By MooseyMcMan 27 Comments
As is often the case with older games (Demon's Souls being almost six years old) that I only just get around to playing years after release, there is a bit of a story here. Or, at least, I should explain why it is that I've only just played Demon's Souls now, especially as someone who loves Dark Souls and Bloodborne (and I like Dark Souls II quite a bit too, but love would be too strong a word).
It all started back around the time the game was released in America. I was aware of its release, but only because of the game's alleged insane difficulty. Reviews called it punishing, but rewarding. Word on the street was that it was absurdly hard, and punished your every mistake. The one and only time I saw someone playing it in person was when I walked by an open door in my dorm, and saw several people watching someone play it. I poked my head in and asked if it was Demon's Souls. He said yes. I watched for a few seconds and said, "I heard that game is really hard." He responded, "Hasn't been too bad so far" and then immediately got killed in one hit by the boss at the end of the tutorial.
I walked out, laughing.
I had friends that liked the game, but I was too hesitant to plop down $60 for a punishing game that I might not even enjoy the combat in. So, I stayed away. Eventually I played Dark Souls (little over a year after its release), and I got both Dark Souls II and Bloodborne on their respective release dates. But no matter what, I never really thought that I'd ever actually go and play Demon's Souls. So, I ended up watching things like Brad's playthrough of the entire game here on Giant Bomb. And then earlier this year I watched all of Patrick "The Hat Trick" Klepek's (no, that's not actually his nickname, I made that up) playthrough of it on YouTube. I had no inkling whatsoever that I would play the game.
Then it was $5 on PSN and I bought it because I had over $5 on my account from that $20 PSN card I got for $5 with Bloodborne. I also bought MGS2 HD and MGS3 HD, but those will be for another day. Today, is Demon's Souls. And before I get into the game, I will say that since it's a bit old, I'm not going to bother whiting out spoilers, or boss names or anything. If you have any interest in playing the game, and are reading this the day I posted it, you still have until tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon to get it for $5 if you have PS+ and a PS3. If you can afford $5 for a, "yeah, sure, whatever" game purchase, I'd say it's worth trying. But is it worth finishing? Well...
I'm not going to lie: I was kind of disappointed with Demon's Souls. There's a lot of interesting things in the game, and I certainly like quite a few things about it, but overall, I found myself more frustrated and disgruntled than anything else. And yet, though this may sound paradoxical after that, I found large swaths of the game to be laughably easy, at least with the way that I had spent points leveling up my character.
Let me put it this way instead. I found myself frustrated with most of the level design in the game, but found most of the combat encounters to be easy. I know that these games have never been about showing you exactly where to go, or how to get through the levels, but I think Demon's Souls is the only one where I found the levels to be a detriment to my enjoying the game. Not all of them, but a lot of them.
Worlds 2 and 3 are especially bad in that regard. World 2 takes place in a mine, and thus a series of tunnels. Which is fine at first, but eventually you get to a point where you have two options to get to the boss in the second level of that world. You can either go through a series of extremely tight tunnels where you can get lost very easily, and the camera doesn't react well. Or, you can take option B, which is to fall down a series of rickety platforms in a very dark tunnel. And with the crazy way that Demon's Souls handles fall damage, it can be hard to tell where the fine line is between "negligible damage" and "instant death." Which, no lie, every time I fell off something in this game (which happened a lot), it was one of those two. Never was I in a situation where a fall took off most of my health, or half of my health. Literally either negligible, or instant death.
World 3, or at least the first level of World 3, takes place in a dark prison. When I say dark, I mean that even with the brightness turned almost all the way up, I managed to fall off the same two ledges about four or five times as I stumbled around trying to figure out where to go, because I couldn't see them, or remember where they were. Which, that second one is totally on me, but I am less forgiving on those holes even being there in the first place. There's also several really tight corridors that are also stairs, and I got lost several times trying to navigate those. I got really frustrated working my way through that part of the game. The second part of World 3 was certainly a lot more wide open, but it was pretty dark and hard to see in a few spots. Not as bad, though.
