GOONL!NE Review: Demon’s Souls

Developer: From Software, SCE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment (Japan),  Atlus (North America), Namco Bandai (Europe)
Format Played On: PlayStation 3
Also On: N/A (PlayStation 3 exclusive)
Release Date: June 25th 2010 (Europe)
Age Rating: CERO: D, ESRB: M, PEGI: 16

There are many now who yearn for the old days of video gaming. Much like how the Daily Mail claim that today’s exams for students are ‘too easy’ and qualifications are handed out to any Tom, Dick or Harry, there are also those in the gaming community who believe the real challenge in many games now is gone, that in a bid to appeal to the masses they’ve been made to accessible. Well, you can cross Demon’s Souls off that list with a big thick marker.

By now you will have heard that Demon’s Souls is one tough son of a gun, (heck there isn’t even the ability to pause it) that the game will show you no mercy should you think about making a half-hearted attempt at something, and that is spot on, however the gently tutorial at the start of the game is one hell of a facade for what is to come your way.

After you and the game briefly hold hands at the start and everything feels rosy, the game then shows it’s true colours, ready to kick your ass when you make a mistake, and then kick you again when you’re down. The currency in Demon’s Souls are the souls of each foe you slay, but do not be lulled into a false sense of security once you’ve collected them, they’re never safely yours.

Each time you die in the game (and believe me, you will die) all those lovely souls you’ve collected up and were hoping to use to upgrade yourself are snatched away from you. Fret not however, you can get them back. Once you’ve been booted back to the start of the level, you can return to where you were slain and collect all the souls you lost, but should you fail to make it there in one piece and die again, say bye-bye to those souls as they’re gone forever. This forces you to think before you act in Demon’s Souls, there is no room for mindless gung-ho hacking and slashing and opponents, as even the most basic of enemies in the game can take you down. Your reward is progression through a mixture of patience and cunning.

Demon’s Souls has one massive, nagging problem throughout, where the hell is my story?! If you’re coming to DS and hoping for an enthralling romp that’ll suck you in through clever dialogue and an engaging story, you can look elsewhere, this is Demon’s Souls biggest let-down.

This may not be a problem for many, however I did personally find it to be the biggest flaw in the game as at times I did not feel compelled to progress but although I say this, there is still aspects to be appreciated. Demon’s Souls presents itself as more of a legend than story, where you simply just play out your role in it. The raison d’être of Demon’s Souls is all is found in it’s compelling gameplay, and the lack of a story is somewhat overcome by the tension and atmosphere generated.

There are neat touches aplenty throughout the game, two of my favourite being the bloodstains of other players being left, and also the ability to leave messages for other players. When you’re traveling around the various areas in Boletaria you’ll often see bloodstains on the floor. These are from other players playing Demon’s Souls around the world who’ve been cut down by foes. Click on the bloodstains and you’re shown how they die, which can prove quite invaluable against tougher opponents. Seeing where fellow players have went wrong can often save you a great deal of anguish.

The second of my favourite little touches in the game is the ability to leave messages for other players. The idea is great in principle, you find or see something great in the game, and you can leave a message for other players to read and assist them, but of course this can so easily be abused, though admittedly it can be quite humourous if you’re not so angry with the game and you’re able to see the funny side. The number of times I’ve been tricked into dying by other players did get balanced out by those good souls who saved my ass from certain doom.

Demon’s Souls has many traditional RPG aspects to it. In the beginning you are presented with several classes to choose from, each with varying initial statistics and abilities. If you want to make it past the first part of the game easily and not end up bald, the Royal class is the one to go for, the ranged attacks will prove invaluable until you level up. The further you progress into the game the less the class you’ve chosen matters, so the GOONL!NE recommendation is to go with the Royal class and make life easier for yourself initially, believe me, you’ll be doing yourself a favour. There is also tons of customisation that can be done to your character, so you can tailor them until your heart is content.

Final Thoughts: Simply put, Demon’s Souls isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Some may wince at the difficulty level of the game and shy away, whilst others will find the difficulty an exhilaration. Repetition could’ve been a disaster for Demon’s Souls, however this is a game that demands much and will reward you for putting the effort in At no point during the game can you blame it for being too harsh on you. The game doesn’t hate you, it hate everyone. When you die it’ll not be because the game is rigged against you, it’s because you simply weren’t good enough.

Overall Demon’s Souls is a good game, verging on almost being very good. Put in the time and apply yourself to it properly and you may well love it, and some non-RPG fans might even find it more accessible due to there not being a massively convoluted story to contend with, but that for me is where the game falls down. There is no narrative to pull me in, no characters that I really give a damn about, and for me that is the essence of a good RPG.

Story: 5  - What little there is has been well thought out, but over the length of a game like Demon’s Souls it’s being pulled a little thin.

Gameplay: 9 – Steep learning curve will show you no mercy if you treat Demon’s Souls like any other game. Combat is well balanced and once you’ve mastered it, you’ll feel like a pro. Death is still inevitable though.

Graphics: 8 – Why they bothered to include ragdolls is beyond me but aside from that Demon’s Souls is a great game to look at.

Sound: 8  – Demon’s Souls doesn’t have much of a soundtrack to comment on, but what little sound there is, be it the laughter of a taunting enemy for simply the wind blowing, it does ratchet up the tension well.

Overall: 8 – Only three words need end this review, and they sum up Demon’s Souls perfectly. Tough but fair.