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Demon’s Souls Review

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Developer: FromSoftware Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: October 6, 2009 Available On: PS3

A great evil has come upon the earth and threatens to engulf all in darkness and despair. Though many have tried, none have succeeded in ridding the world of this monstrous evil. You and only you can dispel the evil forces and restore peace to the world. This is the terribly cliché story to what may be the PlayStation 3’s most rewarding experience. Demon’s Souls is a slow paced take on the action RPG that favors tough love over flamboyant style. Can you handle some tough love?

Demon’s Souls starts with a short tutorial. You will quickly learn the ropes and pace of things to come. Upon completing the tutorial, you are squashed like a bug by a towering ogre like creature. When I first played though this, I thought I had done something wrong but the game really does want to you die like a bug. That instant kill sets the tone for the rest of the game. You are a bug and you will be squashed like one. You are not Kratos and this is not God of War. You are not some bad ass who is going to just come in and crack some skulls. Everything is out to get you and every enemy you encounter has the potential to take you down. Be prepared to get your ass handed to you, many times.

Demon’s Souls demands patience and you will need it in copious amounts. This is not a button mashing game. Button mashing will surely get you killed. You are very vulnerable; a few well placed hits are enough to take you down. You will meet a few harmless souls that have somehow managed to survive surrounding horror, but friends will be few and far between. Most everything that walks about in Demon’s Souls is out to get you. Be very weary of your surroundings. Just because there are no enemies in front of the camera does not mean that you are alone. There are many dark corners with monstrosities hidden in them. I found myself traversing the levels with my shield raised, prepared to dispel sudden attacks from a blind corner.

Demon’s Souls is set in a very dark and gritty fantasy world inspired by the dark ages. Set in medieval Europe in the fictional kingdom of Boletaria. A strange fog has cut off the country from the rest of the world. This fog brings with it demons that feed on the souls of mankind. Those left soulless go mad and become violent. Allant XII, king of Boletaria, in search for power and prosperity has inadvertently awaken the Old one through dark ritual and released this fog upon the world. The fog is nearly impenetrable but Vallorfax of the Twin Fangs managed to escape and inform the world of Boletaria’s plight. Heroes and those tempted by the power of souls have attempted to breach the fog. You play a hero who, upon crossing the fog, is immediately felled by a demon. Your soul arrives at the Nexus, a sort of sanctuary for souls watched over by the Maiden in Black. In exchange for regaining your body, you are tasked with slaying demons and recovering souls and ultimately freeing Boletaria from the Old One. The dark story is matched by the equally dark design.

Upon starting your adventure in Demon’s Souls you will notice how dark the image appears. No, there is nothing wrong with your television set. Demon’s Souls has a very dark visual design. Often, your only source of light is a magical item carried by your character that illuminates his way. While often dark, the environments are well varied and detailed. They range from large open spaces to tight claustrophobic corridors. Many of the areas appear as if they had been hastily abandoned though the details will reveal many dead bodies and rotting carcasses. The character models are spectacularly detailed and well animated. Dialog between characters is very natural and the well done voice work makes every character feel distinct and eerily human. The world of Demon’s Souls comes alive through great sound design overall.

The well crafted presentation is only a complement to the well crafted game that is Demon’s Souls. Throughout your quest you will traverse five of Boletarias most notable locations, in which you will you will defeat a variety of demons and monstrosities. Upon defeating enemies, you will collect souls which you can use as currency. You travel to each location in Boletaria through the Nexus. The Nexus is an eerie and grand space that serves as your hub. It is a lonely place initially but it is free of danger, unless you fall from a high platform. The Nexus will slowly populate as you progress through the game. Here you will meet two characters, one who will store your items and a blacksmith who will repair and upgrade your weapons and armor as well as sell you new items. The Nexus is the safest place to make weapon changes as the game cannot be paused.

