Why Elden Ring should have an assist mode

We're all winners.

Difficulty in video games is a controversial topic, and for years there have been two sides to the argument. There are those people who want to ensure difficult games remain difficult, so that developers retain their freedom of expression and the game is enjoyed the way it was originally intended. On the other side there are those who say video games should be opened up to an even wider crowd, introducing more options to adjust how a game plays depending on someone’s skill level.

It’s an interesting argument, and while I can kind of understand why some might see the latter as an attempt to change what makes games unique, I think the positives of accessibility in games vastly outweigh the arguments against it. Ultimately, creating a more accessible industry is something which will improve video games for everyone, including those who argue against it.


Here I will be discussing Dark Souls and how, with a little inspiration from one indie gem, Elden Ring could help evolve From Software’s RPG formula.

The Souls Series

Whenever the conversation surrounding difficulty crops up, you can probably bet on the fact someone will mention the Dark Souls series. Infamous for its brutal difficulty, remorseless boss battles and its unwavering commitment to death as a game mechanic, the Dark Souls trilogy (as well as the wider “Soulsborne” series) are without a doubt some of the most inaccessible video games in circulation.

Just so we’re clear here, I’ve completed all three of the mainline Dark Souls games and Bloodborne – I’m working on Sekiro, slowly. I absolutely adore the series, not only for its fast, visceral and frantic combat but also for the lore that each one of these worlds is filled with. Every Dark Souls game is a rich tapestry of characters, history and engaging narratives, all which can be easily missed as the majority of storytelling is done through exploration, item descriptions, and sparse shreds of dialogue.

While I enjoy the difficulty of the Souls series, I think it holds the series back to an extent. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve mentioned the Souls games to someone, and they’ve turned around and said something to the effect of: “I tried Dark Souls, but couldn’t get past the first boss”. I was one of those people myself. I bounced off Dark Souls around release in favour of the vastly more accessible Skyrim.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think Dark Souls should absolutely retain its difficulty and be playable in the series’ current format, but with some smart changes.


Celeste is not only one of the best platforming games to release in the past ten years, it also sets a brilliant example of how to retain a video game’s difficulty while also providing an accessible experience to a wider group of gamers.

Celeste accomplishes this by introducing an assist mode, which enables players to change specific aspects of the way the game controls. In this mode, players can change game speed, turn on infinite stamina, increase the number of air dashes available and make Celeste invincible. It’s a fantastic mode that opens up Celeste to a new demographic of players who may not be able to tackle it’s difficult platforming gameplay.

Assist mode opens Celeste up to players who may not be great at platforming games, or players who don’t have the free time to master its more difficult sections. Most importantly, assist mode opens the game up to people with physical or mental disabilities, allowing them to modify the game in a way which makes it playable to suit their specific needs.

What’s great about the assist mode is that it in no way impedes on the experience the developer designed for the majority of players. Celeste is still a tough game if you want it to be. There are countless secrets, levels and times to beat, which can all be done without ever touching the assist mode. The simple act of including this option means that fewer people are likely to bounce off the game in frustration.

Elden Ring

Unless you’re playing on PC – which has a number of game changing mods – it’s too late to open up the Soulsborne games to other players. Fortunately, there’s another one currently in development. I’m of course talking about the highly anticipated Elden Ring, a joint venture by From Software, and George R. R. Martin, the author behind the wildly successful Game of Thrones series.

We know very little about the game at present, gleaning what we can from the E3 2019 teaser trailer, as well as blurry leaked presentation footage that has recently been doing the rounds. If there’s one thing I’m excited for, it’s the potential for Elden Ring to implement an intuitive assist mode similar to Celeste.

This would be more than simply adding difficulty tiers or an “easy mode” – it would allow players to tailor individual aspects of the game to their own needs. By adapting a number of systems and mechanics core to the Soulsborne experience, Elden Ring could be far more welcoming.

Firstly, having a number of sliders and options for combat could make the game’s many encounters far more manageable. With Elden Ring’s assist mode on, it could enable a multitude of creative modifiers, from weapon reach, parry times, and stamina usage, to enemy damage, regenerative health, or the removal of status ailments. While Souls purists may see this as a dumbing down, others will see this crucial customisation as nothing but empowering, allowing them to beat Elden Ring in a way that works for them.

An assist mode in Elden Ring might also guide players who might struggle with the series’ hands-off approach to exploration and progress. It’s always been easy to get lost in Dark Souls, as the sprawling, interweaving worlds can be quite intimidating with little in the way of signposts – a simple waypoint system could nudge players towards the next area without necessarily holding their hand. It would be way less immersion-breaking than stopping to pull up a wiki or video guide, that’s for sure.

