Do you have what it takes?
Demon's Souls was a sleeper hit that is considered to be one the best games of Playstation 3 in 2009. Right after Uncharted 2 that is. Year later we Europeans get this fine title over here as well. The waiting has been rewarded in form of Black Phantom edition which throws in a art book, soundtrack and strategy guide.
What this game is most known for is no doubt the difficulty. If the player is not prepared the first formidable enemy will kill you easily. You are equipped with a shield which will become your dearest piece of equipment. Unless you go with all attack approach that is, which requires good dodging skills at least. You will not get far by smashing one attack. Careful though must be used on building the character and its equipment. Still, taking this the game would deserve to be called as a hack and slash RPG.
The 10 classes allow each character own unique play style. Scratch that, force a own play style. Sure you can make magic caster out of a tank but is not a easy task. Every attribute has massive bearing on the way characters handle. Not to mention the items. Want to get a kick ass armor? Sure go ahead. Able to move with that? Nope. Equip any weapon? Sure, just prepared not doing any damage. Same goes for games more important items. You got two slots for rings and there are good range of different rings which all are essential for ones character build. That slight boost that these rings give in places is mandatory.
Demon's Souls difficulty is a subjects big enough for books to be written of. Characters are armed with normal melee weapon and the named shield. Without a shield one will have hard time passing the first level. Even the lower level enemies can kill you in few hits. Not to mention, if you happen to take wrong turn and greet a dragon from bit close distance. The customisation and the way levels are build give good sense of freedom. Added here is the one can progress through the game. There is no direct on which order the 5 words need to be conquered. Other than some bosses appearding only certain events. For a skilled Demon's Souls player the game can be run in mere hour. For us mere mortals who can handle the unforgiving difficulty one will get a normal RPG experience with +/- 30-40 hours. Further depth is added with white and black world tendency which are triggered further by events in the game. For example playing the evil role and killing everything, even NPC will trigger certain
Black Phantom's which are mini-bosses with times awesome loot.
In-game currency comes in form of souls which harvested from killing monsters. These are used to level up as well item purchases. If early demise is met your body will hold the souls. Meaning if you manage to trace back to it you can harvest your souls. If you happen to die while doing new body will replace the old one and all souls are lost. This is not too different from traditional MMO dying of course where played would need to trace their body in dying form. Hook here is that despite the
challenging difficulty player always wants to track to their body and recover the souls. Other directions to a more MMO are the ability to summon players to your game. These are unintentional and intentional. Black Phantoms are invading players game are after your skull, IE PVP. As a Blue Phantom other gamers can be joined to aid boss fights and such.. Other players playing the game will appear as ghosts in your game as well, but these can not be interacted with. Deaths in the world will appears as blood stains which will show the person(or you) died which will give good tips on what to expect around the corner. Players can also leave short message on the ground which appear in other players game as helpful messages or false messages.
Level-design is very well done. The games five worlds are divided into four to five stages where boss is fought in end of the level. On each level a route can be unlocked to access to boss faster when level has been cleared. Boss fights are vary from easy to brutally challenging. Still at no point the levels or bosses feel unfair. It is each time obvious that is you who are not good/fast enough.
A thing that further adds to the hostile feel of the game is the dark world. The five worlds are divided a dark fantasy castle locations as well as disturbing caves. Such as Valley of Defilement which is as disgusting as it sounds. The enemies and bosses are very detailed although too often too dangerous to get near. The soundtrack maximizes the eery feel even further with plain symphonic themes that change to more intensive experience. Add here the spooky characters, such as fat official manic
laughter or captured dreglins cries one get's almost a impression of a horror game.
As a rpg story naturally has lot's of importance. Action takes place in world of Boletaria. The King Allant has woken The Old One, a demon that turns Boletaria into one ugly and hostile place. Player is controlling a silent protagonist who is humanity's last hope(of course). This all might feel a bit generic. Although the NPC's do a good job on helping to keep the story interesting.
One complaint that I would have with Demon's Souls would be on the visuals as well. Game is very dark at times. Even depressive. The locations while all are beautiful in disturbing way are suiting for games look and feel. Dark caves are often seen only my a small light emitting from the character. This making it very hard to see the surroundings which for such good looking game is a shame.
Demon's Souls is a intimating game. It comes with old-school difficulty level that hardly is evident in a main stream RPG now a days. For any PS3 owner I would consider this to be as mandatory as Uncharted 2 would be. Of course the cruel difficulty will put the majority off. Which is big shame. During my gaming years (25+) I can not think of another game that gives such satisfaction from learning your character and beating those hideous bosses.