‘Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’ and why we need to talk about that difficulty option

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It’s time, yet again, for the “Easy Mode” debate to begin with another FromSoftware game, but not for the reasons you might think.

For nearly 25 years, I’ve been a fan of FromSoftware and their brutally difficult games. At the hands of their games, I’ve experienced countless deaths caused by my own misunderstanding of every-damn-encounter their games have to offer over the course of that time. I’ve died countless times to the likes of Guyra from King’s FieldZinaida from Armored Core: Last Raven, or even the Fool’s Idol in Demon’s Souls.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that their games aren’t all that hard, at least to some extent, and the same can be said for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which to some, is an agonizingly difficult game. It is, rightfully so, a very difficult game indeed. But just like every game from the famed developer we all know and love, FromSoftware that is, we know their games have a secret, a pattern to everything they have to offer.

The same can be said about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which has only been out a week, but it’s already kicking everyone’s ass and taking their names. I’m one of the many who had laughed at streamers such as Sodapoppin who lost his cool more than once during his first stream with the game, which has been a sentiment to many who have played the game.

But now, here we are, and gamers are once again asking for FromSoftware to add an ‘easy mode’ to their game, where fans can simply enjoy the story as they please. If FromSoftware sticks to their guns, this isn’t going to happen, and gamers should be quite renowned in why FromSoftware hasn’t done it yet.

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“Sekiro’s bosses are each about a specific mechanic in the game, each offering their own unique tutorial”

During the early stages of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, it doesn’t become apparent all in those early hours as you are still learning the ropes and finding your footing in this obscenely brutal game. But there’s a catch. The game doesn’t tell you that each and every boss is simply a tutorial within the game, that each of them is about a very specific mechanic, and that each of them is rather easy once you overcome that hurdle.

The beginning boss, not the tutorial, but General Naomori Kawarada is all about learning how to dodge, what types of dodges there are, and the timing needed to not be hit as he aims to attack with his nodachi and taking a massive chunk of health from Wolf’s life gauge. On another hand, at some point, you have the Shinobi Hunter Enshin of Mishen, a boss that’s all about learning how to use the Mikari Counter in order to exhaust his poise.

Skip back to an earlier encounter and you have Lady Butterfly, another Shinobi like Wolf, who’s all about learning how to deflect an attack, when to counter, and when to use Nightjar Slash. Each boss, again, is all about a specific mechanic in the game, and each of them comes with a very specific pattern you will need to learn in order to succeed.

Once this is realized, the game begins to become a lot easier, as it has with EVERY FromSoftware game ever made. Remember the Dancer of Boreal Valley from Dark Souls III? She was all about dodging, blocking, and positional attacking. The snake, you know, that giant one that tries to eat you after you beat General Tenzen? It’s all about stealth in one of its encounters before the other is about positional attacks when leaping from a high point to an enemy being placed at a lower elevation than you.

In short: Sekiro’s bosses are each about a specific mechanic in the game, each offering their own unique tutorial.

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“Grinding out gold, experience, and items will save you a massive headache.”

But let me be clear. Even for most people, more casual gamers (let’s be real, there’s a difference here), won’t have that kind of time. They won’t have time to grind out a fight like I did with Juzo the Drunkard (who I, realized, is about evasion, and NPC friendlies) before making my way to the likes of Gyoubu Oniwa, who killed me probably a good hundred times before I learned he’s all about the Grappling Hook Attack, which made the encounter significantly easier.

There’s the exception though. As stated, there aren’t people with that kind of time, people who don’t have time to master parries, dodges, or even a single mechanic such as Mikari Counter in order to beat Enshin and then progressing on. The biggest change here is that Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a culmination of FromSoftware’s years as developers, masterminds of difficult games, and creating challenges in the likes of what the industry has never-before-seen.

Unlike the previous games though, there’s no safety net here. FromSoftware rarely hands you a helping hand in the form of an “Unforeseen Aid,” which will be degraded over time based on how many times you have died, and the progression of the Dragonrot you have caused. Some may never beat this game and it’s true. I can be one to attest to the fact there are games I’ve yet to beat and ones I may never beat – namely The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.

Grinding out gold, experience, and items will save you a massive headache. It’s helped a lot when working on progression. I’ve had days where I’ve smashed through two-to-three bosses in a three-hour session, only spending about thirty-minutes grinding out the needed gold to buy a few relics and some healing pellets. A tactic I’d used before in games like Tenchu Z and Dark Souls before facing down an incredibly difficult encounter.

Trust me, I’m half-expecting the old and tired, “journalist’s just can’t play games,” mockery. This isn’t about me, I can play games among the best of them, but don’t expect me to speed run a game. I learn through trial and error, just as I did with Cuphead after I had to re-learn how to play a game such as it. Trust me, this game is hard, it’s the hardest FromSoftware game I’ve played, but I’ve progressed at a steady rate with the allotted time I have outside of reviews.

But, again, this isn’t about me. This is about others, those we’re neglecting because of our mindset of “this is how a FromSoftware game should be played” and how it has calloused us into hardened veterans of such experiences over the years. Or perhaps, I want to be able to share my experiences with those who can’t play the games as us FromSoftware veterans do. I want to share my memories with them, my enjoyment of those games, and even encourage them to try harder difficulties once they have succeeded in their previous endeavors.

