Title: Demon’s Souls
Release Date: October 6th, 2009
Genre: Action RPG, Adventure
Developer: From Software
– Difficult but immensely rewarding system
– Beautifully crafted levels and monsters
– Great solid core mechanics
– Devastating replay value
– Innovative and fun multiplayer
– Framerate issues and slowdown
– Difficulty could not always be justified
Price as of November 27th 2012
Reviewed by FrontalSpy
The Kingdom of Boletaria is a very dangerous place; everything is designed to kill you. That tree in the distant? It’s a wimping willow. The very weapon you’re using? It breaks during a boss fight. Traversing through dark caverns, getting lost in large castles and surviving an eerie and evil prison. Demon’s Souls is a difficult, hard and even rage worthy game to many gamers but it’s like that for a reason. The rewards are great, better if you spent hard earned hours reaching minimal goals while remembering enemies’ tactics, and weaknesses. Demon’s Soul is a hardcore RPG for hardcore players that will earn hardcore rewards.
The Kingdom of Boletaria has separated itself from the rest of the natural world by the ‘deep fog’ caused by King Allant’s greed into the soul arts. This deep fog brings demons to the kingdom and endangers all that enter that try to save Boletaria. You play as one lonesome warrior who wishes to save the kingdom from the fog, but it’s a deep fog ruled by demons. You take down some small fry but then get pummelled by a massive demon and ‘die’. Waking up in the Nexus you meet the Maiden in Black, a women bound to the nexus and her sole purpose is to put the Old One, Awakened by the king, back to sleep. Here you can travel to other areas of in the kingdom and defeating the demons that reside there, to lift the fog from the kingdom.
Demon’s Souls has a very unique concept revolving gameplay and mechanics. It involves a lot of strategy with perfect timing, the right equipment and items. One false move could mean death, and there’s a lot of death in this game. On major point that everyone points out is the game is very hard. That is quite true, but more to the point is punishing, rather than hard. Once you die- from an enemy or jumping off a cliff, you lose all your souls (the in-game currency), all of it. The only way you can retain your precious souls back is by traveling back to your death location and grab it there. If you die along the way the death point is reset, therefore you lose all of the lost souls. And that is very frustrating.
While that sounds bad and unplayable, the game does a magnificent job of keeping you in the game to push onwards to great justice. Enemies are plentiful in many levels and for the most time, you’ll die when you get there for the first time. That’s where the charm is, going in back and forth learning the weaknesses and locations of enemies and quite possibly finishing them off. Especially with the demons this is very satisfying. Having many conflicts and inevitably dying will give you an insight into the demons’ and enemies’ attack patterns and numbers, heck you may just run in to see who’re up against, die and prepare later.
The very charm is in the gameplay, it has very simple controls yet it is very tactical. It plays a lot like Monster Hunter, with a stamina bar and the controls. You can either inflict damage with a heavy attack- that does more damage but is slower and uses more stamina or a light attack- less damage, quicker and less stamina required. You can equip one of many weapons from a big sword to spears, staffs and bows to equip in either hand. You can equip 2 weapons to either hand and swap in and out during battles to gain your favour. Weapons have a durability metre as well as your armour, once it hits 0, it breaks and becomes useless. So you have to be careful on how much of your weapon you should use, or leaving some souls to repair your weapon. There are two main types to quickly defeat and enemy when you’re a melee character, either a circle around the confused enemy for a backstab or the more risky and reward riposte and attack. Both these deal massive damage to your target but one false move could spell death (again).
Any weapon you equip requires the bare minimum stats so you can wield it efficiently, if it’s below prepare to face single or double digit attacks. Many weapon types require different stats to wield, and many can grow stronger on those stats- they get a bonus the higher the stat increases. Not everyone is the same, some may go with a slow tanking build and many can go with a fast and nimble thief. Demon’s souls include a nifty customisable character selection at the beginning for new characters. There are many starting classes that have some good recommended starting stats and info to get you started. But of course, the game recommends you build your own path. Some classes include a strong tanking knight, a fast thief and a magical sorcerer.
The equipment and items you carry can be very limited due to the equipment and item burden. This creates more strategies and careful thinking as you probably cannot take 2000 arrows and think that missing is no problem, even herbs that heal you take up weight. Equipment burden works in a similar way but it affects your speed and agility. If you go over half of your burden you begin to slow down, sprinting is as fast and you can’t do a quick barrel roll anymore and so your game plan needs to change.
Your character can only be in 2 states: human or phantom. At the start of the game, you start as a human but die painfully in the tutorial and become a phantom. Being a phantom sucks, your health is cut and half and you can’t call in help from others but you get a slight attack boost. But there are 2 ways to become human again; either defeat a Demon or consuming stone of ephemeral eyes. Of course, when you die you go back into a phantom. Being human has some advantages, you can call in reinforcements from other players around the world and full HP, but you are suspect to being invaded by other players.
The Nexus is the main hub; it connects to the 5 main worlds/locations you’ll be travelling to, to put the Old One back to sleep. The Nexus itself is a wonder, the lower floor hosts many NPCs that are vital in your journey, and the rest of the Nexus is quite empty and ominous. The Nexus stretches into the sky and has creative work done into the pillars, floors and walls. Since your death has caused you to be bound to the Nexus, you’ll be returning here many times in your trip either to take a break or speak to the NPCs for their special wares. Here you can spend your souls to upgrade weapons, stock up on items, store items or learn and buy spells. Souls are not only used to buy things or a motivation to not die but are also used to level you up. You do not gain any experience points from killing foes but only souls and items. Each level requires an increasing number of souls to level up, where you can level up one of your stats.
