Difficulty level is an option for players to adjust the degree of challenge best suited to their level of skill or play-style. The option to change the game's difficulty was not initially a staple in the Final Fantasy series, and has mainly appeared as an extra in re-released versions of games. Some games give Hard Mode options for clearing the game once on Normal difficulty.
Other things similar to a difficulty level are the introduction of an Expert level Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X PAL, HD Remaster, and International Versions, and the different New Game Plus modes in Zodiac versions of Final Fantasy XII. Some Final Fantasy XIV battles have a normal and "hard" version, the normal version being required for completing the storyline. Notably, the original North American release of Final Fantasy IV was made easier than the Japanese release, while Japan later received an Easy Type version with more changes and further reduced difficulty.
The Final Fantasy Origins version features an Easy and Normal mode. In Easy mode, shop prices are cheaper, experience levels are gained faster, and stats grow more rapidly. After the player has completed a save, they can save their progress, and load that same save when starting a new save and keep bestiary and Collections info, meaning they will not have to face the same enemies again if they wish to play a Normal playthrough. A number of images in the Photo Gallery only become available after completing the game on Normal mode.
The Final Fantasy Origins version features an Easy and Normal mode. The Normal version resembles the NES version, removing features such as Sprint. It is not possible to start a Normal playthrough until an Easy playthrough has been completed.
The mobile and Steam versions, which are based on the Nintendo DS remake, allow the player to change the difficulty level between Normal and Hard. Hard mode is roughly equivalent to the DS version, known for being harder than previous versions and closer to the original Japanese SNES release.
Final Fantasy VII Remake initially features three difficulty levels: Normal, Easy and Classic. The normal difficulty is described as being for those who wish to explore all of the new possibilities of the game's combat, while Easy is for those who just wish to enjoy the game's story. Classic mode features the same difficulty level as Easy, but also eliminates mechanics such as guarding and staggering, making gameplay more like the classic Final Fantasy VII. Intergrade adds Normal difficulty to Classic mode.
After completing the game, the player can enter a New Game Plus with Hard Mode available, where item use is disabled and sitting on benches only replenishes HP, making MP a scarce resource. Additionally, certain battles are modified to be more difficult: for example, the Hell House boss uses new attacks, sometimes summons three Tonberries and may also summon a Sweeper and Cutter if the player is unable to finish it off quickly enough. Playing in Hard Mode also allows the player access to an advanced Shinra Combat Simulator in Chapter 17, "Deliverance from Chaos", which contains a number of tough fights, including the superboss Pride and Joy Prototype.
Hard play mode was added to the international releases. In Hard mode, enemies have greatly increased stats, but the game otherwise plays the same as in Normal mode.
"Easy Mode" exists in the original Japanese release, but was replaced by an "Extra Hard Mode" (also known as as "Super Hard Mode") in the North American and European releases after the player finished the game once on either Normal or Hard difficulty. In the Extra Hard Mode, players can unlock numerous extras, such as 40 extra missions, character models, a music player, and an artwork gallery. Completing the game on the Extra Hard difficulty setting unlocks the Extra Hard+ difficulty setting. Higher difficulty settings feature stronger enemies in much greater numbers, and the player can be attacked while accessing the menu.
Most end-game content introduced in the past few years (such as High-tier Battlefields and Ambuscade) includes five difficulty levels: Very Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. "Very Easy" is generally soloable by an Item Level 119 character and a party of Trust NPCs, while the highest difficulty levels are only beatable by groups of the most skilled players. All rewards are available to the lower difficulties, but the rewards drop in greater quantities on high difficulties.
Easy Mode was added to the Xbox 360 release in Japan. It was later patched in the Japanese PlayStation 3 version, which also added the tweaks made to the North American and PAL versions. Players will be prompted to select a difficulty level when starting a new game, and can change it at any time from the Settings menu; the default difficulty is Normal. The 2014 Steam rerelease also includes the option to switch between each battle difficulty.
