The hypocrisy of having an easy mode but no hard mode has to end

Psychonauts 2 – as easy as you like but it doesn’t work in the other direction (pic: Microsoft)

A reader is frustrated that while more and more games are adding easier difficultly options, they’re not offering a hard mode as an alternative.

Before the release of Psychonauts 2 a few years ago there was an awful lot of talk about how it was making itself much more accessible to a wider range of people, not just in terms of things like colour blindness and onscreen text but also difficultly. It proudly announced you could play the whole game with an invincibility mode that meant you never died and was widely praised for the fact.

This is all very good, and I think any sane person would support it, but on playing the game on Game Pass one thing struck me: even without any of the extra options it’s an incredibly easy game, for any reasonably experienced gamer, and yet there’s no hard mode. The developer was obsessed with making the game easier, to appeal to a certain range of people, but apparently had no interest in making it harder, so that it could appeal to others.

I thought at the very least you might get an unlockable hard mode at the end but, unless it requires some unlock process that was not obvious to me, it does not. So you’ve got a game that’s already below average difficulty, that had some pretty obnoxious marketing about being a game for everyone… except, apparently, people that want a challenge.

I was reminded of all this when reading GC’s review of Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon, where it was also described as being a very easy game that’s weirdly in your face about making itself even easier. Apparently, this does have an unlockable hard mode, but why? Why not have it from the start? I wouldn’t want to play Psychonauts 2 twice, just to get my preferred level of difficulty, and it sounds like you’re even less likely to want to do that with Bayonetta Origins.

These issues are becoming increasingly common in games, where developers think they’re on some sort of righteous crusade to make games easier, under the pretence that they’re opening them up to everyone. Pro tip: you’re not making games for everyone if you’re only starting at average difficulty and working down from there.

How is that any better than only making games for people of above average skill? And yet it’s only the developers of those sort of games that seem to get any criticism, for not thinking of everyone. I find the hypocrisy infuriating.

Of course you can’t discuss video game difficulty without bringing up Dark Souls and the other Soulslike games and here too I see an awful lot of unfair commentary.

The recent Elden Ring was a massive success, far bigger than anyone expected (and certainly bigger than Psychonauts or anything similar) and yet still you had people insisting that it should have an easy mode and that it was unfair. Even though you had millions of satisfied customers telling you otherwise.

So it’s okay to have a game that’s unusually easy but not one that’s unusually hard?

I remember a fuss being made about how it was possible to miss Elden Ring’s tutorial at the start (i.e. read the note left right in front of giant, super suspicious hole). This was later changed in an update but what exactly was that achieving?

People weren’t missing the note because they were colour blind or had difficulty holding a controller, it was because they weren’t paying attention. And if you don’t pay attention in Elden Ring you die, a lot. So it really is a good idea you learn that as soon as possible.

Do I want an easy mode in future FromSoftware games? No, not personally. If it exists, it will be a constant temptation and the need to persevere will be considerably diminished. But if every game had both an easy and a hard mode then okay, I’d accept it.

But that’s not the case. The number of games without an easily accessible hard mode are increasing, not decreasing. Until that stops, we should cling onto the few games that dare to be difficult and celebrate them, not find ways to try to tear them down.

By reader Sylar

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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