What’s Wrong with Easy Modes in Games?

How Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Changed My Mind

A few months ago, right around the time that players were getting an existential dose of reality in the form of a game called Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, an old argument reemerged into the mainstream. Article after article appeared discussing the difficulty of a game like Sekiro. At the time, I stood with other gamers who said, “No, games do not need more easy modes/accessibility modifiers”. But that mindset slowly changed as I began to revisit a game I had to blow the dust off of:

Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (which will be referenced as XC2 from this point forward) in 2019 in comparison to it’s launch in 2017 is a drastic shift. See, when I first played XC2, I logged 40 hours (give or take) and I’m positive 20 of those hours were spent grinding out monster battles and fetch quests. This is nothing new for JRPGs but it became so prevalent that I stopped playing and decided I’d come back at a later time. It also didn’t help that by the time I reached Chapter 5 and landed at Rigette Harbor, I was under-leveled and was decimated by the local wildlife. Alas, I decided I was done for now.

That was in December of 2017.

With a brain that had dumped all semblance of information related to XC2 since then, I picked the game up again this past month and started a new game. As the game warned me that I would overwrite my 40 hour save file, I sighed and moved to the next screen. The game then asked me if I wanted to play on Easy or Normal. Curious, I picked Easy mode to see how different of an experience I would have this time around. Easy mode was added to the game in the Spring of 2018 as part of a patch (I guess they received my emails). So, how easy is easy mode? Well, at the time of writing, my current save file is around 24 hours and I have caught up to where I was in 2017, albeit progressed a little farther in a few areas. That’s a 16 hour difference.

Now, playing on Easy has had it’s share of difficult fights; enemies that swarm you can overwhelm your tank and destroy your squad, if you’re not careful. I’ve also done some research before starting this play through and have a better grasp of the game’s mechanics and how leveling up your Blades work. While I still have gripes about the game (the compass and objective markers in this game are still useless), I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying my experience more this time around.

And it’s because of the addition of an Easy mode.

Suddenly, I started seeing what other people were saying. They weren’t demanding that developers put this mode (or game modifiers) in but rather, they asked why not make your game more accessible to more people? As a big proponent of capitalism, from a business standpoint, it makes sense. Consider also that the addition of such a mode does not hinder another player’s experience either. As I play XC2 and progress through the story, I’m finding myself more and more wondering, “Yeah, why don’t developers give players more options?”

Now, I’m aware that most games come with difficulty settings already. I’m not about to say video games lack diversity in that department. And a large portion of the charm of a game like Sekiro is the difficulty and overcoming those challenges. But do games necessarily need to be realistic in that sense? They are, after all, a video game.

Suffice it to say, if a game like Sekiro had an easy mode (or some kind of modifiers that adjusted certain aspects of the game), I would have finished it rather than deleting it off my Playstation.