The Dark Souls franchise has built a reputation on being ultra-difficult, but one writer thinks that games in the series should include an easy mode option.
Despite being what many would have considered “niche,” the Dark Souls franchise has proven to be one of the most popular gaming series of the last few years. For the uninitiated, the Dark Souls games are known for their haunting atmosphere, unique multiplayer elements, and probably above everything else, their extreme level of difficulty.
Most modern games eschew challenge, and more than a few can be accused of partaking in excessive hand-holding. Dark Souls, meanwhile, is on the complete opposite end of that spectrum. Dark Souls, its sequels, and its sister games pull no punches, throwing players in the deep end with little explanation as to how to play, and having them face increasingly dangerous bosses that are oftentimes capable of killing even high level players in just a couple of hits. Some would argue that the intensity and thrill that comes from taking on this challenge is key to the franchise’s success, but now that the series has an established place in the market, I think it is time that an easy mode is introduced.
While I greatly enjoy getting my ass handed to me when playing Dark Souls, there are many gamers out there that probably will never bother with the series due to its daunting difficulty. I don’t think even the biggest Dark Souls fans would disagree that the games can be virtually inaccessible to less skilled players, meaning that there is a large portion of the gaming market that is not given the chance to play through the games and appreciate them for other things they bring to the table.
Take a Dark Souls sister game like Bloodborne, for example. Bloodborne released to rave reviews, and remains one of the highest-rated games available on the PlayStation 4. This caught the attention of one of my friends, but after he reached the first boss, he had to quit out of pure frustration. It saddens me to think of how many people missed out on such a great game due to the extreme challenge of the first boss in Bloodborne, and I fear that many people will reach Dark Souls III‘s first boss and give up, too.
There’s a lot more value to the franchise than just its difficulty, yet its difficulty is keeping many from seeing what else the games have to offer. To me, this mainly includes the games’ creepy atmosphere and brilliantly crafted game worlds. In fact, a lot of my personal enjoyment from playing Dark Souls doesn’t come from surviving its tougher challenges, but rather, from exploring the environment. The sense of discovery found in the Dark Souls franchise is definitely one of its main draws for me, and while I can appreciate the tough-as-nails challenges that must be conquered in order to see it all, I’m sure others see it as an impassable roadblock, and so they don’t even bother with the games.
Of course, if an easy mode is ever implemented in a Dark Souls game, it would need to be completely optional. I’m not saying that the game’s difficulty in general needs to be toned down, but rather, give gamers the option to play the game without the stress-inducing challenge that the franchise is known for. There are many games that include difficulty settings that tailor gameplay experiences based on what players are looking for, and I don’t see why Dark Souls can’t do something similar.
One argument I can see against this is that those playing on the easier difficulty setting will have an advantage when it comes to the PvP elements in Dark Souls. However, I can think of a couple of ways to solve that issue. For one, From Software could make it so that those playing on easier difficulty settings won’t be able to access the multiplayer features in the game. Another solution would be to only allow those that played through on the easy difficulty setting to play with others on the same level of difficulty.
With Dark Souls III now the fastest-selling game in Bandai Namco history, there is obviously an appetite for ultra-difficult games like this. Even so, I feel like even more money is being left on the table due to how inaccessible the Dark Souls franchise is to the more casual crowd. An optional difficulty setting would allow those that just want to experience the gothic horror atmosphere the games provide, and could go a long way in expanding the franchise’s player base even further. Maybe From Software will one day come to the same conclusion, and if Dark Souls III isn’t the last game in the series, perhaps a future Dark Souls title will give players the option to play the game how they want to play it.
The latest game in the series, Dark Souls III, is currently available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.