- Things that are examples: On hard, enemies do more 50% more damage and take 50% less and drop less ammo, but fight you the same way as they did before.
- Things that are NOT examples: On hard, new types of enemies appear, you have longer levels, and bosses have a new attack or two.
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- In the Civilization series, the difficulty level affects population growth and production output. On easier difficulties, the computer gets a penalty, while on harder difficulties it gets a bonus.
- This is explicit to the player in Civ IV by noting the AI Civs are set to Noble level when giving the player the difficulty options during game setup.
- Civ V is mostly numerical. Computers always receive gold(?) and happiness as though they were playing on Chieftain (the 2nd difficulty, "Beginner"). Science, culture, growth, and some other things are balanced on Prince (4th difficulty, "Normal"), giving the player an advantage on earlier difficulties and the AI an advantage on higher ones. It also cheats more on unit upgrading and production on higher difficulties. As for non-numeric changes, the AI's attitude towards humans and lust for war also decrease and increase respectively on higher difficulties, up to Prince note .
- Both played straight and averted in Galactic Civilizations: while the harder AIs do get numerical handouts in the form of free research, money and production (and vice versa, get penalties on lower ones), lower difficulties also deliberately hamstring the AIs decision-making routines to make them easier to outmanoeuvre. The AI opponents will make it a point to mention in diplomatic chats if you're beating them by using strategies they recognize and are programmed to respond to, but whose responses are disabled in lower difficulties (such as massing troop transports near their planets just outside of the borders in preparation for war but without declaring it until you're ready. Full AIs will immediately start ramping up their defenses and/or declare war pre-emptively. Easy AIs will just sit there. And taunt your ass).
- The "Crazy" difficulty setting of Castlevania: Curse of Darkness drastically decreases the amount of damage you can deal and sustain. Due to the game's movement and defense mechanics, this actually doesn't make the game any harder. It (along with other factors) just makes it take much, much longer.
- Hard mode lvl 1 cap for two of the more recent Castlevania games definitely counts: die in two hits from bats? Check. Game gets easier as you get farther in? Check.
- Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow's Hard Mode tries to change this up by adding some extra attributes to certain enemies on top of the stat boosts (for example, zombies - one of the very first enemies you encounter, can now poison you on contact, and all Medusa Heads are of the Demonic Spider petrification variety.)
- In the Wiiware version of Cave Story, enemy attacks in Easy Mode do only half the damage they do in Normal. And Hard Mode is Normal Mode, with all (but one) of the Heart Containers removed—making you a One Hitpoint Wonder in many of the levels.
- All three Metroid Prime games' hard modes simply multiply enemies' health and damage.
- In Metroid: Zero Mission hard mode not only increases the damage enemies do, but also halves the amount of energy and missiles you get from expansions.
- This is how most of the enemies work in Borderlands, especially early on in the game. Skags and Bandits more or less attack similarly within their own groups, maybe adding in an extra ability or two for the tougher enemies. Where the difficulty really comes in is in the fact the enemies have levels similar to your own, and obviously a level 1 Skag Pup is going to be weaker than a level 3 Skag Pup. Also, certain guns and grenade upgrades function exactly the same, with the rarer ones just having higher stats (more damage, more accurate etc).
- Choosing Easy, Medium or Hard in Dungeon Siege affects how much HP the enemies have.
- Fallout 3 has the same slider from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but introduces a wrinkle not present in the Elder Scrolls games. The higher the difficulty set in that game, the more XP granted for killing enemies. This makes the early game somewhat easier with a high difficulty slider (as most enemies are pathetic even with damage bonuses), but that advantage quickly vanishes thanks to the tiny level cap.
- Kingdom Hearts has this to balance it out for multiplayer mode. 358/2 Days gives us Mission Mode, while Birth By Sleep has the local grind station, the Mirage Arena. Both tend to be a pain in the ass because there is no way to unbalance them for single-player gameplay and you don't get to pause the game.
