Demon’s Soul’s Review

Before reading through this, gamers need to realize one thing: Demon’s Souls is a hardcore RPG. It is not for beginner RPG players, and even seasoned gamers are going to have a difficult time.

That said…

Demon’s Souls is hands down the best RPG I have ever played since starting video games. And I started playing games with Pong.

Some gamers may not know the history of Demon’s Souls, so here’s a rundown. Originally Demon’s Souls, developed by From Software, was strictly a Japanese PlayStation 3 exclusive RPG. Some United States gamers got wind of the game and the hype started in the United States as well. It was in limbo for a while if Demon’s Souls would ever reach the United States and there was even a time when most hope of a localized version was null.

Then Atlus announced that Demon’s Souls would be coming to the United States and now it launches October 6.

But let’s get down to the review.

One word description? Difficult.

Demon’s Souls is considered a Japanese RPG, meaning it’s not about hand-holding the player like many Western-influenced RPG titles. Take what you know of the Final Fantasy games post FFVII and throw that all out the window. Gamers will be punished for attempting run-and-swing gameplay by dying.

The game is the story of a hero (you) agreeing to rid the world of demons. Working through different worlds fighting monsters of all sizes and helping out NPC characters along the way, the game opens up the story through careful steps, not entirely illustrating the whole circumstances to the player.

Honestly, the story is secondary, not because it’s forgettable, rather more of gamers’ concentration will be placed on surviving.

You will die a lot. Sometimes from stupidity, sometimes from bad luck, and sometimes because the strategy that worked with one enemy has no worth on another.

The interesting part of dying is that, dying is a natural part of the game. There isn’t a “Game Over” screen, you just reappear at the start of a level, but as a spirit. By defeating demons, you can regain your physical form and continue through the game. As a spirit, the HP of the character is halved, making combat even that much more dangerous, but you can still progress through the game.

Graphically, Demon’s Souls is one of the top tier games that shows what the PlayStation 3 can accomplish. The draw distance in levels is staggering and the game only loads during the transfer from the Nexus (the main hub of the game) to levels or after death. The character creator is deep and complex, though facial features can look really weird if care isn’t taken.

The character animation has a high variation. Different enemies move is ways that can either fool the player into attacking or they will feel out your attacks. While playing through, the best strategy I found was to approach an enemy and then move back as they attacked and see their pattern before moving in. Since blocking depletes health, it’s better to dodge rather than try to overpower any enemy.

Simply, some of them can kill you in one hit. Strike distance is paramount to surviving. Don’t try to attack a heavy armored knight with a lance when you have a simple broadsword. They will stab you before you can get close. And every motion other than walking costs stamina and when you run out of stamina, you can’t do anything. No attacks or blocks or running away. Essentially, you will die.

In the first level, which takes place in a castle, moving through the different rooms showed the variety that From Software put into what could have been boring, repetitive environments. Early in the castle, I was outside and moved into a room that was pitch black, only a light crystal showed a small area of visible area. And then I got attacked from the darkness. As I moved throughout the castle, it looked very much like many of the castles that have been portrayed in movies and games, but there was a specific “realness” to the environments. The geography of the castle didn’t make much sense until I opened many of the doors and found out where they lead and how the castle connected together.

There was one moment when I sat in awe. In a later level, I found large skeleton enemies who rolled along the ground and moved faster than my Wanderer could. I defeated the enemies, but before they attack me, one of them had destroyed a wooden wall, and the planks had scattered over this small hill. Before I set out to go further, one plank started rolling down the hill. It wasn’t much to see, except it responded to the small variations in the terrain along with the plants. It didn’t roll straight, but in a strange zig-zag motion. This was the moment that really impressed me.

The audio is a strange thing in Demon’s Souls. Most of the time, there isn’t any music. Much of the game is just environment noise. But sound is important in knowing which type of enemies are nearby. With a surround sound system, I was able to hear the distinct clank of armor or the growling of wolves before I saw them. The sound saved me from dying more than a few times.

Echoes in the castle were a nice change from the outside sounds of swinging my swords around. The variations in the sound all contributed to the feel of the game. In many ways, gamers will feel alone. Most of the time the only other characters are going to be enemies trying to kill you. The absence of a lot of music also gave much of the game a foreboding feeling, making me very careful of where I went and how fast I entered any area.

This is one thing gamers need to do. Move slowly and deliberately. Always watch your items and repair your weapons and armor when you can. Defeated enemies give souls or items, and souls are the currency to buy and upgrade the character and their weapons.

Demon’s Souls has an online aspect as well, and one that I’ve never experienced before, but wonder now why it isn’t included in more games.

While in-game on the network, gamers can see and write messages to other players warning or leaving advice on upcoming ambushes or treasure. I think I only died in an ambush once, and that was because I didn’t read the message on the ground. In essence, gamers are becoming the help guide for other players in real time. Rather than read a FAQ walkthrough, gamers can read the messages left by others and plan accordingly.

Another aspect of the online function is the blood stain. Blood stains are from the deaths of other players on the network. Gamers can watch the last moments of other players where ever they died and get a sense of what happened. In the build I played, some of the deaths were legit deaths caused by combat, but some were other gamers jumping from platforms or falling off bridges.

Once the game officially launches, the online gameplay function will greatly assist many gamers in getting past some of the harder sections of levels, but could also be a mass spam center.

Demon’s Souls is the game that hardcore RPG players have been waiting for, regardless of console preference. With the lack of hand holding that other RPGs seem to always place in (C’mon, the tutorial kills you), Demon’s Souls is a throwback to older RPGs where it was skill that got players through the game, not level grinding.

It is true that Demon’s Souls may turn off gamers because of the high difficulty, but with every defeated enemy or conquered level, there is a higher sense of accomplishment than beating any Final Fantasy game.