Why 'Demon's Souls' devs left out an easy mode
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By Elise Favis
When the brutally difficult action game "Demon's Souls" was reborn on the PS5, it rekindled a familiar, divisive debate: Should the game have an easy mode? Bluepoint, which took the reins for the remake from the game's original creators, Japanese studio FromSoftware, contemplated adding an easy mode and ultimately decided against it, revealed creative director Gavin Moore in an email to The Washington Post.
"This project remakes the work of another development team," wrote Moore. "While we've made some changes, our core driving mantra has always been to preserve the spirit and intent of the original creators. While we considered and discussed an easy mode, we ultimately decided it wasn't our place - merely being custodians for this amazing game - to add something that would fundamentally alter its balance."
The topic's endurance and fervor in video game discourse has shown how arriving at an answer is difficult at best, with any outcome likely to provoke criticism. At the root of the debate is a question about reconciling the challenge of a game with its accessibility, something that has prompted opinion pieces in outlets such as Game Informer and Kotaku, particularly about "Souls" games. Some argue that "easy modes" aren't an adequate enough answer for accessibility to begin with; others have noted that difficulty and accessibility are separate issues.
Moore had made it clear that "Demon's Souls" would have no easy mode in late October, stating in an interview with Game Informer, "There are no difficulty options, and there shouldn't be," adding that he felt the game's challenge was "fair." What Bluepoint and Sony did, however, was introduce a number of accessibility features to allow more people to play the game while also utilizing the PlayStation 5′s new user interface to offer help for the game's grind.
Though the difficulty is unchanged, Bluepoint and Sony didn't want to leave players without help, especially for those playing the game for the first time. As such, PlayStation Plus members can access 180 tip videos without exiting the game, as part of PlayStation 5's new UI. You can view them by clicking on an activity card in the control menu of the PS5.
"I think a lot of new users hear 'Demon's Souls' and they go 'Oh that's game's really difficult.' But it's not. It's actually very fair. It's challenging, but very fair," said Moore in an earlier conversation with The Post. "But we do understand that people get stuck. ... And we've got 180 plus help videos that actually sit inside the game, so if you do get stuck, you can bring up, as you're still playing, one of those help videos and it will tell you, 'In this area, you need to do this,' or 'This is the best tactic against this boss.' The way the system works is it will show you a video if you ask for some help, which is just enough to give you a hint. And then if you still haven't got it, you can look at the next one."
Telling The Post that accessibility was "a huge consideration" during development, Moore described some of the new elements.
"We've included an option to switch the audio from stereo to mono, with an added choice to play the sound either on the left or right," Moore said. "For those who experience color vision deficiency, we added the ability to edit the UI palette. Some players are sensitive to certain types of screen movement, so we've included a toggle for motion blur and camera shake."
Moore explained that features specific to the PlayStation 5 provide players with additional aid. The DualSense controller's haptic feedback activates sophisticated, distinctive vibrations as your character moves to parry and riposte, for example, which can assist player response time according to Moore, and "provides another means of awareness." The PS5's Tempest audio engine, which makes 3D audio possible, lets players know when enemies are approaching.
Some controller features, like haptic and adaptive trigger effects, can be disabled completely if it they are an unwanted element for a player's experience.
Challenge in "Demon's Souls" isn't just about reflexes, but also critical thinking, as you solve boss battles as if they were puzzles and figure out how to overcome obstacles. To Moore, preserving those design principles was key, but he didn't want to leave new players out in the process.
"While Demon's Souls at its heart is often about figuring out what to do next, or how to defeat a certain enemy, everyone comes into the experience with a different ability level, and we'd rather no one step away because they were too discouraged," Moore said.
The Washington Post