In Easy Mode, enemies below level 50 have 20% less HP and are twice as easy to stagger, while higher-level enemies are 50% easier to stagger. Party members take 33% less damage and healing abilities are 33% less effective. The timer for Doom is twice as long, and the Gestalt Gauge when fighting Eidolons fills much quicker. Eidolons in Gestalt Mode also have a 50% higher Gestalt Count. Although drop rates for normal items are increased, rare drops are even more rare, even with a Connoisseur Catalog equipped.
Easy Mode and Normal Mode are included by default. The player can switch between the modes at any time in the Settings menu. Easy Mode reduces enemy HP by 20% (excluding bosses) and makes them twice as easy to stagger (50% more for bosses). All damage and healing to the party is reduced by 33%, and all wound damage to the party is reduced by 66%; wound damage also gradually heals over time. The Doom timer is also three times as long. In contrast, Normal Mode provides greater item drop rates for obtaining a higher battle rating.
There are three difficulty settings: Easy, Normal, and Hard. When the player first starts the game, they can choose between Normal and Easy. Hard is unlocked after the player completes the game for the first time. The difficulty level may only be adjusted at the beginning of a playthrough.
|Availability||Any playthrough||New Game+ only|
|EP gained from battle||x2.0||x0.5|
|Gil gained from battles||x1.0||x3.0|
|Items gained from battle||x1.5|
|Item drop rate|
|Item drop quality||Common and uncommon (Day 7/10)||All|
|Ability drop rank||0-2||3-5|
|Teleport and Arise EP cost||2||3|
|Curaga, Quake, and Overclock EP cost||1||2|
|Penalty for using Escape||None||Escaping from battle advances time by one hour.|
|"Poor" battle penalty||A "Poor" battle start damages Lightning by 5% of her max HP.|
|HP field recovery||HP gradually increases in the field.||Lightning does not recover HP while in the field.|
|Shop stock||Standard||Some shops offer additional equipment.|
The difficulty of battlecraft and fieldcraft Guildleves can be adjusted from 0 to 4 for level 1 to 45 leves, or 0 to 1 for level 50+ leves. Increasing the difficulty will increase the level of enemies and gathering items by an amount equal to the difficulty. Players will obtain more EXP for choosing higher difficulties.
If a player fails or otherwise has to restart a Quest Battle, or is doing the duty via New Game+, they will have the option to lower its difficulty to Easy or Very Easy, which will increase their max HP, damage, and healing by 50% or 100%, respectively.
Many Dungeons have Hard versions, which are higher level or item level than the original version, and while they are set in the same location have different rewards, story, layout, and enemies. Despite the Hard nomenclature used, Hard mode dungeons are generally of similar difficulty as non-Hard dungeons of the same level.
Trials offer an 8-man Hard fight that is story-based, and an Extreme fight that is primarily for treasure. Beginning in Heavensward, trials dropped the Hard label and 8-man trials became the standard composition. Prior to this, The Bowl of Embers, The Navel, and The Howling Eye were also fought in "easy mode", 4-man fights during the base game's main story.
Raids feature a normal mode and a Savage mode, the latter difficulty containing some of the strongest bosses, representing a significant challenge for even the most well-geared players. Savage difficulty was first introduced with The Second Coil of Bahamut (Savage), but was not normalized until the Alexander raid series. The normal modes of the Bahamut raid series are much more difficult than later normal modes, about on par with modern Savage modes, and cannot be entered via the Raid Roulette.
Finally, Ultimate Raids are available beginning with patch 4.11 of Stormblood, and are even harder content than Savage. Unlike Savage, Ultimate raids are not meant for progression, and are for those seeking a challenge and bragging rights. Furthermore, Ultimate raids cannot be run unsynced in order to preserve their difficulty. To date, there are three Ultimate raids: The Unending Coil of Bahamut (Ultimate), The Weapon's Refrain (Ultimate), and The Epic of Alexander (Ultimate).
"Normal" and "Easy" difficulties are available and the player can change between them at any time. On Easy, Carbuncle will fully heal the leader if they are ever KO'd, also giving him a buff boosting Strength and Defense. Carbuncle won't appear in all but the easiest hunts, as well as other particular locations.
