Follow TV Tropes


Story Difficulty Setting

Go To

"The right choice for players who just want to sit back and enjoy the story. Combat will not pose a challenge."
Cyberpunk 2077 sums it up

Video games typically offer multiple difficulty modes to accommodate players of different skill levels, the canonical examples being Easy, Medium/Normal and Hard. However, some developers making games which place a strong emphasis on storytelling may realize that some players may be interested in the story but may not be particularly interested in the gameplay, or may find the gameplay too challenging to bother with. Hence, the developers may offer an additional difficulty level - "Story", specifically designed to accommodate players who just want to see the plot.

This can come in several different forms. Sometimes it's an Easier Than Easy mode, sometimes it strips out some of the more complex and unintuitive features from the game to offer a more streamlined experience, and sometimes it removes entire sections or game mechanics from the game altogether. On other occasions this difficulty mode is just the regular Easy mode, but specifically framed as being designed for story focus.

An occasional variant is when a game offers the ability to remove all gameplay from the game altogether, allowing the "player" to experience the story completely non-interactively; this can be done by splicing all the cutscenes from the game together to produce a feature-length film, for example. This is rarely offered as a gameplay mode in its own right and more typically as a bonus feature or reward.

Naturally, this trope is most likely to be found in genres of game which typically place a heavy emphasis on storytelling, such as adventure or role-playing games. It could also be seen as an aversion of Easy-Mode Mockery: while some games will mock the player for opting to play the game on an easier setting, this trope appeals to the idea that different people play games for different reasons and get different experiences out of them, and for this reason an easy gameplay setting is no less valid than a harder one. Offering this mode is likewise very useful for players with disabilities that impair their ability to master the controls, or gamers who used to have nimble fingers, but lost some hand-eye coordination with age.

See also Easier Than Easy; Harder Than Hard; Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels; Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game; Visual Novel; and the various Video Game Difficulty Tropes and Interactive Storytelling Tropes. Related to Story to Gameplay Ratio. Contrast with Excuse Plot and Play the Game, Skip the Story.

Note: Although easy and Easier Than Easy modes almost by their very nature will make the game easier to play and consequently easier to experience the game's story (if it has one), not every Easier Than Easy mode is an example of this trope. There has to be clear evidence (whether via in-game content to that effect, descriptions in the game's manual/other supplementary content, or Word of God) that the difficulty mode in question is being offered specifically to allow players to experience the story more easily, not simply to make the gameplay less challenging.


    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • Assassin's Creed Origins and Assassin's Creed: Odyssey both feature a "Discovery Mode" which eliminates the game's combat and allows players to explore each game's environment without threats.
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail's easiest difficulty level is marked as one for players only playing it to enjoy the tale.
  • God of War (PS4) names its easiest difficulty "Give Me A Story", in a possible Shout-Out to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided below.
  • After beating Metroid: Other M, the option is unlocked to play all the cutscenes in the game (along with some pre-recorded gameplay footage to connect them) as a two-hour movie.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog has the Library mode, where you can view the storyline without the gameplay. Note, however, that due to the Story Branching system, only the specific storyline you just played through out of 326 variations will be unlocked. For example, if you just chose all the Dark paths, you'll only get the first storyline, "Punishment, Thy Name is Ruin". In contrast, you get the 326th story, "A Missive from 50 Years Ago", if you only chose the Hero route of each stage.
  • The easiest difficulty in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is simply called "Story Mode". This difficulty greatly reduces enemies' damage and aggression, as well as making the window for parries much wider. It's described as a mode for people who want to focus on the story without having to worry about gameplay challenges.
  • Vampyr (2018) has a "Story Mode" that makes combat easy for those who want to focus on the story and characters.


    Beat 'em Up 
  • Bayonetta 2: The 1st Climax difficulty mode ("Easy" in the Switch port) is described as an easy setting for players who would rather enjoy the story without having to struggle through any gameplay. It significantly tones down the damage enemies deal.
  • Ninja Gaiden 3 allows the player to play in "Hero Mode", where blocking and evading becomes automatic if your health is low, which means the player basically cannot die. Word of God was that this mode was made for those who just wanted to enjoy the story... now few people actually did enjoy the story, but that's another issue. The Updated Re-release Razor's Edge keeps Hero Mode but also has a New Game Plus-ish mode that, conversely, removes the cutscenes and Quick Time Events to keep only the gameplay.
  • The Wonderful 101 has Very Easy mode, described in the menu as those that just want to view the story. The accompanying image shows Wonder-Red in his civilian clothes, lying on a couch and surrounded by snacks. This mode has the auto-combo powerup permanently enabled, so a player could literally mash buttons to win.

    Driving Games 
  • Driver 3 has a Recap mode, which normally a Previously on… segment, but playing it upon the completion of the story "Undercover" mode, instead plays all cutscenes in the game interspersed by pre-recorded gameplay clips (not of the player's gameplay though).
  • Gran Turismo's B-Spec modes play with this trope in that the players is assigned as a director instead of a driver, and the driver of player's car become an AI directed by the player. Depending on the player's car, the races can be Harder Than Hard if the player uses low-powered cars, or Easier Than Easy if the player opts for Le Mans Prototypes. This is pretty useful in endurance races because most players don't want to play in A-Spec mode for a very long time.

