Part 22: - Anri, Sirris, Yorshka and Leonhard
Difficulty in Souls Games and how it regulates itself:
There's no boss to talk about here, nor is there any other pressing topic that needs discussing right this instant, so let's talk about something a little more general.
Were you under the impression that Dark Souls is a hard game? Namco Bandai's very subtle marketing might make you believe this is the case. The consensus of critics and players alike might even confirm this suspicion. it's usually stressed that the series is not for everyone, which, duh... of course. I don't think you needed anyone to tell you that about... well: Any game, really.
But calling it a game "not for everyone" still holds more merit than it would with most other games. Part of the series difficulty surely comes from its rather steep learning curve. The game does things just different enough from what's expected of most players that the way the mechanics interact and even finding a suitable playstyle take some getting used to. From weirdos like me you'll sometimes hear "Yeah, this boss really isn't all that hard" and we can only say that due to the accumulated skill of multiple games carrying over. Even going fron one game or another with slightly altered rhythm are much more manageable by simply having played through a Souls game before.
Not a lot of people are willing to play other games in the series before getting into a game in the series. That's a pretty high barrier of entry if you ask me. While you don't HAVE to have played another Souls game before playing your... well, first Souls game, because that's actually impossible, it just goes to reinforce the point that the games have a rather steep learning curve and it's easy to forget that if you've already "gotten gud"
The world wants you dead and everything in it wants you dead, the game teaches you to be defensive. To counter, rather than initiate. Patience is key and will be rewarded thoroughly. Then how come I have such a blast being relatively reckless? I don't feel this makes the game harder for me. I obviously still need to use my little head to succeed but for most encounters I'll be the first to act. Because the best defense against this harsh cruel world they put you in is actually a good offense. This may just be my playstyle that works for me, and not other people but hbomberguy makes a good point about this in his video about how Bloodborne is so good He covers every Souls game except Dark Souls III in this video and makes the point that the Souls games only truly shine once you cast aside your shield. After I watched that video I found myself actually agreeing with that. I did my first shieldless run as my third or so run of Dark Souls it changed the way I approached encounters drastically and forced me to learn to dodge, but I would not call this approach harder. If you have the time I encourage you to watch that video it's generally got some interesting ideas regarding the Souls series in it. It's an hour and a half, come on!
But let's move on to the question of whether Dark Souls needs an easy mode. The short answer is: "No.", The long answer is: "Yes."
See what I did there? The word yes is longer and the word no, thus it is the longer answer. I explained my joke and that makes it good. But let's elaborate a bit. Because Souls games offer several ways for players to regulate their difficulty to some extent and a lot of people already use these options to make the games easier on them as they let everyone know that they play this really hard game for manly men that makes babies grow beards.
The most general way you can influence your difficulty is your soul- and weapon level. You are never forced to level up yourself or your weapon, so if you feel the game is too easy you can limit yourself to a certain level cap. People challenge themselves by doing SL60, 40, 30, 23, 1/we runs. Some may choose to simply keep their weapon a bit underleveled, which is the main way to influence your damage output. Conversely, if you're having trouble you can "over"level. Grind a bit if you need to, but as long as you don't lose your souls you'll have more of them if you die a lot anyway, because you'll be making your way back to where you were. You'll usually be a higher level at the end of the first playthrough of any given Souls game because of that. It's also the reason you'll hear people being surprised that they were only level 70 at the end of Dark Souls III when they were at around 100 by the end of Dark Souls.
Then there's the whole summoning thing. While there's traditionally been a bit of a risk/reward thing going on by virtue of the fact that by turning human or embered you also invite invaders, summoning is a way many players chose to enjoy the game and it makes it easier for sure. On the other hand, you can also just stay embered and use the Dried Finger, which puts you up in invasion priority, and just not summon. So now you'll have to deal with players of varying skill levels being able to jump you at potentially any time. It's another way to make the game more difficult and exciting.
You could also simply limit your options. For instance try not using any ranged attacks whatsoever for a run. You just can't pull enemies very easily anymore, forcing you into tougher situations.
The level design itself also sometimes allows you to pick a more difficult or an easier route. One of the best examples in the series is still the Iron Golem fight from Dark Souls. If you just head into the boss room without exploring you'll deal with a big black armor wielding a giant axe that also has a ranged attack on narrow footing while a giant throws giant explosives on the central part of the arena that would allow you to maneuver some more. This is the fight at its hardest. Now, there is a NPC phantom called Black Iron Tarkus nearby, you can summon him and he'll help you for the fight. If you want you can also take out the giant who explodes most of the arena over and over. If you do that Tarkus can basically kill the Iron Golem on his own. No interference on the player's part needed.
There's several more situations like this in the games, mostly it boils down to there being an NPC phantom available for a boss. But occasionally there are other ways to make the game harder or easier, not just for bosses. It can be a choice of path or a way to turn off or soften a prominent hazard in a level
So in a way the Souls games already have an easy mode. So I don't think it needs a separate mode to make the game easier, however, I don't think it would be hazardous to the health of any of us if there was a difficulty setting in the games.