- Lunar Knights has this as well with its difficulty settings. Enemy levels (which determine stats and damage tolerances) will increase on higher difficulty levels (Normal < Hard < Nightmare) by a percentage rather than a number. It doesn't seem like much at first, but everything inside the gates of New Culiacan onward is level 99! Beforehand, Aaron states that he's going to protect Lucian during your trip through the city streets. If you chose to neglect the gunslinger and don't have anything resembling guarding skill, grinding is your only solution, as the damage from a Lv99 Hot Dog in EF weather is murder (And that's as weak as Flame attacks get, and you run into one in the first block to boot!).
- Borderline in Mass Effect. They give just about every enemy additional defensive boosts in the form of abilities, but mostly just directly modify the damage input/output. However, since the game is packed with damage-reducing armors and skills, even on the hardest difficulty level (Insane) you're practically invincible. Unfortunately, this means that higher difficulty levels mostly just means it takes much longer to kill enemies.
- Phantasy Star Online plays this straight on Hard and Very Hard modes, giving monsters absurd amounts of HP, damage and elemental resistances, but retaining everything else except the items dropped. Ultimate mode averts this, however, by replacing most monsters with similar versions that might move faster, cast different spells, cause status ailments, or a number of other things.
- In System Shock 2's higher difficulties, your stats and skills cost more cyber modules to upgrade, but the placement and number of modules remain the same. The HP and MP bonuses you receive from upgrading also dive sharply with increasing difficulty, making a particular special upgrade that gives you a mere 5 HP much more important at higher difficulties. Enemy drop percentages also fall, so on the highest difficulty, fighting is usually a frightful waste of resources. And yes, buying ammo costs more too.
- Tales games will usually multiply enemy health and stats by 1.5 and 2.0 on Hard and Mania difficulties.
- On the other hand, some enemies (Most notably bosses) also get new attacks, so it's only a partial example.
- Difficulty levels in The World Ends with You affects damage output for both enemies and allies (as yours goes down theirs goes up and vice versa), enemy aggressiveness, experience gain (more on higher difficulty levels), and items dropped (better one are available on the higher difficulties).
- Restricted Area has pretty repetitive gameplay, with enemies gaining hitpoints at about the same rate you earn more potent versions of your weapon. The difficulty setting just appears to set the initial value for enemy toughness and so dictate how many times you have to shoot them.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl's adventure mode has a lot of this on the harder difficulty levels, with the vast majority of changes being purely statistical (enemies health goes up, more knockback, enemies flinch less, enemies attack faster and some rather odd ones such as trackballs losing energy faster, scrolling areas scrolling faster and keys breaking easier).
- Anarchy Reigns on Hard basically boils down to this, since enemies drain your health faster and take more damage. Aside from this, nothing really changes.
First Person Shooters
- Many First Person Shooters will make the enemies harder to kill, increase the damage they do and limit the amount of ammo the player gets for each item on Hard mode, not to mention making health packs a bit scarcer.
- Like many other First Person Shooter games, Doom includes a bit of this in addition to other effects. While the difficulty affects the placement of monsters and items (and, on Nightmare difficulty, causes enemies to move faster, attack more often and respawn after death, and makes their projectiles move more quickly), on the easiest difficulty (I'm Too Young To Die) the player takes half damage from all attacks. In addition, on both ITYTD and Nightmare, all ammo you find is doubled. The former is just to make it even easier than easy, while the latter is simply because Nightmare difficulty is bad enough without adding ammo troubles to the mix.
- Tanks in Left 4 Dead have 4000, 5000, 6000 or 8000 HP, depending on the difficulty level. It and all the other Infected types also gradually deal more damage (usually starting around 10 damage per hit on Easy, either doubling once each for the higher two difficulties or increasing by 5 per difficulty) and take less from the players' weapons (only 75% damage on Hard and 50% on Expert) as the difficulty increases. Friendly fire damage is also increased, going from none, to 10%, to 50%, to full damage.
- While Half-Life 2 includes the standard changes, the commentary for episode 1 notes that the time the player has to socket energy balls is altered based on difficulty (among other things).
- Higher level bots in the TimeSplitters series just get higher health.
