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Difficulty Levels that merely change some statistics of the player/enemy. This sometimes runs into the issue that it doesn't actually make the game any harder; for example if enemies have more health, they might just take longer to kill. Some games also increase the rewards you receive, which in games with Experience Points can sometimes result in Hard Difficulties becoming substantially easier once you get past the hellish first areas.

Common in Dynamic Difficulty systems, because it scales easily and can handle incremental increases.

  • 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.
Examples of Numerical Hard include:

  • 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).
  • While hard mode for the entire series generally averts this [1], the Easy modes in Fire Emblem games (2, 5 and the non-Japan versions of 9) use it, giving the player extra experience points.
    • As does 11's hard mode, merely buffing enemy stats.
  • 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 does extra damage. 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Higher level bots in the Time Splitters series just get higher health.
  • 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.
  • Tanks in Left 4 Dead have HP 4000, 5000, 6000 or 8000 HP, depending on the difficulty level.
  • Avernum and Geneforge.
  • Parasite Eve 2 has several difficulty levels (must be unlocked first) that alters items found, enemies fought, and the strength of you and the enemies. Bounty mode replaces most of the enemies with Golems, who usually do not appear until near the game's end and they are very strong. The trade off here is you get good items if you beat them from the beginning on. Scavenger mode reduces your base MP to 10 and makes your attacks weaker. On top of that, better items are in the shops, but the prices are insanely high, so you're forced to conserve everything you find. Nightmare mode combines Scavenger and Bounty modes, making your attacks weaker and enemies stronger while limiting your purchasing power for items. Unlike scavenger mode, your base HP starts off at 50, making death pretty common. The trade off on playing higher difficulties is when you beat the game, your total EXP and BP get a bonus multiplier and you move up a rank or two as a bonus. These factors determine what items are unlocked for you to buy in Replay Mode.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 broken difficulty algorithm, meaning that even if you pick Superhuman (the highest difficulty level), you're still playing on Beginner (the lowest). Terror From The Deep fixed reversing it. Now, even if you pick Beginner, you're playing on Superhuman (most notable when fighting Aquatoids: they are far more accurate than they have any right to be). 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.
      • Which kind of makes it more fun.
  • 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 and Fallout 3 have it, too.
      • Fallout 3 introduces a wrinkle not present in the Elder Scrolls games, however. 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.
      • There actually is a similar increase in XP in Oblivion and Morrowind sort of. Because you're doing a sixth the damage with each attack, that means you have to make six times as many attacks (roughly), and since TES's experience system is based on actually using skills, this means your offensive skills will get more experience. Your armor skills are likely to level up more slowly, because you can't afford to take as many hits. Skills like Acrobatics or Security are unaffected.
  • 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.
  • Choosing Easy, Medium or Hard in Dungeon Siege affects how much HP the enemies have.
  • All Sim City 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.
  • Every time you beat a run of Valkyrie Profile 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.
  • While the difference is hardly noticeable amidst the other things that happen to the AI in Command and 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.
  • Most Bullet Hell shmups will just increase the number of bullets fired at the player.
    • Touhou averts this somewhat: Difficulty sometimes changes Spellcards bosses use, and sometimes causes Mid Bosses to use spellcards when in easier difficulties they wouldn't.
  • 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. There are two bosses in the game however that hit the cap after the hypothetical 50% HP boost, resulting in... well, a less than 50% boost.
  • 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 "takes much longer to kill enemies."
    • They changed this up in Mass Effect 2, however, where insanity mode gives pretty much any enemy in the game the power to tear you to shreds from full health in a matter of seconds. Their behavior changed along with it in this one, though.
  • 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 [2].
    • Both played straight and averted in Galactic Civilization: while the harder A Is 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 A Is 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 A Is will immediately start ramping up their defenses and/or declare war pre-emptively. Easy A Is will just sit there. And taunt your ass).
  • 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.
  • Eternal Sonata shows of this trope in its Encore Mode, a mode that can only be accessed after beating the game once.
  • 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).
  • 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!).
  • 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.
  • Final Fantasy IV: In the Nintendo DS remake, most enemies--including bosses--have had their HP jacked sky-high (Odin's and the Behemoths' HP has doubled, as has most of the enemies' HP; the Trap Door's HP has tripled; Red Dragons and the Demon Wall have had their HP almost quadrupled, and at least one enemy has gone from "complete non-issue" to "nightmare" due to a 2000% HP increase) and, just to rub salt in the wound, most enemies have had their dropped gil slashed drastically--some reduced by much as 95%--just to make your life harder. Also, Rydia's offensive spells and summons cost more MP--Leviathan's gone from 50MP to 75, and Bahamut from 60 to 99.
    • Though bosses and some mooks have new tricks to then, and so do the players, so it's only a partial example. Still, the numerical part is the biggest pain - everything else is just rubbing salt on the wound.
  • 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.
  • The "Crazy" difficulty setting of Castlevania: Lament of Innocence 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
  • Tales (series) games will usually multiply enemy health and stats by 1.5 and 2.0 on Hard and Mania difficulties.
    • In the other hand, some enemies (Most notably bosses) also get new attacks, so it's only a partial example.
  • 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.
  • Disgaea, and almost all Nippon Ichi games, have the option to increase enemy levels, which does so using Numerical Hard math -- NIS Numerical Hard math, that is. (Read: 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 Absence of Justice by giving enemies an increase to their stats based on how many levels they'd be gaining in excess of 9999.
  • Several Command and Conquer games use this method, altering unit specs and costs based on the difficulty level the player chooses.
    • The level of variation can actually be altered by any Command and Conquer: Red Alert player who has and uses a "rules.ini" file for the game.
    • The only effect difficulty has in Command and Conquer: Renegade is that it increases enemy health, reduces your own, and makes ammo drops less frequent.
  • In Minecraft, the only thing that changes between the 3 difficulty levels(disregarding Peaceful) is the amount of damage hostile monsters do. Don't get ambushed by a Creeper on Hard with no armor.
  • The Free Space 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.
  • 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-Hit-Point Wonder is many of the levels.
  • In City of Heroes, you can choose to make the missions you do more challenging - you can face lots more enemies (with more bosses and lieutenants), higher-level opponents, or both.
  • 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, creating an artificial need to upgrade your gear.
  • Happens in Challenge mode of every Ratchet and 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.
  • 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 a 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).


  1. 7's Hector mode alone includes goodies like smarter enemy placements such as flying enemies on a map bisected by a river, reinforcements from behind you and a few bosses will now move
  2. (technically this is controlled by numbers too but by that logic everything is)
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