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Power Member - Level 6
With my recent completion of the new Zelda installment, "A Link Between Worlds", I was reminded how much I dislike the idea of an unlockable difficulty after you have completed a game. I feel like this trend has become more noticeable lately and I'll explain why it frustrates me. For the past decade, videogame releases have been increasing exponentially. As you're reading this there are most likely several steam games collecting virtual dust on your account or some other sort of "backlog" of games that you have been meaning to complete, but haven't had the time for. With the lack of free time that most people experience, personally the last thing that I want to do after beating a 20+ hour game is to beat the same game on a harder difficulty for 20+ more hours.
Unlockable difficulties increasingly frustrate me because it usually is not necessary for you to beat the game once already. If you handed "Zelda: A Link Between Worlds" to someone for the first time and started it on its unlockable "Hero Mode", they would most likely be able to complete the game with few problems. There is no trick that you learned playing the game the first time that would make your quest any easier; there was no technique previously learned that if skipped would leave you stuck on a certain puzzle. Harder difficulties often only mean the enemies hit harder, enemies have more hit points, and resources become harder to find.
Developers only make this problem worse by including secret/alternative endings with the hardest difficulty. I shouldn't feel like I'm being held hostage because I'm a completionist and a developer decided to include a bonus ending and dangle it in front of me like a cheese danish. I think developers should leave all difficulties open from the start unless they plan on changing the gameplay beyond "Pixels hurt more and you need to hit pixels more before they implode.". If there is a new difficulty to be unlocked, it should be meaningfully more difficult, make sure there is a reason I needed to complete the game once before tackling this harder challenge.
I can understand why developers include a new difficulty as an unlockable feature, however. It adds replay-value to a game. If a game has higher replay value, it ensures a percentage of those who bought the game will play the game again after beating it. This helps keep buzz generating around the particular game. The longer that people play the game, the more they will share their fun and excitement with friends which leads to more sales. Even though it is a numbers game and developers possibly view it as "bonus content", I view it as an annoyance that hinders my own gameplay experience. I want to play the game on the hardest difficulty available but not have to play through the same experience twice. Rather than focus on adding bonus content to add replay-ability, I think developers should focus on simply making a good game. If the game is good enough it should sell well, and I personally will play it again in a few years once that stale cheese danish has digested.
Thanks for reading, and have a great new year! Join me on Twitter @AlexJWilkie if you enjoy awesome things like videogames, jokes, and videogame related humour! (I enjoy following people who do awesome things as well! :D)