Review: Demon’s Souls

When the game starts you can customise your avatar’s appearance to a very impressive degree and choose from one of ten classes. Referring to the manual is a must here because these classes are not described at all in the menus and make a really crucial difference to the initial gameplay experience. On my first run with the Soldier, I could barely get anywhere at all. A skim of the manual and starting again with the heavily-armored Temple Knight – who can also self-heal – yielded much more bearable results.

The class you select really only matters in the initial phases of the game because it simply determines your initial stats, weapons and spells where applicable. All characters can use any weapon or spell as long as they are suitably equipped and meet the stat requirements. There is no experience system; instead, stat points are purchased with Souls. As you reach new stat levels your character’s Soul Level will increase, which makes future upgrades more expensive.

The game kicks off with an adequate tutorial which sets the tone of what’s in store rather well. Combat varies depending on your starting gear but generally consists of simple light attack, heavy attack, block and parry. You can also dual-wield to break the enemy’s guard. While you are shown how to use items, switch weapons and cast spells and miracles, no explanation of the HUD is given, nor the overwhelming raft of statistics in any of the menus. Once the tutorial ends though, you can press Select over any stat to explain it, which is a welcome touch, and the printed manual just about covers most of the bases while also being somewhat sparse.

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Your home base is the Nexus, a central hub which gives you access to each of Boletaria’s five major areas, each of which is divided into dungeons which are gradually unlocked as you progress. Overall progression is largely linear, although it is worth re-visiting earlier dungeons as you level up to tackle areas that were previously too difficult. Within the dungeons themselves, there are sometimes multiple routes to explore, although again they are fairly linear – there are no swathes of open space to go exploring for chests here, but you can complete them in the order of your choosing once unlocked. Thankfully you can open up shortcuts in places to get quickly back to where you were after you die. Quickly is a relative term in this case, though, and there are no maps, so be sure to remember where you are going.

I mentioned above that individual combat encounters are not usually too difficult, but that is not to say they are trivial. Wading straight in hammering attack is a recipe for instant death. You will need to block and parry effectively, know when to retreat or just to back step. A single hit will often take a significant chunk out of your health, so it’s smart to know when to quit. Enemies generally won’t follow you too far if you run away, giving you chance to heal and regroup, which is a relief. Large weapons generally have an area of effect, so anything nearby will take damage regardless of which mob you have targeted. However, in tight passageways, large weapons will just hit the walls instead of your attacker, so switching to a shortsword or knife at the right time is important. This is a game where you will want to walk slowly, pay constant attention to your environment and whenever possible, try to tackle your enemies one at a time.

Long range attacks require accuracy and you can zoom in to get the perfect shot. Most mobs stand still until they notice you – often hiding around corners – but once you know where they are you can take them out with relative ease. You will of course be using up your limited supply of bolts or arrows as you perform these attacks. As in other RPGs, flanking the enemy and stabbing from behind will inflict a critical hit.

Stat fans will love Demon’s Souls as the game is absolutely overflowing with them, with three screens needed just to describe each weapon’s information, and another three screens to describe your character. My usual complaint applies: equipping new weapons doesn’t let you easily compare with the rest of your inventory, and that’s particularly baneful in a game of this complexity. Memorising all those numbers is far from easy. Status effects have been reduced in complexity to just four buffs (strength, dexterity, magic and faith) and four negative effects (bleeding, poison, plague and critical). With everything you have to keep track of, this is a good thing. There are four weapon types (normal, blunt, slashing and piercing) which perform according to how you have leveled up your stats.

Everything has an item burden (weight) which slows movement. Weapon durability degrades with use and when they are down to 30% their stats become reduced – and trust me, on your 15th attempt of the same dungeon, you are going to love it when you get half-way through only to be informed your weapon is broken because you weren’t paying attention to its durability. The Nexus has a blacksmith and some other vendors who will repair and upgrade weapons for you (ore and Souls are needed for upgrades), and there are some more dotted around world of Boletaria, though they are relatively few and far between. You can’t sell any items, which makes your stash of Souls even more important.

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72 Comments

  1. I haven’t read the whole Review. Actually I only read the first few lines. But I really don’t agree on the ‘hard’ thing. I completed the game once and I’m halfway through New Game+.
    To my opinion a hard game is a game where you’ll die multiple times at the same spot. Without any kind of progress. This isn’t what I experience while playing DS.
    Yes, you’ll die, but that isn’t because the game is very hard, but just because you’re acting reckless and not paying attention to your surroundings. Especially when you actually killed the first boss it all becomes a lot ‘easier’.
    I don’t want to say that you’re wrong Katy and I’m not stating the game is easy. But I just want to say that I, perhaps of the few, did not experience this game as very hard.
    Sorry for not reading the whole Review. I’ll do that when I’m home from work.

    • I read a little further and I see that you’re explaining ‘a different kind of hard’. Sorry again for not reading this before, but my above statement still stands. =P

      • i agree, many reviewers have just gone on about how hard it is rather than tell us whats wrong with the technical side of the game.
        the only problem i see is that most the reviewers are getting owned because their used to playing easier games and not “paying attention to your surroundings” like you say.
        in some games you can run to an edge and there will be an invisible wall but in this you dont get that kind of cheesy help which imo makes it a more realistic game.
        im glad that apart from difficulty, theres not much wrong with this and so im gonna pick up the phantom black edition today.
        DS reviews make it clear why games of today are way to easy.

