A Gun-Toting Crab Confronts a Fiendishly Tough Video Game Genre

Upon entering a cavernous room, its barely lit cobblestones reflecting a sickly green, you are charged by a towering beast that can be overcome only through a punishing sequence of precise dodges and parrying. The price for failure is severe. It is a lengthy journey to return to this spot, and one slip-up is all it takes to send you hurtling back.

For many, this gameplay loop — established in the 2009 video game Demon’s Souls — is intoxicating. For others, it is infuriating.

Is the fiendish challenge an intrinsic feature of the Soulslike genre that emerged from these roots? Or can the games be made more approachable while maintaining their signature difficulty, allowing more people to experience the satisfaction of mastering an encounter that initially seemed impossible?

“A player experience can still be both accessible and challenging,” said Morgan Baker, the game accessibility lead for the developer and publisher Electronic Arts. “Difficulty is subjective and what is hard for one may be easier for another and vice versa.”

The studio behind Demon’s Souls, FromSoftware, has continued exasperating players in its three Dark Souls games as well as in Bloodborne, Elden Ring and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. So have most imitators, including Hollow Knight and Lies of P.

Yet a few games this year are embracing accessibility, carving a niche from the bones of a hitherto unwelcoming landscape.

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