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Best "Hard Modes" in Games

Discussion in 'General Gaming' started by DalekFlay, Jul 8, 2020.

  1. DalekFlay Arcane Patron

    DalekFlay
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    Why did I not know about this. Suddenly a STALKER replay is high on my agenda.
     
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  2. Ol' Willy Arcane Zionist Agent

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    Master is rather unforgiving though. You catch one unlucky burst and you die. Considering how much Stalker AI loves movement that's a very possible occurrence.
     
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  3. Carrion Arcane Patron

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    In Operation Flashpoint, raising the difficulty level disables a bunch of stuff like waypoint markers, tags that tell you whether you're aiming at an enemy or an ally (sounds insignificant but is not), your and everyone else's position on the map, weapon crosshair, third-person view, pretty much everything that is in some way unrealistic or gamey. It also improves the AI and makes you as vulnerable to bullets as everyone else. It really makes a difference, especially when you're trying to pull off some one-man commando mission in the middle of the night, way behind enemy lines, trying to find your objectives and get back while avoiding enemy patrols. Getting lost in the forests is very much a possibility.
     
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  4. DalekFlay Arcane Patron

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    Removing guide arrows and whatnot on a "hard" mode is a great thing. Not only because I dislike them visually, but also because it will force the developers to design the game around not having them.
     
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  5. I'm Big Into Anal Arcane

    I'm Big Into Anal
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    STALKER on master is the only way to play
     
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  6. samuraigaiden Cipher

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    For FPS games, the most important thing is hard mode shouldn't make enemies bullet-sponges. That's the problem with Bioshock and why it's hard mode sucks.

    The "realistic" difficulty in Deus Ex is beautiful because everyone dies quickly. High stakes, big rewards.
     
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  7. markec Twitterbot Patron

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    While pretty much every strategy game makes difficulty harder only by giving bonuses to AI, penalties to the player and making AI more aggressive, one good example of something different is Birthright: The Gorgon's Alliance.

    In that game you had three difficulty settings, easy, normal and hard. Those choices limits what options player and AI have on strategy map. When on easy you can only do basic stuff like diplomacy, mustering troops and going on adventure. While on hardest you do everything from building fortifications, do complex trades and even cast global magic. Added to that is that even the some basic decisions that were automatic on easy now required dice throws to decide the outcome.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
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  8. RoSoDude Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    I prefer difficulty settings that are centered around adding replayability rather than catering to different skill levels. Oftentimes with the latter you end up with one difficulty that the game was actually designed around, with the others scaled up or down from it in ways that aren't interesting or well thought out (e.g. Doom/Quake are meant to be played on Ultra-Violence/Hard, as lower difficulties lack critical encounter design and Nightmare is just dumb). The effect is multiplied when the player is given separate tuning variables for features of gameplay, resulting in a matrix of possible variations that can be tough to sift through to arrive at an engaging experience. I'd rather the designers focus their efforts on designing a small handful of carefully tuned difficulty modes which provide some incentive to come back to the game once it's been mastered, or dispense with the notion altogether (replayability can come from other factors, like RPG build variety, self-restricted challenge runs, and so on). I won't complain too much about being able to tweak modern games to provide an adequate challenge that wouldn't be marketable to a broader audience, but it's a paradigm that I think has less potential for varied and interesting experiences.

    Having said that, I strongly disagree with the popular mantra that the Thief games were meant to be played on Expert from the getgo. It seems clear to me that the intention was for the higher difficulties to add replayability to the missions via new objectives, less player health to make mistakes more punishing, and new stipulations on gameplay such as no kill restrictions which invalidate some of the player’s recovery options (if you start on Expert, you'll rarely get to play around with broadhead arrows, fire arrows, or mines). Once you've learned the mission layouts and gotten the hang of the stealth systems, you can challenge yourself against tougher guard arrangements, scarcer resource placement, and more thorough burglary requirements for levels that you've already been through. This is one of the reasons I prefer the first game -- T2's Hard difficulty is equivalent to T1's Normal difficulty in player health and additional objectives, so it can be thought of as the default difficulty, while T1 had a genuine Hard mode that was an intermediate step between the freedom of Normal and the constraints of Expert.

    Thief's difficulty model was directly inspired by Goldeneye, which also added new mission objectives and altered level features, guard placement, and item pickups in addition to raising combat damage. Perfect Dark does the same and it's implemented with more intelligent tracking of mission objective states and some really clever mission ideas -- for example, in the Carrington Villa hostage rescue mission, you start on a cliff with a sniper rifle on the lower difficulties to save a negotiator who's been led out to the docks to be killed, while on the highest difficulty you actually start as the negotiator and must fight through the villa from a totally different starting point with different equipment. Replaying on harder difficulties really requires you to know the levels inside and out and features much more punishing combat as well.

