This is a fact I have to remind myself from time to time. This isn’t to say I don’t like a challenge in my video games but that I don’t like when difficulty is a core feature of a game. One or two difficult bosses in a game is a challenge. The game only having difficult bosses is tiresome.
What happens with the “difficulty as feature” games is that they start off harder than your average game and they get harder from there. At the start I might die a lot. The game is suppose to be hard so it’s expected. But then the mechanics click for me and I’m able to progress a bit. That feels good so I keep going. There are a few bumpy parts, some times it takes longer to do something but eventually I succeed.
But in all of these games there comes a point where I don’t have the mechanical skill and/or I don’t have the motivation to put in the effort to improve to continue. Not to mention, as time goes on the feeling of accomplishment from “overcoming” an obstacle fades and what’s left is just fatigue.
Which leads to even less motivation to overcome it. With all that said you think I would know when to hang it up. But by this point I’ve invested so much time it’s hard to walk away. Until I step back and realize I’m not having fun and probably haven’t been for a while.
In my defense, I didn’t know Valfaris was a game that wanted me to “git gud”. I didn’t even know I owned it until it showed up in my Steam Deck Verified collection. Admittedly, I should have realized what kind of game it was going to be when I not only died in the tutorial but received an achievement called “Get Used to It”. Yeah, ok that should have tipped me off.
Originally, this post was going to be about how the short distances between checkpoints made Valfaris’s difficulty a fun rather than frustrating challenge. It’s something I could pick up and play for a level/checkpoint or two and put down which makes it an ideal game for the Steam Deck and it looks really good on the Deck too. Playing in small sessions mitigated the frustration I usually feel when playing games like this.
Or so I thought.
7 and a half hours in I had to bow out. As things got more difficult, I found myself dead more often than not. By the time I got to a boss called the Bloodroot Demon and died a handful of times I was done. By that point I spent more time feeling frustrated and angry than anything remotely resembling fun.
This is by no means unique to this game. Probably against my better judgement I bought Elden Ring on day one.
But Kluwes, you haven’t played a Souls game since Demon Souls….
That’s true, but it’s been a while, I’m ready to try that style of game again!
You do recall the only way you beat Demon Souls was by getting each boss stuck on a piece of scenery and picking them off with a bow?
Ok fine…but this is Elden Ring, the most accessible Souls game yet! I’ll be fine, I know what I’m getting in to even though I probably won’t be able to pull that trick again.
And it was fine until it wasn’t.
After playing it for 40 hours, I found myself more and more frustrated when I was playing but more importantly irritable and on edge when I wasn’t. There was no way I was going to put another 40+ more hours in to it. When a game start effecting you emotionally when you’re not playing is a sure sign that you should step away
It wasn’t you Elden Ring, it was me.
At least in Elden Rings case, this can be eleviated by playing with a very skilled buddy. The game and it’s encounters are certainly not balanced for co-op but it sure is a lot more fun that way. Other times, you end up with games like GTFO which seems hell bent on ending your friendships by the time you fail your missions a few times.
But again, that’s a me thing and not the fault of the games that want to implement such difficulty.
I think my tolerance for difficulty maxes out at Monster Hunter levels of hard and goes down from there. It can be difficult at times but there are so many ways to mitigate damage, get heals in, and get out of the way that it’s never frustrating.There’s also the allure of crafting weapons and armor out of my enemies that leads to a certain kind of satisfaction when things get tough.
Valfaris has a lot of good things going for it. It’s sitting at Very Positive reviews on Steam, it’s got a rockin’ metal soundtrack, it’s got great art, and interesting environments. I’m just not skilled enough, nor am I interested in becoming skilled enough to go any farther. But if you like difficult side scrolling shooters it may just be for you.
Holy smokes does this post ever resonate with me. I am the same way. Fans of super hard games talk about how satisfying it is when you finally beat the boss. For me this can be true in the early game, though even there I’m not sure that moment of satisfaction balances out all the frustration. But later in the game when I finally beat the boss it just feels like momentary relief followed almost immediately by anxiety about how miserable the NEXT boss is going to make me. It’s like pounding on your thumb with a hammer just to feel good when the pain finally stops! 🙂
Plus I’m a miserable person to be around while I’m playing a hard game. Both while I’m playing and often for several hours after I stop. I’m just irritable and grouchy about the whole experience.
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I love that analogy!
I’m another one on the relief-only train, usually for multiplayer stuff. It makes it very hard to understand those who feel triumph and satisfied happiness on success. Me, I was just glad it’s over and that I don’t have to do it again anymore – which, objectively suggests that I wasn’t really enjoying the activity that was happening prior to that success.
There’s only really been one time that I was swamped with that sense of overwhelming elation and satisfaction, and that was 8-orb Liadri in GW2 after some 5+ years of considering it impossible to even attempt. Mostly because my computer system and internet connection and ability to swap gear and adapt to the situation wasn’t good enough for me to realistically consider a fair playing field attempt until that 5+ years later.
When I did finally give it a go, it went somewhat easier and smoother than I anticipated and had been building up in my mind… That finally triggered elation when it got done. If I had to bang my head against it for days and weeks, I suspect the built up frustration would have triggered only relief instead.
Singleplayer stuff doesn’t really trigger either relief or satisfaction for me, oddly. I tend to just coast on neutral with the standard difficulty (be it a hard difficult default game like Dark Souls or easier standard difficulty) and go on till I hit a wall. Then I try for a bit, search around for suggested solutions and if it works, it works.
If it doesn’t work, then I just put the game down (with possibly the intent of trying it again in the future, and most likely forgetting about it promptly). I think I have zero investment in completion, where singleplayer stuff is concerned, so it never gets to the point of frustration.
I think multiplayer stuff is harder for me to deal with because of players progressing at different paces. Some content can get more difficult as time moves on, because no one wants to do the content anymore. That implicit time limit can provoke anxiety and a need to complete, and that segues into frustration, fear and resultant relief.
I am ever so slowly figuring out that I need to deal with multiplayer stuff the same way I relate to singleplayer stuff. Give it a try on the difficulty as presented, and if it works, great. If it doesn’t work, then put it down and move on without see-sawing on the emotion train too much.
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