When you are out in Boletaria, you must be mindful of your stamina bar. Attacking and blocking hits drains your stamina. Once depleted, you will be unable to perform attacks or block incoming hits. You are also able to sprint and this too drains your stamina. Because your stamina bar is so sensitive, taking on more than one enemy at a time can be very dangerous. It only takes a couple of effective hits to deplete your stamina bar and leave you completely open to defeat. This degree of vulnerability forces a slow and steady pace in Demon’s Souls.

If I have not yet made it clear, Demon’s Souls is a hard and punishing game. When you are defeated, you lose whatever souls you had collected and are returned to the area’s starting point. As a ghost with half of your health bar, you must trek back to your dead body so that you may recover it and the souls you had previously acquired. All of the enemies you had defeated in your living form will have to be defeated again in your ghost form. If you are defeated before you can reach your body, your current collection of souls is lost for good and you are again returned to the location’s starting point. There does not appear to be a “Game Over” screen in Demon’s Souls. Your ghost simply starts over and over again.

There are some issues with Demon’s Souls presentation and mechanics. While I realize that this is by design, the default brightness in this game may be uncomfortable for some. I felt as if I often had to play with my eyes wide open. Though it does not make the game any less foreboding, raising the in-game brightness to 10 (max) did greatly reduce eye strain. Fortunately, raising the in-game brightness didn’t magically make all the environments bright and clear so the experience of darkness was not lost. While character models are greatly detailed, defeated enemies fall like flimsy rag dolls. When you walk over a fallen enemy, it gets kicked around like a sheet of newsprint. Additionally, the camera in Demon’s Souls could use some work. Often, your view will be obstructed by set pieces and the camera does poorly in tight corridors, though nothing as bad as in Ninja Gaiden. The camera can be rotated freely unless you are locked onto a target, in which case the camera is very fixed on that target and that may work against you. Despite these few issues, Demon’s Souls offers one of the most consistent and well crafted experiences of this console generation.

Like most modern games, Demon’s Souls includes a multiplayer option, though a very unique take on the Co-op and PvP types. Multiplayer in Demon’s Souls can be at best described as a double edged sword. You can summon a currently dead random online player to aid you in the current area but there is no way to communicate with them besides a handful of predetermined gestures. Your online partner will be restored to their living form after defeating the area’s boss. Similarly, another random currently dead player can come and invade your game. Their goal is to assassinate you so that they may be restored to their living form in their own game. The horror of PvP multiplayer sets in when you realize that an enemy player can invade your game and steal your souls. Additionally, players may leave messages within the game to warn of upcoming dangers or give clues that aid in your survival.

You may also choose to invade a random player’s world to assassinate them, steal their souls, and regain your body in your own game but this has consequences. Demon’s Souls has a default setting, which is set to hard and only gets harder. The various regions of Boletaria are depicted by carved stones that initially glow white. Depending on your actions in multiplayer, maliciously entering another player’s game will turn a region darker. The darker the region gets the harder and more aggressive the enemies of that region will become. Enjoy PvP at your own risk.

Finally, I have no reservations in divulging the ending of Demon’s Souls. The game is too hard that merely knowing what happens in the end will not deprive you of the sense of accomplishment that you will derive from actually reaching the end. I will not give out precise details. The Maiden in Black will guide you beneath the Nexus to the Old One. The Old One welcomes you inside it where King Allant XII resides and whom you must also slay. Upon defeating Allant, you are faced with one last dilemma: slay the Maiden in Black or walk away. Walking away from the Maiden in Black will result in saving the world from the Old One. Slaying the Maiden in Black will result in condemning the world and becoming its dark ruler.

Demon’s Souls is a difficult game. It is slow-paced and mean; sometimes downright torturous. Yet, it is fun and surprisingly rewarding. While most other games have begun to cater to the casual masses, Demon’s Souls leans in the opposite direction. Only those who can endure the punishments and have the mental fortitude to continue will ever see Demon’s Souls ending. Those who reach the end will feel a sense of accomplishment that few if any other games can produce. If you’re a serious gamer on PS3 and you have the patience and will for something hard and unforgiving, I greatly recommend Demon’s Souls to you.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 9 out of 10
Written by Angel Cortes Write a User Review