Also affecting your game is the Character and World Tendency. These two terms are essential to your Demon’s Souls vocabulary and affect the very game you play. The tendencies have three main stages- white, neutral and black. At neutral tendency it is basically the normal game, no bonuses and no deductions. White Tendency is achieved overall by being good, rescuing NPCs, defeating black phantoms and overall goody goody. Black Tendency is achieved by being a total badass idiot, killing NPCs, invading other players and doing stupid things will land you into the black tendency. These Tendencies affect your game for example, you can access some blocked off areas only in a white world tendency, the drop rate increases and is slightly easier. In Black tendency enemies are much stronger, have more HP and Black phantoms appear more often than the normal. So watch out on your actions and check your tendency regularly.
There are many NPCs throughout Boletaria that require rescuing, and once done you gain rewards and possibly teach you spells and miracles. Of course since the kingdom is corrupt and likes to kill you, you have the option to do so against the NPCs, you’ll gain their equipment, souls but lose the precious items they provide. Most of the game has a lot of consequences for everything you do, if you kill an NPC he/she won’t return until the new game cycle- New game +. Yes like a traditional RPG once you finish a game, you can start a new game with all your inventory, skills and equipment- but the enemies are much, much harder. This gives the game an immense replay value since enemies get harder and harder each game; you need better and better equipment from upgrading or finding new items. Of course there are some items that can only be found in each playthrough only once or twice and multiple playthroughs are required to upgrade your weapon to max. Also adding to the replay value is the difficulty- it may take 20 hours or more for one playthrough since its hard and many more during new game + and above.
The game runs heavily on a punishing but rewarding experience. Players that take their time, know what both their enemies and their own weaknesses are get reward immensely. This is a great system and pulls everyone into the game. The sheer reward of defeating a Demon boss after being punished multiple times is unmatched in many games today. You may die many times but the one more go thing just keeps coming back when you get so close to defeating that part of the level or the boss, maybe even getting to a difficult location for that awesome drop. The punishing yet rewarding system works wonderful here because you know why you’re getting punished- you got greedy in attacking, you forgot to raise your shield or you forgot to heal yourself, you hardly feel cheated form this game.
Demons and enemies themselves are big and sometimes very intimidating thanks to the unique and distinct art put into them. Each enemy or NPC look amazing and full of detail. The worlds’ themselves look stunning with unique architecture and structures which will make you remember each of the 5 worlds distinctively. From the dark fiery caves in Stonefang Tunnel to the haunting and creepy Tower of Latria. The enemies’ designs are all related to their world they reside in, all glorious or creepy. The level design is amazing, fitted for and against all the types of players. Whether it’s a small funnelling hallway fit for spearmen and ranged but hard for sword swingers or a large arena for all types- the design in the levels is unrivalled.
Despite looking fantastic the game has frequent slowdowns and Framerate issues, especially with the heavy Havok engine physics in play. The slowdown is usually cause by debris from barrels or the bodies of enemies wrapped around your leg that may be dragged around with. The Havok physics does get annoying when you have multiple dead bodies around your legs getting kicked up all while there are other enemies trying to eat you. The slowdown does occasionally occur during non-battle situations when looking at a magnificent view but nonetheless annoying.
While the game does a good job representing why you died, it sometimes take cheap shots at you so you just can’t past. In some moments an area is just too hard and there is no way to get passed, so you’re forced to backtrack into another area. This is not very frequent but can hinder the immersive experience by a bit.
Singleplayer Score: 90/100
Demon’s Souls has a very unique and innovative multiplayer system, where you don’t join lobbies or rooms, but in your own world. Connecting online affects your tendencies; it changes to the median of the server you play on. So if more players around you kill more NPCs or do evil biddings, your tendency will be brought to evil as well. This dynamic alters your experience and could make things easier or not. Whilst online and human you are able to invade or be invaded by other players. Invading players are seen as black phantoms and can invade at any time when you’re online, and when your invading it’s the same. When you defeat an invading player you get rewards and a whiter tendency, invading brings it towards black. It is also quite satisfying when you bring down your first black phantom, and then sticking it into their face afterwards. Also when human, you can summon help in the form of blue phantoms, these are other players that can help you in tough situations or boss fights. Summoning blue phantoms will help a lot in fights since one can take all the agro from the boss while the other spams.
That isn’t all too new; the new innovative concept is the ability to leave messages to other players either to warn them of the weaknesses of enemies or just to troll them into death. This opens up a diverse way of co-op, simply nudging other players into the right direction can make a hell of a difference. There are a few problems with the online mainly bugs that don’t show summon signs or random disconnects from the Demon’s souls server. So whether you are going into PVP or placing help messages down, the online component for Demon’s Souls is quite innovative and enjoyable.
Mulitplayer Score: 90/100
Demon’s Souls is neither for the faint hearted nor the casual gamer. It is a pure hardcore gamer that rewards players that are very careful and take time in exploiting enemies’ and Bosses weaknesses. Whether it’s fighting a 4 story tower knight or a small blob of goo, Demon’s Souls is a rich game of pure gameplay, great core mechanics and an innovative online system. Demon’s Souls will kill you, again and again- just survive its shortcomings and you have a fantastic game.