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Hands-On With Demon's Souls
by Ryan Davis on
Sony and From Software are bringing some dark fantasy to the PlayStation 3, and we take a hands-on look.
That opening narrative sets the stage for much dungeon crawling with a kingdom that has fallen prey to demons who have taken to feasting on the souls of its citizens. As delicious as those innocent souls are, apparently they are but the proverbial stuffing for the even tastier Thanksgiving turkeys that are the demons' souls. Many an adventurer have failed to return from quests to slay these demons and harvest their dark power, but you play as a character who seems to stand more of a fighting chance, seeing how none of those other guys got their own video game.
The version being shown at TGS is thick with Japanese text, but most of what was on display was pretty self-explanatory. First there's the character creator, where you can choose gender, facial features, and character class. There's a good amount of customization options for your character's appearance, though it seems like it might be a bit of a challenge to make a face that doesn't have the kind of bland, patched-together appearance that pervades character creators. Things fare much better from the neck on down, and there's a good amount of visual differentiation between the character classes. I went with a pretty straightforward fighter, though it would appear that you can expect the different character classes to feature varying levels of proficiency with close-quarters and ranged combat, as well as magic use.
With my character created, the demo dropped me off in front of a mossed-over medieval castle, one staffed by the brittle husks of the kingdom's now-soulless populace. Demon's Souls gives off the impression of a game that the people up in arms over the color palette in Diablo III might make, all bleak and dreary and cloaked in shadows. Indeed, apart from the game's third-person camera perspective, Demon's Souls owes quite a bit to Diablo-style dungeon crawlers, with a focus on simple combat and loot. While I can't speak to all of the different classes, my character had two basic attacks and a shield for defense, and each action was mapped to a different shoulder button. The combat itself felt really clunky, particularly when faced with multiple enemies, where targeting became a bit of an issue. I could equip different weapons and support items on the fly using the d-pad, though there was also a full inventory system for swapping out armor and whatnot.
If there's something that sets Demon's Souls apart from the long line of dark fantasy dungeon crawlers that precede it, it's not apparent from the TGS demo. While it's certainly got some rough edges, that's pretty forgivable for a game not scheduled for release until next year. Hopefully by then From Software can find some way to make Demon's Souls stand out.