Don’t Expect From Software Games to Get Easier After Shadow of the Erdtree

It doesn’t get easier from here.

key art from Elden Ring
From Software

Shadow of the Erdtree, the DLC for Elden Ring, is out now and much to no one’s surprise, it’s pretty tough. Even players who’ve already fought their way through the base game multiple times are finding Shadow of the Erdtree to be a considerable challenge, with critics writing that From Software may have finally made a game so difficult it hurts the overall experience. But if you’re hoping that reaction may convince From Software to tone things down for its next release, you may be out of luck, based on what director Hidetaka Miyazaki had to say in a recent interview.

“If we really wanted the whole world to play the game, we could just crank the difficulty down more and more,” Miyazaki told The Guardian. “But that wasn’t the right approach.”

From Software’s games aren’t exactly friendly, but they could be more approachable.

From Software

Over the past few years, the video game industry has moved steadily toward more accessibility in games, a move that From Software has staunchly refused. Accessibility encompasses a large swath of features, from adjustable controls to color blind modes, but difficulty is also part of the conversation. Allowing players to change how taxing it is to beat a game can make it more approachable those who would otherwise be unable to play. That’s led many developers to implement customizable difficulty options in games that allow players to tweak individual parameters like how much damage their character receives and dishes out.

For a game as punishing as Elden Ring, configurable difficulty could bring in new players to the already successful game. In Miyazaki’s view, though, adding those options could actually harm From Software’s games.

“Had we taken that approach, I don’t think the game would have done what it did, because the sense of achievement that players gain from overcoming these hurdles is such a fundamental part of the experience,” Miyazaki said. “Turning down difficulty would strip the game of that joy – which, in my eyes, would break the game itself.”

Shadow of the Erdtree is a major increase to Elden Ring’s already considerable difficulty.

From Software

That’s also a view held by many of From Software’s fans. Any time the question of difficulty comes up in regards to the developer’s games, some of those who’ve already fought their way through them bring up a similar argument, that overcoming their extreme challenge is some of the experience.

To some extent, I see where they’re coming from. I’m not someone who typically likes banging my head against walls for fun, but the sense of accomplishment in overcoming games like Dark Souls and Sekiro is a feeling that no other game really offers. It can go beyond just entertainment, too. In the middle of a particularly bad bout of depression years ago, I beat Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 back to back for the first time, and I do think that experience of triumph in the face of adversity helped break me out of the funk.

On the other hand, remaining committed to extreme difficulty is keeping other players from having that same experience. From Software is a studio filled with developers skilled at making a particular type of difficult game and if anyone can crack the code of how to make games with adjustable difficulty that still retain the same sense of challenge and achievement, it may very well be them.

Opening up multiplayer could be one way to tone down From Software’s burdensome difficulty.

From Software

While Miyazaki’s comments suggest we won’t see diverse difficulty options in a From Software game any time soon, other ways of making the game approachable for more players could be in the works. When asked about the popular Seamless Co-op mode for Elden Ring, which removes the game’s onerous restrictions on multiplayer, Miyazaki told PCGamer, “It's definitely not something we actively oppose or want to downplay,” hinting that From Software could “consider ideas like that with our future games.”

Multiplayer isn’t a full solution to fans’ difficulty woes, but it does show that From Software is at least theoretically open to challenging core parts of its design. Bringing a friend along could also make challenging encounters more manageable — though knowing From Software, it would probably find a way to make exploring with two players just as harrowing as going alone.

Elden Ring was a massive success, so it doesn’t seem like From Software is in danger of driving existing fans away by making its games easier. But if the developer isn’t willing to add industry standard difficulty options, finding more creative ways to adjust the challenge could be a win for everyone.

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