    A lot of the Castlevania games have featured excellent Hard modes, even as far back as the first NES game which had multiple NG+ cycles with new enemy placements like in Dark Souls 2. Especially interesting is the two-pronged approach to replayable harder difficulties in several of Igarashi's games -- you can either play Hard mode NG with a fresh character, or you can play Hard Mode NG+ with your old gear but locked to max level 1, with enemies dealing extra damage on level capped playthroughs to account for the gear transfer. In addition to statistical differences, enemies often feature new behaviors (most as simple as speed or range increases, but some will have new and empowered attacks). Weighing all of these aspects, Portrait of Ruin had the best Hard mode in my view -- Order of Ecclesia was broadly similar, but the number tuning made it more frustrating from what I recall. On a related note, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is expertly designed around its various modes (separate from its Veteral/Casual choice, whose only valid answer is Veteran), which present a clever ramp in difficulty via its character system, changing how you have to engage with the same level content on repeat playthroughs.

    System Shock 2 gets an honorable for modulating stats in an intelligent manner. Player health and psi scale with difficulty, as do the nanite cost to buy things in replicators and the cyber module cost to purchase character upgrades. I'd add more to this (nanite cost for healing and respawning, camera detection time, AI parameters, resource distribution, etc.), but it's a decent start for a game focused on survival and careful character building. I already complained about individually tunable sliders in this post, but System Shock 1's 3/3/3/3 difficulty is pretty intense thanks to the global 7 hour time limit. It's something you can only do on a second playthrough once you know where all your objectives are, and the task of optimizing your time spent exploring for valuable resources vs. beelining to the critical path adds a whole new dimension to the game. The time pressure also fixes a lot of the incentive to rely on degenerate strategies, which is noteworthy even if the second game did it more elegantly with a tigher resource economy and the threat of constant enemy respawning.

    I'm not sure if you were implying it's the case, but the common myth that enemies die more quickly on Realistic difficulty isn't true. It only affects combat damage taken by the player. In truth, Deus Ex's difficulty settings are quite poor -- On Easy/Normal/Hard/Realistic you take 1/2/3/4x combat damage. Considering that the base damage on the pistol is 14 and you take double damage on the head and torso, this means that enemies on the first level can oneshot you on Realistic difficulty (14 x 2 x 4 = 112; you have 100 head and torso health), while the later enemies wielding Assault Guns will just pepper you with 3 base damage a shot which is easily mitigated by the Ballistic Armor aug. It's an inverse difficulty curve where the beginning of the game is brutal and the later sections are comparatively trivial. Not to mention, it's very lackluster to have difficulty affect only combat damage in a game with such a significant stealth component. A disquieting number of stealth-oriented players will reload their save the moment they're spotted anyway, so a Realistic stealth playthrough is essentially the same as an Easy stealth playthrough.
     
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  9. what am i doing Arcane Patron

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    EYE: Divine Cybermancy on high difficulty changes the game a lot, from being somewhat HL2-esque (you can stand out in the open and tank enemies) to requiring extensive use of cover and stealth when fighting most enemies, because they are so accurate and can kill you so quickly (a common looter can put a bullet through your skull and kill you as soon as you come into his line of sight). It changes the experience a lot and makes the gameplay somewhat more like the early game where caution is required. Granted, with a high level character and certain cybernetic abilities, you can still tank, but it's much harder.
     
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  10. samuraigaiden Cipher

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    RoSoDude what I meant is that in Deus EX even on the hardest difficulty you can still kill an enemy with a single head shot and the difficulty increase comes from the enemy also being able to kill you with a headshot. It makes the player more vulnerable and doesn't make combat slower.

    Bioshock presents it's basic combat mechanics with the "ol' one-two" line about stunning the enemy with electricity and then killing it with the wrench. Thing is, in hard mode it doesn't make sense because one hit with the wrench doesn't kill it anymore. That's stupid.
     
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  11. Ol' Willy Arcane Zionist Agent

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    Also, Hitman Blood Money difficulty levels:

    Rookie
    • Full Agency assistance.
    • Accommodating AI.
    • Very high amount of health.
    • Unlimited saves.
    • No notoriety impact.
    Normal
    • Some Agency assistance.
    • Normal AI.
    • High amount of health.
    • 7 saves per level.
    Expert
    • Low Agency assistance.
    • Increased AI behavior.
    • Fairly low amount of health.
    • Evidence can impact your mission rating.
    • 3 saves per level in Hitman: Blood Money.
    Professional
    • Minimal Agency assistance.
    • Advanced AI behavior.
    • Very low health.
    • Evidence can impact rating.
    • No saves permitted.
    • Only 47, VIPs, optional targets and main targets are visible on your map.
     