The player can switch between active and wait battle modes. The latter freezes time when using Noctis and not currently inputting a command, also featuring exclusive mechanics, such as analyzing enemy stats, and displaying visible red and blue target lines, similar to Final Fantasy XII. The developers' aim was to make it so that both players who like action-oriented, technical gameplay, and those who want to fight at a slower, more relaxed pace, can all enjoy the combat. The switching system was decided to be introduced based on the feedback received from the Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae demo. The feedback from the demo was divided between those who wanted more depth to the action, and those who preferred it simpler. Director Hajime Tabata was initially worried because there hadn't been a numbered Final Fantasy that allows the user to select difficulty.
The game features two difficulty modes: Casual and Normal. Normal mode offers challenging gameplay, while Casual mode exists for players who wish to enjoy the story.
At the start of the game, the player can choose between Normal Mode and Hard Mode, and the difficulty cannot be changed once selected.
In Hard Mode, enemies deal more damage. The foes' AI is also smarter, and they often take the chance to gang up on weaker party members. Hard Mode does not yield extra benefits, and some missions are affected significantly; for example "An Earnest Multitude" and "An Earnest Desire" that cannot be completed without dispatching, are impossible to beat unless the dispatched members are at tremendously high levels of minimum 50 and 77 respectively, despite their relatively low rank of mid 20s. Similarly, several missions that one could opt to dispatch despite outleveling the requirements, may easily end up in failure due to the larger threshold needed, and thus forcing the player to engage in some of them personally, or level grind.
Final Fantasy Type-0 features four levels of difficulty which affect enemy levels and three in PSPmission rewards. Completing missions on higher difficulty levels will yield more gil and greater rewards, as well as new magic, Eidolons, and purchasable equipment.
- Cadet (Novice): The same mission level as Officer, but enemies have less HP, deal less damage, and give less EXP. Spells also cost half as much MP to use. This difficulty was added to the HD version due to player feedback regarding the PSP release.
- Officer (Intermediate): The standard difficulty which the other three difficulties and the user interface refer to.
- Agito (Advanced): Enemy levels are raised by 30. A mission must be cleared on Agito before unlocking Finis.
- Finis (Expert): Enemy levels are raised by 50, enemies are in constant Rage status (if applicable), and any missions (sans the first and last) must be completed with one party member.
In the PSP version, difficulty levels could only be accessed when replaying missions. In the HD remake, difficulty levels were added into the main game and could be changed mid-playthrough, albeit not mid-mission. Completing all storyline missions from the Missions menu on Finis difficulty unlocks the Resplendent Garb, and completing all missions on Finis difficulty unlocks l'Cie Mode.
The game features three difficulty levels: Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. They are accessed differently via modes. In Story Mode on the first playthrough, the player must play on Normal difficulty, but upon finishing the game and saving their cleared data, and then selecting and loading that save data, the player can play Story Mode from the beginning on Hard Mode. After finishing Hard Mode, the player will be forced to play Very Hard mode.
In Multiplayer Mode, the player must clear all areas in the storyline order on Normal difficulty first, and upon finishing Crystal Temple on Normal, they will have access to Hard Mode at the Valley of Heroes. After completing all areas for the second time, Very Hard will be available for Valley of Heroes and the player will once again have to clear all areas to access Very Hard for them. Each difficulty for each area has a different level requirement, and if the player is not in a sufficient level range they cannot enter the dungeon on that difficulty.
Depending on the difficulty mode enemies have different stats and item drops, and dungeons give different items in chests. There is no difference in items in Hard and Very Hard modes, and only the difficulty of the enemies changes. Only certain pieces of equipment in both modes are available in Hard mode only, as they will never appear in Normal mode in either mode. Finishing the game on Hard mode unlocks the Victory Clothes in the equipment shop in Rebena Te Ra.
Additional difficulty levels are available after completing the game for the first time. In hard and very hard modes, more dungeons, abilities, and buildings are available, but enemies are much stronger, and adventurers are weaker.
After clearing the game in Normal Mode and saving after the final boss, the player can replay the game on Hard Mode or Normal Mode by selecting it via Start+ from the menu. Completing the game on Hard Mode unlocks Very Hard Mode. Depending on the difficulty selected, enemies are stronger, items are different, and some items are only available on Hard mode.