Hack & Slash
- The Dynasty Warriors games are particularly bad at this, especially DW3. Enemies both deal more damage and receive far less from your attacks. OK, they fight better too, but given they normally fight like drugged sloths on lower difficulty levels this is really only upgrading to average. In DW3, you could lose 80% of your health to a single barrage of crossbow bolts on hard mode.
- Chaos mode is the worst. Going from easy to normal to hard might have you deal with tougher enemies or have to do more to get or keep an advantage. Chaos mode, on the other hand, is exactly the same as hard, except you have No defense. Even at max stats, you're gonna have a hard time on levels you could curbstomp on any other difficulty.
- Hyrule Warriors follows this pattern for the most part, but averts the trope in Network Links. Before you reach level 100, Network Link battles far above your level will include general clones in place of most or all enemy officers.
- God of War II does this for its Titan Mode. Individual random mooks are suddenly Made of Iron and do serious damage. Until you get used to constantly prioritizing blocking, dodging, and reflexes over all-out offensives, mere Random Encounters are road blocks requiring multiple tries to get past. Not to mention every single boss fight becomes That One Boss and require a lot of patience by themselves. Once you finally gain the Golden Fleece armor, you will truly appreciate it.
- Psycho Pinball did this; Hard mode started you with slightly fewer free markers. On Psycho, for instance, it takes three lights to activate each table warp tent; Easy gives you two for free, Normal one, and Hard none. Similar tricks are used with the Psycho Time letters and the Big Wheel jackpot cars, and comparable stunts on all the other tables.
- Happens in Challenge mode of every Ratchet & Clank game after the first one. Enemies take more hits to kill, and can damage you much quicker. But conversely, challenges pay out more money, and there's a bolt multiplier to make getting money off dead enemies easier to amass. However, you'll need the money to buy new versions of your old weapons that can be upgraded with more damage and bigger ammo capacity, not to mention some BFG's and better armours (unless you really grinded for money in the first playthrough and brought them then). It generally means the game is harder in the opening stages when you need even your most powerful rockets to take out the opening enemies, even though there attacks are rubbish enough to not hit you, but gets easier as you get more and more of the big weapons.
- Several Command & Conquer games use this method, altering unit specs and costs based on the difficulty level the player chooses.
- While the difference is hardly noticeable amidst the other things that happen to the AI in Command & Conquer: Generals and Zero Hour, The AI gets bonuses and the player gets debuffs in the range of between 80 and 120% in terms of health.
- Warcraft III: The main difference in the enemy AI's difficulty setting in multiplayer is the gold collection rate: Easy only gets 5 per Worker Unit, Normal gets 10 (like you), and Insane gets 20, allowing them to get armies together faster. However, they don't play any different, so a well-played rush can still take them out.
- Dawn of War: The campaign's difficulty varies not only the enemy units' health but your own. By end game on easy, your Hero Unit is a One-Man Army, able to clear bases if not entire maps by himself.
- While hard mode for the entire Fire Emblem series generally averts this note , the Easy modes in Fire Emblem games (2, 5 and the non-Japan versions of 9) use it, giving the player extra experience points. It also applies to 11's hard mode, which buffs enemy stats.
- Eternal Sonata shows of this trope in its Encore Mode, a mode that can only be accessed after beating the game once.
- Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII: On Hard Mode, enemies have 2.5 times as much Strength and Magic as on Normal, and 3.5 times as many hit points. They have better drops, but no special moves.
- Golden Sun: The Lost Age has a Hard Mode where you just have all enemies with increased stats. 50% more attack, defense and HP, to be exact. note
- Every time you beat a run of Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria, you're treated to a crystal on the title screen. Start a new game then, and you'll find that the enemies are slightly stronger. By the time you reach 10 crystals (beat the game ten times, starting new games right after the last victory and playing from the new game), even standard enemies can handily cause a Game Over. By the time you hit 50 (the max), the tutorial battle takes two hours plus to complete. And that's if the enemy doesn't get a lucky shot and one-shots your party.
- Easy Mode and Challenge Mode in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 fall into this for regular trainers, merely change the opposing Pokemon's levels in most cases. Gym Leaders and the Elite Four avert this: each gets one Pokemon added to their team, re-done movesets and, in the case of the Elite Four, better held items.
