Housemarque’s Harry Krueger has once again addressed questions about Returnal difficulty, arguing that the challenge that a game offers is sometimes intertwined with its narrative, making it difficult to separate the two. Speaking to Kinda Funny Games on episode 115 of PS I Love You XOXO, Krueger revealed that the Suspend Cycle feature is something the developers had in the back of their minds, but ultimately, Returnal revolves around challenges that Celine is facing.
Why Returnal difficulty can’t be toned down
— Greg Miller (@GameOverGreggy) April 15, 2022
“Celine is talking about dying over and over, and about insurmountable odds,” Krueger explained. “There’s this descent into madness that is happening purely because of the challenges that she’s facing, and her challenges are the players’ challenges as well. If you were just allowed to power through a boss without any challenge, or just go like A B C through narrative points, it almost feels like that would create a bit of dissonance.” Krueger added that Returnal keeps reminding players of Celine’s challenges and how she’s overcoming all of the obstacles, so if they don’t experience any friction, they miss the point of the game. He also pointed out that by not dying over and over, players miss a chunk of the story and related items like audio logs.
That said, Krueger acknowledges that there’s always more work to be done on the accessibility front (not to be confused with difficulty). The full interview is worth listening to, with this particular discussion kicking off at 00:59:00.
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