Monday, 25 March 2013

Please Stop Moaning About Difficulty

There needs to be a rule when it comes to video game reviews, where reviewers should not be allowed to talk about a games difficulty at all.  This seems like and incredibly stupid and unreasonable thing to say, but what choice do we have when almost every reviewer is wrong about difficulty in games.

Let's talk about Castlevania for a second here.

A good majority of people think Castlevania is a hard game, and they would be right.  The level design and enemy placement is fiendish, the bosses are tough as nails and with no save or password system it can turn into a bit of an endurance test if you die a lot.  On top of that, you sort of have to know whats coming so that you can make educated choices about your sub-weapon.  This isn't bullshit because the games fairly kind with checkpoints, but overall, castlevania is a hard game.

Now what about Demons Souls, or even Dark Souls, are these hard games?  No, no they are not.  Everything in Demons and Dark Souls is designed to kill you and make your life a living hell if you are not willing to play by the games rules.  It's a game where you have to learn the mechanics well, take in your surroundings and above all be careful and observant.  If you do all these things then chances for survival in Demons and Dark souls is actually rather high, and while it's still a rather challenging game, the levels between these games and basically everything in the 8/16 bit generations is massive.

Let's take another example, Etrian Odyssey 4
Etrian Odyssey is a series of dungeon crawlers designed as a throwback to games like Wizardry and it falls in a genre known for it's difficulty.  A few weeks ago I was made aware of a review on IGN basically panning Etrian Odyssey 3 for being too difficult and unfair.  This is of course bullshit and really it was a case of the reviewer not being arsed enough to learn how the game works and getting frustrated when things didn't go his way.  Etrian Odyssey 4 on the other hand got a great review, because the person in question played it on easy mode and didn't have to learn the ins and outs to get by, and this is sort of sad in a way.

He's right, its a great game but not because there is an easy mode that makes it accessible to newcomers.  That is a great feature but that isn't the reason the game deserves the score it got.   Dark Souls is a challenging game but all the hyperbole being thrown around regarding its difficulty caused people to turn away.

Panning a game for difficulty, especially when you are wrong about it, is not good.  It gives the developers this false idea that people don't like challenging or even hard games.  If you as a reviewer find a game kicked your ass into next year, then say so, but don't pan the whole game because you assume that everyone else is like you and isn't willing to put in time to improve at it.  Until reviewers can talk about difficulty in a mature way, and not just throw a low score at a title because it beat them, discussion of difficulty should be disallowed from reviews.

I swear to god if Dark Souls 2 is ruined because of shit like this I'm going to be rather upset.

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