WARNING: Loss of own will to live possible
Demon's Souls is so openly split with its reception. Either people despise every single aspect about it, or love all of its innovations and throw- backs to the old school scale of difficulty.
Suffice to say, they;re both valid enough in that yes, the game is unforgivably difficult. But only within the context for this day and age of games. It's as tough as stale bread for sure, but it's far from cheap. If you die, it's more so down to your own impatience, or through a small slip up with how you decided to engage an enemy. The game is still very beatable and thanks to its high level of difficulty is one of the most satisfying challenges in games to overcome. Demon's Souls is an RPG like no other. Sure it's basic concepts are of a slow paced hack'n'slash RPG, but thats without bringing up its multiplayer mechanics.
Before that, I might aswell get the somewhat generic parts out of the way. Demon's Souls tasks you with creating a character from a set few classes each starting with their own type of gear, stats and even their beginning level vary. Despite giving an appreciated amount of classes to choose from, they're not really all too different in the grand scheme of things. The defining factors between the classes are mostly whether they're more attuned towards Miracles, healing and buff spells, or Magic, high-damage ranged and AOE attacks. Certain classes like the Priest already start off with knowledge of Miracles while of course a Mage already has some magics at their disposal, for example
The different classes I found only gave me a different experience when I was playing the tutorial stage, since you can't level up during that stage you're of course confided to what your class can do at the outset. Soon enough however you're then given the options to customise your character to excell more in melee or magic, how well they can withstand damage and ect. No weapon, Magic or Miracle is exclusive to any class; if you know which stats to improve upon your character can eventually become whatever you want.
There's still a fine amount of variety with how you play though. So many spells to learn, weapons to find and armour sets to don. There is still many ways to play the game even if it isn't all too defined by what class you choose at the beginning.
The game itself again is structured much like a standard hack n slash RPG. Though hardly anything about the games design is standard. For example, the goal of the first stage you play is infact... to die. Once dead you then find your soul being chained to the Nexus. You can still play the game much like as you were alive, just now with multiple alterations placed upon your characters health, damage and also how likely he/she is to alert enemies.
Now as a soul, you must then play the tutorial stage to go through a dreary and depressing castle filled with angry dogs, crazies and shielded jellies(?) Soon enough you will come across a boss and after slaying the Demon will find yourself being revived. It will give you a huge amount of relief, and with you literally having to fight for your life back, will make for quite the memorable experience. You better learn to enjoy that experience, however, since you will most probably die quite a lot on your first playthrough of the game.
Once the first boss is beaten the game then opens up, since you were stuck only to travel through Boletaria Castle at first. Four more Archstones (Portals to the different stages) open up and you're then free to travel to each one at your leisure and slay every Demon you come across at your peril. There's not so much of story behind it all really, though Demon's are never a good thing so that's enough incentive required for this particular adventure, I'd say.
How you do fight the foes is again with the use of a variety of swords, shields, axes, spears and of course spells. The control scheme is simple to grasp with you using the left shoulder buttons for whatever you have equipped in your left hand and the right buttons for the right hand. Per each hand you can switch between two items be it maybe two different shields or maybe switching from your shield to your wand to perform magic. Overall it gives you four slots for you to set out how you want to play the game. A shield ,however, is very much vital for the most part and always recommended for first time players. There also is a dodge ability mapped to the circle button and while it can be an absolute life saver, the amount of ground the roll covers can sometimes be the exact opposite. Again ,though, it just takes some getting used to and once mastered it will then stay as one of your best tactics for avoiding the inevitable grip of death.
Once you understand the combat, you will then find yourself wielding massive hammers, long swords and other types of epic weaponry to fight through your path. Bows and crossbows are available too for people who prefer a more ranged approach. Using these weapons to get your kills will then award the player with souls, which act as the currency aswell as the means to level up your character and... well, pretty much everything reallt. They're absolutely vital to the game and will make dying all the more intolerable for some, since they're all taken away and left as a bubbly bloodstain awaiting for you to head back and collect. If you die when trying to get them back though, a new bloodstain will replace the old and the souls along with it too.
That said, with the large amount of weaponry and with multiple variants of said weaponry, it just gives so much variety, giving most players a unique approach to play the game. Though spamming soul-arrows is certainly a favourable playstyle I've noticed.
Should you find yourself really thrashing pad after pad over certain situations, there also exist cooperative play for two other players to join you in your fight. If you're alive, you may choose to summon other players who leave runes in their soul form. If they happen to get through, they will join your server and fight alongside you. There's no communication options but a small amount of emotes are available. There's always reason to work together too since you will fight until a boss encounter, to which if you succeed, the summoned souls will then be revived back to their own world while you, of course, have now just beaten another one of the Demon's and gotten one step closer to the Demon extinction.
Not all players are here to help, however. Again only if your alive, there is the possibilty of being invaded by another player where they will hunt you down in their soul form to try and regain their own life once more. It's pretty insense and very nerve racking, going in hand with the dark environments and pressuring you to be even more careful when turning corners than usual.
Even without any of the cooperative or competitive (although the competitive is unavoidable for the most part) you'll still experience plenty of the multiplayer components the game gives. Should you be signed into PSN, throughout your travels you will encounter ghostly aspirations which represent other players, at that very moment in time. There also exist messages to which players can leave each other too, to help warn of an incoming ambush or just for some dark humor maybe. There's a huge preset selection which gives a message for all the deviant dicks who wish to misguide someone to their death. Fortunately there is a rating system to allow other players to rate messages, which in turn has them last longer, so the ones that exist only to infuriate never have a long lifespan. Along with messages, Demon's Souls give another innovative quirk with the bloodstains. As mentioned before it is the key to reclaiming your lost souls after death, but to other players it could mean so much more. Bloodstains show up in all worlds regardless of who left them, the ones that don't belong to you will give a brief look on how another player died. It won't show the enemy, just a red aspiration of the player heading to its doom. It acts as a great way to pre-empt situations and is also just pretty cool frankly.
The game never really strays far from the routine you start with. You'll always just be dungeon crawling throughout your demon slaying. It's all acceptable for how tense the combat is and not to mention just how grand the enviroments are.
Delightfully dark and oozing out atmosphere, Demon's Souls at least gives you some appropriate graves for some players. Five different Archstones, all with their own unique enviroment ranging from the crumbling Castle to a derelic Prison. Each with their own enemies too, so each archstone gives you a different experience to enjoy, or suffer.
Graphically overall the game isn't the best you'll find; there's a few small blemishs such as a lack of any facial animation during speech for example. The animations regarding everything else is fantastic. From the burdened roll off a heavily armoured knight to the slow swing from the Dragon Smasher weapon to the swift stabs of a rapier sword; it all gives the intended feeling when executed. The voice-acting of it all is just as well done, with a lot of Scottish accents flourishing throughout giving the game an almost Nord like sound. The soundtrack was also quite a highlight for me consisting of large operatic tunes and huge bass tunes. It's a soundtrack I definitely recommend looking out for if you happen to enjoy dark classical music.
Really if I were to list faults, it would possibly go down its replay value. While again the game does have a lot of variety with the weapons and such, everything is still on one set path - the items you find are always in the same places aswell as the enemies. A New Game+ exists at least, were you will instead carry on with your already beefed up character, and considering how similar all the classes are, it's well advised.
Demon's Souls is just as quick to be lauded as it is to incite tears. It's a very fine line to if you'll find it as one of your favourite RPG's of all time, or as a very huge push to having you life a lifetime of mental degeneration. It has its audience and its audience absolutely adores it, but for whoever isn't willing to flip that coin, maybe a rent would be more suited.