The Difference Between Hard and Annoying

gaming difficulty

Sorry about how slow it’s been around here lately guys, but other than Mass Effect 3 dominating our lives (and every news post on every other site), there’s hasn’t really been much else to report on. There’s a new Sim City, I suppose, but what do you need to know? You make buildings, lose them to tornadoes, c’est la vie.

Given the lack of news and new releases, I’ve been replaying Mass Effect 3 on Insanity, trying to make Mass Effect 3 the first game in the series that I get 100% of the achievements on. So far it’s been fine, but the thing about cover based shooters is that on the hardest difficulty, the game pulls some really cheap tricks to make things difficult for you.

Since being in cover essentially makes you invincible (as one would expect), stepping out in to the open means certain death via some BS means like stun locking. Getting caught out in the open in Mass Effect 3 is survivable on normal but on Insanity it’s an instant death sentence. This doesn’t make the combat encounters challenging, but more of a slog because it mainly comes down to finding the one corner where enemies can’t flank you and just wasting them with power and ammo until you win.

Games do a really poor job at being difficult (there are exceptions like Dark Souls and the like) and that’s what makes doing runs on Insanity or Legendary or whatever such a chore. Maybe it’s too hard to design higher difficulty levels because most people just play it on normal, but increasing the amount of damage done to you incrementally doesn’t actually count. Halo: Reach was one of the last games to make a fun, challenging experience on Legendary; there were actually more things done to change the way the enemies behaved, and the energy weapon projectiles were faster meaning that not getting out of the way of a plasma pistol volley could spell the death of your Noble Six.

What games have you guys played recently that have given you a run for your money? What games have really poor excuses for the highest difficulty level? Do game developers need to start making harder games overall? Go!

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mitch@gamersushi.com Twitter: @mi7ch Gamertag: Lubeius PSN ID: Lubeius SteamID: Lube182 Origin/EA:Lube182 Currently Playing: Stardew Valley, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, Battlefield 4, Tom Clancy Double Feature: Rainbow Six Siege and The Division

7 thoughts on “The Difference Between Hard and Annoying”

  1. Yeah, Im not a fan when Hard Mode means only enemies with more health and damage. Its becoming harder and harder to find the sweet spot when playing campaigns, I either breeze through dying on occasion or bump up the difficulty and cant walk 10 feet. I think things like less ammo or taking away from the HUD will always be better then the “you barely scratch these guys” approach.

  2. Hey Mitch!

    Don’t worry about the slowdown. I’ve been going through my backlog of games I’d been putting off I didn’t want to play (Dragon Age II, Arkham Asylum, etc.) because I knew they’d suck up all my freetime.

    As for your assessment of ME3’s difficulty curve (or means of simulating a legitimate curve), I agree that the AI uses nasty tricks to beat you.

    The most annoying cheat I noticed the game uses on insanity is giving all enemy guns AP rounds on top of whatever visible upgrade they have (disruptor, frost, fire ammo). So even while in cover, I was always getting clipped every so often by enemy fire and my shields refused to regenerate.

    It’s rather hard to ever say a difficulty curve is fair since it’s usually trying to kill me and I want it to fail. Ace Combat games seem fair to me simply because I understand how frail aircraft are. On the Normal and Hard modes, you can survive a missile hit. On Ace, 1 missile can kill you; a 3 second burst from a machine gun can kill you; I’m sure if they added a flock of geese mechanic to the game, then that would kill you.

  3. League of Legends is pretty tough, but in a (sort of) fair way. It demands that you learn and evolve with times or you die. Lonely. Because you were ganked by a couple of guys whilst pushing a solo lane too far. I used to be guilty of doing that so much. I got better.

    W@W had the worst excuse for harder difficulty. Grenades x 100 does not maketh a difficulty level.

    As for what games have given me a genuine run for my money? I really dunno. The Total War games are challenging, but that may be my fault for over expanding too quickly, lol.

    Just remembered! AC: Rev is a nice level of challenging I find. The combat is very satisfying and the chaining of attacks doesn’t seem to break the game as much as it did in Brotherhood. That and the enemies with guns provide a moment of dread when I’m running away from a particularly large group of enemies.

  4. It’s really hard to think of a game that gave me a genuine run for my money in terms of challenging difficulties. Most games nowadays make it damn near impossible for you to at least work for the challenge. It would seem that one step out of cover institutes simultaneous death.

    If I had to choose a game that gave me a run for my money, it would have to be Dead Space 2. On top of sparser ammo, you only got 3 saves the whole game! One fuck up and you may as well be doing a replay til you got it to work.

  5. I think the best experience I’ve had on a harder difficulty would have to be Doom 3. Not only were the enemies harder, but the environment even changed as you progressed.
    Deus Ex: Human Revolution would’ve been great on the harder difficulty if nearly one shot didn’t get you killed.

  6. @ Nic: I played DXHR on Hard mode while doing my Pacifist run. And I saved Malik. Don’t be complainin’. lol

    This reminds me of an article one of you Gamersushimen made about replaying Metal Gear Solid on the hardest difficulty, and how it was more fun than the easier modes because it forced you to be smart and use everything at your disposal. I think that’s what sets a good difficult from an annoying one.

    A harder difficulty needs to force the player to change the way they play from the standard running-and-gun or hide behind cover. In fact, forcing the player to live with the consequences of their decisions and mistakes makes for a harder experience than dying more frequently.

  7. @ SkubaPatr0l: Oh Crap, I forgot about League of Legends. New patches adding and deleting items. New champions, reduxes of old champions. I miss Sword of the Divine. It’s additional Armor Penetration synergized perfectly with my Rune Page. So yeah, LoL has a good difficulty curve.

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