Bloodborne did not need an easy mode.
Dark Souls 3 did not need an easy mode.
It's a topic that comes up every time a new From Software game releases. The games are too hard, therefore they need an easy mode. It has never been true. It never will be true. And to cut to the chase, if you believe it is, it's because you are missing the intent of entertainment that is the core of every From game.
There's something we've come to take for granted in the Western video game market. It has become the core of Western games that the entire medium of video games exists purely for non-committal entertainment value. And I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with that, I really don't. Life is hard, and games should be fun, whatever that means to you. Horizon: Zero Dawn has the same inherent fun no matter what difficulty setting you play it on, so long as that setting is engaging for the things you seek as a player. I played it on the hardest possible setting because it was more engaging for me to struggle against the huge robots that far outmatched my initial skill level, but a friend played it through on Normal and still enjoyed it. Aloy's journey is the same, the robot AI behaves the same, it's all fine and dandy. The indelible story of Master Chief in the original Halo trilogy is just as compelling if you want to play on Easy or Legendary, because of the pure entertainment value that the game series is trying to convey. It's pretty universally well known at this point, that the intended difficulty of the Halo games is Heroic. But I played them on Normal and love them just the same. My buddy played them on Legendary LASO. Both of those experiences are awesome. And perhaps most surprising, I play Gears of War... on Casual. Not because I can't play them on Insane, I've done that run, but because I just think the games are more fun as a chainsaw-wielding, explosion-filled bloodbath. I don't want to think too hard when I play Gears, I just want to play Gears. I like it better that way.
However, despite my propensity for picking wildly different difficulty settings for many of the games I play, I am devoutly resilient in my defense of From Software's lack of difficulty settings. And it's because From games do not aim to entertain in the same way the majority of Western games do. To suggest otherwise is a fundamental misread of what the games are trying to achieve.
To explain what I mean, for most video games, the intent of entertainment is to provide a wide-ranging possibility of experience, that allows the majority of players to find something within the game to enjoy regardless of what they're searching for. A fun romp through the story? We've got you. A brutally punishing test of endurance and wit? Also here, if you crank it up. This is a fine concept, and one that I don't begrudge if the game is built from the ground up to facilitate it. But that's not what From's games are here to do.
The intent of entertainment in From's Souls-borne games, a legacy from which Sekiro proudly inherits, is that they are hard... until they aren't anymore. This is something that every series veteran can tell you. After you beat one of these games, learn their internal combat rhythms and timings, explore every area, and discover the secrets, the games become less difficult because you, the player, have cranked up your own difficulty threshold. My first run of Sekiro took me forty-five hours, as I slowly internalized the game's unique dance of death and learned through failure. I even threw my controller once. But I beat it. New game+ took me ten hours. New game++ took me five. I stopped counting how many times I died on my first run. On new game++, my total death count was three, all of which were 100% my fault because I got too cocky.
This is the intent of the game series. Not to entertain in the sense we typically understand of video games, but to entertain by providing a visceral, brutally engaging experience that has been built, from the ground up, to facilitate a sense of accomplishment by providing one difficulty setting. Not two. You learn by failing, but you are never barred from trying again. Or failing again. But that's the point. You learn the move sets. You get better at the game's systems. You become more at-home with the controls and the rhythm of combat. Until, at some point, it clicks, you kill the boss, and you move on to bigger and better.
This experience is not meant for every player. But it was never designed to be. The truth of the matter is that From's fame with Dark Souls simply happened because they were poised in the right place at the right time, not because they made a game for everyone to enjoy. The Souls-borne games are, always have been, and always will be, deeply niche. You know what game is incredibly difficult, and within the same niche genre? Nioh. And I can say with absolute certainty that I have died more times in Nioh than I did in Sekiro, and by a pretty wide margin. But articles calling for Nioh to have an easy mode are extremely sparse, despite the experience actually being a significant step up from the majority of From's games in terms of difficulty. Why? Because Nioh isn't made by From Software, and therefore doesn't get the mainstream press attention that every From game gets despite its niche intent of entertainment.
The other argument I've begun to see is about adding an easy mode for the sake of accessibility. Not to diminish the value of the game's intended difficulty, but to instead allow people with various cognitive or physical disabilities to get in on the action. This is certainly the most compelling argument, and I do see where it comes from. Lots of people talk about Dark Souls, but not everybody can experience it, so it would be nice to allow more gamers to play. However, if you need assistance in that regard, the Xbox Adaptive Controller has been out for a while now. This controller has an insane amount of options to allow as many people as possible to play games in a setup that works uniquely for them. It accommodates for a lack of fine motor dexterity, missing limbs, you name it. If, even with this option, you are still unable or unwilling to fully engage one of these games, then it's time to accept that... the series isn't for you, and move on. And that's not a bad thing. Games need to cater to a specific audience, and difficulty is so innately married to the intent of entertainment in this series that a great deal of value would be lost in making the games easier. Not for those who play on normal difficulty, but certainly for those who do not.
There are other famously hard games, like Ninja Gaiden, that do in fact have multiple difficulty settings to chose from, but the intent of From's games is not to be brutally sadistic like Gaiden was, not at all. It is intended to teach gameplay through a cycle of failure that will eventually lead to victory, that's exclusively what these games do. I've seen people bring up closed captioning so the deaf can watch television, or braille so blind folks can still read books, and that this same concept should apply to an easy mode in Souls. But this misses the entire point. It would instead be akin to not understanding the film Eraserhead, not because you need closed captions, but because you simply struggle to engage with the film's intent, and then demanding to see a simplified, easily explained version of Eraserhead rather than engage directly with the weird, niche film like its fans have. The difficulty of understanding Eraserhead is tied to the experience of the film in the exact same way that gameplay difficulty in From's action games is tied to the experience of the games. And, like Eraserhead, the Souls-borne games are not meant for all audiences, and that's ok.
To demonstrate what I mean, I'd like to share a story of my time playing Sekiro during my first run.
I struggled against the final boss. Deeply. Perhaps more than in any previous From game. The final boss is hard, requiring players to completely master the rhythm of combat, parries, and counters, timed to his unique attack patterns that mercilessly ruin your health bar if you make a mistake. This final challenge is also the only one in the game with 4 health bars instead of 2 or 3. Eventually I grew so frustrated with this boss that I wanted to quit. If Sekiro had an easy mode, I know for a fact I would have given in to the frustration and used that mode. But that wasn't an option. Either you beat a From action game or you don't. No turning it down, no easy way out. You do it or you don't, that simple. So I put the game down. I watched some videos of others fighting him. I watched strategy guides. I learned his moveset without the interface directly in front of me, like learning a bit more about properly playing an instrument by watching a better musician. The next day, I came back refreshed. Five tries later, I was watching the credits roll, my hands shaking as I was coming down from my adrenaline high. That is the Souls experience. And it is something that would be lost with the addition of an easy mode because the game is meant to be frustrating, enough that some bosses would absolutely drive some players to that mode instead of engaging with the actual intent of the game. Which is why, intentionally, that isn't an option. You can't move the goal posts closer. But you can figure out how to finish the race.
And the result has been clear. The Souls-borne games are massively popular for the niche audience they are trying to garner. They're not Grand Theft Auto V popular, but popular to the tune of three million unit sales of Dark Souls 3 - five hundred thousand more units than Nioh. But despite these numbers, it doesn't change the niche appeal that makes these games so good. These games are loved because they fill a specific niche, not in spite of it. And yet the demands for the games to become mainstream continue to pour in, sequel after sequel, which would directly hinder the core intent of their design. And that is why, no matter how many times you ask, no. No From game needs an easy mode. And they never will.