Demon's Souls - PS3 - Review
Do you consider your self to be a particularly “tough” individual? “Hard,” as they say? Invest an hour into this game and get back to me, because I’ve played my share of difficult games, but few are as unforgiving as this game is. There’s a plethora of RPGs out there, so does this game manage to stick with the pack or pave a path all its own? I find out in my review of the newest arrival in the fantasy RPG genre, Demon’s Souls.
To be completely honest, I’m the type of gamer that rarely explores outside a game’s medium difficulty setting, and most of the times I died were because I made a poor decision that landed me in the Nexus (the game’s version of limbo). I walked off cliffs, messed up a block (or parry), and forgot to heal myself when I was low on health plenty of times, but when I thought I had the hang of things and was doing good the game decided to stop going easy on me and threw me into a room with a terrifying demon that sent me packing with one swipe of its weapon. Demon’s Souls does not care about your feelings. It is beautiful, it is addicting, and utterly ruthless.
The times when I wasn’t being ravaged were when I got to really take in the game’s locales. There is some gorgeous scenery in this game, the dungeons are dark and creepy, the castles look ancient, the graveyards are unnerving, every location in this game is beautifully imagined and immensely fun to explore. There’s also a decent variety in the locations; you’ll be exploring expansive vistas one minute and crawling through claustrophobic corridors the next. This isn’t the type of game that forces you to explore dungeon after dungeon, there’s a good level of diversity to keep it fresh.
The game is divided into five locations that can be traveled to from the Nexus, the hub the connects them all. Each location has a very different look and feel to it; you start off at a castle before moving on to underground tunnels and a couple other locales. Each section has enemies exclusive to its location, my favorite being the Shrine of Storms level where you have to fight skeletons as giant manta ray shaped creatures fly overhead.
Demon’s Souls has a very imaginative story that gets revealed to you through many very cool grainy cinematics. The story surrounds the search for power and wealth of King Allant XII who brought unprecedented prosperity to the kingdom of Boletaria. That is, until a thick fog covered the lands separating the kingdom from the rest of the world. Those who entered the fog never returned. The aging King Allant XII had awakened the Old One, a great beast below the Nexus, which in turn let loose the fog and hordes of demons. The Demons grow stronger and more powerful with every soul they devour. The story makes for the perfect backdrop and is also a great incentive to keep going, just so you can see what’s going to happen next.
Some of my favorite parts of the game were also the sections where I managed to die often. I‘m talking about the game’s bosses, which are truly petrifying. They’re usually intimidating because of their mammoth size or their disturbing design. Fortunately, you can team up with two friends and take them down through teamwork (or, in my case watch as you all die one by one but the former sounds better). The bosses are always tough, but also extraordinarily fun to fight. There’s no better feeling than the wave of satisfaction (and relief) of conquering your first boss.
That brings me to what is arguably the game’s best, and most innovative feature: the multiplayer. When From Software wasn’t thinking of inventive ways to punish you for being such a weakling they were thinking of ways to make the online support incredibly original. If you want to help other players fight through the tougher sections of the game you and two others can team up and fight alongside each other. If you’re feeling a little less kind you can enter another player’s world and fight them as an evil spirit and attempt to take them out. Many games in this genre have some form of co-op or PvP but Demon’s Souls takes it to the next level by letting you interact with other players outside of the aforementioned features. When you die you leave a bloodstain that can be touched to see how the recently deceased met their end. Thankfully, you only leave one bloodstain at a time, otherwise you could probably tell what levels I just got through because they looked like the elevator scene from The Shining.
Like any good RPG, there’s a ton of customization in this game. You can tailor your character’s appearance to make him or her look like whoever you want (mine resembled a young Dan Aykroyd), your class, and equipped items. Being able to make your character your own really helps to make the dozens of times the game chews you up and spits you out even more heartbreaking, but when playing online no two characters will be alike. If you find yourself spending more time in the Nexus than playing the actual game you can always trade the demon’s souls gathered from slain foes for new items, upgrades, and repairs.
The multiplayer is less an addition than a seamless integration; if you want to play with or against other players there’s nothing stopping you from doing so. But if you’re looking to have a less noticeable effect on other players’ worlds you can always leave your mark (quite literally) through your bloodstains, or through helpful messages written on walls. If you find a particularly useful (or not-so useful) hint or tip scrawled on the wall you can rate it so other players know whether to heed your advice or ignore it. Another cool addition was the wandering spirits of other players, which made the game feel even more real, and if you follow one long enough there’s a chance you could find something you otherwise would’ve missed.
This is a truly amazing game with a unique setting, gorgeous environments, and more than a couple jaw-dropping moments. Unfortunately, for me the game’s controller tossing level of difficulty keeps it from achieving a place amongst my all-time favorite games. In no way should its difficulty detract you from diving into this game, because for any RPG fan this is a game you shouldn’t miss. When a game’s difficulty is my only real gripe that just goes to show how great it really is. Maybe they should’ve just included a “Wussy Baby” difficulty for gamers such as myself?
Combat isn’t overly complicated but deep enough to require a certain level of strategy to survive most encounters. The addition of a lock-on feature came in handy many times.
This game looks amazing. The enemy designs are great but the more notable work went into making some of the game’s rather spectacular set pieces. I guarantee you’ll stop to admire the world at least once.
The music is fantastic and truly helps to immerse you into the game, the sound effects are well done, and the voice work is well done making quick chats with the game’s NPCs actually interesting.
There are more than a couple fantasy RPGs out there, but this game manages to really stand out with some of the best level and character design I’ve ever seen. Demon’s Souls follows several tried and true formulas while paving a path all its own.
Multiplayer has been perfectly blended into the game; whether you want to enlist the help of some friends or duel with another player, this game has it all. The ability to leave your mark to warn or help other players through your bloodstains or writings on the floor is a very clever and useful addition as well.
This is a truly exceptional RPG experience that hasn’t been offered by any other game in its genre. It all comes down to whether you’re brave enough to explore its savage environments, but if you are I can promise that you won’t be disappointed.