Difficulty spikes may reveal what lies ahead

A difficulty spike is when a game gets harder by a larger amount than it had been. For example, if in an RPG, you were fighting level 20 enemies, then all of a sudden the boss is level 35.

This can also come in the form of limiting items dropped by enemies, items in chest, money you get from enemies, and so on. Difficulty spikes come in many forms, and can succeed and fail.

This can be done correctly quite easily. A spike is a huge jump, yes, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be eased into.

Slowly in a game, levels can get higher and items can be less plentiful, and then a very hard boss can come, after which the game has two paths it can take: continue with being hard or give the player a break with some easy enemies and bosses.

Most games chose the middle road and continue to slowly climb up to another hard boss. Most games focus more on their story, and if a boss is hard, usually it’s for some sort of story relation.

What this means is, the final boss won’t be one shotted no matter how strong you are. The final boss is meant to be the last challenge of the main story, so the player will have difficulty, or annoyance, no matter what.

The wrong way to do this is uncommon, and is considered right in some people eyes. The way to do a difficulty spike “wrong” is to throw an optional, keyword, optional area into the game.

After this, a main area has a level that’s reasonable, and, to proceed with the story, you skip over said extra area. The next area is nearly double the level of the last area, and if you go to the optional area, it’s only a bit higher. This may be hard to understand, but basically what it means is that even though the game tells you an area is optional, it’s more or less required.

Another bad way to throw a difficulty spike in is through bad tutorials.

Let’s say, for example, you have something you can upgrade or you can get stronger somehow, but the game never officially teaches you this. By this means, a decently easy boss could be extremely hard.

Though good or bad, difficulty spikes do help a game. If a game is too easy, it’s a bore to play unless the story is amazing. If the game is too hard, you won’t want to play it.

A difficulty spike is kind of like a warning to say “the game is not going to get easier than this boss,” so you’re mentally prepared for the future.

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