The Capy Games’ survival-focused dungeon-crawler Below has earned a well-deserved reputation for punishing difficulty—Rock Paper Shotgun used it as a prototypical example of the necessary industry niche for “ultra-hard games.” But the coming console release of the game will be introducing a new “Explore” mode that completely does away with this game-defining difficulty.
While the original game will still be available as “Survival” mode, the new Explore mode is “tuned to be accessible for players who seek more of an action-adventure style of play,” as Capy put it in an announcement. In-game mechanics like survival, death, and damage will be toned down to be more forgiving, so players can “lose themselves on The Isle without suffering the exquisite pain of Below ‘s original design.”
“EXPLORE mode is our way of answering everyone who played BELOW at launch and found the challenge a bit too steep,” Capy’s Kris Piotrowski said in a statement. “It was clear that many players were intrigued by the game’s haunting underworld and rich atmosphere, but its difficulty made the game inaccessible to some. We hope to see new players to get into Below , and for seasoned players to revisit The Isle and enjoy the game in a whole new way.”
With the new mode, Below joins a small but growing trend towards allowing for extreme (and optional) difficulty tuning for players of all skill levels. That trend has encompassed everything from Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed and Soma and Bayonetta in recent years, as well as some classic gaming collections from an era when ultra-hard console games were the standard.
Regular readers may know that this is a trend I’m personally a big fan of, to the extent I’ve encouraged every game developer to add such difficulty tuning options in their single-player titles. As I wrote back in September, “players interested in a game for its story or its world-building deserve the ability to focus on the parts they enjoy without having to jump through some reflex-based hoops. ‘Super Easy’ modes offer those players a new way into a game world without taking anything away from those who want their old-school challenges.”