Not everyone is capable of tackling Dark Souls levels of difficulty. Some people need to work their way up to that level of challenge. That doesn’t make them any less of a gamer. It just means a little more care can be needed for certain people to eventually become their best. While traditional difficulty levels can help, there are other games that go above and beyond. Plenty of other titles offer difficulty level and modes which do more to make their players better.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is one game that lets people tweak their experience. In World of Light, you can choose between Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty levels. If you head into Smash or Training, you can set an opponent’s difficulty from one to nine. (One is easiest and nine is most difficult.) You can set handicaps. Someone who is better at the game can team up with a weaker player to fight enemies. The Classic mode lets you choose from sliding difficulty for its challenge level. There are a lot of options and you have scaling options to prepare it for yourself.
Fortnite’s new Creative mode could be seen as a way to experiment in the same way its temporary Playground limited time mode allowed. In the normal battle royale portions of the game, there are no difficulty levels or mercy. It is in these more lenient areas that you can practice building techniques, play around with equipment, explore areas, and find your footing. It is far less daunting to start the game and know you are immediately swimming in the deep end. While it is not an official difficulty option, going into Creative might feel like stepping into the kiddie pool and learning to swim.
Something like the indie game Celeste lets you tweak elements of the game to address the areas you may have the most trouble with. Turning Assist Mode on lets you go into the menu to adjust specific factors. You can give yourself an additional dash or infinite dashes. You can increase your stamina, so you never have to worry about losing your grip and dropping to your doom. You can slow down the speed, so things like platforms and hazards might make it easier to find your way through. It is even possible to just become invincible. You can make it your own and find what works for you.
Then, there is the Metro series. For games like Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light, and even the 2019 Metro Exodus, a feature known as Ranger Mode is enabled. This is separate from the ordinary sorts of Normal and Hard difficulties. Rather, it is a sort of modifier. Going with Ranger makes the game more about survival, meaning people need to exert more caution and rely more on stealth to survive. When it is enabled in the normal difficulty level, bullets can result in one-shot kills, you lose the crosshairs that might help you aim, you can carry fewer weapons, and you may even see the HUD disabled entirely.
It is great to see companies get smart about difficulty options. Sometimes, just offering people Easy, Normal, and Hard isn’t enough. A little more understanding and nuance is appreciated. This could be a creative or training mode, that lets people experiment, an optional modifier available for the standard difficulty levels, or the ability to abandon difficulty levels entirely and just adjust specific game elements. Here’s hoping more companies decide to go above and beyond for players!