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Denny Markovic
07 Nov, 2009

Demon's Souls Review

PS3 Review | Import: It will devour your soul.
In a modern world that is filled with games littered with checkpoints, the more masochistic and perfectionist kind of gamers tend to feel a little left out. Action games end before you even know it, and progression is swift and easy with checkpoints helping you throughout (though that's not say it's a bad thing). Even in RPGs, games tend to feel a little softened up nowadays, with AI seeming a bit restrained in ruthlessness, and deaths becoming nothing but a minor hiccup that you bypass without worry.

But these 'rules' don't exist in a game like Demon's Souls. In fact, Demon's Souls rules are almost the complete opposite compared to most games. Don't die or suffer horrible consequences. No checkpoints. Unforgiving AI. No tutorials. It's a game that throws you into situations where you are outnumbered, outgunned and underpowered. And yet with all these odds against you, it feels completely fair.

The objective behind Demon's Souls is fairly simple. You are a brave warrior that's come to the land of Boletaria to lull the Old One back to sleep, a behemoth of a demon that has enshrouded the land in a thick and lifeless fog. Demon's rule over the land and it's your job to slowly vanquish each and every one of them until you face the Old One himself. It's a task that is easily understandable and crystal clear, it's just pulling the task off that proves to be an immense challenge.

This guy will kill you a lot.

This guy will kill you a lot.
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Indeed, Demon's Souls is an extremely difficult game. Enemies - let alone bosses - will punish you for silly mistakes in combat. You will fall to your death through deadly traps scattered around the world. You'll simply be overwhelmed by a task that seems impossible. But despite all this, the game is completely and utterly fair. This is largely due to how the game plays, which is a more slower and methodical style involving swords and sorcery. Fighting enemies is trivial and a puzzle in itself, as discovering what their weakness is and exploiting it without getting yourself killed can take quite some time. Exploring areas requires patience and total focus, as the game will actively throw something horrific and deadly at you around many corners. It's all a matter of learning from your own mistakes, as the game isn't cheap, it's simply relentless in its quest to kill you, and this in turn forces you to think creatively and adjust to situations with a large amount of strategy. But what keeps you on your toes the most however is the knowledge of how unforgiving dying is.

Demon's Souls system works in that when you kill an enemy or a boss, you gain souls, which act as the currency of the world and allow you to purchase items, level up your stats and upgrade your equipment. It's virtually your life line when it comes down to it, as natural level progression boils down to your own consistency in keeping those souls intact and readily available. And this is why dying is so bad, because upon death, you lose all souls, though before they're gone for good you still have a chance to retrieve them. Upon death, you become a phantom, which acts as a 'soul' form of your physical body, and acts exactly the same way as well though the difference is your maximum health is literally halved. Retrieving your souls is a matter of getting back to the area in which you died and touching your bloodstain, so it sounds easy enough. But it's not, because every time you die or leave a world, every enemy you killed respawns. If you die in your phantom form before getting back to your bloodstain, all souls you have are gone for good. It's this system that will absolutely nail the fear of death into your head, as it's an incredibly punishing and brutal thing to happen, and in all honesty it will happen a lot when you just begin.

But eventually you just start to play better. The hundreds of deaths you rack up throughout your journey teach you a harsh lesson in the world of Demon's Souls and it's through this that you learn to understand the methods and tactics behind the game and become a far more efficient player than you thought you could be, and this is where Demon's Souls succeeds in the biggest of ways. Though things seem incredibly difficult and require sometimes hours to complete, the feeling of winning the fight is a feeling that games rarely give off these days. It's a game of trial and error that constantly throws you into the most difficult of situations that you die at because of your own mishaps and miscalculations, but once you've overcome the situation, you feel like you've just finished the game.

This area will kill you a lot.

This area will kill you a lot.
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The class based system helps out in this regard a whole heap as well, as when you pick a Knight, you're not just a sword and shield based melee class, you're simply starting off with the basics of that playstyle. Demon's Souls is the kind of game that allows you to play in almost every way possible, regardless of class choice. If a boss encounter is difficult on melee and is easier to handle with spells, you can work on improving your stats on magic and then learning any and every spell you want. It's surprisingly deep and dynamic, where there are no real limits in customising and teaching your character more and more abilities. But if you've tried everything and really can't seem to figure a boss or area out, you can look for help through the game's online system, which is one of the most original and unique implementations of online play in recent years.

Demon's Souls is a single player game, but it has an interesting use of online as well. As you progress through the world, you will see transparent 'phantom' images of other players moving throughout the world as well, indicating that they were here once or they're also in the same spot as you. You'll also come across messages on the ground written by other players, which can hint you as to what lies ahead, what you should use against it, if there's treasure nearby, etc. Players can rate these messages on reliability as well, so messages left by malicious players (yes there are plenty of them) can be easily spotted. Apart from messages though, there's also bloodstains which you can touch, and it'll show a phantom image of a player that had recently died there. You only see him, so deciphering what exactly killed him is then up to you.

