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

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Demon's Souls Review - This is Harsh. Evaluate Me

To say Demon's Souls became an obsession of mine is to put it lightly. I own two copies of this game, the standard HK version and US Deluxe and I fully intend on adding to that the EU release if it ever surfaces. The game had me hooked from the moment I left the Nexus and saw  Boletaria Palace, the game is bleak and depressing but has its own sense of beauty the art team had the difficult task of making a desolate world inviting and so interesting that the player is compelled to journey on if only to see what environment is next. 
A lot has been said of the difficulty of Demon's difficulty, which I feel has been hyperbolised somewhat, I for example will never finish Ninja Gaiden 2 as I find it far too difficult, Demon's Souls, however, I have completed no problem, and it become considerably easier once I had learned "Wrath of God", an AOE fire spell which made it possible for me to almost insta kill most Demons (Bosses). It became so easy with this spell infact that I barely remember some of the Demon battles as they were over so quickly! So to say Demon's Souls is too hard, or hardcore, is a bit of a disservice to the game and an issue which I think puts lots people off trying the game. The game is never unfair, in my 91 hours, the game has never cheated a death out of me, I have never died because something is too hard and I have never died from a bug. I have died because I became complacent. Demon's Souls is a game you have to give 100% of your attention to, if you switch off for a second you will most certainly meet your end by some means. Its not a game you can come home from the pub half cut and have a play, you will most likely die and lose hours of progress and countless souls and any serious Demon's Souls player will know how devestating that can be!
Moving away from the much talked about difficulty and onto the excellent online integration Demon's Souls exhibits. Director Hidetaka Miyazaki said he got the idea for the online componant by seeing people broken down on the highway. Everyone had to help eachother get their cars started but once they were started they had to simply drive off with no real time for thanks or conversation. And this is exactly how the co-op portion of online works in the game. If you are struggling with a particular level or Demon, you can summon another player to your aid, but be warned, anyone you summon is dead, aka, in "Soul Form", and this means they do not have the full health of a player in "Body Form". You can summon anywhere from 1 - 3 "Blue Phantoms" to aid you and like the car analogy once you beat the level Demon together all these new "friends" will disappear, returning back to the Nexus, with no time to thank them. You do however get the chance to rate them in usual fashion with an "S" rank being the highest plaudit. The flipside of this however is the "Black Phantoms". If you are dead and wish to get your "Body Form" back without defeating a Demon, you can invade another players game as the aforementioned "Black Phantom" and if you successfully slay that player you will be resurrected and will receive any souls that player had. Be warned though you have no way of knowing who you are invading and they may have "Blue Phantom" friends! Also PvP can go on for a long time, depending on how much health items each player has. But there is nothing more thrilling than when you get the big message on your screen that someone has invaded your game. And the final online aspect is the bloodstains and messages, as if you are connected to PSN, Demon's Souls is practically an MMO, at all times you can see ghosts of other players in your level and these players can leave messages with warnings and information about items and treasures, or if playing the HK versions "This is Harsh. Evaluate Me". Players that die also leave bloodstains which can be activated and you get to see the final few seconds of some unfortunate souls life, you don't see the enemy that killed them, but this can be amusing if they fell off a cliff or were killed by the "Penetrator".
I do not want to go into too much detail about other game mechanics such as the excellent but sometimes baffling "World Tendencies" as that is half of the charm of this excellent title, it may take you weeks, even months to begin understanding all the game mechanics but that is the adventure and the challenge.
So for all those on the fence about Demon's Souls because of the reported difficulty. Take a chance on this gem of an RPG, as it really isn't that hard, it just requires all your attention, all your time!

Posted by CptHindsight

Demon's Souls announced by Namco Bandai for the EU. Black Phantom Edition, June 25th!

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