) score. I was probably two-thirds of the way through the game when I started getting frustrated with the combat. I kept at it for a while and decided I would rather spend more time appreciating the inherent beauty of the game than my ham-handed working of the combat.

So I switched the difficulty to easy.

And you know what? It made a huge difference. I was no longer struggling with various combos and timing, and instead, I was just appreciating the game for what it was: a melancholy and beautifully presented experience.

So where am I going with all this?

Good question.

I have seen situations where people have been struggling with a game and someone suggests lowering the difficulty and said person gets unpleasant. Like their integrity has been affronted by such a suggestion. I almost understand this. It’s like someone is saying, “Hey jerk! You are sucking more than you should! Admit it to the game and change the setting so you can actually get somewhere.”

But if changing it to an easier setting means getting a smoother and more enjoyable experience out of it, why not?

Sure I play most games on normal, but I am not against switching things up to make the situation agreeable. I’ve only done it the once, but I wouldn’t experience a load of agita if it were to come up again.

I’m also not against trying a game out on hard. Certain games have trophies for such things, and I’ve been interested in obtaining them and trying to challenge myself (if I already liked the base game). In the Borderlands series, each time you beat the game, it unlocks a more difficult game setting (e.g. True Vault Hunter Mode, Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode). I’ve played through them all, but I’ve also realized giving the same enemies more hit points, regenerating health, and aggressive behavior isn’t making me enjoy the experience more. It’s making me use more bullets.

So normal is where I will likely find myself in the years to come.

How do you feel about difficulty settings? Do you play on normal? Do you start out hardcore and play on hard for bragging rights? Or do you start a game on easy to see where it goes? I’m all digital ears.

On that note, off I go to take advantage of the increased legendary loot drop rates (until the 7th) in the Handsome Collection.

Have a safe weekend. Cheers, friends!

6 replies »

  1. I usually play on normal as well and I don’t get why you can’t change the difficulty mid game.


  2. For awhile there, when I was too into trophies I would start games on hard to eliminate unnecessary playthroughs. While, I enjoy the bragging rights of my Demon’s Souls platinum, it got to a point that it was more work than fun. I was spoiling games for myself by scouring the trophy list before playing in order to optimize my strategy. Now that I’m back to focusing on the fun I start with the default. Being able to change difficulty mid-game is a great way to manage that.

    At the end of the day everyone enjoys video games for different reasons and many of us enjoy different, individual games for more specific ones. There is no shame in playing the games you like, the way you like.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.