Review: Demon’s Souls

This review is based on the US import version of the game. The European release comes with a strategy guide in addition to the game.

While reviewing Demon’s Souls, quite a few people have asked the question, “Is it really as hard as everyone says?”. The answer is no: it’s harder – but before you go back to Virtua Tennis 2009’s career mode, allow me to explain further.

There are different kinds of hard in a video game. There is the Mirror’s Edge hard, where you know exactly what to do but you always mess up one tiny little move and the whole game becomes a trial of nerves and shouting. Then there is the Resident Evil 5 boss hard, where you need pinpoint accuracy and tons of luck and ammo to take down a tricky enemy, you repeat it over and over and eventually get frustrated to the point of throwing your controller.

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –

Demon’s Souls is different: it’s all about the planning. On the face of it, the basic combat system in this hack’n’slash-style adventure RPG is fairly simple to operate, and as long as you retreat and heal when you need to, you can progress. The difficulty comes from a few things: first, the world is full of traps, ambushes and areas that are tricky to navigate. What this basically means is you will repeat the same areas over and over, slowly memorising the correct path and where the traps are, getting a little bit further each time. Each attempt is like a training run allowing you to improve your strategy bit by bit. Having said that, it is annoyingly easy to fall to your death while fighting an enemy on a narrow platform, and sometimes you’ll be randomly overwhelmed by enemies you’ve successfully tackled many times before; so expect to repeat each area many, many times.

The second prong of difficulty is grounded in the absolutely punishing conditions which befall you upon death. Die once and you turn from living form to Soul form and your health is cut to half (or some other percentage depending on your stats) until you complete the area or satisfy certain other conditions like taking down one of the epic bosses or completing a co-op or competitive multi-player task (more on that later). You’ll also lose all your currency, although your weapons and inventory stay intact.

To recover your money – which is denoted as Souls in the game – you need to get back to where you died and touch your bloodstain. Woe betide you if you die on the way though, as only your most recent bloodstain is retained, and there is no bank – the Souls you have on you are all you have – so the chances of you losing the majority of your Souls altogether is excruciatingly high. Expect to play the vast majority of the game in Soul form with half your health points. The other difficulty is that the distance between checkpoints is bordering on the insane; be prepared to lose 30-45 minutes of play time on a regular basis.

As a final word on difficulty before we get to the meat of the game, it took me over 6 hours and probably 40+ attempts to complete the first dungeon. I’m not great at video games, but I’m not terrible either. There are no difficulty settings to make it easier. However, the game exudes a certain elusive addictiveness. You will get fed up of re-spawning at the same point over and over and turn the game off, but a couple of hours later you’ll be ready to try again with the “this time I’m going to get further” attitude. Because each individual fight isn’t usually intrinsically too hard, Demon’s Souls has a knack of keeping you coming back to try just one more time, and see what comes next.

Here we are then, in the strange and eerily desolate northern land of Boletaria. The story is simple enough: everyone has turned into demons and you have to liberate the land and restore it to its former glory. This is done, as you might expect, by killing anything that moves.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –
Page 1 of 4Next

72 Comments

  1. Y’know the full game trials with PlayStation+? I would love to have this as an option, just to see how hard it is. I love a challenge, but man oh man you make it sound like I’d be throwing my controller across the room about half an hour in.

    • after only playing it for an hour you would hate it with a passion!
      you need to actually complete a few levels and get a little intoo it before it gets any good..

  2. Pre-ordered the UK version of this for £29 from Tesco (using the 15% voucher), which is not a bad price when you consider what you get with the UK edition (artbook, soundtrack, guide).

    I like this sort of game anyway, but the order was mainly based on metacritic reviews (90 critic/8.9 user) and the fact Edge gave it a 9. They’re usually quite strict so a 9 from them’s good going.

    We’ll see anyway, looking forward to it though.

  3. Won a copy of this on the Gamespot UK Podcast so looking forward to it turning up soon…

  4. As much as i want it i have NO patience, whatsoever, in fact yesterday as i didnt beat chrysalis first or second try, i fucked about with ps3 and laptop (to make it think its on ethernet) then played it on adhoc party with one other person, its unbelieveable how easy it makes it, even if its an unskilled player, i used no rations and took its health down in no time. But as you can see i dont want to learn i just want to do. :-) Naughty bear and transformers for me then.

    Make ni mistake at some point I’ll buy this and ill get so angry i will undoubtedly punch a cat…

  5. Make no mistake this game is HARD, it got frustrating before I got the chance to finish 50% of it.
    but gotta say, the online part of it is brilliant.

  6. Wow, what a bloated review, Ignoring the one or two glaring errors and the fact that you haven’t even mentioned the ‘World Tendancy’ system which is genius I might add, I’ll just assume this is not the game for you and your score of 8/10 backs my theory up. To gamers who love a real fantastic atmospheric challenge, it’s sure as hell worth an easy 9/10 if not a 10.

