I’m currently playing Fallout 4 on Very Easy mode. Yeah, not just Easy-Very Easy. Unfortunately, Very Easy mode is not very easy.
A lot of gamers like to praise games like Fallout for not holding your hand. Well, a couple of weeks ago the second joint in my thumb started hurting, like it occasionally does; I spend 100% of the time I’m not sleeping either drawing, typing, or playing games, so it’s no surprise that I’ve got joint pain even this early in life. I’d like to keep partaking of my hobbies, which is why I play shooters on easy. I’m not great at them in the first place, but I’m also trying to take care of myself here. I need my hand held, so to speak.
Difficulty is a subjective thing. Someone who’s played shooters on console their whole lives, and who has no physical health problems to speak of, might love the challenge of a tough game like Fallout. Clearly this is the case for a lot of gamers, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
While Fallout has a bunch of different difficulty settings-which I commend them for-none of them are all that easy. I’ve never set a game on easy and still had trouble with it. I usually play the first little bit in easy and then scale up the difficulty once I get the hang of it. No so, with Fallout 4. Very Easy still left me with a fairly challenging game. Not impossible, but a lot more stressful than I wanted it to be, certainly.
I’ll note here that I’m a seasoned gamer, despite not having much experience playing shooters on console. I know the ropes. I play most RPGs on Nightmare almost exclusively because lower difficulties aren’t challenging enough for me. I’ve clocked hundreds of hours in Skyrim (another Bethesda game with some combat similarities to Fallout 4) and Borderlands on PC (a shooter with no difficulty settings) with no problems whatsoever. It’s not just me; it’s the game.
Here’s the thing: even if it was just me, it’s still profoundly uncool for Fallout to be this hard on a setting called “Very Easy.”
There are myriad reasons why someone might want a game to be easy; some, like me, have health problems (many more serious than my injury). Others may be new to gaming and not as practiced as seasoned players-they get the same challenge on an easier difficulty level, in other words. Others just aren’t looking for challenging combat, and prefer instead to play games for exploration or story or crafting (all of which Fallout 4 does phenomenally). Sometimes you just want to decrease the difficulty for a single boss battle you’re struggling with. Sometimes you want to show a friend or family member the ropes so you switch it down for a short time to share the experience with them.
It baffles me that Fallout 4 would lock those players out of the game, so to speak. Difficulty modes are about giving players options, after all. Nobody has to like easy mode, and nobody is being forced to play on easy mode, either. Yet Bethesda has decided that their game is hard, and no one-even those who choose “Very Easy”-is exempt.
This is a complaint about Fallout 4, but it’s also a complaint about the culture of gaming that says that if you don’t play a game “the right way,” you’re not really playing. The key word here, of course, is “play.” We play games for fun and enjoyment, for relaxation, for stress relief, for challenge, for story and characters, for an innate desire to micromanage the world around us, etc. What that looks like is different for different people, and there is no wrong way to play a game. There are only ways that are more fun for you to play.
Could I pick up a different, easier shooter instead of Fallout 4? Sure. But that’s a player Bethesda has lost, and it’s an experience I’ve missed out on. Nobody wins.