Recently, I’ve gotten back into Bloodborne, last year’s infamously difficult PS4 exclusive successor to the Souls series of games. Much like its predecessor, Dark Souls, Bloodborne is well known for being punishing and unforgiving, as well as generally nebulous.
That’s all true; it’s very challenging, but I finished it eventually, mostly because I, myself, find the game to be brutal but fair. Bloodborne in particular “clicked” with me; its more aggressive style of play just worked for me, more so than Souls’ slower, more methodical play.
Despite Bloodborne offering a tough but conquerable challenge for me, I still feel it, as well as any game reliant on player skill, should have an Easy mode.
Consider a scenario in which a gamer walks into GameStop. Now, I hate this label immensely, but for argument’s sake, we’ll call this person a “casual” gamer. (I think if you play games, no matter what they are, you’re a gamer, but anyway) This person, looking for a new game, comes across Bloodborne on the shelf, and is struck by the box art. Maybe they remember that commercial and are intrigued by the graphics and the world.
I should note that, just because one is into, say, Battlefield or Call of Duty does not mean they can’t also be into Bloodborne’s Victorian Gothic setting.
Anyway, said “casual” gamer buys Bloodborne and plays for about maybe twenty minutes before realizing it’s way too hard for them. So they quit. They’ve basically been excluded from the game by virtue of its difficulty, and there’s really nothing they can do about it. And no, “get good” is not a valid statement; shut the hell up.
Because what must be understood is, there are gamers out there who love video games but aren’t exactly masters of them. Some of them might dig Bloodborne’s aesthetic, but those same people are denied entry into Yharnam because they’re maybe less coordinated than those who finished the game.
Tracking the Trophies for Bloodborne on PS4 reveals that only 63% of players defeated Father Gascoigne. He’s the first mandatory boss in the game. Moving further, the percent goes down as you track the trophies for each boss, all the way down to just 32% for Mergo’s Wet Nurse. Hell, I got the Childhood’s Beginning ending, and only 18% of players are with me. Granted, that’s one of the more complicated endings to get, but still, for a game with a dedicated fan base like this, that’s awfully low, don’t you think?
We could chalk it up to people not finishing the game due to a lack of time to commit to it, but that can’t be everyone. One would have to assume with the game’s sales figures (over two million copies), some just couldn’t finish, because the game is too hard for them.
You, reader, might enjoy the challenge, and you might even find the game easy yourself. That doesn’t mean others do. I mean, it’s not fair, really, to say, “Well, I finished it, so you should be able to,” because everyone’s at a different skill level, and I just don’t see what’s fair about making a game that, apparently, maybe only 30% of players can finish. In fact, going by those Trophies, only around half of players were able to even make meaningful progress.
I talk about Bloodborne a lot because it’s a perfect example of what some see as insurmountable challenge. But the same goes for Call of Duty, a series that some view as simplistic and uncomplicated. Whether that’s true or not, Call of Duty is more accessible by virtue of it’s difficulty menu; if it’s too hard for you, you can lower the difficulty and have an easier time, relative to your skill level. Red Dead Redemption had an intriguing setup; if you failed the action sequences too many times, the game asked you if you’d like to skip the level and go to the next cutscene.
That’s great, I think, because a system like that allows basically everyone to enjoy the game, including people who don’t really play a lot of games but are into Westerns. Maybe something like that doesn’t work for Bloodborne; the game is pure gameplay, after all, but “just keep trying” isn’t sound advice when some people don’t play games as religiously as others, even though that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy them.
Nevertheless, adding an Easy mode to Bloodborne or Dark Souls or anything, really, doesn’t dilute your experience with the game, because that never changed. I personally don’t see the problem with Bloodborne retaining its “core” difficulty while introducing an optional Easy mode that you don’t have to use if you don’t want to. As a matter of fact, such a thing would invite others into the game — which is a win for everyone; more people get to enjoy the game while sales go up.
After all, games are meant to be enjoyed. They are both works of art and forms of entertainment, and it seems weird to be to bar some folks from enjoying a game by not allowing the challenge to be optionally toned down.
There’s no shame in Easy mode, remember, and punishing people for being less than perfect at games seems wrong to me. The easiest solution is to simply let us choose the difficulty in any game, and allow everyone to have the kind of fun they want to.
Brian has a Twitter and mostly responds to every tweet.