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  12. Sordid MCA/Prosper Hybryd Arcane Patron

    Sordid MCA/Prosper Hybryd
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  13. Ed123 Arcane Patron

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  14. Egosphere Magister

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    Serious Sam FE/SE - on serious difficulty it just spawns much more enemies and drowns you in ammunition, making it into a proper horde shooter. Easier difficulties either don't give you enough ammo, or not enough enemies for a proper scrap
     
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  15. Semiurge Cipher

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    System Shock 1 mission difficulty set to '3' on first playthrough.
     
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  16. otsego Cipher

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    I've always found Hitman's flexible 'soft difficulty setting' very engaging. How you self-impose rules on yourself to get Silent Assassin.

    Sure you could choose a difficulty level that changes HP and AI behaviour (playing on anything less than Professional should cause the game to self-delete), but unlike in Thief you are not forced by objective to play stealthier.

    It allows you to play through the game on a respectable difficulty that allows for mistakes, and then re-evaluate and return to get the perfect 1-headshot-or-all-accident-target-only-suit-exit ratings.
     
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  17. Zlaja Arcane

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    Yeah, this was really fucking dumb. I replayed Bioshock fairly recently and got myself killed because I expected the enemy to die after I hit him once with the wrench after zapping him. SURPRISE, BITCH!
     
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  18. DalekFlay Arcane Patron

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    The added puzzles were often super stupid, but I do always like when harder modes add more story/quest content.

    Really like this post, I think "soft" difficulty options are often my favorites. Playing Dishonored for example, it's insanely easy to just get through it even on the hardest mode. However also going for 100% ghost? And getting all the items? Without quicksaving every 5 seconds? Much more of a challenge you can opt-into.
     
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  19. AW8 Arcane

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    I've always liked the difficulty levels in Crysis. Enemy health isn't affected at all, but cranking up the difficulty from Easy to Delta:
    • Makes the enemy shoot at you from greater range
    • Makes them react quicker upon spotting you to give chase/shoot at you
    • Allows more enemies to fire at you at the same time
    • Makes the enemy kill you faster (I'm not sure if their damage is increased, the config settings imply they're just allowed to shoot at you more often and more precisely)
    • Forces you to tag enemies manually with your binoculars (instead of them automatically being added to your map, putting more emphasis on spotting enemies before a firefight to avoid being overrun)
    • Makes enemies lay down suppressive fire at your location for a longer period
    • Removes the grenade warning indicator (forcing you to listen for the metallic sound instead)
    • Removes the crosshair
    • Makes health regen slower
    • Disallows driving a vehicle and using the mounted machine gun at the same time
    • Makes the enemy speak Korean (mostly a meme, but does remove a dialogue cue for incoming grenades unless you speak it)
    When playing on Delta, enemies go down just as quickly as on Easy, but you're a glass cannon that'll die in seconds if you're caught with your pants down.
     
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  20. Max Damage Learned

    Max Damage
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    SHMUPs handle difficulty settings quite well, I'd say. In general, enemy bullets get faster and come in denser barrages, sometimes in totally different patterns. So when game becomes harder it's because you need to be more aware of you surroundings, dodge/kill faster to prevent deaths in first place. You indeed need to play smarter, not just shoot enemies for a few moments more, I honestly can't remember any SHMUP that ups enemy health with difficulty. For such conservative genre, it always finds a way to challenge you non-linearly.
     
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  21. samuraigaiden Cipher

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    You have to give it to Crysis. Making the enemies speak a foreign language at the hardest difficulty is pretty fucking cool.
     
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  22. DalekFlay Arcane Patron

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    I did a delta playthrough and enjoyed it, but I did dislike the removal of using mounted weapons on vehicles. Just because the game was obviously designed and balanced around being able to do that in vehicle focused areas.
     
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  23. AW8 Arcane

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    Cars (and boats) are actually pretty useless on Delta due to this, and I only ever drive them across cleared areas. I get that they were going for a choice between mobility or offense, but the second you have enemy contact you jump out to engage on foot (bonus points for hitting enemies with the car-turned-explosive-projectile), since making yourself a sitting duck is always a terrible tactical decision on a difficulty level where enemies can kill you in seconds over long distances.

    At least they left the tank and APC alone.
     
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  24. Outlander Custom Tags Are For Fags. Patron

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    I wish I could play that game for the first time again...
     
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