After I played hours of Elden Ring in last year's network test, I wrote that it was the most flexible Souls game by a longshot. Flexible doesn't necessarily mean easy—there are still bosses in Elden Ring who will stomp you mercilessly until you learn their patterns—but you can now explore the open world looking for easier battles or more gear. FromSoftware boss Hidetaka Miyazaki cited that flexibility in a new interview on the PlayStation Blog, in which he touched on the notorious difficulty of the studio's games. "I’d like new players to feel unpressured and that they can approach the game at their pace," Miyazaki said.
"I realize that while we offer games with a high level of challenge, we design them in a way that feels fulfilling to overcome. But I don’t want new players to worry or stress about that difficulty too much… They can come back to something later when they’re at an impasse so that they can have this freedom of progression and not have to bang their head against a wall over and over."
Arguments over game difficulty—and whether developers should include customizable difficulty options—flare up around the release of each new FromSoftware game, and Elden Ring will likely be no different. And yes, Miyazaki is well aware of the debate.
"It’s a valid discussion," he said. "I feel like our approach to these games, not just Elden Ring, is to design them to encourage the player to overcome adversity. We don’t try to force difficulty or make things hard for the sake of it. We want players to use their cunning, study the game, memorize what’s happening, and learn from their mistakes. We don’t want players to feel like the game is unfairly punishing, but rather that there’s a chance to win a difficult encounter and make progress. We understand that Souls-like games are regularly associated with impossible levels of difficulty with high barriers to entry. But we try to design the games to make the cycle of repeatedly trying to overcome these challenges enjoyable in itself. So we hope that with Elden Ring and the new options it provides, it will be a success in that respect."
Miyazaki said that the Elden Ring team has not "intentionally tried to lower the game’s difficulty," but that he thinks that the freedom of the open world and the ease of playing in multiplayer compared to previous Souls games will mean more players make it to the end of this one.
And if you do make it to the end, Miyazaki confirmed that a New Game+ option will be there waiting for you. Elden Ring is out on February 25th.