numbthumb's Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) review

Demon's Souls Review

 

Demon’s Souls is a rare game, a decidedly unwavering and punishing challenge from the onset that never feels cheap nor short on reward. It’s an RPG out of Japan, but a lot of elements actually make me look at it with a Western Action RPG skew. You choose a character from one of many classes and get tossed into a tutorial that does an amazing job at preparing you just for what you’re about to face. Which is death. Perhaps lots of it.

I’d try to tell you about story, but beyond collecting demon’s souls ( as should be quite obvious) – I can’t really tell you much. Easily the worst thing about the game, but strangely something that never takes away from the experience to the extent you can’t go on. There’s 5 worlds, you can pretty much play them in any order of your desire, but you’ll find some easier to take on before others, and some easier to grind out. There’s a freedom there though that gives you a greater sense of strategy, and that can be quite key.

The enemies aren’t tremendously varied, but there’s an above average amount of different baddies to fight. And they’re aren’t very easy. And here is what makes the game. You die, and it’s usually because of something you brought on yourself. The penalty is losing all the souls you’d collected up until that point and starting at the beginning…and all the enemies re-spawning. But here’s the catch; make it back to the spot that you died, and you get back all those lost souls (the currency with which you’ll be using to buy anything and upgrade skill levels…it’s pretty important), you’ll also keep any items or weapons you collect on the way. The notion is that you’ll be slightly better when you go back through, meaning you ’should’ get back to the spot of doom and be more likely to continue further. Sometimes you don’t make it. Almost always, that’s your fault.

The combat is fluid and deep, and ranges over a good score of styles to give players a lot of freedom. Leveling up is also masterfully done — always upgrading your defense a little, no matter what you pick to improve. It may seen menial, but it’s really not. It benefits the player to always be a little tougher even if they choose to focus on one specific area like magic for awhile, or whichever other alternative. It’s a generous system, much like the amount of drops in the game to give you a little something for health boosts.


The bosses can be tough, but most eventually become a letdown, an easy enemy far more vulnerable to pattern recognition that even some of the standard enemies. The levels are well designed, and seem different enough in landscape that you don’t feel like you’re always in the same area, but I’d also argue that the local’s are a tad lifeless and drab.

What Demon’s Souls does right is march the very thin line between crushing difficulty, and sheer absurd cheapness. It’s a challenge, but a very rewarding one. When you’ve earned a number of upgrades you actually feel like you’ve earned them and you really are better at the game. And don’t be fooled, this game is fun and and plays extremely well. Values are top notch, save for a cluttered and incoherent story that you all but forget about thirty minutes in.

 

The Story: While they make an attempt to be interesting, and it’s not a bad try entirely, it gets so lost in confusing and pointless characters that serve no real purpose other than providing a use with quests that he or she may not quite understand they’ve received. The story just isn’t worth following and the characters don’t do anything to save it — but it’s obvious that at some point there was one and from it came this game. 7/10

The World: An interesting span of dungeons and kingdoms but none strike you much more than the previous. It’s hard to knock them, but they do feel lifeless at times. Enemies are always where they are and there’s nothing to see once you’ve been through. That all being said, they’re perfectly designed for the combat, and well paces from start to finish. 8/10

The Combat: Yeah…it’s just awesome. Real time. A ton of weapons to choose from. Magic. Ranged weapons. And a big ass Meat Cleaver…this game rewards you for getting used to what different weapons can do and it’s a pleasure to really get the hang of the nuances offered. A simple but deep system to engage many types of players. 10/10

The Online: This gets a category because it’s such a neat way to involve a multi-player element. You can leave messages of warning or hints to others in the world, a system that’s easy to use and highly beneficial. You can also see other players in your game world and their bloodstains to see what mistakes the possibly made in the same area you are in. You may also invade other players worlds or be invaded, or you can call for help to deal with enemies. The only downside to this system is the inability to easily navigate or invite specific players or friends – so you don’t really get a lot of ‘choice’ in who you can play with. Still, it’s a game that utilizes online where others wouldn’t. 9/10

The Challenge: This will easily be the first thing you hear about the game, and for good reason. It can be daunting to some, and the only reason for others to play. The game is hard, but not cheap, not unwilling to give you alternatives to play through your own way so long as you can learn from your own mistakes. There’s a give and take to it that is rare in games. In New Game + or ++ you can amplify that challenge even more (should you really want to) — it strikes back to games of old while keeping it all modern enough for a larger crowd to enjoy. 10/10

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