    Immersive Sim 
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution, as above, frames its Easy-Normal-Hard difficulty settings this way, explaining them as "Tell me a story", "Give me a challenge", and "Give me Deus Ex", respectively. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided renames the easiest difficulty "Give me a story".
  • System Shock's multi-axis difficulty setting lets you set combat, puzzle and cyberspace difficulty to 0, letting you focus on story elements. Or you can instead strip out all story elements altogether, limiting all the information in the game to only what is relevant to the gameplay.

    Fighting Games 
  • The mobile version of Skullgirls has a "Brain Drain Mode," which can be toggled on or off at any time during a fight. When it's turned on, the AI will take over for the player. It can still succumb to Artificial Stupidity though and requires the player to sometimes turn it off and assume direct control, which was a deliberate decision. Canonically, Brain Drain himself is mind-controlling the player characters, but official word is that Brain Drain Mode exists so people who aren't used to the high speed, twitch-based style fighting games have can still enjoy the story.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Call of Duty: The subtext for the "Recruit" difficulty setting on the more recent games includes mention of "...content tourists".
  • Half-Life: Alyx has a Story difficulty of the Easier Than Easy type. Damage that Alyx takes is lowered, and enemies can take many fewer shots - typically one pistol shot will take out a headcrab, two for a zombie, three for a barnacle. Since the player needs fewer rounds to kill an enemy, and the Dynamic Difficulty doesn't remove as much ammunition (if any), the player tends to accumulate more ammunition as well, likely hitting the 1000-round cap for pistol and SMG.

  • Story Mode of Portal Stories: Mel completely overhauls the campaign, making the puzzles less challenging. It was created as a response of feedback claiming that the game was too hard, making it hard to follow along with the story.

    Rhythm Game 
  • It is possible to play D4DJ Groovy Mix just for the story by just leaving the Rhythm Game part in auto-play mode. While you won't get rewards based on combo or complete Stage Qualifier objectives, you'll still earn points and most other rewards, including unit EXP (for Main Story), Bond EXP (for character stories), and event points (for Event Stories). By turning gameplay sound effects off, the game basically becomes a visual novel with a music player.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • For a few plot-heavy quests in AdventureQuest, there is an option to play the quest by only seeing the cutscenes instead of battling through legions of monsters, but this has the drawback of not being able to claim rewards at the end. "The Restoration" and several Mastercraft set quests fall under this category.
  • Cthulhu Saves the World features an "overpowered" mode, which is advertised as for reliving the story and messing around in general. You need to beat the game normally first, though, which can be done on an easy mode which is available by default.
  • Divinity: Original Sin has Explorer Mode. "If you prefer story and exploration over being challenged in combat, this is the difficulty for you." Divinity: Original Sin II has it too, but there is also an actual Story Mode, which buffs player characters and debuffs enemies even further and adds a free resurrection ability.
  • The easiest mode in Dragon Age: Inquisition is called Casual: "For players new to role-playing games or those interested in a purely narrative focus."
  • Everlong allows the player to change between normal and story mode outside of dungeons. If the player enters a dungeon in story mode, they can avoid all random encounters, can use healing points to reach the level cap of the area, or choose to skip the boss. However, this doesn't work for bonus dungeons, which are normal mode only until the boss is beaten.
  • The Steam release of Final Fantasy VII has the option to permanently max out all one's characters in order to skip any and all grinding, ostensibly so the player can more easily enjoy the story, unlock every nook and cranny of the game and see the results of every conceivable side-quest. This was repeated for the Steam version of Final Fantasy VIII while Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 take it a step further by allowing players to have their Limit Break gauge always full, learn every single skill in the game, and double or quadruple the overall game speed to reduce time spent grinding and traveling.
  • Final Fantasy XIV's original raid series, the Binding Coil of Bahamut, drew criticism for being too difficult for most players, preventing them from experiencing the story and lore behind it. To address this, the Heavensward expansion gave its Alexander raids two versions: normal mode and savage mode. The normal raid is designed to be decently challenging but clearable by random groups who simply wish to experience the story, while the savage raid provides the hardcore challenge for dedicated players. While both do drop gear, the savage gear is statistically far superior and can be dyed, whereas the normal drops cannot. This setup was sufficiently well-received that future expansions' raids would go on to follow the same template.
  • Discovery mode in GreedFall, which overpowers the main character and their companions to the point they're invincible so that players can just glide through encounters and enjoy the story.

