Play with ease: how lowering the difficulty allowed me to get back to gaming

It had been around for five or six hours on the PC version of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order when I decided to lower the difficulty level to Easy.

For a game about a fledgling Jedi Knight who escaped the purge of Order 66 when he was just a young Padawan only to survive for just five years, he sure was dying a lot at the hands of lowly Stormtroopers.

The third-person action-adventure game from Star Wars had proven to be more challenging than I expected; Cultivating Cal Kestis’ undeveloped abilities after the near-eradication of the Jedi was exciting and interesting, but damn, those stormtroopers could punch in swarms.

So far the infamous “Stormtrooper target” seen in the movies, and since when do they have rocket launchers?

“I no longer had time to play; it was the time of adulthood. “

Almost immediately after downgrading it to Easy, I became the Jedi Knight I had always envisioned; slicing and cutting my way through white armored villains with ease, and for the remaining 20 hours of gameplay I think I died only a handful of times, usually after falling off a cliff rather than from a laser beam on the back.

My frustration melted away. Suddenly, the game was fun again, and that’s exactly what it needed at the height of the latest wave of COVID-19.

I have been a PC gamer for most of my life. I remember spending countless hours in my youth playing the game of real-time strategy. Dune 2and the Star Wars space flight simulator X-Wing – a game that greatly contributed to my parents seriously considering throwing the computer out of the second-floor window because I was alone. I would not do it. Stop. Playing.

But for the last decade or so, games have mostly gone to the side after I started my career in journalism, got married, and had two daughters. Right before my first one was born in early 2015, I unhooked my 14-year-old PlayStation 2 (the only gaming system I had) and dropped it off at Value Village.

I no longer had time to play; it was the time of adulthood.

That does not mean that you stop playing completely. I still occasionally played games on my Mac 2010 desktop, but was having trouble running newer games than it was, and the number of titles it supported was few and far between.

Then the pandemic hit and the desire to play returned as I searched for an outlet for my frustration and sheer boredom. In November 2020, I bought an online gaming laptop and started loading it with games that I always wanted to play but didn’t have the time or technology for in the past.

Obligations. Alien isolation. Far Cry 5. Doom (2016) and its sequel, Doom Eternal. To say that I was impressed would be a painful cliche … but I was. The graphics, the gameplay, the storytelling – I was immersed.

However, this gap in playtime resulted in an interesting reveal when it comes to the difficulty level of many modern games.

Difficulty settings have been a cornerstone of games for decades, and a source of ridicule among hardcore fans who insisted that games had to be played on their most difficult settings, while more casual players took the point of view. opposite.

One of the first difficulty level screens that I can remember was Wolfenstein 3D in 1992. The most difficult scenario, “I am Death incarnate”, featured the protagonist William “BJ” Blazkowicz with a sadistic smile and bright red eyes.

From there, the difficulty decreased in condescending reverse order: “Go ahead!”, “Don’t hurt me” and, the simplest setting, “Can I play, Dad?” with Blazkowicz in a baby hat and sucking on a pacifier.

Generally speaking, higher difficulty levels translate to enemies that are harder to kill or evade, more damaging enemy attacks, and fewer health packs or ammo boxes throughout the level.

Wolfenstein 3D

I was always a “medium” type of difficulty; the games got challenging, but not too frustrating.

The only exception to the rule would be games like Obligations online, where the pecking order between elite players and aspiring players is sorted out fairly quickly, and part of the fun is learning the skills and tactics used by the most skilled players.

But these last 18 months have led me to reconsider how difficult I want some of my games to be, how much time I want to spend on them, and why I play them.

I’ll be 36 in just a few weeks, and with two girls at home, I just don’t have the time, energy, or desire to spend hundreds of hours mastering a game while trying to beat it in the toughest scenario.

Most of my games happen at night after my kids (and usually my wife) have gone to bed. That gives me an hour or two to play, and sometimes I can go weeks without playing.

This means that dying repeatedly and playing the same section of a game over and over for 45 minutes is not the kind of relaxing escapism I’ve come to crave from pandemic games.

“After reducing the difficulty, suddenly I * was * the mythical Doom Slayer …”

I beat the 2016 version of Condemn in “Normal” mode, also known as “Hurt Me Plenty”, earlier this year. It wasn’t too difficult and took around 12 hours spread over a couple of months.

Fast forward to a few weeks later when I played the sequel, Doom Eternal, and about halfway through the game for about 20 hours, I once again paused the action and switched to the Easy setting. The demons were much tougher this time.

After lowering the difficulty, suddenly I * was * the mythical Doom Slayer, disemboweling demons and monsters with impunity. And isn’t that why we play these games?

After 18 months of our little hell on Earth during the coronavirus pandemic, it was immensely satisfying. Take the easy, I say, and have fun doing it.

Image Credit: EA, Ubisoft, Wikimedia Commons


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