Harry Krueger, director of Returnal, returned to the subject of difficulty. Something dear to Housemarque, but which the developers could be more flexible on in the future.
It’s around a discussion with journalist Greg Miller (reported by VGC) that Krueger claimed that he and his team at Housemarque could very well make their games more accessible, specifying however that it was inconceivable with Returnal.
Towards “easier” Housemarque games?
At Housemarque, difficulty is a true love story as old as the hills. From Resogun to Returnal to Nex Machina, most games from Housemarque require some investment. And although they remain open to everyone, not everyone is ready to invest as much and many even consider, wrongly, this kind of games as being reserved for an “elite”. We still remember the “debate” around the difficulty of Returnal.
But according to recent statements by Harry Krueger, it is not impossible that the studio changes its tune and seeks to make games more accessible. When Miller asks him how the debate around Returnal’s difficulty has influenced their approach to accessibility, Krueger replies that, for him, it is entirely possible to find a balance between the two, but not for Returnal.
It will always be an interesting challenge to find the happy medium. I think we can always do more and we could always think more to offer different ways to play or even new control methods. But as for the difficulty [brute]I think it all depends on the affinity you have with Returnal.
In any case Returnal will not change
It is therefore likely that in the future, Housemarque will make sure to develop more accessible games, but as for Returnal, the game will not change since it was indeed thought, designed and written to be difficult.
I think for a whole host of reasons, story and gameplay are very inseparable in Returnal.
If we take the example of the character of Selene, she talks about dying again and again, that her chances of success are slim and that she cannot continue. There’s this descent into madness that happens naturally because of the challenges she faces, and her challenges are also the player’s in many ways. I have a feeling that if you were allowed to just skip a boss without any difficulty, or go from A to B to C through the story points, it would create some dissonance. The game would have told you that it’s a real challenge, and that you overcome a whole bunch of obstacles, but you wouldn’t have had to experience them.
The shooter will therefore remain as it is. Housemarque had already lightened its recipe shortly after its release to allow players to pause a run and recently added a devilishly effective cooperative mode in addition to allowing players to get out of it “easier”. Moreover, those who subscribe to future PS Plus subscriptions will be able to have a great time since the game will be part of the list of accessible titles.
Even if the studio will certainly pay more attention to the accessibility of its future games, it is almost certain that Returnal-like will emerge. The PS5 exclusive has received a very positive reception from the press and players, despite the “debates”, and has also won a good package of awards.