Co-op works similarly in the multiplayer as well, where people in phantom form can drop Blue Eye Stone messages on the ground, which physical form players can see, select and then summon the other player to aid them in a fight. The incentive behind co-op is that if the phantom helps and succeeds in downing a boss with the player who summoned him, they get resurrected and bought back to life. It's a very efficient system which comes around very often at that, as the game is so ridiculously challenging.

A common occurence.

A common occurence.
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Then there are the Black Eye Stones, which is a more sinister online thing which allows you to invade other people's worlds and try to kill them and take their soul for your own. This also tends to happen often, but adds an unpredictable and somewhat terrifying dynamic to the game.

Apart from the difficulty and intense gameplay experience, Demon's Souls boasts some depressingly fantastic design and visuals. Though not as technically efficient as something like Uncharted 2, it's still a solid technical showcase that truly shines through its art design. Most areas are fairly dark and eerie with strange looking monsters and bosses larger than any boss in Shadow of the Colossus hiding around corners, but when you witness these beasts in action and the world lights up, you're in for a wonderful treat. It's an immersive and incredibly intense atmosphere that only heightens the senses and intensifies each situation. The sound also tends to play with your nerves like this as well, with horrific cries echoing through dark castles and roars of massive dragons shaking the very ground you walk on. Music is appropriately suited as well and only played in boss fights, creating an exhilirating experience with a fantastic dark fantasy feel to it. It's an overall great job particularly in its design.

Demon's Souls is a game that becomes an obsession the moment you delve into it. The gameplay is deceptively deep, where in the beginning it feels simple and smooth, but can quickly turn into an involving and complex system that has roots burrowing very deep on many levels, something which we haven't even talked about in this review. It's a game that brings back some of the setups of old, where dying is a punishment and checkpoints are non-existent and winning is a matter of learning from your own mistakes, but at the same time brings in a holding hand in the form of your own fellow gamers. It's a surprisingly fair and balanced game, where you get better as you play more, and even after you're done, puts you into even deeper water that will test your ability so much more. But regardless of all the hardships, the game gives off an incredibly satisfying vibe when you've finally won, and will have you remembering moments for years to come. Though it may not ever be out in Australia, Demon's Souls is an astonishing title that begs to be played, as it's one of the best RPGs to be released in recent years.
The Score
Demon's Souls is an obsessive title, a masochists dream, and an utterly amazing RPG. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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15 Comments
4 years ago
Is this 100% coming to aus as i have not heard anything about it being released in aus yet?
4 years ago
"Though it may not ever be out in Australia, Demon's Souls is an astonishing title that begs to be played, as it's one of the best RPGs to be released in recent years."

Highly doubtful. Great review. Import! Completely worth it.
4 years ago
I'm very tempted to import it, though i don't know if its because i want to play the game or i want to say its in my collection.
It sounds fantastic though, i might have to talk someone into getting it for me.
4 years ago
You guys should get a HD capture card so you can show your own screens in your reviews and not just the officially released ones. Adds authenticity and will attract readers looking for never seen before shots/clips too.
4 years ago
got a question for ya denny (or anyone who's played it really):

i've been reading a few reveiws, and they all seem to say pretty much the same thing, how ridiculously hard the game is, and how awesome it is to finally beat this boss or complete that area or whatever. what's bugging me is whether or not the game has any value outside of that sense of achievement? if the game was a lot easier, would it still be great?

i'm asking because i just know i won't have the patience for this game, and it sounds like you really have to actually work to get any enjoyment out of it.
4 years ago
To put it bluntly, the game from the get-go pretty much forces you into the situation of "You think on your feet, learn things your own way, we're not helping you.". It won't even go into detail at all as to what kind of weaponry you should be using against certain enemies, what a bosses weakpoint is, etc. It's nasty, and honestly it's not fun.

But that's kind of the appeal of the game, it has this unusual grip on you that forces you into learning everything your own way and developing an entirely unique style of play. Much of the value comes in its requirement to dedicate. And that's when the game gets really fun.

That being said though, the core gameplay and its equipment system is awesome even without the difficulty. It's responsive and insanely deep - I've spent countless hours in the game just hunting for certain valuable weapons and such just to see how cool they are.

There's also this world tendency system in it, which can dictate how the game pans out entirely throughout the course of it, depending on how much you die in physical form, what you do in certain events, etc. It's like a good and evil system, and it also goes down to character tendency too, which is seperate to world tendency.