The player can set the computer opponent's strength in Story Mode as "Normal", "Strong" or "Moderate". This setting only affects the AI of the opponent, and does not affect bonuses awarded during the game, and this setting can be changed at any time via the Options menu.
The player can also reduce their character levels to yield additional KP bonuses in Story Mode from Scenario 013 onwards.
Every battle mission has an assigned difficulty rating from 1 to 250 as of the most recent update, which impacts gameplay as follows:
- Main story missions, Lost Chapters, and Intersecting Wills have two broad difficulty levels: Normal Mode and Hard Mode. Missions in Normal Mode generally do not exceed a rating of 50. Previous to client 1.18.0, Hard Mode required the player to complete all Normal Mode missions to unlock, and currently has a difficulty spread of 60 to 200. Though completing the Normal track will yield rewards of Crystals, Gems, and Orbs that may be useful in advancing featured units, the Hard track offers more valuable rewards at every major milestone reached, with even more rewards offered in the first two weeks of any new content. As of client 1.18.0, Hard Mode is accessible from the start of any mission and rewards now stack with any unclaimed in Normal Mode.
- First-run character events and special quests have a difficulty spread of 10 to 250, with additional rewards offered at rating 20 and above. EX quests have a stated difficulty level of 100, followed by COSMOS at 150, CHAOS at 180, and LUFENIA at 200. This ranking table is also used in the World of Illusions, where the Trials of the Summons comprise the entirety of Normal quests; and the Ultimate challenges are the Hard Mode quests. As of mid-October 2021, the EX (100) missions have been dropped from new events, beginning with Lofty Souls.
- The Global version had a beta test from early September 2021 of a mission rated at 250, a preview of LUFENIA+ content released much earlier in Japan. LUFENIA+ was made an official difficulty with the issue of Divine Pandemonium.
- Clearing a LUFENIA+ quest will automatically clear the LUFENIA quest below it; likewise, clearing the Challenge Quest will clear the linked CHAOS quest from which it is derived.
- Occasionally, special quests may appear to have random difficulty levels, but astute observers might recognize that these numbers may be puns. For example, a Summer 2020 co-op event used "123410" as a value, which was a double pun on "SUMmer", as 1+2+3+4=10.
There are three difficulty levels: "Basic", "Expert" and "Ultimate". The number and speed of notes increases in every difficulty level. The difficulty levels have also been available in the demos.
All dungeons in Realm Dungeons are divided in Classic and Elite difficulty levels. Classic difficulty dungeons have normal difficulty enemies, and beating these dungeons proceeds through the Realm Dungeons. Mastering a Classic difficulty dungeon, which required scoring 83.(3)% of the dungeon's medals, unlocks this dungeon's Elite version where enemies have higher stats. On both difficulties bosses have a variety of Target Scores, which are also the part of the medal awarding system. While the most common Target Score is not getting a single character KO'd during the entire fight, some may require bring a specific character to battle and not getting them KO'd, exploiting elemental and ailment weaknesses, or defeating an enemy before they use a certain attack. Many Challenge Events, specifically single-track events, have Elite difficulty dungeons.
The difficulty level can be switched between Normal or Hard in the "Etc" menu. Hard difficulty increases the toughness of enemies, but defeating them will yield more gil, EXP, and skillseeds.
In the multiplayer mode, Ring of Braves, each Sicarius battle is available in three difficulty levels: 1 star, 2 stars, and 3 stars. The boss's strength greatly increases with each star. Additionally, "Guard A" joins the boss in 2-star difficulty, and both "Guard A" and "Guard B" join the boss in 3-star difficulty. Rewards are increased based on the difficulty setting.
A "Nightmare" difficulty setting is included in the Maxima version, available when playing on a New Game+ file, and is unlocked during Chapter 1.
When Nightmare difficulty is activated, enemies and bosses become much stronger, but drop more gil, EXP and better items. Elemental and ailment resistances do not change between both difficulties, and battle matches at The Coliseum are unaffected when activated.
This difficulty level can be switched back to the normal difficulty at any point in the Config menu, by going to the "Difficulty Setting" option.