While catching up on my Android backlog I happened upon Wild Blood, a God of War inspired title about Lancelot. Now, the game has a lot of issues. Not only is it a buggy mess — as is par for the course with Gameloft games — but it abysmally handles both woman and the source material. Despite all of that, I am still enjoying the game as a mindless beat em up with a decent enough combat engine that allows for quick game sessions. With that said, I am almost certain I will uninstall the game before I finish it for it is build around a devious game mechanic.
*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*
The poor writing can be skipped and I have learned how to tiptoe around the buggy aspects of the gameplay but the game has severe issues with a bait and switch technique late in the game. The game has no difficulty settings and simply thrusts the player into the game from the main menu. I quickly learned there were 10 levels in total and I was breezing through them pretty quickly. There were some issues here and there but the game was well paced and at a difficulty level that I enjoyed. After finishing the seventh level, a cutscene is shown depicting Lancelot being killed by a Cyclops. Merlin appears, stunning the Cyclops and tells Lancelot that the only way to kill the Cyclops is with a weapon from Level 6. Lancelot asks to be sent back in time so Merlin grants his wish and the player is thrown back to Level 1 on Hard difficulty. Yup, the old school technique of “the game can only be finished on a *real* difficulty” except this time you don’t get to choose a harder difficulty from the get-go. Nope, you are forced to play the game twice without any notice that this is expected of the player.
Now, of course this is a throwback to games of old such as Ghost and Goblins or Golden Axe. TvTropes labels it as a type of “Easy Mode Mockery” where portions of the game are closed off to lower difficulties. Almost every example I found dates back to the 8 and 16-bit eras, though, with more recent titles employing different limitations for lower difficulties such a altered xp gain, narrator mockery, or a visual difference. Aspects of this trope are slowly fading, and this industry should really do away with it entirely, but a game released in 2012 should not be sporting trite mechanics like this. At the very least, allow the player to select normal or hard difficulties from the beginning. This doesn’t fix the exclusion of less skilled players but it does allow the skilled the opportunity to finish the game the first time around. Time is a resource that is not abundant to every player of your game.
Accessibility in games is becoming very important. We should not be purposefully excluding anyone from this fantastic hobby simply because they cannot play on a higher difficulty. This shouldn’t need to be said, but I’d rather cover by bases, but this doesn’t mean that every game should be playable by everyone. Demon’s Souls is a game that is designed to be difficult and it should be difficult. I’m not trying to take that experience away from gaming. But games like Wild Blood, a simple fun beat-em-up, should not be employing any mechanics in an attempt to be something it is not. It was expected that I was a “real gamer” that would play a second time through — and possibly a third time — on a higher difficulty. Instead, I’m simply annoyed at Gameloft for their assumption. Unfortunately, I doubt the AAA industry will learn anything from this game because it is “only a mobile title”, but that is a discussion for another post.