The release of every new challenging FromSoft game never fails to spark heated discussions regarding how people need to stop whining about the game’s unforgiving difficulty and just “Git gud”. Despite the debut of several challenging games in recent memory, with no difficulty options like Hollow Knight or Dead Cells, none of them have managed to ignite the same amount of tension as FromSoft’s titles did among the media. A similar case can be made for games that try to rip off the Souls formula like Lords Of The Fallen or The Surge, where most people just label them as mediocre Souls-clones and move on. The most probable reason for this widespread hysteria might just be FromSoft’s massive popularity compared to other niche developers, but it definitely does not mean that they should be asked to lose their signature style.
Sekiro is the hot new target with people at Forbes and Kotaku wanting an Easy mode for the game. Quite a few media sites have been bandwagoning the agenda of “Dark Souls need an easy mode” ever since the dawn of the series, which in all fairness, is considerably funny. Watching that one journalist at VentureBeat struggle with Cuphead’s tutorial might not be endearing, but it sure is entertaining to watch, even if it might be a little frustrating for some seasoned gamers out there with OCD. I am not a Soulsborne veteran myself, having only seen through Sekiro till the very end; on the other hand, the poisonous swamps of the first Dark Souls have hindered my progress to a halt while my save file for Bloodborne got corrupted right after the fight against Rom about a year ago.
However, by clamoring for an easy mode, people are basically asking the developers to compromise not only on a vision they had for their work of art but also lose their identity for making such games. Their games aren’t meant to make the player feel like a badass demi-god wreaking havoc against mobs and bosses or progressing stories through cut scenes – they’re meant to showcase a sense of vulnerability to the player, a side that games don’t often swing to. Be it the cryptic narrative or the rage-inducing gameplay, FromSoft leaves it up to the players to figure out almost everything. Instead of requiring superhuman reflexes, these games demand rather simple, achievable skills like observation, patience, and perseverance – something many modern gamers lack.
For most gamers who got into gaming in the late 2000s, these games might be more of an acquired taste than something that will pull them into gaming. Since From Software’s games need dedication to get into, it might take them dozens of tries before they beat the first or even some mid-game boss of the game. Akin to wine, it can leave a bitter taste in your mouth if you are just starting out… but once it clicks, it’s addicting and even enjoyable.
As a recent article on Twinfinite stated, just because you paid for the game doesn’t mean you get to see the ending or that devs have to pander to every miniscule need of the player. Video games are a unique medium of entertainment and a first of their kind; as has been stated a thousand times before, unlike books, movies, music or anything else we have had in history, games allow consumers to interact with a fictional world instead of just hearing about them or watching them. Their actions have consequences in the confines of the virtual world, thus affecting them in various ways. This also means that a problem in the said world needs to be solved before moving on to the next problem. Hence, Interactivity also gives games an inherent sense of challenge, however mild or severe it may be.
In From Software’s case, it is evident that one of the core ideas of their games is the challenge and eventual “gitting gud” that comes with learning enemy attack patterns, surviving hordes of enemies, exploring areas that require defying death by a hair’s breadth, defeating mechanically complex bosses and understanding its world through item descriptions and subtle environmental cues. With this, the much beloved Japanese studio has made it very clear that they don’t want to make games for selling millions of copies by catering to the lowest common denominator of the crowd.
Before you go on a rant about how this is an “elitist mindset”, you’ll have to understand that some people feel an immense sense of satisfaction when they overcome a game like Sekiro or Dark Souls – and that precisely is the game’s goal too. It’s basic human psychology that we are programmed to take the route requiring the least effort, which is what most people complaining about the difficulty want – unfortunately for them, that’s the opposite of what FromSoft’s philosophy is about.
Challenge is a part of every medium to be fair. Understanding the intent of the artist and the subtle ways in which his personal real-world issues are tackled in any piece of art is not easy. After all, any form of art can be considered as a look into the soul of its creator. Inception, a film by Christopher Nolan, can be a bit mind-bending at times without being overly confusing. However, the ending has been a point of interest for moviegoers for years now. On being asked about the (deliberately) ambiguous ending of the movie, Nolan refused to give a concrete answer saying that it will lose that sense of mystery, that spark that has kept fans on toes so far. So would it be right to demand a closure scene to the movie? Absolutely not.
An argument can be made for disabled people who are physically handicapped and might not be able to play a mechanically complex game, but there are innumerable examples where people overcame disabilities to fulfill their dreams. Did Django Reinhardt give up playing guitar after losing two of his fingers? No, he became a legend of the instrument with essentially 2 fingers. Losing a leg didn’t discourage Arunima Sinha from successfully attempting the Everest Climb either. Messi became arguably the best football player in the world by overcoming his growth problems. Heck, if you want a living example of someone who completed (almost) FromSoft’s latest game about “gitting gud”, here is Shem Ahoy-Singers, a “disabled quadriplegic gamer” fighting a boss toward the tail end of the game:
“The industry needs more adaptive controllers and equipment https://www.broadenedhorizons.com has great adaptive equipment for disabilities but is really expensive. Everybody’s different so it’s hard to cater to everyone. Every game in general demands uses for the hands in different ways. I have to play with the KB&M on consoles for FPS games because it demands a different use of the controller than a 3rd person single player game.” I am all in for accessibility as long as it doesn’t change the vision or direction of the game. Colorblind mode? Why not. Support for various types of controllers made for different types of people? Definitely.
On the other hand, for those who simply do not have the time to sit down for hours bashing their head against an “unfair” boss, the answer is simple – go play another game (as rude as it sounds). Not every piece of art is for everyone. Not everyone can be a connoisseur. Not everyone gets the appeal of certain things. There’s a reason some things are niche while others are cliche. And what if the person is mechanically adept but lacks the intuition to figure out the story of the game. I can’t get the story of Dark Souls like VaatiVidya does. Should I go ahead and say “Dark Souls Should Respect Its Players And Add More Cutscenes to Explain the Story” because I am not understanding it?