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Why Dark Souls III Needs an Easy Mode [Just Kidding]

Sorry. I’m just kidding. Dark Souls absolutely does not need an easy mode. You guys just need to, as the meme goes, git gud. No, really. This isn’t some impossible task. If you smack your head against the brick wall that is Dark Souls, it will eventually break. I mean, come on. DarkSydePhil was able to do it. A guy beat it with a guitar controller. If this is possible, you can beat it as it was designed. Hell, keep the wiki open while you play if you need that crutch. No one will judge you too much. It’s tough, but fair. Key word there: Fair. It doesn’t change the rules on a whim. The only thing I can think of that was ever blatantly unfair was the Crystal Cave with its invisible walkways, but even that is easily sidestepped with items the game hands to you moments prior. If you can’t beat Dark Souls, you have proven only one thing: You are unable to learn. The world of Dark Souls is many things, but dynamic is not one of these things. It’s the same result every time you walk through. If you can’t adapt to an unchanging landscape, what hope do you have of conquering a dynamic one? Matter of fact, how do you get through life without being able to adapt? Do you just want everything handed to you?

Oh, wait. You’re a games journalist and/or a filthy casual that just got into gaming in the last year or two. Of course you do. Your kind isn’t welcome in Dark Souls. Adapt or die.

2110962-169_dark_souls_death_montage_093011Not all media/art is meant for everyone. This is a good thing. It’s by design. Wide appeal is great for sales, but that’s all it’s good for. You don’t build a devoted fanbase this way. Wide appeal leads to a crowd that will consume your game and move on in a couple of weeks. Designing your game the way you want to, to appeal to a specific audience, leads to a smaller, more devoted following. People that will be talking about it until the next one comes out. When you’re trying to build a following, this is the way to go. If you want to keep them, you stick to your guns. This is what From Software has done. They’ve dug their heels in and will not budge. The fans are rewarding this with positive word-of-mouth and tons of money. An example of how this works: In the time between Fallout 4‘s announcement and launch, fans were picking apart the footage they had from E3, and finding things they really didn’t like. The much-maligned dialogue wheel being the big one, with the lack of skills and the perk tree taking a close second. Meanwhile, looking at the pre-release hype for Dark Souls 3, it’s… well… hype. Not much negativity to be found. (I’m only seeing it in the forms of “~~WE NEED EASY MODE~~” articles from people that refuse to learn.)

I’ve thought of a better example for this: Crusader Kings 2. It has a small (relatively), but devoted fanbase and does not appeal to me in the slightest. Well, the concept does, but the thought of navigating that UI turns me right off. Should they change the UI to appeal to people that don’t want to invest the time it takes to learn how the game works? The answer is a definite, absolute, beyond-the-shadow-of-a-doubt NO. The UI is the way it is because it’s a powerful tool. Changing it to be “easier” would reduce how useful it is. When simplifying, features that “weren’t used” typically go out the door first, and there are always people that heavily used said features. It’s a better game for having the UI the way it is. It has character as a result of its flaws, and the current fanbase likes it just the way it is. Who are we to demand that artists compromise their vision? Who are we to demand that an over-saturated market make every single game for everyone? There’s so many games coming out that if we let people make them as they liked without focus-grouping them to death, we could be looking at a golden age of gaming again. Remember 20 years ago? Games didn’t have to sell a million copies just to break even, and we got all sorts of interesting ideas out of it. We had the rise of unproven ideas like the Survival Horror genre. Resident Evil wasn’t meant to suit everyone’s taste, and look where that got it. You’ll notice that most IPs created in the last 10 years either no longer exist, or are in the process of being taken behind the shed to be given both metaphorical barrels. Meanwhile, franchises created 20 or even 30 years ago are still going strong. Not many, but more have survived because they built that devoted fanbase early by being exactly what they were intended to be!

crusaderkings2_screenshots_20120111_02Now, let’s get into why Dark Souls should NEVER have an “easy mode”. It’s a relatively simple reason, too. PvP/co-op. It’s that simple. If you let easy mode have access to PvP, no one will bother to play it on normal or hard, because the same results can be had with less effort. Segregating the PvP won’t solve the problem either, because then you’ve got two or three communities per platform. That’s between six and nine separate communities across one game. Each one being incredibly small in comparison with the rest of the franchise. Disabling the PvP/co-op on “Easy” isn’t a solution either, as now you’re removing a major component of the game. What’s Dark Souls if you can’t participate in the community? Boring, that’s what. I’ve played a Souls game offline before. It was a miserable experience. No messages, no invasions, no co-op.

Invasion is the mechanic that makes Dark Souls truly unique in this world of same-y shooters and sandboxes. It adds uncertainty to your game. The knowledge that, at any moment, another player could drop in and completely ruin your day is terrifying and simultaneously invigorating. It adds purpose to your every step. Every time you use an item, that’s one less you’ll have against your potential invader. Every hit you take is that one less hit you can take should you get invaded. Even co-op changes the game in a major way. In the original, one of the only ways to keep your partner healed was to use your own Estus Flask, so you had to choose between your own survival and theirs. The sequel added the small soapstones which produced Shades, a time limited co-op partner. I can’t say for sure what the third is going to do, but whatever those new mechanics are, an easy mode would be detrimental to them.

See our review of Dark Souls III here.


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  • Mr0303

    I agree with this write-up – Dark Souls doesn’t need an easy mode.

    I’m usually all for selectable difficulty, but in this case it wouldn’t make sense. 95% of Dark Souls is the challenge – it is an essential part of the game design. People don’t play it for the story or the graphics, but rather to obtain bragging rights for completing it. Dark Souls is essentially one of the early Nintendo hard games extended into a 100 hour RPG. Without the challenge it will turn into a subpar hack and slash game.

    I myself am not a fan of the series, but rather than wanting the game to change to my tastes I will go and find my own entertainment. It seems to me that the recent slew of “make Dark Souls easy” articles are done for either the ease of reviewers or to perpetuate the progressive agenda, where the now popular Souls community has to be more inclusive.

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