I just woke up so I'm probably blabbering on but yeah the game has a ton of value outside just the difficulty and satisfaction. It's deep, there's lots of things to do and see and the game world changes around you depending on how you perform and what actions you take. It's easily the best $100 I've spent in a while and dare I say it, my personal GOTY (sorry Uncharted 2 icon_razz.gif).

Oh and if anyone's wondering, this reviewer did finish the game. On my second playthrough at the moment, just taking it slow.
4 years ago
Completely agree with your review and comments above Denny. To 'unlachs' the game is difficult and exremely frustrating to begin with and during my 1st few hours of playing there were a number of times I seriously considered putting it up on eBay where I had got it from, but something kept drawing me back, can't put my finger on what, best explanation I can give is the whole uniqueness of the game, you know theres nothing else like it and to give up would mean your gonna miss out on a very special experince, same as I felt with MGS back on Psone(all the sneaking about was so new).
Few games bring this feeling, Ico comes to mind. If you are willing to put up with the steep learning curve you will probably never find a more rewarding game, once you cotton on to the game mechanics and it's something that has to be learnt though a online guide may help(cheating to me!) but once you master the mechanics a few hours in the game is not has hard as at first it seemed. You have a certain degree of freedom as to how and when you approach different 'areas' and this freedom means you can go elsewhere if one area is causing to much of a head ache. My GOTY and best PS3 title so far !!! 9.5/10
4 years ago
Have you guys though about doing video reviews? I always go to youtube to check out the "gameplay"..
4 years ago
I live in Australia and imported the US version of this game via ebay. Anyone on the fence or considering doing the same should not hesitate. This is a must play (for anyone with patience that is)!

Demon's souls is an awesome game. REALLY difficult and often frustrating but somehow so addictive. You will just keep coming back to it despite the fact that it will continually slaughter you.

Basically the more time you spend playing, the better it gets, as previously difficult levels suddenly become relatively easy as your character becomes more and more powerful and your own skills develop. Do yourself a favour and play this game. You won't regret it (most of the time).
4 years ago
thanks for the review Denny. That was a great review - i could feel ur enthusiasm!

Some questions

1. Which version (asian or US) did u get and which would u recommend?

2. How often can u co-op with other players - that would make it much easier wouldnt it?

3. How do u save - u mention there aren't any checkpoints - are the save points really far apart? or is this a level system where it saves after each level?

Ive been interested in this game for soooo long - but i know i just dont have the time to play it... how long did u take to finish it Denny?
4 years ago
1) US version, and I recommend that one. More players online and it has a lot of the issues from the Asian version fixed.

2) Fairly often, it depends on player struggles. On the tougher bosses there were plenty of blue eye stones to grab, so there was plenty of co-operative opportunities. It makes thing easier but also buffs the health of a boss etc, so it kind of evens out. One boss I had massive struggles with at an early stage and ended up summoning two guys to help me take him down. That was so awesome and intense. If I was a magic user, and not stubborn about grinding my magic up, I would've never have had that much of an issue though icon_razz.gif

3) Saves occur really, really often. And they are fast. If you die and lose your souls, it's already saved, don't even bother trying to reset the game or something to stop it from happening. It's an unusual save system that you'll never have an issue with. If you quit the game halfway through an area though and then come back, you start back at the start of the area. Tough love.

Took me about 20-30 hours, though I have a tendency of smashing through games very fast (God of War on God mode in 4.5 hours). But I'd say the first run can easily be a 40-60 hour romp.
4 years ago
Yeah I'm over 30 hours in so far and I'm probably a third of the way through my first playthrough (about 8-10 demons killed so far). I have died A LOT though. I think the second playthrough would be much quicker.

Co-op is awesome for defeating tough bosses. Also invading other peoples worlds is great fun, as is fighting off other invaders (I'm undefeated so far from about 5 or 6 duels).

It's just a great game. A real shame that PAL regions aren't getting a release.
4 years ago
denny great review mate! you.ve almost convince to get demon's soul (almost because i don't have much patients and time icon_sad.gif)

oh and quick question why didn't they release this in PAL territory?
4 years ago
There is a tutorial albeit brief and the basic enemies are not trivial, but otherwise spot on review Denny.

Stupidest thing I can't believe I've done in this game so far? Walking towards a red dragon that is awake and facing me... I'll let you guess what happened there.
4 years ago
Oh...My...God - What a game!

I received my copy of Demon's Souls about a week ago and have been playing it non-stop ever since. I'll just reitterate what Denny and other's have said, this game is incredible.

This is not just game of the year for me (and I game on all platforms including PC) it's also the best game on the PS3 so far (yes I've played and beaten Uncharted 2). You definately have to love a challange though.

It's one of those games you'll still be talking about in years to come, they just don't make'em like this anymore - highly recommended!
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  25/06/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Namco Bandai Partners (Atari)
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

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