Fighting demons has never been so fun.. or hard.
Demon’s Souls is an action RPG like no other. This game will challenge you on every front, but if you stick with it, this will be one of the most satisfying games you play this year.
Before you actually begin Demon’s Souls, you’ll need to create a character. Once you’ve customized your character, it’s time to choose the class. The classes include such choices as a thief, barbarian, knight, ranger, priest, magician, etc, making for a total of 10 classes. I found that choosing a class pretty much effects only the first half of your character progression, as you’re basically choosing the base stats that character will start off with. Any class can learn to use any weapon and spell as long as you choose to upgrade the required stats. For example, to use a certain bow as a Knight, I had to upgrade my dexterity from 10 to 12, though there are some gender specific armor. If you make enough character progression and explore a lot, chances are you’ll find armor sets for a thief, knight, and just about every other class.
What equipment you decide to wear out into the battlefield will depend on your specific play style. Knights will naturally start off slower due to their heavy armor; Thieves will be quick and nimble with their light armor, and so on. There won’t be too much armor to loot, unless it’s from a boss, so you’ll mainly be picking up different weapon types. Surprisingly, choosing a gender actually matters, for example; some rings benefit females more than males and vice versa.
Demon’s Souls is relatively simple to pick up and play, although it’ll be hard to understand everything that’s going on right away in the world. The controls are set up a little differently than what you’d expect from a regular adventure game. To attack you’ll press R1 for a light attack and R2 for heavy. L1 and L2 will vary depending on what you have equipped in that hand, but it’s essentially the same. At the bottom left of the screen there’s a sort of quick select for items and equipment. Pressing up will switch between spells, down will switch items, and left and right will alternate between the weapons or shields you have equipped.
Playing this game is like reading one of those “choose your own adventure” books. There is a story to Demon’s Souls, but it’s only there if you really want it. All the NPC’s in the Nexus can be killed, and if you’re not careful, some characters may start killing them for you. There will be an introduction movie, and the tutorial will serve as a set up for what you will expect, gameplay-wise, in the rest of the game. Digging deeper into the story is completely up to you, and the game pretty much tells you that right away. Defeating the bigger demons in the world will give you an important soul. Whether you want to use that soul for your own purposes or give it to an NPC will be up to you. Using the soul will give you souls, which you can then spend to buy items, upgrade equipment, or level up. Giving the soul to an NPC may not provide instant satisfaction, but you’ll more than likely be rewarded with some sort of item at some point.
To sum up the story, a king mistakenly woke up a great demon, The Old One, by channeling spirits. The resurrection of The Old One has caused a mysterious fog to cover the kingdom, causing dangerous demons to appear and take the souls of the Kingdom’s natives. For those who have their soul taken, they now turn against the living. Now it’s up to you to defeat these demons and bring peace to the kingdom, or become evil and annihilate everyone.
Demon’s Souls has five worlds to explore, each with multiple bosses to defeat, plenty of loot to acquire, and many hidden things that will require more than one run-through. Each world is unique not only visually, but enemies will be dramatically different and will drop completely different loot.
If your Playstation 3 is hooked up to the internet, you’ll essentially be playing Demon’s Souls online all the time. Even though you won’t be playing directly with other players all the time, messages can be left on the ground by players, acting as a hint system. These messages can vary depending on the person or situation. Pressing the select button will bring up a small menu with options to leave and recommend other players messages. There are plenty of options when leaving a message. If you’re not using them to completely throw off players, helpful messages will say “Beware of the fall ahead” or “Beware of the enemy’s ambush”. These messages are extremely helpful when in an area you’ve never been to.
Now on to what makes this game so challenging. First off, you will see plenty of bloodstains from where another player has died. You can touch these bloodstains and watch exactly how that player died. While you’ll only see a red silhouette of the player and not any of the demons that did the killing, it looks a little comical seeing the player swing into the air and get attacked by nothing, but at the same time it can serve a very useful purpose.
At the end of the tutorial, you are killed by a powerful demon and are sent to a place called The Nexus. This is where souls go when they’ve let their body. You’re greeted by the Maiden in Black and she lets you in on what’s going on in the world and how you can choose to act in it. Depending on your actions, your world tendency will either be black or white. Having a certain world tendency will give you access to certain parts of levels. For example, if you’re at pure white tendency, a door will open in world one giving you access to items. Having your tendency at black will make the demon’s in that particular world of powerful, making the game much more difficult. Just like the story, the world tendency can be ignored and acts as another layer of depth for players who really want to get the most out of Demon’s Souls.
There’s no point in trying to say that you won’t die a lot in the game, because you will, a lot. Perhaps the toughest part about Demon’s Souls is figuring out the strategy that works best for every situation. At the beginning of the game, when you’re at a low level, it won’t take long for enemies to take you down. Enemies love attacking in groups and won’t stop swinging their weapon until you’re down for the count. It’s worth pointing out that even at a high level I still found some of the beginning areas dangerous as enemies could still kill me fairly quickly when in groups.
Demon’s Souls is not forgiving in the least bit. When you die, bad things happen. Not only will all of the enemies respawn in that level, but you’ll have to start back from where you entered. Additionally, since you’re now in soul mode, you’ll have lost half of your health. Dying can be extremely discouraging, especially later on in the game when not only are the enemies more difficult, but the terrain will be taxing as well – plague lakes, narrow cliff sides, etc. The game is very dark in many areas, making it hard to see where paths begin and end. Also, when death occurs, all your souls will be lost until you acquire your soul back. Making the trip back to your soul can be very difficult since you’re now repeating what you just did, except with less health.
Of course making the trip back to your soul doesn’t need to be impossible. There are a few options to choose from when getting your soul back. The first option is to use a Blue Eye Stone, which allows you to seek help from another player. Another option is to use a Stone of Ephemeral Eyes, which are rather rare to find, that will resurrect your body from soul form but won’t bring back your currency. The final option is to use a Black Eye Stone which lets you invade another player’s world. You are now tasked with taking down this player that you invaded. If you succeed you’ll gain your body back, but if you fail you’ll lose a stat point.
In its entirety, Demon’s Souls is incredibly epic. Not only will the majority of the bosses tower over you, but while wandering throughout the worlds, you’ll get the feeling that you’re insignificant and unwanted. One of the most noteworthy moments was early on in the first world when a red dragon swooped down above my head, breathed fire on a barrage of enemies, and flew away. There aren’t moments like this in every world, but the game does include its fair share of memorable events. Taking away a bit of the epic-ness, some of the boss fights are underwhelming. Some mini and main bosses can easily be taken down by standing back and shooting arrows. Even though this can be disappointing, there’s still a level of joy when taking down anything that can tower over you.
If the game is so difficult then why continue playing? Satisfaction. Completing any goal in Demon’s Souls is extremely satisfying, so much in fact, that it’ll keep you going for hours. Demon’s Souls isn’t just a quality title, it’s the best RPG on the Playstation 3 this year. Completing the game could take anywhere from 30-100 hours, all depending on how you play. Demon’s Souls certainly isn’t for everybody, but if it looks interesting in any form, it’s absolutely worth checking out.