World 4 actually may have been the most frustrating. It definitely was in terms of combat. That's partly because it has some legitimately tough enemies, and partly because of those giant flying stingrays that just shoot spikes at you for no reason. That's especially annoying when you're on a narrow ledge with a wall on one side, instant falling death on the other, and a metal skeleton rolling at you from the front. I didn't actually die in this particular spot much (and when I did, it was because I fell off), but the grim reaper looking necromancers that summon the endless ghosts got me a few times. They do a lot of damage.
They also drop a lot of souls, as do the metal skeletons. When I play these games, I tend to go back to level once I have enough souls to level up. I went to World 4 pretty early in the game, because I knew that was the location of the sword that scales to magic, because my brain refused to lose that knowledge after I watched Brad play the game. I was already playing a Royal, and I wanted to do a mostly magic based class, because I hadn't done that before in a Souls game. So, I wanted the sword that scaled to magic because I still wanted to be able to use a sword when I needed a sword.
But, as I was starting to get at before I lost track, the amount of Souls that I got in that World meant I leveled a lot. By the end of the game I was level 82. And my final playtime was 18 hours and 9 minutes. Or, at least that's what it said after I spent a couple minutes poking around in the Nexus in New Game Plus before backing out to the main menu to check my playtime. And while I didn't literally put all of my points into Intelligence and Magic, I put almost all of them into Intelligence and Magic. I leveled Vitality a bit to get more health, and I put some points into Strength and Dexterity to use stuff like a shield that blocked all physical damage, and a bow.
Not that I really used the shield, or the bow very much. The bow didn't end up being useful because there weren't a ton of situations in which I felt like I needed to snipe enemies from afar, and my arrows never did enough damage to be useful against the dragons in World 1. The shield, meanwhile, I just didn't need very often. Since I was playing a magic character, I didn't really level up my ability to wear armor without fat rolling, so I just wore light armor the entire time, and got better at dodging. Don't get me wrong, I totally did use the shield, and it saved me from death several times. But I didn't use it as much as I did in the Dark Souls games. And later in Demon's Souls, I got a spell that I used to give my defense a big buff, so I ended up using that during a lot of boss fights, and regular fights.
It turns out, magic is kind of overpowered in Demon's Souls. With my magic focused (probably over leveled) build, I was able to steamroll my way through the game. The only bosses that I died on were the Dragon King and the Maneaters. I died on the Dragon King because that's a "puzzle boss" in which I was fighting against the environment, and I died against the Maneaters because I rolled off the edge about 10 seconds into the fight. The next time I was very careful with the edges, and got through without a hitch.
Literally every other boss in the game, I beat on my first try. I kept my distance and used magic to do most of the damage. If I took enough damage that I needed to heal, I put some extra distance between myself and the boss and I healed. Same thing if I was running low on MP. Some of the bosses I used my sword as much as I did the magic, like the final boss (well, the boss at the end of World 1, rather), but the magic was my main means of attack. Why risk taking more damage when I can just shoot fireballs at them from afar?
I should add that I spent most of the game using both the Regenerator's Ring and the Fragrant Ring. The former regenerates health (at a rate way faster than I expected) and the latter regenerates MP (at a much slower rate). I also spent way more of this game human than I did in the Dark Souls games, because I feared being invaded far less. I actually was invaded once, but I fell off something and died (accidentally) before I could meet the invader.
Now, was this character build overpowered? Sure seems like it. Was I expecting it to be as powerful as it was? No. Granted, I did make kind of a "glass cannon" character, in that I did a ton of damage, but couldn't take much without dying (well, I had decent health, but low defense). But like I said earlier, I just used that spell to buff my defense, at which point I was WAY more survivable. To the point where I think it was kinda unbalanced. I now see why the changes made to the magic system in Dark Souls were made. Namely, that instead of a pool of MP that all spells use, each spell has a limited number of uses, which is really limited for the more powerful ones. There are items that restore it, but I never played a mostly magic build in those games, so that wasn't something I have a ton of experience with.
