I enjoy video games. And if you stumbled upon this blog, you probably do as well. However, as with basically everything in life, there are aspects of gaming that are simply bad or, in this case, "annoying". Why just "annoying"? Because it all comes down to perspective. Something I find deeply frustrating or unfair might very well please another gamer who likes that sort of things. It goes both ways as well. For example, I know many gamers don't like fetch quests found in many RPGs, but I usually don't mind them, especially since most of them are side quests anyways. You get the point. Today we'll talk about difficulty spikes.
Unless you've lived under a rock for the past five years, you've surely heard many gamers complain about the lack of difficulty in today's games. Sure, many games have either 56 checkpoints per chapter, or auto-aim, or in-game guides, or no-death gameplay, or slow-motion shootouts, or lazy A.I., etc. Anything to help the gamer get through the game without any hassle, just entertainment. And, to be honest, it suits many people quite well. I've got some friends who only want to play on easy because they don't wanna be bothered with restarting the same objective all over again, they just wanna be entertained and kill people and think as little as possible. Games are fun, period.
For other, this kind of laziness is basically the fall of mankind. They like it old-school, when games were tough and you had 3 lifes to get through the whole thing, period. They will enjoy Ninja Gaiden and Dark Souls, and will play each and every game on the toughest difficulty setting. They like to be challenged.
Me, I don't mind a challenge from time to time, but I like to play games to have fun and, more importantly, the way they were supposed to be played. In most cases, I will select "Normal" on the difficulty settings the first time I play a game. Sometimes, often for fun because I liked the game the first time around, or for a trophy hunt, I'll select a higher difficulty setting. In other words, I usually don't mind a bit of a challenge.
But there's something that REALLY gets on my nerves when I play a game : difficulty spikes. Obviously no game has even difficulty throughout, that would be boring. But some games go about their business for an hour or two, a few quests including a few fights, maybe a death or two while figuring out an enemy's weakness, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then BAM! you get to fight an enemy, sometimes a boss, who is absurdly stronger than anything you've ever seen. You might die 23 times before you are able to hit him. He has one-hit-kill attacks. You can barely get within 12 feet of his position. You might throw your controller so hard you break your neigbor's car window. And you stop playing the game, eject the disc and return to the shop to yell at the bewildered clerk. I might have exaggerated a wee bit, but you understand what I'm talking about.
Sometimes the enemy (or set piece, puzzle, adversary, race, etc.) makes sense, because you don't have the tools/weapons/skills yet and you've tried to defeat it too soon. Or you just didn't figure out what damages him (that happens a lot). But sometimes it's just too hard, way harder than it ever should be at this stage of the game. Even if it's an game ending boss. Like Crysis' final boss, the gigantic alien mech thingy on the battleship. I played the whole game on the hardest difficulty setting without suffering any major setbacks. A few tough set pieces, sure, but nothing appallingly hard. Then I get to the boss, and I do what I'm supposed to do at the beginning of the fight to make it weaker (those who played the game know). Then I shower him with thousands or bullets/rockets/whatever I have on me. No point, it doesn't affect it one tiny bit. But he can kill me with one attack, even if I'm BEHIND cover. I tried probably 15 times with a few different tactics, even went on www.gamefaqs.com (shame on me, I know, but it's a GREAT website for gaming help). Nothing doing. I still haven't finished the game to this day. And it's a great game.
I know some of you may find that boss easy, or not that hard, but it was the first example that came to mind. I could talk about a boss in Dragon Age II for which I lowered the difficulty TWICE, but still wasn't able to get through half of him and his army. Or that impossible set piece in Uncharted : Drake's Fortune (granted, it was on Crushing difficulty, so I can't complain) that I must have tried 30 times at least. I'm probably forgetting some... You probably all have an anecdote about a game you rage-quitted because of a difficulty spike, and please feel free to share in the comments.
Anyway, that's one of the most annoying things in video games, difficulty spikes.