- Swords of Xeen, a Mission-Pack Sequel set between Might and Magic games 5 and 6. Same engine as MM5, much bigger maps tightly packed with strongest enemies and an Excuse Plot.
- Dark Sun video games had a difficulty slider, which only affected enemies' HP, about 10% per step. The sound effects that accompanied moving the slider deserve mentioning: "Make way for the queen's garbage!" for "easy", a human shriek for "balanced", "Die!" for "hard" and a rampager's roar for "hideous".
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has a difficulty slider. Set at easiest, all your attacks do 6 times their normal damage and enemies do 1/6th their normal amount. Set at its hardest, those numbers are reversed. Nothing else is changed.
- Morrowind has the same slider with the same effects.
- Skyrim has discrete difficulty levels instead of a slider:
- Novice has you deal 2x damage and take 1/2 damage.
- Apprentice has you deal 1.5x damage and take 2/3 damage.
- Adept is the default setting with no modifiers.
- Expert has you deal 2/3 damage and take 1.5x damage.
- Master has you deal 1/2 damage and take 2x damage.
- Legendary has you deal 1/3 damage and take 3x damage. This setting is only available in certain versions.
- The World Ends with You has four difficulty settings, and the only difference that actually affects how hard the gameplay is, is the enemy stats. The other difference is what kind of loot they can drop, which gives players a reason to turn it all the way to Ultimate. Since the difficulty can be switched at any time in the phone menu, and the game progression will eventually lead to everyone playing on Ultimate by default, there wasn't much point in distinguishing them further.
- For most of Minecraft's development history, the only thing that changed between the 3 non-Peaceful difficulty levels was the amount of damage hostile monsters do. Mojang is slowly adding actual differences between the levels in new patches, though — for an obvious example, zombies will try to break through wooden doors on all difficulties, but only on Hard will they succeed.
Shoot 'em Up
- Most Bullet Hell shmups will just increase the number of bullets fired at the player.
- Gunstar Heroes had a mix. You take more damage and bosses take less, but the enemies are also more aggressive. The end result is that the homing laser that plows through enemies on Normal isn't the most effective choice on Expert.
- Touhou averts this: The changes made depend on the pattern, and are often more insidious than simple density/speed increases. Seeing patterns completely change or get added isn't uncommon either. Recurring spellcards and non-spellcard attacks do have this property but the incremented 'numbers' include aim angles, stream counts, spread arcs, firing rates and sometimes even size multipliers.
Simulation and Simulators
- The FreeSpace series does this, but for an absolutely staggering number of variables—enemy agility, weapon/afterburner recharge rates for players and enemies, delays between AI actions, AI firing rates, even the number of targets a warship can engage at one time. The result is that the difference between different Difficulty Levels is very dramatic.
- All SimCity games have starting money ranked in three difficulty levels. Sim City 4 Rush Hour, for example, has Easy with $500,000, Medium with $100,000, and Hard with $50,000 that must be paid back within 5 years.
- Averted in 2000 and later. You do start with less money, but there are other changes as well. In Sim City 2000 on Easy, for example, Sim Nation's economy is constantly booming.
- Wing Commander Prophecy basically fell into this trap: enemies have either reduced or enhanced statistics. Having said that, it's a Flight Sim, so enemies that shoot, turn and zoom at 120% of normal is more of a big deal.
- Enemies also make heavier use of missiles at higher levels. Every ship has a limited number of decoys available to distract guided missiles. At low level's there are always enough decoys, but with so many missles coming in at the highest levels decoys start to be something you need to conserve.
- X-COM enemies get higher stats on higher difficulty levels. Higher firing accuracy, time units, and Reaction add up to more ambushes. The lowest difficulty also halves armour, but all other difficulties use the same armour stat.
