Published on May 2nd, 2018 | by voxx0
Should the ‘Souls’ Series have an ‘Easy’ Mode?
Any time a new Souls game is announced and reaching arrival, this question does the rounds on the internet, and very often with mixed answers. There is no better example of this than when Forbes put out conflicting articles less than a week from each other at the release of Dark Souls 3. Given that the Dark Souls remaster is coming out on 25 May, I’m offering up a definitive answer to this. Firstly, for those new to the game series, what is it?
The Souls series started life on the Playstation 3, with the title Demon’s Souls, which was released in February 2009 in Japan, before arriving in North America in October 2009, and then Europe and Australia in June 2010. There are currently a total of five in the series, with the aforementioned Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2 and 3, and the PS4 exclusive Bloodborne. These games are all notoriously difficult with certain enemies able to wipe you out in a single hit, bosses having health bars the size of the screen, and with health and checkpoints being few and far between.
Throughout the series there is a deeply-knitted narrative going on around you and hidden in random notes and with certain characters. However with the immense difficulty, many people steer clear of the title and a lot of the people that attempt to play it don’t want to power through the first area and boss because of the constant death. This is the reason that some people want an easy mode added into these glorious games, but is that a good idea?
On the one hand, this would be a good thing as it would accommodate more people and would appeal to a larger audience. It would also allow people to follow the story and discover the world at a more comfortable pace, whilst also not getting in the way for the hardcore and dedicated fan base that have played the games in this series before, as they could simply choose the difficulty they are currently used to and love so much.
On the other hand, the difficulty of the game is iconic and plays a fundamental part in the telling of the story for those that care about it. The atmosphere, the intensity, the feeling of always being out matched by your surroundings is at the very core of the story and this brand. To overcome the harshness of the games is the point of them. The games are always hard but fair, meaning that any fault is your own and not that of the game. With that in mind, it should be the player that changes to play the game rather than the game changing for the player.
A basic overview of the Dark Souls story is that the world is in a terrible state and you need to save it. You are a tiny person in a giant world filled with things from your nightmares that will utterly destroy you. This is exactly why the story works in the first place, since the world that is described to you in the story feels like the hell hole you’re playing in, with all the hopelessness and dread included. It would be rather underwhelming if the story built a world packed with horrific monstrosities and you are the tiny unlikely saviour of the world, but you are able to kill the monsters in a few combos and take little to no damage. That wouldn’t feel anything like the narrative being unfolded before you and wouldn’t feel like anything close to the Souls series. If the world feels different to what you’ve been told about it, you will feel a disconnect from story and gameplay.
The challenge, the mounting impossibility of the odds stacked against you, the hundreds of deaths you’ll go through – all of these make the success and euphoria of defeating an area and boss feel that much better. The feeling that you actually defeated something so powerful and the feeling of achievement as you learnt the boss and took him down single handedly is what this game specialises in above anything else.
These games all force you to focus on the mechanics in play and make you face the tasks head on. The first time you face an enemy you will feel stranded, panicked, and totally out matched. However the more you face the enemy and the more you die, the more you learn their moves, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. These games have turned the act of dying into a mechanic in itself. In death you gain knowledge, and that knowledge helps you in fighting your enemy. All deaths are permanent. There is no restart feature where you can go back and you haven’t lost those souls you were carrying. This is because every death is meaningful and an opportunity to learn. The series is daunting and to some looks like way too big of a task to face, but the more you can learn from your mistakes, the easier the game will become. You can’t make the core mechanic (death) of the games redundant or trivial.
No other series punishes you as much as this one does, but no other series makes you feel so good throughout the entire game either. While adding an easy mode won’t rip that from the game, it will however rob those new players who are intimidated by the game the chance to do what is seemingly impossible and will take away their chance to do something truly unique – and that is “git gud”.
- By Ben Hanrahan