The recent trend for various developers and players alike has been that increased difficulty often leads to a better game. The more difficult and tiring it is to overcome a challenge, people seem to believe that it creates a much more fun game. While not entirely untrue that a good challenge is fun for the player to try and overcome, the trend to increasingly make things more and more difficult just because its possible is a silly notion. Games can still be a good time to the player even without a large difficulty spike (heh).
Most games have a difficulty setting where the player is asked to choose the difficulty of the story they are about to play. These generally range from an “Easy” mode to a “Hard” mode, with sometimes modifiers like “Very Easy” or “Very Hard”. Most of the time these labels don’t offer much of an explanation into makes the difficulty easy or hard, this often leads to the player defaulting to the “Normal” difficulty even when another mode may suit them better.
Also the terms Easy and Hard often have their own stigma surrounding them. Most players will naturally avoid an Easy mode because they are a veteran to video games and playing on Easy is below them. On the inverse, players can often be wary of a Hard mode for a first time run through of a game, as it is seen as a jump in difficulty that wasn’t the natural intended way for the game to be played.
Let’s take a dedicated look into the “Easy” difficulty mode, or how many developers have come to describe it as, the “Tell Me A Story” mode. In this mode the game’s challenges are severely reduced and made much simpler and easier to navigate through for the player. Essentially this mode is made so the player can advance from one plot point to another with little to no difficulty.
Why is this done the way it is? After all, aren’t most games intended for the audience to play through have fun and overcome some kind of challenge? Not necessarily. Many players in today’s day and age, dont have a large amount of time to work through and overcome a difficult challenge to get through a video game, but instead would like to spend their time enjoying the well crafted story that the game is trying to tell.
But what if this takes away from the difficulty and fun of the game? A simple look into if this will take away someone’s enjoyment of the game is by referencing a similar game model in that of Visual Novel games like the above pictured Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Danganronpa is an adventure game centered around solving the mysteries behind murders. In terms of gameplay, Danganronpa is centered around advancing through a story, engaging in conversations with various characters, and interacting with the environment in an attempt to find clues about the murders. Additionally in the game’s “Trials” the player must deconstruct arguments with evidence and contradictions to uncover the mysteries riddled within.
All of these elements within the game are interesting and fun mechanics for the player, but additionally add an element of a challenge within its storytelling. Many of these mechanics can be described as puzzles set up for the player to solve that are there in each of Danganronpa’s difficulty settings. The difficulty settings only change the amount of health and star power the player has in trials (health determines how many wrong answers/replies can be made before a game over, star power allows the player to slow down time to focus on arguments).
Even with these basic mechanics and a more focused effort on telling a story to the player, Danganronpa is still held in high regards and has a very enthusiastic fan base. The first game sits at an overall 83% on Metacritic, and its most recent Steam release is sitting at an overall 97% positive rating. The sequel, which employs similar mechanics with a few new and reworked trial mini games, is also held in high regard with the original release being at an 81% on Metacritic, and the more recent Steam release also having a 97% positive rating.
The success of these two games shows that stripping the challenge from enemy encounters does not necessarily ruin the fun, as long as their is some substance behind it that the player can enjoy and experience. In most cases this is an exciting story that the player can enjoy, but just as well there can be smaller challenges that aren’t arduous and overbearingly difficult for the player in the form of some light puzzle solving.
All in all a mode that focuses on story telling is rarely a bad thing, as its just a separate mode that the player can choose to opt into and if not the existence of the mode doesn’t harm them. The recent resistance to such a mode has been quite perplexing, but its comforting to see more and more support for the existence of such modes.