Alright, a new year is upon us and what better way to start it off than with my most requested title to review, Demon’s Souls. Released in 2009 by From Software and Atlus, I was able to pick up this Playstation 3 exclusive Greatest Hits edition for only 15 bucks on Amazon a few weeks back. Well, after battling through this for the last week, I can easily say that this is one of the hardest, most frustrating games I’ve ever played, and I absolutely loved every second of it. This is a Hard Core Action Role Playing Game and is certainly not for the timid. If you think you’ve got what it takes to handle this bad boy, let’s check it out; Here’s Demon’s Souls!
The Old One, an ancient demon of sorts has been awoken from its eternal slumber causing a deep fog to cover the lands of Boletaria. Demons follow the fog, hunting the souls of men causing all to lose their minds. Warriors have been drawn to the accursed land to battle these demons and claim the unimaginable power of their souls but none have returned. The world will eventually fall to these Demons, so you, a lone warrior, are the one to put an end to it all. Really, it’s a rather generic story, you’ve got to just to go forth and kill every last demon. There aren’t that many characters and there is barely any dialog at all. There is nothing that drives you through the story and there is nothing that explains what the bosses are or why they’ve occupied the areas. Basically, you have an overall story that sets up some elements in the beginning, but then you’re on your own to simply play the game at your leisure. While it is an RPG, it certainly is not a story-based game.
Demon’s Souls actually has some really neat design elements that I’m not sure that I’ve seen in any other game up to this point. This bastard took me 41 hours to complete and it was freaking hard as hell; it really makes you feel like a man when you beat this shit. One level in particular took me 2 hours to get through. I died on the first enemy and started over; then I died on the second enemy and started over. When I FINALLY reached the end and watched a sweet cut-scene of the boss walking out, he stepped on me. One-shot. Dead… Shit.
After completing a simple tutorial, you die, and are revived in The Nexus, a great structure that holds the banished Old One. From here, you may access any of the game’s 5 drastically different zones in any order that you wish. Each zone is made up of 4 sub-zones, each unlocked after killing a major demon at the end of the previous. All together you’ve got 20+ bosses and these bastards are MEAN! Hell, one in particular took me 8 hours to finally defeat! Each zone also has it’s own soul tendency meaning that if you die a lot in one particular area, the zone’s soul tendency will turn black, making the encounters even tougher and preventing you from acquiring certain treasures. Seriously? I’ve been dying for the past 2 hours on this impossible-ass level, and now you’re going to make it HARDER for me?!?!
This is where you can start to see some of the game’s unique online features. First of all, as you play through the levels, you’ll see white soul outlines of other players around the world on the same level as you. If they die, their bloodstain will appear in your game, and if you touch it, you can actually see a red outline of their soul so you can see exactly how they died. You can even leave and read messages from other players warning you of dangers ahead. Now, if the levels are getting simply too hard for you to handle, you can join other players games or have them join yours as phantom souls where they can choose to either help your noob-ass out, or kill you. One boss near the end can even summon a human player to fight as its champion, which I found particularly awesome!
As I said in the beginning, this is as Hard Core of an RPG as they come. You’ve got to deal with equipment degradation, classless characters, item burden, equipped item burden, character speed, retardedly difficult encounters, death penalties, hell, this game’s got it all!
There is a pretty decent character creation system with several different pre-defined classes to choose from, but it doesn’t really matter as they pretty much only determine your starting stats. As you level up your character, you can play them pretty much however you want so if you start as a warrior, you can still end up as a caster. Here’s where things get interesting: as you kill demons, you’ll gain a variable amount of souls from them. Souls are used to level your character up, assuming you’ve returned to the Nexus without dying. Souls are then redeemed for additional stats like strength, intelligence or dexterity. The caveat is that the souls are also used as currency to purchase better gear and spells. This inevitably leads to a very grindy game, as you need to constantly farm souls to ensure you’re strong enough to tackle the current level, that you’ve got enough souls to repair your gear, purchase better equipment, and to ensure you’ve got enough consumables to keep your ass alive through this beast!
What’s worse is that when you die, you lose all of your acquired souls, and there is nowhere to bank them. What’s worse than that is when you die, the level resets, meaning you have to do all of it over and hope to not die again. If you make it back to your corpse, you can retrieve your lost souls, but if you die again along the way, they are gone for good. This makes death very meaningful, which you don’t find often in games. There is a constant fear in you as you play, ensuring you are memorizing every single detail about the level and the mechanics and gimmicks required to defeat each type of foe.
Now, when you die, you enter soul form, which removes half of your health bar, but allows you to deal something like 15% additional damage. This makes it even more risky to die, as there are only a few ways to get your body revived. You either have to kill a boss demon, consume a very rare item, or enter another living players game and kill them. Yea, it’s pretty tough to come back to life, so don’t die!
There is actually a lot of good replayablility in this title as well. In addition to reviving your body upon killing a boss demon, they also drop Boss Demon Souls which may be redeemed for powerful spells, miracles and gear, but different spells and gear become unlocked for you at different points in the game based on your actions, so you have to pick and choose how to spend these items meaning that if you want it all, you need to play through it several times!
To compliment the great game-play, assuming you can handle the difficulty, is the game’s wonderful presentation. The graphics aren’t top of the line by any means, but they get the job done with no tearing and very limited drops in frames. While each of the 5 zones has their own unique look and feel to them, everything is very dark and eerie, which just makes it worse when something jumps out at you when you aren’t expecting it.
To top this off, there isn’t really much of a soundtrack either, as most of the levels just have ambient noises to keep things quiet and suspenseful. Pretty much the only time you hear music is during boss fights, and that really isn’t anything to brag about. I don’t think I’d change a thing though as the lack of soundtrack combined with the ambient noise and the dark environments are a great touch, and really keep things creepy.
Well, that was one HELL of a week playing through Demon’s Souls. I put this title off for far too long and I’m really happy that so many of you kept hounding me to get on this bastard. For only 15 bucks, you really can’t beat the price as long as you’re willing to really get into it and deal with some serious frustrations along the way! Even after all of the crazy hard enemies, bosses and players who jumped into my game and ganked my ass, I still loved it. I’ll say right now, this is not a title for everyone, but I just couldn’t get enough. It’s hard as shit and fun as hell! So with that, leave your questions and comments below!
Developer: From Software
Release Date: October 6 2009
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