- ...At least in theory. UFO Defense has a bug where even if you pick Superhuman (the highest difficulty level), as soon as you save your game or load a save, you're suddenly playing on Beginner (the lowest). Both devs and fans went completely unaware of the bug for a long time, so when the devs received complaints that Superhuman difficulty was too easy, they essentially reversed the issue by scaling Terror From The Deep's Beginning difficulty to the original's Superhuman. Incidentally, this allows one who is aware of the difficulty-reset bug to essentially play a double-Superhuman mode in TFTD, which is exactly as terrifying as it sounds. They finally got it right in Apocalypse and Interceptor, but Interceptor's difficulty only affects three things: how long it takes to kill the alien craft (their armor and shields are boosted, essentially), how susceptible your pilots are to mind-control (they get penalized at higher difficulty levels), and how quickly the aliens expand (at higher difficulty levels, you'll encounter alien bases all over the place, whereas at lower levels, you'll be able to keep the map clean of bases with little difficulty).
- Averted in X-Com Apocalypse where each difficulty level has a different city. Most importantly, as difficulty level increases the buildings will get larger, closer together and in extreme cases completely insane structural design intended to allow the aliens or stray shots to most effectively level entire blocks at a time.
- Disgaea, and almost all Nippon Ichi games, have the option to increase enemy levels, which does so using Numerical Hard math. Logarithmically. In some Disgaea games, there are even special bonus maps that increase the difficulty even further — the Land of Carnage Item World, for example, gives everything found inside a 1000% boost.
- Made crueler in Disgaea 3 by giving enemies an increase to their stats based on how many levels they'd be gaining in excess of 9999.
- Whereas older Resident Evil games that had difficulty options would just give the player a few extra weapons on easier settings, parts 4 and 5 multiply the damage you take without changing much else. The hardest difficulty in part 5 practically makes you a One-Hit-Point Wonder, since "dying" status runs out far too quickly for your partner to be able help you or vice versa.
- Jedi Master in Jedi Outcast and Academy halves the players max health/armor, while other difficulty settings make the enemies slightly better shots (but even on the last setting, not good ones)
- Hard mode in Mega Man Battle Network 2 just gives enemies extra HP and more damage per attack. This is one example where the game isn't particularly harder, as Battle Network combat (at least at the high end you need to be familiar with to unlock hardmode) is based heavily on dodging foes and using powerful combos (that for the most part, are overkill) that take opponents out quick.
- Knights of the Old Republic is a standard less damage/more damage, though also with the addition of gaining more or less experience depending on the difficulty.
- Same for Neverwinter Nights, which also turns friendly fire back on in Hard mode.
- Icewind Dale has the "Heart of Fury" mode built into the "Heart of Winter" expansion - all enemies have massive hit point and damage boosts but are worth far more XP. Downside is surviving your first encounter - a single goblin can tear your entire party to shreds unless you get lucky.
- Hearts of Iron 2 has 5 difficulty settings dryly named Very Easy, Easy, Medium, Hard and Very Hard which consist entirely of numerical bonuses and penalties (think more/less industrial efficiency, manpower, raw materials, research speed), all stored in a file called difficulty.csv, which is easily customizable. It's quite possible to create Non-Indicative Difficulty.
- Monster Hunter is a partial example. Higher rank missions introduce new monsters and maps, but the majority of missions have you hunting the same targets you did last rank, with more HP and attack power, though, some have a new attack, or new ways to combo attacks.
- In Slave Zero, enemies and bosses receive additional health on hard difficulty. This is Unwinnable by Mistake, since you will run out of ammo on the final boss fight if you just pick the "best" weapons - the change in health causes the boss to have more hitpoints than available ammo, unless you manually picked up the cluster rocket a few stages back.
- In Dungeons of Dredmor, difficulty levels change item drop and monster spawn frequency, health and mana regeneration rate, and item cost.
- Ghost Recon: Future Soldier's higher difficulties essentially do little more than apply a few different multipliers. The amount of damage a player can take before being incapacitated or dying is reduced as the difficulty increases, as is the number of times a player will be incapped before straight-up dying (from about 5 times on Recruit to essentially none on Elite). Conversely, bonus points added to the team's Ghost score at the end of a level will also be increased with higher difficulties (50 for Recruit, 75 for Veteran and 100 for Elite).