We're rebranding and moving to a new website!!
A quest to conquer an ever growing backlog of games.

The Daily Backlog 71

Follow The Backlog Odyssey on WordPress.com

Difficulty settings can be divisive, but one thing’s for sure, they don’t belong in RPGs!

It’s Difficult to Say But…

Good day backloggers!! It’s Wednesday again and I’ve been going about my business like any other day, blissfully ignorant to the world. And then I realized, “Hey! I need to get this Daily Backlog thingy goin’!”. So in the wise words of somebody… it’s time to get off my lazy ‘nanners and bang this thing out! I’m sure no one said that, probably because it sounds a bit dirty, but now I have! So, there ya go.

Anyways, after putting more time into Child of Light and finally changing its difficulty back to “Normal” (read Casual) after realizing I bafflingly changed it to Expert when starting the game. It had me thinking about difficulty settings in games. Specifically in RPGs like Child of Light, but also how if affects your experience while playing a game. In some cases, an increase in difficulty can make a game more engaging and motivates you to experiment with the various systems and master its mechanics. Oh and it can make you feel like a badass after overcoming its challenges!! In other situations though, it can be frustrating and absolutely hinder your enjoyment of a game. It’ll beat you down with no mercy and barely give you a chance to fight back.  

Now, that second part may be a bit of an exaggeration, because usually even difficult games are not unbeatable, (unless they’re significantly flawed) but when you have little control over the outcome it can certainly feel like it. And that is where I feel RPGs lie. Like Child of Light. The increase in difficulty feels unfair more so than challenging, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Fair’s Fair, Except When It’s Not

For those of you who may not know, I love challenging myself in the games that I play. I enjoy learning them inside and out and testing my skills to see if I can surmount the insurmountable! Like beating a Devil May Cry on the hardest difficulty, or shooting for that 1CC in the bullet hell-ie-est bullet hells out there! Like Mushihimesama and its ilk. But here’s the thing, those games give you all the tools you need to succeed. All you have to do is figure out how to use them appropriately in order to “PWN those NOOBZ” as the cool kids say. Dark Souls and its brethren do a great job of this. I mean, you can literally beat the game with a level one character with the weakest of weapons! As long as you have the patience for the number of times you’ll die, the length of time it’ll take to beat the bosses and the skill to survive. It’s honestly the greatest feeling succeeding at these games because they feel fair. They may be hard, and they may punish you without mercy, but it never feels like you’re out of control.

And then there are RPGs. Games that heavily rely on chance and your ability to defeat enemies in order to get stronger. But what happens if the roll of the dice isn’t in your favor? What happens if a rogue enemy criticals on its attack and defeats you in one blow? You can have all the skills, understanding of the mechanics and powerful weapons that you want, but nothing is going to stop that. You can’t react to an insta-death that’s for sure. On normal difficulties, the game is usually balanced so that this situation will very rarely happen, and you’ll usually have the tools to counteract the attacks an enemy throws at you. Sure, you can encounter enemies that’ll overpower you, but they are usually gated by some minimum level, and once you get to that point, it’s like any other encounter.

And It’s Definitely Not

However, when given the option to increase the difficulty in an RPG, all it really does is skew the enemy stats and your odds of survival against you. It just doesn’t feel like you had a chance from the get go, and that’s not a good feeling. Darkest Dungeon is a great example of this, and I loved that game! But many times it just didn’t feel like you were ever prepared and many of your failures were because of a random “out of left field” encounter. And it was the same for Child of Light. It just never felt like I had the tools to take on the challenges the game was throwing at me. Which made every encounter frustrating and unfun. So I avoided them as much as I could. The way that the battle system works in the game didn’t help either, but that only added to the frustration. It wasn’t the cause.

Of course comparing Child of Light to Darkest Dungeon isn’t exactly fair. Darkest Dungeon is meant to be difficult and gives you everything you need to eventually persevere. And it’s a roguelike so dying over and over is supposed to be a part of it. Child of Light on the other hand was ill equipped.

So I changed it. I set it back to casual and instantly started enjoying the game more. There are still some annoyances with how the game plays, and I’ll have to talk a little bit more about that, but no longer did it feel like I was struggling. It gave me back the sense of adventure that I was looking for in this beautiful and unique RPG. I guess the moral of the story is, challenges can be fun, but keep your RPGs casual. Unless of course, your a glutton for punishment, then I can help you no further.

71, An Eisenstein Prime

Well my friends that’ll do it for today!! Difficulty in games is an interesting topic and I’m sure it’s different for everyone. Generally, I enjoy it, but I also can’t help but feel that it has its place and RPGs, more specifically Child of Light, ain’t it. I still have more to talk about with regards to its battle system as well, but I’ll just save that for another day!

I’m curious to hear what you all think though! Are you a fan of bumping up that difficulty or do you just like to surf the casual wave and just enjoy the ride? And until tomorrow folks, have a great rest of your day!!!

Currently Playing

Child of Light (Xbox One)

Mario and Rabbids (Switch)

Total Backlogged Games: 732 …This backlog is on extreme difficulty!!

Total Completed Games: 18 …I feel like I’m in control though!

Want to contribute to the website or the podcast? You can send your written or audio submissions to the below emails!

Written: [email protected]

Audio: [email protected]

Want to know what other shenanigans I’ve been up to? Then follow me on Twitter @BacklogOdyssey

And you can keep tabs on my backlog by checking out the Backlog Odyssey Backloggery game list!