    • have to agree with that.. it really deserves at least a 9/10 if not even 10/10.. Story is somewhat lacking, but you will not really notice it.. thats the only complaint i have..

    • Since when is 8 a bad score???

      • 7 Used to be bad around here, looks like if its not a ten its shit lol

      • 8 is not a bad score, it is a score for a good game, but this is not (only in my opinion of course!) a good game or even a very good game, it is a seriously awesome game, hence why I think to many, it is worthy of a 9 or 10.

      • Is it unmissable or are there issues which might stop it appealing?
        You can read our review policy which is linked to at the bottom of every page, and then note that 8 is very good and always has been.

      • I think 8 is too much for this game, MY OPPINION

      • An 8 is good, but for this game, its not..
        but im a huge RPG buff, so i might just like them better than everyone else, but in its genre its deffinetly the best game out there..

    • World Tendency system is touched on briefly towards the end. The review is ‘bloated’ like all my RPG reviews because I’m not a fan of the IGN/FirstPlay style: “story sucks, gameplay is good, graphics are good, game is hard, buy it” without any real depth.

      Game is rated 8/10 due to being too difficult for most players, occasional camera glitches which can cause unnecessary death, slightly out-dated graphics, repetitiveness, lack of ability to easily compare stats, steep learning curve and so on. It’s an excellent game but most reviewers have just jumped on the “it’s brilliant because it’s hard” bandwagon without actually pointing out that the game is not without fault. I prefer balance.

      • Ok, I understand your reasoning even if I don’t understand your reasoning, if you understand what I mean. Personally, I love the art style, I think the graphics are excellent, The sound is just so atmospheric, didn’t really have any problems with the camera and very quickly adapted my game style to suit the difficulty. I fell in love with this game and my score is blinded by that love lol!

        Saying that, I fell in love with The Saboteur as well and just look how that was received, at least by reviewers, the people who’ve played it tend to love it too.

      • I liked the Sabotuer too, Lewis knows nothing!

      • I liked the Saboteur too :) That game was under-rated and so were alot of RPGs this year – White Knight Chronicles, Star Ocean and Resonance of Fate to name a few all got poor reviews by people who didn’t understand how to play them. I really like Demon’s Souls, I’ve played it loads, but when I write reviews I have to take as many factors as possible into account.

      • How dare you! :-)

        The Saboteur was shit, and that’s a matter of fact of opinion. ;) I really didn’t like that game. Better than Warhawk, though.

      • Three words:

        “The Midnight Show”.

      • Sean Devlin, gets my vote for best Game Character wver, yup better even that Nathan Drake *runs for cover*

      • *ever

      • Retro: You said “To gamers who love a real fantastic atmospheric challenge, it’s sure as hell worth an easy 9/10 if not a 10.”

        The last line of Katy’s review: “If you are up for that challenge, Demon’s Souls is deep, fluent at its craft and unmissable”

        So as you can see, Katy actually agrees with you!

      • just so iv said it, the game is already over a year old when it was released here in europe.. and your right with the “it’s brilliant because it’s hard”..(altho i have to agree with them 8p its bloody brilliant mostly because its so hard 8D)

  7. This is the best game i have ever played.. its a bit rough, but thats half the fun in this game 8)
    Iv played threw it 15times now, and it doesnt stop to entertain 8D
    might actually get the eu edition aswell :p

  8. Great review Katy :D I love this game to bits; I imported the Asian copy way back, and put far too many hours into it – the first level took me 5 hours to complete and for the combat system to sink in, and from there it took off. I completed my first playthough after 60 hours due to farming for souls (4-4, with Ring of Avarice and Silver Bracelet :D) – after 130 hours across 4 chars I accidentally unplugged my PS3 while it was saving, and corruped it, losing everything. :(

    Having played both the US and JP versions, there’s an interesting cultural difference to note; if you invade a JP game and there’s blue phantoms about, unless you attack first you’ll generally find that you can take them on one by one, bowing / blocking to initiate a duel, and the others will stand back to honour the fight. Invade a US game, and they’ll gank you at almost every opportunity.

    Also worth noting; I found the joy of the language barrier being hidden behind pre-set messages, allowing you to joke with people who don’t speak your language (“Use Rod Attack” – fnar fnar!), helped make this game one of the most enjoyable I’ve played this generation.

    • I was particularly impressed by the Japanese approach to Black Phantom duelling, really lent something extra to the games already brilliant atmosphere. “Send forth your champion” so to speak :D

  9. I’m waiting inpatiently for my copy of the black phanton edition to arrive in my letterbox.

    • I’d start swotting up mate!

      http://demonssouls.wikidot.com

      I have this bookmarked on my Android, for those mid-dungeon reference moments :D

      • The guide book in the black phanton edition is all taken from THAT website!

  10. i preordered this and it didnt come, disapointed

Comments are now closed for this post.