Eleven years ago, if you had told me Demon’s Souls would be one of the most anticipated PlayStation 5 launch titles, I wouldn’t have believed you. Having seen the occasional glimpse of this mysterious RPG in magazines and message boards, I quickly caved and imported a copy from Hong Kong which luckily played in English.
There’s something so jarring about Demon’s Souls even today, having been modernised on PS5 by the talented developers at Bluepoint Games, their recent work including the incredible Shadow of the Colossus and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.
The ample hand-holding we typically get in most games now, even those considered highly skilled-based or hardcore, is completely missing. This isn’t a case of the original creators, FromSoftware, wanting to kick away your crutches. The one-two Demon’s Souls’ punch of barely explaining anything, coupled with its sheer brutality, continue to make this one of the most beguiling entries in the roleplaying genre to date.
At the time, there was nothing else like it – little did we know that Demon’s Souls would actually become the template for a hugely popular series (Dark Souls, followed by Bloodborne and Sekiro) while influencing the design of countless other games. We only need to look elsewhere in the PS5 launch lineup, specifically Godfall and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, both of which borrow similar combat systems, to see how wide-ranging the approach has become.
So what exactly have Bluepoint Games done here? Demon’s Souls on PS5 has been totally rebuilt from the ground up, though its gameplay and foggy RPG trappings remain as they were in 2009, completely untouched.
At its core, Demon’s Souls is a combat heavy action RPG in which you go from realm to realm, each one capped with an infamously tough boss battle. On top of that there are countless enemies and traps to watch out for, the game revelling in catching its players unaware. Persevere and you’ll see your adventurer go from punching bag to… well, a slightly tougher punching bag.
Trudging through the game’s prologue, it was the deliberate feel of sword strokes, dodges, and parries that imbued me with a sense of nostalgia, not so much the visuals. This PS5 remake of Demon’s Souls is likely to divide the original game’s fanbase in how its aesthetics have been modernised with environments and character models having undergone a major makeover.
It looks far more detailed while leaning further into its dark fantasy theme, though purists will claim that something crucial has been lost here. The plain, statuesque look of some enemies, as well as the game’s brutish architecture, has been partially lost, though Demon’s Souls is still a treat for the eyes even with that chip on your shoulder.
Stepping foot inside The Nexus and then Boletarian Palace, everything will come rushing back to those who braved this adventure on PlayStation 3. Even the weakest of grunts, garbed in nothing but rags, can take you down in a few measly hits. The further you press on, the more souls you will collect though dying will forfeit these – unless you recover them from where you were last killed. However, if slain during this risky rescue mission, those souls are gone for good.
Mastering the finesse of combat in Demon’s Souls is only part of the appeal, as are the nail-biting boss battles. There’s a much deeper layer to the game when it comes to character progression and understanding those crucial mechanics that simply aren’t explained to you. The simple act of being able to level up requires you to find and kill the first boss, then navigate The Nexus for an unassuming NPC tucked away on one of the upper floors.
After seeing what Bluepoint did with Shadow of the Colossus on PS4 back in 2018, we had hoped Demon’s Souls would be equally as faithful in terms of art direction. It’s certainly lost some of that unique style but it’s still a remake well worth playing. We just hope those picking up a copy with their PS5 on launch day know what they’re getting into.