Difficulty levels: Archaic and useless? Depends on the game's genre.

In the before times, in the long long ago, there was a time and a place where you only had three distinct difficulty levels: Easy, Normal/Medium and Hard. Then somehow, someway, a fourth option leaked in: Very Hard. This was cool for some small group of people, it gave a sort of "replay" value to the game itself if you were a madman and enjoyed punishing yourself. Then all of a sudden the sky opened up and just started raining different difficulty levels down upon players.




I know what you're probably thinking: "Hey, that's fine. It gives people something to do, a challenge. Leave it be." For the most part you're right. Especially with games like Devil May Cry. There's nothing wrong with having that many options in difficulty. Just the *way* those difficulty settings still operate(mostly) in this day and age are completely archaic and need to go the way of the dinosaur. The different difficulty levels are wasted on most people anyway; especially in FPS games. I've also touched on this subject with the Souls-esque games like Sekiro.


What do I mean by this? Well it seems that upping the difficulty level in most games just makes the enemies bullet sponges and dispensers of the infamous "one shot one kill" which makes that enemy you can't see even more frustrating or that stray bullet/arrow from nowhere your Silver Bullet. It all seems like an artificial way to increase difficulty, without actually increasing difficulty on a meaningful level. Enemies tend to get more "aggro" but ultimately you just end up having to hide/take cover more than you did before but basically repeating the same tactics used previously on an easier setting.


Whereas lets say in Diablo 3, if you up the difficulty level(with the like 20 different difficulty levels it has) the enemies change, they gain abilities they didn't have the first go around, and you run into a more diverse enemy base overall because of this. The random dungeon generation is also a nice touch. There's no memorizing where things are because it changes all the time. It almost feels like an entirely different game...almost.


Now, I know I went from an FPS to a Dungeon Crawler/Looter and they are built way differently from the ground up. Different game engines are used and so forth and so forth. It just seems that the devs of the FPS genre could find some way to code in different behaviors and just overall give a sort of different diversity of enemies in different difficulty levels. Right? Or maybe even find a way to randomly generate certain encounters? Like Raids/Dungeons/Strongholds could be randomly generated, not the base map or anything.


A huge pain in the ass, time consuming and possibly even just too much to ask but in this day and age, who says you can't be done? Release the base game and then already have plans like that in the works so you can include that kind of stuff into one of the updates/patches you're going to inevitable do anyways. Hell put it behind a "if you own the season pass you get this" if you want. That kind of effort takes time and money so I'm not saying it needs to be done for free either.


There also seems to be the tried and true method of locking some of the best gear behind that difficulty curve. Which at one point in time was totally understandable. Now though if you don't have a group of people to play with you're never, ever, ever going to have the full experience of a game. Unless it's something as mundane as CoD or Battlefield where if you just spend time playing the game you're going to unlock everything because there's experience after every match and things are just locked behind an arbitrary "level" or form of milestone. So, if you doll out 200hrs you're going to unlock everything anyways regardless of skill level. Might unlock quicker the better you are but that still doesn't matter in the long run as far as progression goes.


Why do I bring this up? Because the "Difficulty Wall" and "Social Wall" seem to run hand in hand now. Back in the day you could up the difficulty level and just struggle to complete the game. Getting whatever hard difficulty loot/achievements by yourself. Even a sense of personal accomplishment. Today though you *need* a dedicated group of people to even start digging into the end game loot pool or activities of most games and that seems to take away from that personal accomplishment feeling. You didn't do it by yourself. While it can be a sort of "team building" experience, does it teach people that they are useless by themselves? That you have to be a part of a group to accomplish/enjoy an activity? Sometimes that extra hard endgame achievement/trophy/loot piece doesn't mean a lot anymore. Because for all we know the team you worked with carried you.


The topic of the "Social Wall" is a completely whole other subject I could write about and probably will. So I won't go down that road right now.


Difficulty levels/settings are in a weird place right now. Are they really needed anymore? In certain genres of games yes, they are. But figure out something cool to do with the different difficulty levels than adding more armor/hit points and multiplying enemy damage by 1000.


Otherwise, in the FPS genre, I don't see the need of them any longer. I don't think there needs to be different settings because once you go online, you are mixed in with different skill levels regardless and you'll just get better the more you play naturally. Where you, the gamer, become the "hard mode" when another team, or player, encounters you.









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