From Software do not make easy games. Debates will happen around their difficulty every time a new one is released. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is no different. There has been an interesting debate happening around the idea of adding an Easy Mode, or Assist Mode to Sekiro for the last few days. I have exposed myself to as many different takes and opinions on the issue as I can, and if I am honest I have had a long hard look at how I feel about the issue. I always keep circling back to one question, what would actually happen if Sekiro had an Easy Mode?
The first thing I should say is that my instinctive reaction to the question “Should FromSoftware games have an easy mode?” is no. They should not. This is a little odd to me, as I am not what you would consider a Soulsborne purist. When I play I use Summons and co-op. I have no issue with any weapon in the game, even ones that make it “easier” to play (hello, Dark Souls 3’s ridiculous Dark Sword). I have a full Dark Souls 3 playthrough on a half-discarded Youtube channel where I talk a lot about the fact that how you play the game is your business, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to eventually fight, and beat, the Nameless King using a dancepad then that is your own prerogative, and I will applaud your dedication for doing so. I just don’t think everyone should have to do that to feel like they have beaten the game.
So, why the sudden change of heart when it comes to an Easy Mode? At the end of the day, why am I being such a hypocrite, and more importantly, can I actually change my own mind?
Understanding My Own Argument
The first thing I had to do was try and get to the bottom of my defensiveness around the question in the first place. I want to point out here; this is all just stuff that applies to me. I am not saying it applies to everyone, or that all people who like FromSoftware games the way they are guilty of these same things. Like everything else in my life, this isn’t about you at all, dear reader, this is about me.
The uncomfortable truth that I discovered was pretty simple. Finishing these games appeals to my ego. I am not particularly good at them, my hands don’t work particularly well due to a multitude of reasons, yet still I get them finished. As I already said, I used every available game mechanic to do so. I’ll Summon, grind an area until I am ridiculously overpowered, or just tag in a friend of mine who excels at these games to carry my talentless behind around Lordran, or Yharnam, or whatever other hellscape Hidetaka Miyazaki has managed to concoct. I’ll cheese a boss with no guilt. I’ll work out the most OP builds and run them. I am also a moron, because if there is a way to make the game harder I’ll opt in to it. Then, dozens of hours later I will finish the game and give myself a pat on the back for a job well done. While some people play Soulsborne games, I grift my way through them, and I’m okay with that. I’ll then indulge in a bit of self-congratulatory behavior and go about my day.
The more I examine the attitude, the more I realize it’s not something I particularly like. I told myself I was engaging in a shared experience with other people, and feeling a sense of connection through that experience, but this argument is nonsense. There is no shared experience in a Soulsborne games. There are too many routes, weapons, options and bosses. We weave our own game from loosely connected threads, then try and convince each other we are all working from the same pattern. For someone who claims to love the Soulsborne series, it was a remarkably trite argument to make about such a wonderfully constructed group of games.
It Just Gets Worse
It’s not even the worst part of my gut reaction, however. What is a really uncomfortable realization is that I used my own health issues as a stick to beat others with. The problem with living with a long term health issue, or disability, is the feeling that you are being spoken for. While I don’t think I have ever publicly expressed the idea that because my hands are a bit wonky I expect other people to be able to overcome physical issues as well, it is something I have thought to myself. If a guy like Limitlessquad can overcome his health issues to style on the Corrupted Monk, then other people should just be able to as well, right? It’s a dangerous train of thought, wandering dangerously close to being outright dismissive of the nuances of each person’s situation.
We can’t just define people with words like “ill” or “disabled”, we need to appreciate that there are various levels of skill among all communities, be they people who deal with disabilities or the non-disabled. There are disabled streamers on Twitch who would absolutely wreck 99% of able-bodied players. It is also massively insulting to imply that the only people who would benefit from, or take advantage of an Easy Mode are people with disabilities. There is a massive population of people who are perfectly healthy who might just not be that good at games, while people with disabilities can be highly skilled at them. That’s something I really should have concluded much earlier, but hey, we are not all perfect, no matter how much we try.
That Question Again
So, let’s double back to the original question. What would happen if Sekiro had an Easy Mode? The answer, no matter what way I look at it, it is nothing at all. I could still play the game as Big M intended. I could ring the Demon Bell and make it all that little bit harder for myself. I could embrace the challenge, learn the combat system, perfect all the little nuances, and eventually finish the game. I’d have overcome exactly the same challenge as I did right now, and it wouldn’t actually be impacted in the slightest by someone else choosing to play on an easier setting.
If I take all my defensiveness out of the equation, that is the answer I come to. Nothing would change for me at all, but maybe other people would get to play and enjoy the game. It’s pretty rough to sit here and have to admit to myself that I was a bit of a jerk about it, even if my jerkiness was confined to my own thoughts, and not publicly expressed.
Mostly what I have learned watching this debate unfold is that we really do need to stop speaking for each other. While some disabled people might love an Easy Mode, others adore the challenge of FromSoft games, and get a massive sense of joy from being good at games that leave the able-bodied in tears. This is why I was so clear at the start that this article is strictly about me. I’m not saying FromSoft need to have an easy mode, and I am no longer saying that it shouldn’t. I am simply saying that, if I am honest, an easier mode of any of their games doesn’t actually impact me in any way at all.
I am mostly hoping that in future debates, because they will happen, I would like to see people talking more from their own point of view, instead of claiming to represent entire communities within the overall gaming communities that we all reside in. While I appreciate able-bodied folk talking about issues that affect us ill and disabled people, maybe it would be better to get some opinions from the subject of discussion? Perhaps, if you are able-bodied, and want to talk about an easier mode in a game, you should do it from the point of view of needing it yourself, rather than as some necessity for disabled gamers. It puts us all in a box, as if we all need the same kind of help, when this is untrue.
If the offshoot of that is to say that we then wouldn’t have many opinions from disabled gamers, due to a lack of disabled games journalists, I think the answer to that is pretty obvious. Give disabled gamers greater opportunities to write about games, especially if we are going to use disability as a talking point for issues like making difficult games easier.
Mostly I have learned a valuable lesson about questioning the origins of my own opinions, and being a bit more open to others when they express theirs. I think Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was worth the entry fee, just for that.