The best part? This wouldn’t compromise Elden Ring in the slightest for those hardcore Soulsborne fans looking to break themselves upon From Software’s upcoming RPG. An assist mode would be purely optional, bending the rules for those who are having a tough time, and tearing down those roadblocks preventing them from experiencing what content Elden Ring has to offer.

The Souls games are some of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had, and I want as many people to share those experiences with me. Elden Ring would lose nothing by becoming more widely accessible, only a false air of purity an elitist minority of players cling onto.

If we truly love video games, surely we should want nothing more than to share the joy they can bring, even if that means lowering the barriers a little.



  1. I’m in the other camp. Every game doesn’t need to be playable by everyone. Soulsborne games are delivered how the designers and developers want them to be delivered. We as consumers can say we don’t want to play them for a variety of reasons, but we shouldn’t dictate to the designers how it should be.

    You don’t expect authors to write books a particular way to please you do you? Or ask that films come with less tension or a different happier ending because that way you would enjoy it more? You aren’t asking that the story be changed, but in gaming terms you are asking that something intrinsic to the playing of the game is changed.

    These games have very strong design principles throughout, from the story, how items and multiplayer works to the combat systems and difficulty. You can’t change those without affecting those principles. It’s what makes the games what they are, it’s their identity. If they are inaccessible to you then there are a whole load of other titles waiting to take your money instead. I’ve played and completed all the Soulsborne games multiple times, except for Sekiro – that I couldn’t quite get and bounced off about half way though. And you know what? That’s fine.

    There are easier ways to play the games too. Pick a particular build, exploit weaknesses, level up or simply summon in help. All these things can make playing them a lot easier whilst maintaining the identity and consistency of the game.

    • I think this is a good point. Not all art is for everyone. I’m not necessarily for or against an easy mode in Dark Souls, but if the Devs don’t want to do it then I don’t think they should feel pressured. The games seem to sell well enough.

      Playing a game on an easier setting doesn’t necessarily set up tiers of legitimacy, but certainly someone who plays Celeste with all the accessibility options turned on will have a different experience with the game than everyone else.

    • +1 you start changing games to suit everyone, you dilute the experience. I know people will say it’s optional but how many of us would turn on the assist mode if we got stuck on a particular boss?! Making the games easier removes the challenge, which I’d argue is the main part of these games. If you could whizz through every area unchallenged you’d probably finish it in one sitting. Would also be misleading if reviews didn’t state that they used the easy mode.

      • As a rebuttal, do the phenomenally broad accessibility and difficulty options of The Last of Us Part II dilute the experience? The game has granular difficulty settings, it has the ability to modify the visuals to highlight characters and strip out visual noise, the ability to skip puzzles, etc. etc.

        FromSoftwares’ games are excellent, and certainly the difficulty helped to hype up their reputation, but there’s more to these games than just the fact that they’re hard.

  2. To go with Saturday’s silly “Oooh, online trophies are too hard! Ban them!” article, we now get “Everything’s too hard! Add an “assist” mode!”

    Easy solution. Add an “assist” mode, or “cheat mode” to give it it’s proper name, and have that prevent you getting any of the trophies. That way anyone that does it properly gets the trophies to brag about, and cheaters get nothing.

    Only problem is, someone will pretend all those cheats are “accessibility” options, and someone will moan if you can’t get the trophies while using them. (Look at the accessibility options in Control, for example. One of them makes you invincible. And you can still get all the trophies)

    • I think it’s pretty dismissive to call their article silly. It’s not silly just because you disagree. An actual human put thought, care, and effort into that article and it’s pretty rude to trash it because you disagree.

      • Agreed. I for one liked the article. Even if you disagree with it, it was written very well, and made the points clearly. I’d like to see more from the author of said article.

  3. So basically adding cheats back into games? I wonder why developers moved away from them.

    I love how difficult the souls games are and always play games on Normal. However as the volume of quality games and platforms increase over the years I have less and less time with family commitments too. This has lead me to replaying god of war on easy as I wanted to kill those damn valkyries without spending all my limited time on just one segment of the game

  4. I have to admit, although I usually consider myself a fairly patient person, I find it increasingly more difficult to accept people being intolerant of others that are not as capable, have difficulties doing things, for whatever a challenge that may be. Seriously, the position of ‘it would dumb down a game’, ‘dilute the experience’, etc. sounds just very dumb to me, similar to someone who’d try to argue that it would negatively affect their fun in a bar that black customers are allowed to be there too – just so completely off the mark of any acceptable position that I find it hard to believe how far humankind still has to progress.
    Of course, if done right, accessibility options do not make a game worse. Having a choice how to play does not either. But there’s so many incorrect prejudices around, we still got a very long way to go.

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