The weekly discussion: How hard do you like your games?

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1 min read

This week let’s have a chat about game difficulty; specifically, how much challenge do you like in your games?

While people generally criticise the games industry for games getting easier and easier, there are still plenty that will offer up a stiff challenge – especially if you consider the “hard” difficulty games in many modern games.

So, when you’re playing a game, do you go straight for the hard difficulty mode, or do you prefer to work through the game without being too stressed.

Sound out in the comments below!

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  • It's hard to say! I love difficult games, but I also get turned off if they're too difficult. The whole Mega Man series is a great example…the first time you play them they feel unfair and brutal. Then you get used to them, learn where the traps are, and making it through becomes almost balletic. It's elegant stage design (usually) rather than punishment…like a complicated dance you don't know yet, but can certainly learn with enough practice.

    VVVVVV is the same way. Started off almost hilariously difficult, but the more I've played it the more its logic clicks with me.

    But other games — names are escaping me right now — can be just so hard they're not fun. The ones I mentioned are difficult, yeah of course, but at the same time I can sort of see the deaths as being my fault…as being a mis-step in the grand dance of adventure.

    I like those.

    I don't like just being relentlessly pounded.

    I'll take the dance every time.

  • I must admit I've always found Mega Man to be on the "unfair" side of things. That's a kind of difficulty that I don't like – it's not so much genuine difficulty to me as it is levels designed deliberately there to catch you out and kill you. Once you memorise the patterns it stops being so challenging. Mega Man is by no means the worst offender, Ninja Gaiden is horrifically "difficult" in that way.

    To me, for a game to be difficult (at least, the kind of difficulty I like), it needs to be consistently so. Whether I play a game one time, ten times, or a thousand, a game is rewardingly difficult if it continues to genuinely challenge me, and not just catch me out for forgetting where an enemy is placed on a level.

    So, for instance, the "God" level of difficulty on the early Civilization games. No amount of memorisation would get you through that. There was no set formula to victory. What you needed to do is simply have a great strategy.

    When it's that kind of difficulty I love it.

  • I've become a wuss in my old age! I generally just stick to the normal settings, and on some games would even like to see an easier option perhaps. Back when I had fewer games to play, the increased difficulties gave me more reason to try and replay them. Now that I can afford a few more games every year, I'd almost rather play through and just enjoy the experience and move on. A far cry from some of my tougher victories of yesteryear like Ninja Gaiden, Ghosts n' Goblins and Contra (without the cheat code)

  • Agreed, there's some unfair level design in the MM series, but overall I'd say it's pretty fair. You may take damage as the game is teaching you the "types" of obstacles you'll face, but they're rarely fatal on the first run through. You usually get a chance to figure them out before the difficulty really ramps up.

    Again, usually.

    It's the robot master fights that really shine though. While I agree that the games sometimes resort to SURPRISE enemy placement as an appoximation of difficulty, the robot master battles from 2 on are quite great. That's where you really have to be on your toes, and if you approach it as a duel rather than a hail of panicky gunfire, you'll find it can even be quite elegant (I'm looking at you, Ring Man, Freeze Man and Metal Man!). You need to learn their quirks, and that's a kind of difficulty I like. πŸ™‚

  • Depends whether the difficultly is cheap or not. Anything that's difficult because of luck is no fun for me. Or games where it's not really hard, you just have to grind a thousand levels and then murder everything in your path. Do not find that enjoyable.

    I don't like it when games have difficulty settings either. I could maybe explain why if I wasn't so excited by the announcement of a sequel to dark souls.

  • Am I right to guess that the reason you don't like adjustable difficulty settings is because it turns "difficulty" into an artificial slider that stops a developer from coming up with an interesting challenge and instead turns enemies into bullet soaks?

  • I've done the same – and I don't feel embarrassed by it, but it depends on the game and just 'how easy' they make it. I appreciate it when a game has a difficulty setting in-game. I'm sure you've been in this same scenario as me:

    You pick up a game, you start to play it, it's… okay but not riveting. You want to beat it, so you can see where it ends up but the idea of stretching the process out even longer doesn't particularly appeal. So… slip the difficulty down a notch or two and see the game's conclusion without having deaths and difficulty cause you to sink an extra 10-20 hours into it. That's happened to me several times.

  • It all depends on how the game is developed, really. Old retro titles had weak enemy AI, so it was all about learning patterns and adjusting your play-style accordingly:(NES/SNES/GBA) Contra is a series that I literally run and gun through; Mega Man is one that I take a slower and more calculated pace within and Ninja Gaiden (NES/SNES) is one that requires a brutally aggressive manner of play-style to succeed in. These are some of my favourite games to go back and play when I feel a retro urge coming on me – I love and dare I say it, but crave the difficulty of these titles.

    But, newer revisions of these games, like WayForward's Contra 4, are more frustrating than fun to me. Advanced enemy AI isn't something that's needed when you can barely even stay alive anyway and makes the games far less enjoyable – not to mention an insane level of difficulty.

    Yet, then we get into games like Demon Souls and Itagaki's Ninja Gaiden(s) , which are absolutely brutal, yet oh so rewarding when overcome. Do I love these game? I don't think an answer is even needed! Haha

  • It's funny…Mega Man games feel like such cake to me now that I'm making a point of playing through every stage without taking damage…but Ninja Gaiden just hands me my ass every time I try to make any headway.

    I love that, though. It's interesting how each of us has a certain difficulty that "clicks" with us and doesn't feel as bad, whereas others just look on from the sidelines and wonder how we're able to do it. πŸ˜€

  • When it comes to games where sheer persistence is required to get through them, the old Wizardry games are my thing. Those games would tear you to shreds, even if you did a lot of grinding. No, to get through Wizardry games you needed to build balanced parties and keep detailed maps and notes on the environment. Those were the days with RPGs.

  • Completely agree Phil. I don't know but one other person who can breeze through the original Ninja Gaiden, aside from myself. So many people find is so blistering difficult, but it's all but easy for me.

  • I like it when a game has enemies that are hard to take down and are frequent. It makes the game more exciting.

  • No, those Wizardry titles will have me using my cord to my NES controller for additional leverage to slam my controller through the screen – **** those games! Haha

  • I play pretty much everything on 'normal' and I've stuck to that level of difficulty as a default for a good long while now.
    It has more to do with just wanting to play through a title and beat it in a reasonable amount of time than anything else… though I never was all that crazy about banging my virtual head against the wall either. πŸ˜‰

  • I just watched it – it's a good video. "Teaching through showing" is something that the games industry has indeed forgotten (Miyamoto is another expert at it). I don't agree that Megaman follows through with its promises though – in that, the level design is perfect for introducing players to a concept, but once they've "learned" the concept I do feel the the games tend to be cheap in their execution.

  • Dude, you're an absolute RPG beast – hence the "Haha" at the end of that last post. I've got nothing but respect for you and anyone else who can beat these brutally difficult games.

    It's a different kind of difficult, but it takes a lot of calculated skill and dedication to enjoy those games and that's not something that I can say that I possess. Nothin' but love here man! πŸ˜‰

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