BioWare says that while it was necessary to lock new players out of the highest difficultly level of Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 might allow players to take on the toughest settings right from the start.
Mass Effect required players to beat the game not just once but twice before access to the "insanity" difficulty level was allowed, a point that irked players who felt they were being denied the opportunity to fully flex their hardcore gaming muscles. But in a post on the Mass Effect forums, BioWare Lead System Designer Christina Norman claimed it was necessary to do so in order to ensure that the difficulty was truly "insane."
"As you play through ME1 you unlock bonuses via achievements that actually make your character more powerful. Consequently, the hardest difficulty becomes 'easier'," she wrote. "If we give access to insanity on the first playthrough, we need to show that it is possible to beat the game with all classes without any bonuses from achievements. We can't release a difficulty level where it's impossible to complete."
"Effectively this means insanity would need to be easier," she continued. "If we can assume you've already done a playthrough, we can assume you've acquired some bonuses, in addition to getting the experience of beating it on a lower difficulty level which will help you beat it on insanity."
The difficulty levels of Mass Effect 2 are still being worked on, however, and Norman said the decision about whether or not "insanity" would be unlocked from the start will depend on how that process works out. "I can't go into the details right now, but there is more integration with our AI system for example. We want enemies on harder difficulties to feel smarter, deadlier, not just 'tougher'. We want insanity to feel like a smart experience, where you don't die because a rocket hits you and you're one-shot killed. You die because you face an overwhelming, deadly, force," she wrote.
"Once we have the difficulty levels nailed down, we'll evaluate and see whether or not it's reasonable to let insanity difficulty be unlocked at the start," she explained. "I'm totally open to doing that unless it means we have to make it 'easier'. Ultimately if I have to choose between those options, I will choose a harder insanity difficulty, because I believe that's what's important to our players."
And good news for gamers who thought the insanity difficulty in Mass Effect was for sissies: Mass Effect 2 is going to be even tougher. "Beating insanity on ME2 is going to be a real 'achievement', a badge of honor," she added. "Get ready."