Why I Don’t Mind Pokemon X’s Low Difficulty

So Pokémon X gives you the Exp. Share after you beat the first gym, and now it shares experience points to not only one Pokémon, but your whole party. Oh, and in addition to the new Kalos region starter you selected at the beginning of the game, you get to pick one of the original Kanto starters not long after that first gym. So has Nintendo started to evaporate the difficulty of Pokémon like so many other developers have other franchises? The part that surprises me is, I don’t really mind it in this case.

I’ve definitely been part of the outcry against how much today’s games coddle players and prevent them from using their  brains to solve problems. Too many of today’s games drag you through tutorials that insult the intelligence of anyone who plays traditional video games, and too often I feel like I almost had the game beaten for me. However, I think there are particulars behind why this is aside from simply easy versus hard games.

Pokémon X so far really does feel easier than previous entries. Because of the adjusted Exp. Share my team is leveling up a lot faster. I’ve got two Pokémon coming up on level 20 and I’ve only finished one gym so far. And I’ve seen comments from people online saying X and Y are indeed a lot easier than past games in the series. The addition of the Kanto starters can only accelerate this affect.

Maybe I don’t mind so much because I never got into the most hardcore levels of Pokémon play. I never got into EV training or breeding, and most certainly never went near tournaments. For me it’s really just about the novelty of traveling through an RPG world and building a cool team. Maybe that makes me sort of like the Call of Duty audience when it comes to Pokémon, just basking in the core gameplay loop without thinking about the deeper level.

The reason I prefer ArmA to COD however has almost nothing to do with difficulty. I just like ArmA because it offers me orders of magnitude more freedom in a massive world to explore. Pokémon X’s decreased difficulty hasn’t really made the game more linear or less free at all.

In fact Pokémon X’s tutorial is probably the briskest in the series so far: within only a few minutes you’ve gotten your Pokémon and you’re ready to head to the first gym. You can now interact with the game’s online component pretty much anywhere, the process of trading is a lot quicker, and the menu interface is a lot smoother too. Basically, Pokémon X has just made it easier and quicker for you to do whatever it is you want to do. The game doesn’t force you into doing certain things any more than the older versions might have.

A good comparison I might make would be Fallout 3 or Skyrim. I see a lot of criticism of those two games, saying they’re too easy compared to their predecessors. In Fallout 3 it’s not difficult to evenly max out your stats and just blast through most enemies. Skyrim’s critics say its quests and world design are less challenging and meaningful than those of previous Elder Scrolls games. These are also two games where I don’t mind the low difficulty because that doesn’t cut down on their open-ended natures. I totally understand if old fans of those franchises prefer the more challenging earlier games but that’s not a huge priority for me. Dark Souls is one of my favorite games but not because it’s difficult. It’s one of my favorite games because of its atmosphere, how it asks you to think about your situation and surroundings, and how it accommodates many styles of play. What I want isn’t necessarily difficulty, but the latitude to solve a game’s problems on my own.



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