  • Horizon Zero Dawn added a "Story" difficulty in a patch a few months after the game was released. For perspective, this mode more than tripled damage dealt by the player relative to the easy mode.
  • Mass Effect 3 includes the "Narrative" difficulty setting that specifically facilitates this kind of play (drastically reducing the core combat gameplay difficulty to let players focus on the story).
  • While not outright named as such, Persona 4 Golden's Very Easy difficulty is explained as the difficulty setting for people to enjoy the story. Similar explanations for the easier difficulty levels are given for Persona 3 Portable as well. The Safe difficulty for Persona 5 and its Royal re-release is similarly described as being "for those who wish to enjoy the story."
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 has a "Casual" difficulty for the Story, which caps the Level Scaling for enemies to such a low level that anything stronger than a stiff breeze will instantly vaporize most mooks. The main drawback to Casual is that you can't get certain Titles that count toward a 100% Completion Title.
  • With the release of The White Marches: Part II DLC, Pillars of Eternity put out a "Story Time" difficulty setting. This doesn't make any changes to the encounter composition used in its regular lower difficulties, but the RNG is rigged in the player's favor.
  • The 3DS version of Radiant Historia has “casual mode” which not only greatly nerfs enemy stats, but enables the player to avoid most fights simply by attacking enemies on the world map, earning free money and XP in the process.
  • RuneScape has a story mode in Elite Dungeon content, which makes combat very easy, yields negligible rewards, but increases the drop rate of lore books that you can read to learn more about the story.
  • Sea of Stars does not have a difficulty setting, but it does have an equippable item called "Amulet of Storytelling" which doubles the characters' maximum HP and auto-heals after combat.
  • Shining Resonance describes its Casual difficulty setting as "For those who want to enjoy the story."
  • The Tenth Line: The "story only" mode removes all non-plot combat encounters, while drastically simplifying the plot-relevant ones, as well as the platforming segments, with a bit of what we call Easy-Mode Mockery, although it's not mocking. It does not have post-game content:
    Post-game content is NOT available in this mode.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has its easy mode literally called "Story".
  • World of Warcraft has "raid finder" difficulty level for end game content. It is advertised as tourist mode for those that want to see the story and bosses without putting a lot of effort into defeating it. While easy, it is not sit back and relax difficulty. There is a good chance if you go away from keyboard for most of a fight you will be kicked out. However, you generally won't as long as you try, mostly due to the fact that it gets easier every time you fail.

    Simulation Game 
  • The card challenges in I Was a Teenage Exocolonist can be turned off to focus more on the story, and the success of each activity is instead determined by a coin flip based on your age and skills.
  • Rodina features a game mode which cuts out combat in favour of following the story without all those pesky xenos looking out for you.

    Stealth-Based Game 
  • The Updated Re-release of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Subsistence, came packaged with two bonus discs which included (among other things) an option to watch a "film" version of the game, consisting of the numerous Cut Scenes in the game spliced together, with additional footage to bridge the gaps between them. Hideo Kojima explained in the game's manual that this feature was offered for the benefit of players who might not have the free time to play through the entire game, but nevertheless wanted to experience its story.

    Survival Horror 
  • Alone in the Dark (2008) had a feature which allowed players to skip chapters if they became stuck. According to the box art, this feature was included to allow everyone to reach the game's climax regardless of their skill level.
  • The Nintendo Switch, Steam, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 versions of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water had a Very Easy difficulty added in a November 2021 patch. The patch notes states "Very Easy difficulty is for players who want to enjoy the story safely."
  • Silent Hill 2 features an option to essentially disable its combat, allowing players to, according to the manual, "enjoy the storyline, drama and puzzles of Silent Hill 2 without fighting". It doesn't do away with monsters altogether, but instead cuts their offense and defense so low as to make them a negligible threat; a single bash with the plank is enough to drop one.
  • After a modder released a "safe mode" mod for SOMA that made the monsters non-hostile, thus making it impossible to die, the developers made this an official option in a patch. This mode effectively transforms the game from a Survival Horror to an Environmental Narrative Game.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls has an Easier Than Easy mode designed for players that just want to see the story, due to worries about the spin-off being a genre departure from the franchise's usual Visual Novel/Adventure Game style.
  • The Division 2 literally calls its easiest difficulty setting "Story", which features more fragile and less numerous enemies. In fact, until a mission is completed at least once, the difficulty can't be changed at all, unlike the first game. note 
  • Sniper Elite 5: The lowest difficulty is Civilian, described as "a Very Easy way to play the game, for players who enjoy story and exploration over intense challenge."

    Visual Novel 
  • The Compilation Rerelease of The Great Ace Attorney duology adds a "Story Mode", which automatically advances the dialogue and performs all the actual gameplay (cross-examinations, investigations, etc.) without any need for player input.
  • Seven Kingdoms: The Princess Problem has two difficulties: Challenge Mode and Story Mode. The latter is specifically pitched to players who want to see the game through to the end without having to painstakingly optimize their character builds.
  • Sunrider's lowest difficulty setting, "Visual Novel Mode," is explicitly described as being for people who only want to enjoy the story without having to worry about the challenge / hassle of combat.

  • Playthroughs of a game online could be seen as a retroactive version of this. In addition to Lets Plays like the Game Grumps where the player's commentary is the focus, there are no-commentary "longplays" of games where you can simply watch the game being played. Some Youtubers even take this to its logical conclusion and make "The Movie" versions of games that chop the gameplay out completely and only show you the cutscenes stitched together to create a "movie", with some like this one of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots reaching over two million views.