Love/Hate: Difficulty Level

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Difficulty level  is the factor that separates the men from the boys, or the girls from the women (yes there are girl gamers, don’t freak out). Difficulty is a huge factor in games. Games can be too hard, and they can be too easy, and sometimes they are just right. Gamers all have their own preference for difficulty. I like a challenge when I play, but that same challenge can also discourage me from playing. This week I’m touching on difficulty and why we love and hate it.

Ever play a game that you thought was just too easy? Did you wish it was a bit harder or that the game offered some kind of challenge? Perhaps you played a game that was so hard you never wanted to look at it again or maybe you played a game that rewarded you for completing those difficult stages. Difficulty level is a hot topic when it comes to games. People prefer a challenge over simplicity. Some games have even suffered review wise when it came to difficulty.

Easy games appeal to a wider audience. Casual gamers are the key demographic for easy games. Some wouldn’t have the skill level to complete a hard game. Not to say that they are less of a gamer, but a Casual player would either not have the same skill level as someone who considers themselves “hardcore,” or just doesn’t have the time to put in hours of play to get good enough to top that expert challenge.

We all have to start somewhere. The easy difficulty is the starting point for games.  When you first pick up the controller the experience is new to you. You don’t know the game that well, you don’t know the tricks and strategies to pass the harder levels yet. With time you learn the ins and outs of your games, you learn how to pull off those special attacks and where to find the best weapons. Then comes the next challenge.

Hard mode is for those gamers that want a game that bites back. You want your games to throw everything its got at you and then some! You want that last boss to come at you like you insulted its mother and then kicked its dog down the stairs! That’s great for a more experienced player, and developers know that. That’s why they offer the hard mode in games, to be a challenge.

Difficulty can be discouraging though, and not just for hard games. There are some games that are just too easy. You sit down ready for a challenge, and instead the game holds your hand the entire time. The training wheels aren’t taken off, and the games loses its appeal. I thought Devil May Cry 2 was too easy. Even on the hardest difficulty, the game was simple. Others thought the same thing as well, then the developers bit back. Devil May Cry 3 came out and those same people that said DMC2 was too easy; they were now crying that DMC3 was too hard. It wasn’t that it was too hard, it was that people didn’t expect the game to strike back with such vengeance, and this caused a divide in the community.

Skill level has a lot to do with how hard a game is. I am in the group of people that think DMC3 and the Ninja Gaiden series are really freakin’ hard! I can’t even count the number of times I threw a controller to the ground, or screamed at the top of my lungs cause the deciding factor in a boss fight was a pixel of health. I’ve been told it’s cause I didn’t have the right skill level for that challenge. Go to any message board for a game that you think is way too hard. I can almost guarantee there will be at least one person bragging about how they beat the game on the hardest difficulty with no trouble. Most people would call foul on those players. How do we know you beat it? How do we know you’re so good? Well with current games there are achievements or trophies to prove their worth, but that’s another story all together.

I asked a few gamers what they thought about difficulty levels in games, and what they thought their easiest and hardest games were.

Lost Remnant: The hardest game to me would be Call of Duty 4 on veteran. The game just overwhelmed you with enemies and the areas were hard to get through. Constantly spawning enemies and tons of hand grenades added to that, along with the one jerk that would sneak around and shot gun the back of my head. The game wasn’t really a challenge, it took more luck that skill. There was just so much going on you really had to push your way through it instead of sitting back and clearing the area.

I thought Ninja Gaiden for the xbox was a hard game too. That game was hard but it was fair. You needed the skill to get through it. You couldn’t just mash your way through the game, you needed to know what you were doing.

King Kong for the xbox was way too easy. You could go blow through the game with no trouble at all, and the parts where you were Kong you just needed to hit the A button to win.

ttylREBEL: I thought Prototype was really hard. The game started out fun, but then the difficulty suddenly changed. There was so much going on at once that it became overwhelming. At times the gameplay was hard to follow cause you were too worried about what else was going on around you.

Professor Layton was a hard game too, but that offered a rewarding challenge. I didn’t think outside the box when it came to the puzzles, and the game forced me to do that. I had to adapt to the game to get through it.

The Animal Crossing games are almost too easy. There really isn’t a challenge to them. It’s just live, and even when the bad things happened you could just save, turn it off, and restart and it went away. Then if something didn’t go how you liked, you could just turn it off and reset the game clock and try again.

TheLink117: I thought that Bioshock was a hard game. It was worth playing it on hard though cause it felt like you were accomplishing something each time you completed an area.

Wii Music was too easy. All you had to do was pick a song, then shake the controller to the beat.

Arkangelx0: Ninja Gaiden was hard, but I liked it. It made me want to beat those levels so that I could say I did it. The Master Ninja difficulty was too hard, I didn’t even get past the first boss!

Call of Duty: World at War was too hard. It was just frustrating cause of the constant barrage of hand grenades that they would throw at you.

I thought Assassin’s Creed was really easy. There were too many places to hide. That, and the game was so repetitive that once you knew what you were doing, the challenge was gone. The game turned into kill, run, and hide, over and over.

(Note: I did not ask what difficulty level they played on, if it is stated above then they told me. TheLink117 could not think of the hardest game he played that was too hard.)

Lots of people think that older games are harder, while some don’t agree with that statement. Some think that the older games were harder cause they needed to keep your attention longer, and that difficulty kept you playing. That was also a time when saves weren’t around. There were very few old NES games that had a save system. With those games you relied on the lives and continues system. Run out of those and you were screwed, but that’s a story for another day.

Those older games might also seem harder cause you were a younger player. You didn’t have the skills that you do now. Going back and playing those games may seem like a breeze compared to five year old you trying to get through Super Mario Bros. While you might have the skill now, there are still some older games that kick the crap out of the best of us.

What do you think are the hardest games out there? How about easiest? What makes a game hard or easy to you? Post something in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say about the games we play.

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