If you’ve ever encountered a hardcore FromSoft fan, you’ll know that the one thing they’re almost certain to defend is the difficulty in those games. The catchphrase “Git Gud” stemmed from players not being good enough to progress in Dark Souls, and hardcore players wanting new players to go through the same difficulty that they have gone through. However, while it’s fair to assume that a healthy gamer with a good amount of time, motivation, and understanding of games should be able to get through it, is it fair to ask that of just about anyone? What if a player is disabled, lack the motivation to suffer through difficulty, or simply want to join the other aspects of these games? In this post, I’ll explore some ways that FromSoft could implement tools for players that want to play these games, but can’t for some reason.
Let me first establish what level I’m personally at in these games. I am a huge fan of Dark Souls and Sekiro’s style of gameplay that require you to acquire a certain skill set to defeat a difficult enemy. I love the Metroidvania style to the games with branching paths and exploration being in the centre. I have played parts of Dark Souls, Dark Souls III, and Sekiro, having so far faced one incredibly difficult boss in Sekiro. I love this type of game myself, but if I could, I’d use some of the suggestions I’ll come with below because I get frustrated at certain things about these games that I don’t think making a change to would drastically alter the game for me, just make it more fun.
I’d like the game to present the changes under an assist menu (similarly to Celeste) where a user can clearly see that it’s not what FromSoft originally intended. Some of these modes will obviously have to disable PvP, and some will have to make you unable to get certain achievements, especially one that says “beat the game without using assists”. I want each option to be clearly labelled as to how much it changes the experience, and I want it to not just benefit disabled players, but also hardcore ones. We’ll get into why later.
Broadly, the things I’ll be getting into are a guided mode, a map, rebalancing tools, speed changes, timing windows, and a boss training mode.
This is a very simple mode. All it does is, before a mini-boss or a boss, presents a player with what the player is intended to learn from the battle. In Sekiro, there is a battle against a guy with a spear that a lot of players struggle with. Before engaging with that battle, a popup should show that says (in a more creative way) “remember to use the forward-dodge which stomps the spear.” They already do this to a certain degree, but this mode would extend it further and keep reminding you about your toolbox so that you know your options.
If they’d want to go further and a less obtrusive way, having an in-game wiki could do the same thing. Instead of showing it before the fight, after being defeated once, you’d unlock an entry in the wiki that shows you each move the enemy has and tells you how to deal with it. A lot of players will be able to beat the game, but just doesn’t understand what they’re not doing correctly, and this could help with that.
This mode should be simple to implement, and not hamper much with the intended experience, and enabling it shouldn’t remove the ability to get all achievements. It should also be toggleable so that once the player feels like they are ready to go out on their own and don’t need help, they can do that.
This one should be quite simple to implement. Let the user explore the map in a similar way to strategy games. Give a map button that allows you to see any place you’ve been to already, with the rest fogged out. This is quite useful for players with poor memory, or that struggles with special awareness. You could also hide this away in an assist menu, and I don’t think this should take away the ability to earn all achievements either.
Personal Rebalancing of the Game
One of the things I found the most frustrating with both Dark Souls (& DS3) and Sekiro is that it punishes you a lot. There are a lot of incredibly frustrating moves that might instantly kill you if you have a tiny bit less than full health, or sometimes even if you are at full health. What I’d suggest are multiple sliders that adjust various aspects of the game. This would obviously disable PvP and remove the ability to unlock certain achievements in the game.
What I’d suggest is having sliders for:
Resistance to attacks in general. This is for players that find the game perfectly fine, but might be prone to errors and want to make it a little less punishing. You could also do the reverse and make the game more punishing for hardcore players (perhaps maxing it could give you another achievement if you beat the game like that?)
Reduce/increase how punishing “punish attacks” are. Simple as that, there are certain moves that deal a huge amount of damage. This slider would make this less or more so.
More/less bonfires/save points. Give players the option to have more or fewer bonfires. For more bonfires, put one just outside each boss-room. This could also serve as a place to immediately go back to when you’re done with the boss. It should also put traps and such closer to save points so that dying to a trap is less frustrating. For fewer, you get the gist. Only keep the most important ones. I do think that later games (Dark Souls 3 and Sekiro) have managed to do this better than OG Dark Souls at least.
Fights in games like this can be really difficult. A lot of it has to do with the pace of fights, especially for those that struggle with reading the opponent. Allowing the player to reduce the speed of the game during fights (down to at least 50% of original speed) could help ease this a lot and make it easier for them to read and learn what to do. This would obviously remove the ability to get all achievements.
Some players struggle with being on time. Sekiro is a very much a rhythm-based game, and for some, especially disabled players, timing this can be incredibly hard. Allowing the player to adjust the timing windows themselves can help alleviate this. This could also work to the benefit of hardcore players, as they could inverse it and make the timing windows more difficult.
Boss Practice Mode
Lastly, I want to include a mode that allows players to train against bosses in a safe environment that allows them to gradually remove assist tools until they are ready to face them without them in the game itself. Put the player against the boss where death just puts you back at the beginning of it and you’re allowed to use any assist tool as much as you want without it affecting your ability to earn achievements in the game itself. This mode is just there to prepare you for the boss fight itself, and each boss can only be played against here if you’ve died to it or beaten it at least once in the main game. It would also be a fun way for experienced players to be able to re-experience their favourite bosses whenever they want.
To summarise, I hope this post has shown some ways that FromSoft could make their games more inclusive without changing the core experience for those that want to play it as intended. As long as all of the above (except Boss Practice Mode which could be its own menu item) is clearly marked as to what it is and who it is for, and that the assist functions have to be activated at the start of the save, this should not hamper with anyone’s experience if they want to play it like they want to.
I also want to say that I completely understand and respect FromSoft for wanting to make games a certain way and sticking to that. However, I do also believe that it is in their best interest, from a business perspective, to include “an easy mode” as hardcore players like to call it. Allowing more people to play the game should be a good thing, as there are many reasons to like these games that doesn’t have anything to do with difficulty, and excluding that audience isn’t a smart move in my opinion.
Once a game is out, let the player decide if they care more about the artistic intention or the way they want to play the game themselves. And to you hardcore players, please stop bullying disabled players that are interested in the games but literally can’t play it even if they wanted to.