The latest gaming difficulty discourse has caused my brain to start hollowing. Gamers, content creators, and writers alike have been discussing whether Final Fantasy 16 is too easy. For those who think the game was too easy on the first playthrough, there is a question of why the Final Fantasy Mode-type difficulty before a second run.
Of course, this idea has been turned into “People will say Elden Ring shouldn’t have an easy mode, but then complain about no hard mode in Final Fantasy 16.” Well, there are some clear differences between difficult options in both games, and I’m here to put this to rest.
The Difficulty is Part of the Elden Ring Experience
Regardless of your opinion on an easy mode in the Soulsborne games, there is a clear reason why one still hasn’t been added. Hidetaka Miyazaki, the Creative Director at FromSoftware, has repeatedly told fans that overcoming the hardship that has been interwoven into his games is part of the identity. The initial difficulty is part of the soul of these games, and removing it means essentially creating an entirely different game.
In an interview with the New Yorker, Hidetaka Miyazaki addressed the difficulty concerns. “We are always looking to improve, but, in our games specifically, hardship is what gives meaning to the experience. So, it’s not something we’re willing to abandon at the moment. It’s our identity.” His stance on the importance is clear.
Anyone who has completed a Soulsborne game, which includes most FromSoftware games released after Demon’s Souls, will tell you that your first one is by far the hardest. Why is that? It’s because the games are meant to be much easier after you understand them. All of a sudden, in the middle of your latest Dark Souls run, you might just start taking down bosses without breaking a sweat.
Out of all the games from Demon’s Soul onward, Elden Ring happens to be one of the easiest and is a great way to learn the Soulsborne formula. There are tons of ways to level up, overpower enemies, and cheese your way to victory. But at the end of the day, every player had to conquer the exact same battles, and that’s what makes the games so special. As a community, everyone experiences the same game.
When you add an easy mode option to a game like Elden Ring, there is no longer a shared experience in difficulty. Two players on two different difficulties didn’t take down the same boss.
Difficulty Options are Not Part of the Final Fantasy 16 Identity
The only reason I have heard that harder difficulties are not in Final Fantasy XVI at the start is so players can focus on the story. There is definitely some solid reasoning there, and making a game too difficult can hinder the story in some cases. However, there are already two difficulty options focused on action and story. Both of these don’t even count the accessibility options that can serve as a third difficulty.
On top of that, players are free to skip the story cutscenes if they really want to. Dialogue can be sped up in smaller conversations and side quests can be passed up entirely. Some players will never even pay attention and the game doesn’t force them to. In the case of Elden Ring, you are forced to take on that challenge in one way or another, and that’s why it’s part of the identity.
And at the end of the day, Final Fantasy 16 does have an even harder mode in New Game Plus. But again, there is no reason not to give the action-focused players this option right away. It simply serves as a carrot on a stick for a massive game that most players won’t have the time to run a second time right after the credits roll.
You will never see difficulty options hidden behind New Game Plus in a FromSoftware game because it’s not part of the game. Comparing how difficulty works in Final Fantasy 16 to Elden Ring just doesn’t make sense and it detracts from the simple conversation over combat in the adventure we all love with Clive.
In other words, Elden Ring should never have difficulty options and Final Fantasy 16 should have had the hard mode available from the start. And there is my Human Effigy.