High Difficulty in Games Kills Me

I really hate difficulty in video games. Or rather, I really hate losing. I know, pretty much everyone hates losing. But I’m specifically talking about video games, here. I play games for entertainment. I don’t want to be particularly challenged by that entertainment. I know some folks think something is boring if it’s not risky or dangerous (even in a non-real sense); that’s not me. Other folks get satisfaction from a overcoming an obstacle in a game; not me, either.

I see games just like a movie or a book. It seems silly to lose in a movie or book, as a consumer of that entertainment. I don’t want a test of skill or necessarily knowledge just to enjoy my entertainment (outside of the basics, like knowing how to read). Sure, skill and knowledge can, and should, enhance the entertainment experience. I’m all for that.

But I’m against getting frustrated at my entertainment. I think it’s really the opposite of what entertainment is supposed to be. If my jimmies are getting seriously rustled, if I can’t get what I want out of a thing just because I need to git gud, I think that’s not entertainment.

Now, I know that’s going to lock me out of certain games from the word go…and that’s perfectly fine. I’m not going to be playing Super Meat Boy…ever. Or any of those games like that. Cuphead? Nope. Most any multiplayer shooter? Count me out. Are those games good? Maybe. But I won’t enjoy them, but rather just get frustrated and crazy, and I’d rather live without the experience of the game.

Which takes me to RPG’s. I don’t like difficulty there either. But it’s even more frustrating in these sort of story games, because, generally speaking, the point of the game is to tell a story to the gamer, in an interactive way. I’m easy to please when it comes to those things, so I’m not too picky. But difficulty in RPG’s keeps the player from experiencing the story, which is, again, kinda the point. (In fact, it could be argued that the sorts of gameplays that go with RPG’s generally wouldn’t work on their own – too boring for the most part – but the story elevates the game as a whole to being worth going through.)

Now, of course devs can want to make difficulty a part of the experience, just like any other game. That’s their right. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It’s the most frustrating when the rest of the game is…not difficult at all. But then you get to a point when Difficulty is a thing, often all of a sudden. These are the worst, in my opinion. I’m just doing great, and then BAM, progress is blocked. In RPG’s (especially JRPG’s) this usually means it’s time to grind, and I hate that too, especially in more modern RPG’s where there can be anti-grind mechanics as well.

The game that brought this up? Atelier Lulua. In an attempt to reduce difficulty, I look up guides, to prepare to make things easier in the future. I’m pretty late-game (at the last chapter, so yah, late game), so I’m looking up boss fight mechanics. Most of the bosses in the game have been relatively easy, but the bosses in the previous chapter got all sorts of mean, right quick, but not something I couldn’t handle with a bit of preparation. Even the final boss of the chapter (not all chapters had bosses, but this one did) was a real toughy.

Atelier games have historically had optional bosses of excessive difficulty. I’m totally cool with that. Note how they’re optional. Sometimes I even take the option, just to see what they’re like. This game is no different. I was taking a look at them, seeing if it was worth my time to go after them. Then I went further, and looked at the end boss. Below I’ll show you both the end-boss of the penultimate chapter, and the end-boss of the game (and the chapter I’m currently on):

They’re basically the same boss, just the latter is more advanced. Fine, that’s fair. But the top was one I was barely able to defeat, and is, in many ways, already stronger than the later optional bosses. That ~9k HP is quite a big jump (it’s right after another boss, which has ~9k total HP – which also makes this a sort of boss gauntlet). And of course it’s got stronger attacks and more resistances, etc. Oh, and the kicker? You can go from the top boss to the bottom boss extremely quickly, in terms of game time (if you’ve been keeping up with your alchemy, you’ve pretty much done most of the required stuff previously). That kind of sudden difficulty spike is something that, when I read it in the guide last night, totally killed my motivation to play last night.

These sort of very hard bosses, and/or very long grinds, have killed games for me. I’ve only gotten through about half of the Atelier games I’ve played, for this reason. They have a very nice, mostly relaxed gameplay loop for the first 2/3-3/4 of the game, and then either a frantic rush to grind out whatever you need to do before time runs out (in the older games), or a long slog to grind out that last bit so you can get a good end. (I’m convinced that some of them are designed to be impossible to get the better/best ends until after playing the whole game over again in NG+.)

Call me a scrub, a noob, a heretic. I just don’t like that kind of stuff.

Oddly, not difficult to beat the knight in arm rasling.

4 thoughts on “High Difficulty in Games Kills Me

  1. I’m open to difficulty in games, but there is a wide set of variables and alignments that must be in play for that to be true. If I’m expecting and consciously going into a ‘git gud’ sort of game then all is well. I’ll happily bang my head against a boss in a Dark Soulsian style game until I learn what I need to in order to defeat it.

    When I’m not making this choice consciously, just give me a *sense* of being challenged without it actually being too rough, please! Haha. Ni No Kuni II for example was a game that was just too easy, to the point where there wasn’t even a pretense of challenge. You could likely go AFK in battle and not really have to worry about it. This level of difficulty can equally be a turn-off I think. In Ni No Kuni 2’s place, the developers did later acknowledge this and I believe have patched in a higher difficulty but at this stage I’m unsure if I’ll ever revisit.

    As for difficulty spikes… Ugh. If done wrong (as it potentially sounds to be the case in the Atelier game you’re playing) they’re beyond frustrating. I remember on a play through of FFVII I had way back in the day that I managed to get myself irretrievably stuck. It was a second playthrough, so I knew what was in store for Aeris. So accordingly I hadn’t really leveled her any more than was necessary. There comes a part though at the Temple of the Ancients where you have a mandatory encounter with a demon door (literal door boss, lol) — and you MUST use Aeris.

    Once you enter that particular area you have no way out but forward or to reload an earlier save. Since it was a second playthrough I was using minimal save points, so it put an instant stop to that run. (Well, I say instant, but there were a good number of hours trying ‘just to see’ if some tactic or the other might get through it. But no, that boss was legitimately hard even when Aeris was leveled. Just no hope without it. xD)

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  2. I am with you on that. I play games to *relax*. “Challenge” to me is the complete opposite of that. All that adrenaline and frustration does is leave me feeling pretty drained, it doesn’t make me feel I achieved something!

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  3. Oof. This is exactly how I feel about most types of games. I usually start at the lowest available difficulty – I can live with something being too easy if it’s otherwise compelling.

    For me, the last horridly painful difficulty spike game I can remember was Dead Island. I was cruising right along, no issues, and then, every two steps I was being eaten by zombies. That was it for me. Uninstalled, never to return.

    My only exception is puzzle focused game play. I’m ok with really having to brain on something. I’m not okay with being frustrated because my reaction times suck.

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