My initial thought to this question is “yes”, but in the end I must conclude that my answer is “no”, Dark Souls 3 should not have an easy mode option. Let me take you through my thought process of why that is.
I have spent the past week battling through the game, and when all is said and done it is an amazing experience. As games come, the combination and integration of mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics of this game is among the best I have seen. As you play through this dark, depressing and lonely world you often get struck by how hauntingly atmospheric and engaging your surroundings are. Seldom do you get to play a game that offers no light at the end of the tunnel, and asks you to accept this. I would like as many people to experience this game as possible, and this is why I initially thought an easy mode might not be such a bad idea.
You see, many people will never play this game because of its notoriously high difficulty level. I have spoken to several people that shrug off the suggestion of playing because they know they would just get frustrated at the game, early on, and probably never pick up the game again. And I will be honest, are you new to the franchise then the first boss of the game is punishingly hard to beat.
As such, all that would need to be done is include an easy mode where the opposition doesn’t hit as hard, and the player has a larger health pool. Simple changes that would allow new players much more leeway to make mistakes, but still succeed.
The push for an easy mode and the general discussion has only increased in accordance with the franchise’s popularity. Dark Souls 3 is the best selling game in Bandai Namco’s history, so the developer From Software really has done well with these games. However, what follows such popularity is also the call for accessibility – and therefore an easier game mode.
But let me explain why From Software hasn’t and shouldn’t introduce an easy mode.
If there is one thing this game has, it is ethos, and it’s particular ethos is best summed up by its creator Hidetaka Miyazaki, “Ever since Demon’s Souls, I’ve really been pursuing making games that give players a sense of accomplishment by overcoming tremendous odds” (Wired). DS3 is generally speaking incredibly well-balanced. The difficulty scales at an even pace in accordance with character progression an the improvement of player skill. Death in this game is not meant as a punishment. Death is how we learn. You die in this game due to your own mistakes – and DS3 encourages you to learn from these mistakes. I usually have to die to a boss about a dozen times before I have figured out their move sets and can begin to predict what they will do (I have been a slow learner). Then I will die a few more times whilst I figure out how to time my dodging and rolling. Finally, it comes down to execution, I now know what to do, but also have to execute it properly with no major slip-ups. I will say, the sense of accomplishment is real. Miyazaki hit the nail on the head. I have never been as jubilant in any other game as I am in this one, every time I beat a new boss.
What I have just described is, I believe, what many people typically go through on their first play-through of the game. And that is because the game is balanced in such a way to make this happen – It is how the game is meant to be experienced. In all honesty, and easy mode would potentially ruin this for many people. Why? Well, if there was an easy mode, I will admit that I would probably have taken it (after dying 15 times to the first boss). I may still have completed the game, but I wouldn’t have experienced the ups and downs to the same extent. An easy mode would drastically alter the game experience, and the impact would be mainly negative. It would offer an all to tempting option for many people, and I believe Miyazaki is very aware of this.
Instead, the game’s difficulty adjustments are actually built into the core game-play, which is very exciting for someone like me! There is no clunky slider bar that lets you adjust difficulty, or cringy options for a “baby” or “hardcore” mode. Instead, you get to chose your class. Choose a knight if you want an easy entry into the game, as it is equipped with a shield that absorbs 100 physical damage. A magic wielder if you want a way of chipping away on your opponents health while standing at safe distance. Or maybe an assassin or thief if you wish more of a challenge, balancing high risk with high reward (damage). If you are still finding yourself struggling, the game automatically has you connected to other people playing the game, and you will effortlessly be able to summon a helpful player who can assist you. So you see, there are options if you get stuck, but none of them remove the challenge of the game.
Video games these days are too often defined by the industry as a whole. So often do people talk about the size of the industry, how much revenue has been made – the mass of people who play video games nowadays. And. So. On. But video games are also a way of expression, a way of experience – and different experiences appeal to different people. DS3 is meant to be experienced through hardships and feelings of accomplishment. It is meant to be difficult. As such, it does not cater for everyone, and it shouldn’t do so either. Despite all the discussions about the difficulty, the franchise has still grown, and more people get hooked by what this game has to offer. DS3 is not about making as much money as possible. Profit is important, but not all defining to those to really care about the games they produce. This feeling of caring really shines through in the DS franchise, which is what makes these games so memorable.
So to sum up. Dark Souls 3 is difficult, especially if you are new. But it is not too difficult. It is designed to challenge you, but be beatable if only you are attentive, willing to learn, and patient (the ability to wield a controller helps). The game delivers due to its challenge, and this should not be changed. Easy mode would be a cop out for too many people – myself included. So I am personally happy that I am forced to play it as it is. Not just that, but the game gives me the confidence to play other games at a higher difficulty level, because I have learned some valuable lessons. We learn from failing and losing, and therefore shouldn’t take it as a punishment.