And that was my experience with most of Demon's Souls. Breezing through most enemy encounters, falling off a lot of things, and getting really frustrated with the level design. It's a good thing that I didn't have more trouble with the bosses, because the run up to some of them is absurd. There's no shortcuts in some of the levels. Sure, you CAN kill the dragon in 1-4 to make that run up easier, but when I tried, I ended up running out of magic, out of MP restoring items, and the helpful NPC that was distracting the dragon died. Now, to be fair, a lot of that was my fault for missing with a lot of my spells. Conversely, the camera, lock-on, and spell aiming (or lack thereof) made hitting the dang thing way harder than it should have. Which, I guess is the point because they don't want you to kill the dragon, but that doesn't necessarily make that good design. Same goes for 4-2, no shortcut (at least not that I found), and you have to navigate stingrays, narrow walkways, skeletons, ghosts, necromancers, INVISIBLE ENEMIES, and eventually slugs to get to the boss.
Oddly enough, World 5, The Valley of Defilement, was far from the most frustrating part of the game for me. Granted, part of that was because I saved it for last (not counting the last couple parts of World 1, because I wanted something decent to end the game on), so I was definitely over leveled for the first part. And even the second part, the giant poison bog, wasn't that bad. I did die once, but that was because I forgot I couldn't roll whilst in the bog. After that I just was a little more careful, and made my way through. I did open the shortcut, in the event that I died to the boss, but I didn't, and I moved on.
Don't get me wrong though, as frustrated as I did get with the game, there were things about it that I liked. The music is often really weird in a way that I think is great. A lot of the design, both of the enemies, and the look of the world, is really interesting. As annoying and awful as those flying stingrays are, the idea of an area surrounded by giant flying stingrays is rad. Those Cthulhu looking guys with the robes that cast spells might be annoying to fight in tight corridors, but they look cool. A lot of the bosses are pretty interesting too. One of them is a big fat knight with an enormous tongue and a bird on its head. There's that one boss that's the extra giant stingray, and you can use that special sword to attack it. That's really cool! I probably could have used my spells to take that one down too, but I wanted to use that sword for that one because that's the only part of the game where you can do that, and that's cool.
So, I'm a little conflicted about this game. As easy as it was, I did still enjoy a lot of the combat. I may have beaten most of the bosses on my first attempt, but that doesn't mean some of them weren't at least a little close, in spots, and that I didn't have fun fighting them. And like I said, I like the artistic design stuff in the game. And, I have to keep in mind that this is an older game now, and that of course aspects of it aren't going to have aged well when it's been iterated on since then.
That said, I'd be lying if I didn't say I was disappointed in the game. I didn't enjoy large swaths of it, but I am glad that I played it, if only because I can now honestly say that I played it. Plus, it was only $5, and only took me 18 hours, so it's not like I wasted a large amount of my (worthless) time. Though, even though it only took 18 hours, it felt like it took a LOT longer than that, and not in a good way.
That's Demon's Souls. I don't want to ever play it again in my life, which I think says a lot. I still think it's worth playing, though, because there's good stuff in there. There's tons of people out there that love this game, and still like it more than the Dark Souls games, and more than Bloodborne. And good for them. Maybe I'd think more along their lines if I had played this game in 2009, before those other games existed. Or maybe I would have gotten so frustrated that I would have quit, and stayed away from Dark Souls. There's no way to know. And, really, it doesn't matter.
But if you are going to play the game, maybe diversify your points a little more than I did, to make it a bit more challenging for you. Or not, and just magic your way through it. No amount of different builds are going to improve those poorly made levels.
As mentioned earlier, I also bought MGS2 HD, and MGS3 HD. Which means that I finally own every main entry in the Metal Gear series. Now, to be clear, the only one I didn't own before was MGS2, and that's because I borrowed it from a friend. I own MGS3 Subsistence on PS2. But it was only recently that I acquired a code for MGS1/VR Missions on PS1 (thanks rmanthorp! :D), as before then all I owned was the (obviously superior) Twin Snakes on GameCube. And it got me thinking...
