Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dead Space 2 and Game Difficulty

I completed Dead Space 2 last night. I liked it quite a bit but near the end I was pretty much ready for it to be over. I completed 14 of the 15 chapters on the "Zealot" difficulty setting (the most difficult) and there was this one part right before the endgame where I kept getting killed over and over again. It was annoying the hell out of me so even though I was very near the end I said screw it and changed the difficulty level to "Casual" so I could go ahead and get through and see how the story wrapped up. I won't throw out any spoilers but turns out chapter 15 is VERY short. So after I completed the game on Casual and saw how little I actually had left I went back to a previous save before I switched difficulty levels and went ahead and completed the game on Zealot. It actually wasn't that difficult after I was armed with the foreknowledge that there wasn't much left and I could really cut loose with my ammo and stasis.

But it made me think about my selection of difficulty levels on games. I used to always play my games on the normal or default difficulty level even when a more difficult choice was available. Then somewhere along the way I switched over to always selecting the most difficult level available. And although some games on the most difficult level did prove challenging - like God of War III if I recall - most were more or less doable without TOO much trouble. But there were a few parts in Dead Space 2 where I got killed quite a few times before I got through them and it started to interrupt the flow of the game. The emotions of frustration, anger, and impatience that I felt at those times were not really compatible with the fear, panic, and dread the game's story was supposed to be immersing me in.

A while back I finally got around to playing Kung-Fu Panda which came with my XBox 360. It's not a game I would have purchased and I didn't really take it too seriously so I played it on Easy mode to just blow through it. And what do you know I quite enjoyed that little game. The absence of any significant challenge did not impede my enjoyment of the game. Now I'm thinking I might switch back to Normal difficulty on my games for a while and see how that goes.

So I'm curious - when presented with the option of choosing a difficulty level, which do you typically select?

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gnome said...

I'd say this depends on the game, though I usually -in contemporary games- go for the mid-setting. It tends to be what the design team originally had in mind.

Fallguy40 said...

Medium setting here too. The few times I've tried the harder settings, I found that the experience just wasn't as enjoyable.

I do this for fun; not frustration.

Mik said...

Very nice question, MP. I always play games at normal, and very rarely replay through in hard mode. As Fallguy correctly stated, frustration should not be an obstacle. And our friend Gnome is probably right, hard mode is just an alternative challenge for those who really liked the game, but it's not to be intended like the real thing.

MadPlanet said...

Thanks for the responses gents. Excellent points all!

@ Gnome: When I'm playing games on emulator I do strive for accuracy to the original designer intent - so no cheats, try to use authentic controllers where possible, etc. So why would I try to go for the ultra-difficult challenge on a current console game instead of their intended content for the general audience?

@ Fallguy40: Agreed on the point about frustration. I didn't really encounter this feeling so much on others that I played on Hard like Arkham, GOW III, or Uncharted 2, but I do feel like it hindered my DS2 experience a little. I did get a trophy for beating it on Zealot which I know you will appreciate.

@Mik: True. I think I started this whole Maximum Difficulty kick I've been on recently because on Uncharted 2 (one of my all-time faves) if you beat the game on the Hard setting it would unlock an even more difficult "Crushing" mode and I wanted that option so I did it and just sort of stayed there for other games too. But even if a game unlocks an even more difficult mode like that I almost never go back and play it - at least not to completion. So why should I care whether I unlock it or not?

I think I've pretty much decided to rejoin the Normal difficulty flock.

gnome said...

Absolutely agree with you on this one MadPlanet and Mik. Mind you, games I love and play to death, do get eventually get played in their hardest difficulty.

Hey, we all agree, don't we?