Should Elden Ring have an easy difficulty mode?

A screenshot from Elden Ring, which some people think needs an easy difficulty modeFromSoftware

Now that Elden Ring is out in the wild, players are realizing just how difficult it is. It’s left many debating whether the game would benefit from an easy difficulty mode, or if the game’s vision should be left unaltered.

Elden Ring has been pretty much inescapable since its release, with gamers everywhere weighing in with their opinions on the latest FromSoftware title. The most divisive debates across social media, though, have revolved around its difficulty level.

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While seasoned Souls players are enjoying the challenge, newcomers are giving up altogether and streamers are ragequitting. This is a game that’s so hard, even its director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, has said he feels “apologetic” to those struggling.

Here, two members of the Dexerto team, Lloyd Coombes and Daniel Megarry, go head-to-head to try and provide an answer to the burning question: Should all games, even Elden Ring, have an easy difficulty mode?

A poster for Elden Ring

Changing Elden Ring’s difficulty removes much of the game’s soul

Elden Ring is essentially the only Souls-style game I’ve put more than a few hours into (outside of titles I’ve reviewed in the past), and it’s not because it’s any easier. It’s because the open-world nature of the game means if I feel like I’m stuck (looking at you, Margit the Fell Omen), I can head off and circle back to an encounter when I feel more powerful.

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If I could easily walk through the game’s main path, it’s highly unlikely I’d have spent the best part of a dozen hours in the early game searching every nook and cranny for anything to help me level up, new tools to use, or upgrade materials for my weapons.

And yet, I do concede that the difficulty will diminish Elden Ring’s appeal somewhat on a mainstream level. I know more casual players who have invested in the game, only to bounce off within hours and find themselves out of pocket. Elden Ring’s world deserves to be explored, for sure, but part of what makes it so mystifying is knowing you’re not supposed to be there and the fear that comes with unfamiliarity.

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elden ring samurai fighting enemy

There are so many wild moments that have occurred just while exploring The Lands Between that I simply wouldn’t have seen had I not been slain multiple times by Margit. Three optional bosses, including a dragon that came out of nowhere, were great fun to tackle, and not only gave me tangible benefits but experiential ones, too: my confidence grew.

Someone made an analogy the other day that Elden Ring is to gaming what heavy metal is for music. It’s not for everyone, and you wouldn’t ask a band to tone down their output to make it so. Sometimes you just have to admit when something may not be for you, even if it means missing out on some truly memorable experiences.

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Words: Lloyd Coombes

Games should be accessible for everyone, even Elden Ring

Elden Ring The Lands Between screenshot

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With all the debates around Elden Ring’s difficulty level and who’s a ‘real gamer’ or not – which have a slight whiff of gatekeeping – one core message seems to have been lost: Video games are supposed to be fun.

Whether you’re mowing down enemies in Call of Duty or bouncing on Goombas in Super Mario, the rush of accomplishment you get when finishing a tricky level or figuring out how to defeat that final boss is something that simply can’t be recreated outside of video games. It’s why we keep coming back to them.

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But there’s a point where challenges become more infuriating than fun. I loved the quirky humor and art style of Cuphead, for example, but the ridiculous difficulty curve eventually became too much, and it remains in my shameful collection of unfinished games to this day.

I’m having a similar problem with Elden Ring, and I’m definitely not alone here; I’ve seen plenty of players give up in the early stages of the game, before they’ve even made it past the first boss battle. Being able to lower the difficulty slightly would probably have been enough for them to stick around, but the mere suggestion of an easy mode has ignited fierce debates across social media.

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Godrick boss fight in Elden Ring

Why wouldn’t anyone want the option for an easy difficulty mode? Well, a quick scroll through Twitter brings up several arguments; One viral tweet claims that it would be like “asking Animal Crossing to add combat” – making it a “different game” entirely – while another person is worried it would “ruin what makes the game special”.

That last point seems to be a common view, but I have to ask: If a game relies on the fact that it’s (often infuriatingly) difficult to be considered ‘special’, is it really that special? I’d argue that an immersive world, clever enemy designs, solid gameplay mechanics, and original ideas are far more important. Elden Ring offers all of those things, so why is keeping the high difficulty level such a point of contention?

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Beyond telling those struggling to simply ‘get good’ at Elden Ring, it’s also worth remembering that not every person has the same skill level or accessibility requirements. What’s easy for one player may be impossible for another, and offering a scale of difficulty gives everyone a level playing field – or at least the option to have one, if they want it.

Elden Ring isn’t a competitive title. This isn’t Apex Legends or Warzone, where being better than everyone else is the whole point of the game. It’s a (mostly) solo adventure that each player should be able to enjoy at their own pace, for their own abilities. Another player using easy mode wouldn’t have any impact on your individual experience with the game, so why should it matter?

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By adding difficulty options, purists would still be able to experience the game as it was originally intended to be played, but those who find themselves struggling could get a leg-up so they can enjoy the game, too. That way, everybody would win.

Words: Daniel Megarry

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