    • I only read the first few lines of your reply and I don’t really agree with it…

      ;)

    • Agree with this the game is not hard it punishes you for stupid mistakes and thus you have to learn from them. I restarted the game over 10 times with diffrent characters each time learning from the deaths. The first boss which most people will die i could beat without getting hit once just because you have got to grips with the mechanics its a very traditional and old school style of RPG. Also makes every demon soul so much more rewarding and striking fear into any player as you dont know what will be around the next corner. Cant stand people who are negative on a game just because they cant play it. Patience is what people may need at the start but finding new armour, smashing massive weapons down on enemies the size of you is just too much fun. Best RPG this generation and near best game on the PS3, this game should be a console selling game.

  2. Another fine review katy. You’ve kinda put me off this though, i love rpg’s, and i’m always up for a challenge, but this sounds like it could get frustrating. May wait a year or so til it’s a proper bargain then pick it up. I’d be annoyed to pay full whack for a game i might not end up playing too much.

  3. I generally don’t have a whole heap of patience when it comes to games, having not even completed Uncharted 2 yet due to the unholy number of times I keep dying, but having read this review and so many other articles about DS since it was first release, I’ve always been really intrigued by it, and definitely would love to give it a go. Who knows, if I make it through I might finally complete the 20+ games I have left to complete as well! Great review :)

    • With Uncharted2 it is worth dropping a difficulty level or 2 as the story progression makes it worth it

      • I’m literally right at the end, but I can never find myself wanting to finish it now which is a shame

    • Started and finished Uncharted 2 first time on Hard. Loved it. Challenging and was just left wanting more.

  4. If there isn’t a easy setting im not interested (or good enough really). What can i say im a wimp, i may just rent it as i dont want to get my ass beat over, over, over and over again for £40

    • u still wouldnt get past the first level if u rent, this may take me years

  5. Reminds me of Ghouls N Ghosts, not gameplay-wise obviously but in terms of learning your way through a tricky path & if so much as 1 of your character’s pixels comes into contact with anything else then you lose all your armour & have to proceed wearing only a loin cloth, knowing that death and restarting the level is imminent.

    Again, the only way to progress was through learning from your mistakes.

    Demon’s Souls doesn’t sound the game for me, I easily get fed up repeating my steps in modern games as it is, without that being part of the core design.

    • You should rent it. I get easily fed up, too. But DS is different from other modern games. You die if you make a mistake whereas in other games you die because of controls/camera or AI problems.
      AND repeating stuff in DS is actually fun. After defeating your first boss you actually have different levels you can play in parallel so if you die in one level you can first try a different one. Motivation is always high so you should rent it and play until you defeated the first boss.

  6. I love it, this is the kind of games that make me sweat… and not WoW or stuff like that, no offense anyone, you can play lying on your bed.

    Demon’s Souls is the BEST game I have ever played… and that’s a HUGE amount of years//games.

  7. Can’t praise this game enough. I’ve had it for ages and it still holds it’s own. A superb game. Can’t wait for the follow up!

    • I agree with this wholeheartedly.
      I imported the US version last year and absolutely love it :)

      • I got DS on day 1 here in the US and finished my 1st playthrough at around 65 hours, only because I love Boletaria! NG+ is great because new areas only accessible with certain tendency in NG are all open…

  8. I found this game too hard! but my son (15) loves it and has completed it about 8-9 times now.

    • how long does a playthrough last?

  9. Very nice review. I’ve read a few but still didn’t really understand what it was all about. I think I might pick this up in my next dry patch, maybe after I finish red dead and final fantasy. Also, what stops you from loading your prvious game back up once you die?

    • Saving is tied to your character, it saves automatically when you complete a dungeon or upgrade your stats, and at no other point. So there is no way to load a save from part-way through an area.

      • This is not correct, at least for the asian version. It saves if you pick up an item, it saves if you change your equipment and it saves if you use “quit game”. So you can pick up the game at the point where you left last time. This definately works midlevel.
        BUT if you die, it saves instantly so reloading doesnt work. Rage quitting not recommended ;)

      • Maybe you could recheck your american version and update the part of the review saying you have to play for 30min or longer?
        Otherwise great review!

      • DJ-KATHY is partially incorrect, the Game saves every few seconds, descreetly in the background. My PS3 crashed mid way through a battle and upon re-booting I was plonked smack bang in the middle of the battle again.

      • Sorry, you’re both right of course. It does save whenever you equip or make some character alteration otherwise you would lose the stuff when you re-spawn. What I meant to say was you can’t go back when you die to an earlier save because it saves when you die.

        I finished this review late last night, need sleep :P

      • Thanks for clearing that up everybody! It had been bugging me for a while. I think I may pick it up and try to plat it over the next 6 months for bragging rights. The eyepet and ashes cricket platinum has lost me some trophy respect i feel

      • You are all partially correct but not entirely. The game saves when you die but not before you respawn at the start, you have maybe 10-15 seconds of “you died” and loading screens before it saves. I actually got through my second and third playthrough by quitting to xmb instantly the moment i died and forcing the game to save every time a hard bit came up by changing a piece of equip. Works like a charm but be careful not to quit after the loading screen goes away since your save can get borked. That also helps a lot if you’re trying to get white world tendancy.
        There was no mention of the fact that as you progress through a level you usually unlock shortcuts that makes it a lot easier to reach your body or boss if you should die which is a nice feature!

      • I did mention that.

      • So you did, I apologize.

  10. My god, this sounds hard!
    Will have to rent it or something to see if i can master it :)

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