As a Dark Souls fan counting the days until Dark Souls II is released, I decided it was time to do perhaps the most obvious thing one can do – play Demon’s Souls for the first time ever. If I owned a PS3, this is something I would have done a long time ago but alas, I don’t have one. I picked up a cheap copy of Demon’s Souls off Amazon, borrowed the office PS3 and got ready to plunge into the demon infested world of Boletaria.
Although Demon’s Souls came out back in 2009, I’ve never looked up anything for the spiritual prequel to Dark Souls. Due to this, I decided to play Demon’s Souls the right way; without internet help or any sort of outside aid. I wanted the real ‘Day 1’ experience… even though I’m about 4 years too late. My camp has always been the one where you play a game purely the first time around, and then on the second playthrough you read up everything possible for collection runs.
For my starting class, I went with Royalty based on the fact that it started at Soul Level 1, and I always start Pyromancer for the same reason. When I also learned that the class starts with a buckler and rapier, I was nearly giddy. My ideal play style is high dexterity, fast roll, fast weapons, with love for parries, so the starting package for Royalty was pretty damn spot on. The Silver Catalyst with Soul Arrow was the tip of the iceberg. I only used it for foes out of range, but it killed nearly everything in the early game in one shot, including those phalanx mobs.
In the tutorial mission, I was amazed just how similar Demon’s Souls controlled compared to Dark Souls (I realize I should say that the other way around). The controls are nearly identical, even though movement in Demon’s Souls felt much faster. The enemies acted similarly, and the beginning Dreglings have identical move sets to the starting Hollows. Even the Blue and Red Eye Knights remind me of Silver and Black Knights.
While exploration is definitely present in Demon’s Souls, I enjoyed the open world aspect of Dark Souls more. The Nexus is neat in a ‘Mega Man choose your own adventure’ type of level system. It truly is a hub situation with shops, leveling, bank, and NPCs to chat with. The Nexus is also nice and safe (most of the time). That said, the fact that there is a bank and item burden can be pretty obnoxious when coming from Dark Souls, where you can literally carry everything you ever come across. I was always surprised that Dark Souls didn’t have some sort of weight system but I’m so glad From Software took that feature away.
As far as level design, environment, and atmosphere goes, both games do such an excellent job. Maybe it was just that it was far less familiar, but I found the levels of Demon’s Souls to be more difficult than Dark Souls – that, and I did them in a wacky order. I did find the bosses to be a lot easier in Demon’s Souls, though this could be from just having a lot of ‘Souls franchise’ experience. Flamelurker gave me the most trouble out of anyone, but I managed to beat him in my starting Royalty gear by just rolling from his attacks and Soul Arrowing him when there was an opening. I felt that False King Allant was a letdown; I died once to learn his move set then beat him on the following attempt. Getting to him was more difficult than the fight itself.
For the most part, the Archdemons were a huge let down. Besides the False King, they were all gimmick fights and NO ONE enjoys the Bed of Chaos. Once I got to the bottom of the Nexus I expected a big final boss fight or at least a Gwyn equivalent – but nothing. I felt like first half of the game was so promising and then the second half just couldn’t deliver. Dark Souls definitely took a page out of Demon’s Souls book for how to end a game.
I have very mixed feeling towards how so much is going on at all times in Demon’s Souls. There are so many NPC quest lines, items, upgrade paths, and pure white/black World Tendencies I missed. I’m pretty big into exploration, so I got to be a part of some of these quest lines, but I never came across Miralda, Scirvir, Selen Vinland, or Mephistopheles. I still can’t explain how World Tendencies work, but I know people play offline to control them, which seems like a broken system to me. The depth in this game is amazing, but you really need to know what you’re doing to experience everything you want to.
So, after four years, does Demon’s Souls still hold up? Absolutely. I enjoyed the hell out of it and felt like I was playing brand new Dark Souls content. I liked all the immense options, didn’t like the item burden, and didn’t like the gimmicky Archdemons. I can easily admit that I enjoyed Dark Souls much more, but maybe I’d think differently if I had played Demon’s Souls first. Regardless, Dark Souls II is coming up and we all can agree on the fact that we’re going to play the ever loving s#$% out of that game. Who needs next gen anyways?
For humor purposes, here is the order I went through the game:
Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