Last November, during a tumultuous time in my personal life, I found that I had a lot of spare time on my hands. I chose to use that time to begin working through some of the biggest time sinks in my history with RPG games: Skyrim and Dark Souls.
This is at a time before I had a PS3, and at a time where I was envied those who did to no end. I had heard loads and loads about Demon's Souls, from frustration to cult-like adoration for it. I developed a strange sort of admiration of the game from the outside, having only been able to look at screenshots and see a few gameplay videos. I wanted to understand. I wanted to know -- what the hell was this game about? Unfortunately, at the time, it was out of the question for me to get a PS3, and I only recently caved on purchasing one. By chance, I stumbled across it at a local GameStop. One sealed, new copy of Demon's Souls, sitting right next to Yakuza: Dead Souls and... well, Dark Souls. Lots of souls games recently, it's kind of weird, to be honest.
So I picked this game up. I had put in a great deal of time with Dark Souls, but between my job and other obligations taking back that free time, trying to split it between Skyrim and Dark Souls, and then eventually purchasing Saints Row: The Third, I just hit a point where I didn't want to go back to it. It wasn't necessarily that it was too hard for me. On the contrary, I welcomed the challenge. It was refreshing to get the living shit beaten out of my in a game, to have spent literally hours playing a game, only to be laughed at by the enemy, stripped of everything that I had earned, and left only with a memory of where the Hollow would spawn and a vague sense of direction. Having inundated myself with the shooters of the season, it was nice to play an obtuse RPG that was going to move at it's own pace and did not care if I kept up -- the experience was mine to craft, for better or worse.
When I got home with Demon's Souls, I let it sit for a few days. I pondered whether or not this was a wise decision. I knew how much time it was going to take out of my life, I knew that it was going to be difficult, but after some deliberation, I cut the plastic and dove in. Strangely enough, I'm finding Demon's Souls to be a much better crafted game than the successor. Though I'm having a bit of difficulty finding my way around the Nexus, the central hub of the game, I really feel a better sense of direction than I ever did playing Dark Souls. They are directing me a bit more instead of throwing me in to a world, offering a thousand directions and saying 'Go.' Arguably the most challenging part of Dark Souls is the beginning, just trying to determine which direction is the right one for you to be travelling at any given time.
Instead, I'm finding Demon's Souls to be challenging purely from a design and gameplay perspective. Early enemies are not telegraphing their moves in quite as distinctly, the timing window for a parry and riposte seems much smaller, the penalties for losing your human form feel much more severe, and I'm currently banging my head a little bit against the wall of the Bridge Dragon. I'm not that far in to Demon's Souls, and it's perhaps unfair to qualify it as a much better game, but everything about it so far just feels so much more focused. The story and the world thus far have made sense to a certain degree, or have not required me to go to a Wiki to understand what the hell is happening, and that sense of direction means everything. On the other hand, I'm wondering if my experience with Dark Souls simply conditioned me a bit for Demon's Souls, giving me an intimate knowledge of the combat, stat bonuses and such, as well as an innate sense of caution and direction in a world that I've never been to before.
Only time will tell, but I can say with certainty that I'm very excited to continue playing Demon's Souls.