Editorial: Difficulty Spikes

"This battle was not difficult"

Lost Odyssey Battle

Hello LusiSlaves! We have all played games, of course, and during our time playing we all have come to the point in which the difficulty of the game seems to, very quickly, ramp up. This has been termed by the gaming community as a “difficulty spike”. I have found that the difficulty spike happens in games of the RPG genre more often than not. As many of the readers know I was playing through the Mistwalker RPG Lost Odyssey. For the first three discs I was having an amazing time. The story was engaging, the boss battles were manageable, random encounters were quick, the dungeons were of appropriate length, and the puzzles in said dungeons were crafty and clever. Then I hit the mother of all difficulty spikes otherwise known as, Lost Odyssey‘s fourth disc.

The story slowed to a crawl, the boss battles were extremely difficult, random encounters now took as long as some of the more recent boss fights, the dungeons were long, and over half the time I thought I was solving a chain of puzzles to then have those same puzzles have nothing to do with advancing thus leaving me lost with no clue on how to continue. It is like when you are eating a ripe fruit, every bite is tasty and juicy, and as you get to the end of said fruit the last couple of bites are bitter and dry. But, being the persistent gamer that I am, I continued through the difficult disc. I fought until the very end when I got to the last boss chain that would lead me into the end cutscene, only to find that my party was under-leveled. Normally this would not be a problem, but this is Lost Odyssey where only certain monsters who are at your level will grant you experience and the area which had the monsters that I needed had just been sent down into the sea never to rise again. Well… I was good and properly fucked at this point. But nevertheless I went back to that boss a few more times and just could not get past the fourth of fifth turn with him, and thus in utter defeat I did, what I like to call, the “YouTube Ending”.

YouTube Logo

YouTube Logo

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past since 2006, the “YouTube Ending” is happens when a gamer is fed up with the game he or she is currently playing thus, in a fit of frustration they hurriedly rush to their computer or laptop device and watch the ending on youtube.com. Inn this type of situation I had very few choices. The first of which was to load a previous save file, but the previous save was from almost ten hours before my current predicament. The second choice was, of course, the “YouTube Ending”. Finally, I could make the drastic choice of completely restarting the game and try to be properly leveled. Taking into account that I did not know how much longer I would have the Xbox 360 I am using to play Lost Odyssey, and still having yet to really play Blue Dragon, I made the choice that was easiest for me to move on. At the end of the day, I do not support doing the “YouTube Ending”. I believe gamers should try their hardest to get through as much of a game as possible before having to make similar choices to the ones I listed above.

I sit here, as I write this post, wondering why difficulty spikes are put into games? With the video game development industry being as old as it is you would think that many high profile developers would have mastered raising the difficulty level of games gracefully. Readers, have you ever experienced a massive difficulty spike that all but forced you to stop playing the game? In conclusion, I would like to say that this post is not a plea for easier games. It is a plea for developers to learn that difficulty should not be completely easy or impossibly hard. Developers should ease the players into the difficulty not hit them over the head with it.

10 Comments

  1. Imitanis
    Posted 2012.07.27 at 09:30 | Permalink

    Having recently played Rainbow Moon, I can say that game has a fair amount of difficulty spike in it on the harder difficulty setting. Even if your characters match levels, the enemies could have an extra action point than you.

    I have no problem grinding for difficulty spikes in games, but to have the choice to progress your character further removed because you can’t gain XP? That just seems like madness to me.

  2. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2012.07.27 at 09:59 | Permalink

    -There is however a third option to such predicaments. One can go to Gamefaqs and see whether anyone has posted an appropriate save file to get you past the encounter – though this process might be a bit too much effort to go to just to play through the last boss.

  3. Ethos
    Posted 2012.07.27 at 13:57 | Permalink

    I struggle with the YouTube Ending dilemma too. It doesn’t help that I’m bad at video games.

  4. Blitzmage
    Posted 2012.07.27 at 14:42 | Permalink

    @Imitanis Yeah I had the same feeling as well toward the gaining of XP. If this was a review I would have pointed out that this “feature” is game breaking, and not in a good way. To have something like that come from the people behind some of the greatest RPGs is a true sadness.

    @SiliconNooB My name isn’t Luis

    @Ethos I find that as I get older and have less time for video games that the “YouTube Ending” becomes more and more appealing when I just want to finish a game and move on.

  5. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2012.07.27 at 15:26 | Permalink

    If the choice is between downloading a virtual memory card to play my game to completion or watching the rest of it on YouTube, then I will take the former option every time. There is a huge difference between downloading a save in order to progress beyond an impasse and downloading a save so you can lie to everyone about platinuming a game.

  6. Mel
    Posted 2012.07.27 at 16:31 | Permalink

    Did he just tell you guys that he was cheating platinums and not expect a bad reaction?

  7. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.07.27 at 16:36 | Permalink

    @Mel: He seemed totally baffled by his outrageous cheating. He was baffled again, subsequently, when he cheated on the sequel.

  8. Mel
    Posted 2012.07.28 at 00:18 | Permalink

    He was baffled by his own cheating?

  9. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2012.07.28 at 02:45 | Permalink

    He pretended to bafflement, as though he expected us to take his crude lies at face value.

  10. The Legendary Zoltan
    Posted 2012.08.14 at 19:17 | Permalink

    I actually like difficulty spikes if they are in normal areas where you can train to meet them. However the best difficulty spikes are ones where you don’t have to grind but you have to figure out the trick to defeating that particular boss. Like Deus in Xenogears. He has an attack that halves everyone’s HP including his own but if you attack him he counters with a huge healing spell. So you have to wait until he lowers his own HP low enough to take him out in a single hit. That was EPIC!