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“Because at the end of the day, we’re – myself included -neglecting the needs of others and being selfish to think that we’re the only ones that should enjoy the game.”

It’s true, however, I’ve hit my breaking point a time or two. I’ve had to walk away from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I’ve had to hang up the sticks for the night and dust off my go-to beanie for a stream. I’ve had friends even state that due to an inability they have, be it physical or mental, that they can’t enjoy Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. In an unfortunate situation, I’ve met one gamer already who has parted with his copy due to a degenerative disease known as muscular sclerosis or MS for short, which makes it so his muscles and brain don’t work like the average person’s would.

Instead, he’s having to opt for easier games, ones that are more along the lines in the difficulty of titles such as Horizon Zero Dawn and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, which allow him to cater the experience to his disorder. Because of his disorder, and those with other reflex-based disorders, may not get to enjoy Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice the way I and many others do.

Because at the end of the day, we’re – myself included – neglecting the needs of others and being selfish to think that we’re the only ones that should enjoy the game. Even after 25 years of fandom, I think it’s time I finally bend the knee and agree that this should be the first FromSoftware game that gets a more casual mode for those who can’t enjoy it due to its difficulty and the reflex speeds needed in order to progress.

 

As Erik Kain, one of my favorite’s to read over at Forbe’s said best, “FromSoftware doesn’t want you to act this way. Remember, Sekiro is a teacher. It is teaching us how to master its systems through failure and persistence and it is doing so for our own benefit. One particularly thorny boss I finally took down left me literally whooping for joy and pumping my fists in the air. What a feeling!

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.


About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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4 thoughts on “‘Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’ and why we need to talk about that difficulty option

  1. i disagree if people want to play an easy game play a non-from software game. people don’t need to play every game out there and if they want to play a fromsoftware game they should get good at practicing the game (take 20+ hours rather than 10 ish hours). game developers should not have to cave to people complaining about their games because of too hard (this case) or i didn’t like the ending (mass effect 3 original endings), or art styles (many asian games having to remove ore reskin their characters because western peopl get offended at their styles when in the west we could change 2 numbers (age of the character) in the characters profile and suddenly the art isn’t offensive.

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      • Really? Lmao. Wrong. Your being selfish, by assuming that since you paid for a game that you didn’t have any idea what it was like bc if you did you would know it’s hard, should just be easy bc you want it to be. The game is what it is, learn how to play it or don’t, but it does NOT need an easy mode. The game gets easier, as you get better. It’s not being selfish, anyone can play and learn the game. Anyone. It’s not impossible. And if someone has a physical incapability then that’s sad and unfortunate, but there’s nothing for them to experience anyway. Aside from Sekiro the other games story is hidden and not really told, so what would be the point? Honestly. The game is meant to be difficult to a degree and you get the satisfaction from failing at something and eventually conquering it. Easy mode their is no satisfaction because you just would let die bc it would be easier than it already does, you would never learn how to play the game bc you put it on easy, and you would get nothing out of it becaue it doesn’t tell a story directly, so if you want to see it, watch a stream. You want an easy mode, go watch someone play it. No, well I want to experience it for myself, well then go ahead, and go experience it for yourself. The experience is getting over the difficulty curve and feeling great that you finally beat that boss that kept kicking your ass. There’s no feeling great about something with no challenge. And that’s the whole point of the game, so yes, easy mode would be pointless and would ruin the game.

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      • DcJr,

        I want to join in on this input. Many people, myself included, have been working our way through the game. Is it hard? Yes. Is it brutal? Rest assured that it is. Is it impossible for some? Indeed. Physical limitations only inhibit and limit a potential market for games such as this, but others have accommodated to one such means, and thus, their player bases have significantly grown.

        For example, DOOM is one such title. It is hard, it is very hard, and it urges you to play it on its highest difficulties. For some, such as myself, we know that Nightmare and Ultra-Nightmare is how id Software envisioned the games since the franchise was founded 25 years ago. But they’ve, since the series was founded, included a difficulty setting to allow others to enjoy their games, to include them, and let those who wish to put their skills to the test do so without any sort of provocation from those who only see them as meant to be played on the highest two difficulties, one of which I do, but without a HUD or any form of UI assistance.

        Now let’s skip forward. There are other prime examples of this happening across the industry itself. Devil May Cry 5 is another great example. We all know that it’s a rather easy game in its more base difficulties. It’s a series that’s renowned for offering an experience for everyone no matter what kind of game that they prefer. It’s not a secret that DMC as, as a series, is meant to be played on its hardest difficulties, once they are unlocked. The preferred way to start is to start out on Son of Sparda before working your way up to Hell or Hell. It’s how they intended it to be played, but the designers knew there would be those looking to play it that may not be able to play it on its intended difficulties, and thus, they implemented reasonable learning curves or a form of ease of access to those who do struggle with harder games.

        Again, I will ask, as I have several people with that mindset. How would it affect you or get rid of an overall sense of achievement when you have the full capability ONLY to play it on the highest of settings? Games have answered this very question in various ways, Celeste is one of the best, which allows users to adjust their gameplay with an “Assist Mode” that helps those with these kinds of disabilities. While I strongly believe Sekiro is great as it is, I wouldn’t mind being able to see others enjoy it, those who wanted to play it but can’t do physical or mental disabilities that inhibit them from enjoying the games as we do.

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