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The Arguments For And Against A Dark Souls Easy Mode

Illustration for article titled The Arguments For And Against A iDark Souls/i Easy Mode

It’s been a few weeks since Worth Reading, your weekly guide to the best writing in video games, but we’re back.

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Illustration for article titled The Arguments For And Against A iDark Souls/i Easy Mode
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Though we haven’t heard a lick about The Last Guardian since Sony re-premiered the game for PlayStation 4 at E3 last year, it’s presumably still in development. Presumably. Whatever happens with Fumito Ueda’s latest game, however, he remains one of gaming’s most interesting designers. Schmuplations recently translated a lengthy interview where Ueda, walking through his early days as a student, and what eventually got him into video games. (Did you know he used to ditch school and go on 36-hour motorcycle rides? I’m not sure I’ll do anything nearly as cool as that.)

I see. After you quit WARP, and you were deciding your next move, why did you choose SCE?

Ueda: Well, it was probably all down to PaRappa the Rapper. That and I.Q.: Intelligent Qube. They were a big inspiration to me. PaRappa, especially, was huge. The first time I saw it was at the Tokyo Game Show, I believe. It looked so much higher quality than the 3D rendering movies I was making. It was 3D, but the way they used the paper cutouts… I remember I went back to the game show a second time, just to see it again.

What was so inspiring to you about it?

Ueda: I think it was the influence of Rodney Alan Greenblat, the artist. That was the first thing that jumped out at me, that you had this modern artist doing graphics for a video game. I also loved the game’s style, of course. It seemed to draw a line between itself and what had previously been called “video games.” It really felt like something new, and I think that was what impressed me the most.

Illustration for article titled The Arguments For And Against A iDark Souls/i Easy Mode

If there’s a new Dark Souls game, there’s a new round of arguments about whether it should accommodate players turned off by the difficulty. Cameron Kunzelman, in favor of adjustable difficulty modes, thoughtfully walks through the arguments against the idea by a bunch of other critics. Not long ago, I’d have been on their side, but the more I’ve played these games and the more I’ve studied their storytelling, I’m inclined to think they’re leaving behind an audience that could appreciate the world, lore, and characters. Of course, it’s up to the developer to say “no, thanks,” and I suspect From Software will keep on trucking, but it’s an interesting thought experiment. (Please try to keep the comments civil on this topic!)

“Entangled in this first idea is a second uncomplicated assumption about what ‘easy mode’ might be. I don’t think that many people who advocate for an easy mode in the Souls franchise believes that they will get the exact same experience as the ‘normal mode’ playing easy mode. I don’t think that many people have illusions about how they would be treated by community if they said that they played in easy mode. I don’t think that the game would be the same in most ways. It seems that everyone I quoted at the top of this piece believes that some kind of point would be lost by shaving the difficulty of the game down in any way, but as someone who would like this mode, I see it in a different way.

The kind of experience I would like to have with Dark Souls is one where I am able to walk around the space of the game without having to be hyperfocused on the world killing me. I would like to be able to defeat bosses without slamming into them over and over again. I would like to be able to gather items and read their descriptions. I don’t want massive rebalancing across all enemies and objects across the world. In Smith’s article I cited and linked above, he offers some ways that he thinks an easy mode would be too hard to structure mechanically, and Franklin does a similar thing in his video. However, they are both thinking big and systemically rather than in the microactions that might chance how people interact with the game.”

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Senior reporter at Kotaku, streaming Mario deaths at youtube.com/patrickklepek

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DISCUSSION

As someone who beat Dark Souls - offline - three times, twice legitimately and once with mods... I preferred the one with the mods that made the game “easier”.

Everyone harps on the difficulty being “the point”, but that sells the rest of the series so short. It’s not JUST the difficulty (otherwise I’d just play Battletoads). Playing with an easier mod, I really got to drown myself in the world of the game, to soak myself in environments, the lore, the artistry, the story and branching narrative paths, the subtle nuance that I missed when “surviving” was my main objective. I could pace myself, engage in the thrill of exploration without the fear of imminent death, and seeing the world from a set of eyes that wasn’t constantly clinging to life revealed so much beauty, wonder, and craftsmanship that was so easily overlooked my first two playthroughs largely because I could cast my gaze off the threat of imminent attack and to all the other things that made the game so good. I could experiment more readily, play with weapons I was no good at without harsh penalties for screwing up, go to areas I might otherwise avoid, and stop in the thick of death-dealing areas and go “wow, they put a lot of detail in this death-pit. This level design is gorgeous!”

And, if I ever want to go back to that challenge, I can, but having one file for my “vacation in Dark Souls” was one of the most enjoyable things I ever got to experience in a video game.