In an interview with The Washington Post, Gavin Moore, creative director of the Demon’s Souls PS5 remake, revealed that the game features over 180 help videos that can be easily accessed via the PlayStation 5’s impressive UI system.
That’s a number that stands a testament to the potential of the PS5’s Game Help system, even as we wait to see whether or not more developers will ultimately choose to utilize that system over the long term. It’s also a number that could very well offer a somewhat unlikely solution to the debate over implementing an “Easy Mode” into Soulslike games.
You’ve probably heard some variation of this debate before, but the basic argument sees one group of gamers suggest that Soulslike games should feature difficulty options designed to make the infamously difficult titles more accessible. Opposing them is a group of gamers who feel that the difficulty of those titles is an essential part of their design and that lowering the challenge would compromise the experience. Granted, those arguments typically devolve into the phrase “Git Gud” at some point, but that’s the general idea.
The crux of the debate comes down to game design philosophy and the cultures it inspires. After all, developers can’t flip a switch and implement difficulty levels. The path of least resistance in that respect would likely involve altering certain parameters in lower difficulty modes so that enemies have less health or players deal more damage. A more complicated solution would involve fundamentally altering the design of easier modes to offer an experience that was built from the ground up with lower difficulty in mind.
That’s why this debate often reaches an impasse. The fact is that From Software (and other developers who make Soulslike games) has previously indicated that they’re not interested in offering traditional difficulty levels in their games. Even if they were, there’s still an argument to be had regarding how you offer difficulty options in those games in a way that will please the people who love the challenges they offer and the people who feel that they’re not able to even play these games while they’re so overtly (sometimes punishingly) difficult.
This is where the PS5’s Game Help system and Demon’s Souls‘ help videos could offer a fascinating compromise.
We haven’t seen a detailed breakdown of Demon’s Souls‘ help videos, but if we use existing fan FAQ videos as a basis, most of them will probably focus on where to go, what order to do things in, character build suggestions, and, perhaps, optimal boss fight strategies.
However, Demon’s Souls isn’t the kind of game where a walkthrough or help video is going to immediately solve the problem for you. They could offer a little guidance for when you reach that point of frustration where you just don’t know how to proceed, but unlike puzzle heavy games that can be “solved” via a walkthrough, there’s still a divide in Demon’s Souls between knowing what to do and mechanically executing the solution.
While there are some Soulslike fans who insist that the only way to properly play these games is to bang your head against the wall until you break through to the other side, the fact is that there are thousands of Souls fans who have used FAQs and walkthroughs to figure out some of the basics and then went on to fall in love with the games anyway. I know that’s true because I am one of those fans.
That’s what makes these videos so fascinating. They’re helpful aides that can be accessed while playing the game but exist outside of the foundational design elements of the Demon’s Souls remake. They exist if you want them, but they won’t affect the people who don’t and they require little effort from the developers compared with the task of designing multiple difficulty levels.
Even if these videos won’t entirely solve the “easy mode’ debate (spoilers: they won’t) they represent a step in the right direction. For those who feel that they can’t simply sit down with a game like Demon’s Souls and play them without this lingering feeling of dread, the videos exist to help curb the impact of some of the game’s more frustrating elements. If you crave that challenge, you don’t need to watch the videos and perhaps can even take solace in the idea that these videos may allow studios to pursue the development of more challenging games while knowing that they can fall back on a universal help system.
Whether or not more developers will actually take advantage of this system remains to be seen, but it’s one of those examples of how next-gen gaming’s advancements extend beyond better graphics and could help us change how we think about the seemingly simple act of playing games.