Maybe I should play all the Metal Gear games this year. In order. Then I realized that I didn't want to play Portable Ops again, partly because I don't want to use my PSP ever again, and partly because Portable Ops is not a great game. Then I remembered that the AC!D games exist, and decided to continue never having played them. Also, those are side games that aren't canon, and shouldn't factor into playing all the main ones, which was the real goal anyway.
And thus, Metal Gear Quest was born. I will play all of the Metal Gear games, in order of release, this year. And write something about them. Now, for those wanting more clarification, here is the order in which I'm going to play them:
Metal Gear (played about 40 minutes of it years ago).
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (never touched).
Metal Gear Solid/The VR Missions (because Ross gave it to me, so I might as well).
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD.
Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Now, a couple things about this. Yes, I know, VR Missions is a side thing. I'm not committing to completing every VR Mission in it, just enough to get a feel for it. And as much as I WANT to finish MG and MG2, I also feel like I should keep an out clause for if I get too frustrated with those games, given that they are hella old, and I have a proven track record of being terrible at games of that era.
And yes, I know Twin Snakes came out after MGS2. I want to replay that before MGS2 because I want to do that before I get to the HD remake stuff. I don't want to go from HD 60 frames per second to 480i 30-ish frames per second. And yes, before you make a fuss, I am going to replay Twin Snakes too. If you don't like Twin Snakes, that's fine. If you prefer the original, that's fine too. Twin Snakes was the first MGS game I played, and it's a very important game to me. It informed a lot of my teen years, in terms of interests and whatnot. And after watching Metal Gear Scanlon, and listening to the voice acting of the original, I can assure you that I prefer the (more consistant) voice acting of Twin Snakes. But, I've gotten off topic (but please don't harass me in the comments about it, I don't want to get into arguments where no one is going to be swayed either way).
Yes, I know REVENGEANCE is also a side game. I just love that game and want and excuse to play it again.
And, of course, I will have to wait until September 1st to play The Phantom Pain. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably have seen that I've been counting the days to it every day, with my #WakeMeUpWhenSeptemberBegins hashtag. Yes, based on a bad reference to a song I don't like from a band I'm not especially enamored with.
Honestly, I'm both excited, and a little nervous about it. A couple of these games are some of my favorite games of all time. I'm also really worried that they won't hold up very well. Or that some were never great to play in the first place. I never enjoyed playing MGS2 back in the day. And I'm worried that, having never played MGS1 (beyond that flashback in MGS4), I'll flounder my way through it just like Drew did.
And that brings me to my next thing...difficulty. See, I kind of only ever played Twin Snakes and MGS2 on easy. I played MGS3 on normal, and ever since then I've done at least normal (with occasion bouts of hard on subsequent playthroughs), but I'm wondering what I should do here. Should I go the easy route, and lessen my frustration, or just go for it on normal? Really, the thing stopping me from just playing on easy is that Drew was able to get through MGS1 and MGS2 on normal, and he had never played any of these games before. But again, he also floundered his way through them, and I don't want to flounder.
I dunno. I reserve the right to start over on easy should I start on normal, and get too frustrated, but hopefully it won't come to that. If you want to try to sway me one way or the other, feel free to. I dunno when I'll actually start on Metal Gear Quest, but probably soon-ish. This isn't something that I want to do all of them back to back, or something. Just more of a, "there's nothing new right now, so I'll go play some Metal Gear" thing. Which means it'll be on hold once The Witcher III is out, and who knows after that.
I am excited though. It's my favorite series, and I'm hoping that playing them all within a year will give me some new insights or something. I dunno, I'm hoping to have something to write about them for this blog. Otherwise I wouldn't have written so much about it here. Now I have to file this under general discussion instead of just the Demon's Souls page, because too much of this isn't Demon's Souls! I know, thrilling blog writing, here.
But that's it. Nothing else has been going on in my video gaming, aside from the occasional race in Mario Kart 8. I'm still looking forward to The Witcher III, and I'll play this month's PS+ games, though none of those really caught my interest. But hopefully I'll be proven wrong and at least one of them will be rad!
Thanks for reading!