Demon’s Souls Review
You may have heard that Demon’s Souls is pretty tough. That’s not entirely accurate.
The truth is that Demon’s Souls is very, very simple. Everything about it is signposted. It wants you to exploit every inch of it. Enemies show what they’re doing from a million miles away. There’s always somewhere to hide, or to run to. And now, with the arrival of the remake on PS5, you have over a decade of encylopedia-like knowledge from hundreds of fellow players at your fingertips.
Easy right? See, the reason you die at Demon’s Souls is because you suck at Demon’s Souls and you made a mistake. I know this from experience, because I suck at Demon’s Souls too. That’s the most miserable thing about this game – and it’s the thing that’ll keep you coming back.
The true Demon’s Souls starts here
That’s the real genius in the design behind this game. It’s not unfairly difficult. It has infinite lives, for instance. You can summon up other players to help you, and they usually congregate around the toughest enemies. If you die, there’s nothing stopping you from grinding up a couple of levels, or from going and farming health items before taking on the challenge again. Demon’s Souls wants you to win, but it also wants to kick your ass.
And kick your ass it will. Every enemy is a threat, straight from the word go. The weakest opponent in this game can finish you off if you let down your guard. The challenge is in being able to adjust, in being able to cleverly move a situation to your advantage, and in being able to keep going even when you’re about ready to turn it off.
The reward, if you can stomach one successful go, is in a true feeling of achievement when you overcome something you’ve previously been struggling with. And it won’t be because it was any easier – it’ll be because you made the right moves, took the right equipment and performed well.
How many games can say that?
Difficulty isn’t usually the highest thing you mention in a review, but here it’s important. Why? Because Demon’s Souls is built around trying and trying again. It’s not “hard”, but perseverence is everything. If you can’t manage that, it isn’t worth even thinking about.
Back to the Nexus
Demon’s Souls is an utterly faithful remake of the PS3 cult classic. Whether you think that’s a good thing or not will depend, I suppose, on your take on the original game and on the genre as a whole.
This new version of the game is gorgeous. I don’t like using “best ever” type phrases when it comes to graphics, because so much is in the eye of the beholder, but expect others to make that argument in the coming year or so. There are scenes that are breathtaking, with the kind of detail and draw distance that I’ve never seen before on console.
At the very least, it’s no slouch, and so it’s especially impressive that it loads so quickly. It’s the power of next-gen and all that, with levels appearing in around 10 seconds.
And what levels they are. Lush castles, dark mines, treacherous caverns – there’s a good variety of things to explore, and a bevy of treats, traps and tricks to find on the way.
The gameplay cycle is easy: get from point A to point B in as intact a shape as possible. Once you get to point B, fight a demon. Once beaten, move onto the next level.
Each stage is fairly linear, but the order you tackle them is pretty much up to you. That means you can bounce around from place to place, taking advantage of any good sources of items or souls. If you get stuck, there’s probably somewhere else that you could visit. It’s a clever way of stopping you from getting bored.
You will die. A lot. Partly as you experiment with the limits of your equipment and strategy, partly as you forget to put your shield up as you go around the corner, and you get ambushed by a bunch of weird rat people. Que Sera Sera.
As you fight through levels, you’ll collect souls. Souls are the currency of the game, used to level up your character and weaponry, as well as to buy any items you can’t just scavenge. If you die, you lose all your souls, unless you can fight your way back to them before dying again.
There are a wide array of equipment and techniques that you can adopt if you want to, and the potential to play this game almost endlessly is there if you want it. I’m more of a “hit them with what works” chap, and I found the game was perfectly playable without needing to get into stat counting as well. You can go as deep or shallow as you want, with little to no punishment.
Demon’s Souls doesn’t do a paticularly good job of telling you what it’s capable of, which is a real shame. It doesn’t even really let you know that you can level up your character. It’s only through some basic exploring in the Nexus – the game’s hub world – that you’ll start to realise how things work.
This is by design, of course. If this game wasn’t called Demon’s Souls, it could’ve been called “Suck It and See”. It would have sold three times as many copies too.
That’s the whole point: you’re dropped with little to no guidance, and you try out what works for you. You explore, you get to know the world around you and, yes, you die. A lot.
It’s a bit of a laugh that the biggest next-gen release is basically a scene-by-scene remake of a PlayStation 3 title, one that could very easily run on PlayStation 4 with some tweaking.
I don’t know what next-gen means – maybe it’s as simple as fast loading times or slightly fancier graphics. Whatever insane definition you want to give it, I think Demon’s Souls probably has to count. Even with that great feeling of PS3 AA jank, it’s so obviously a game that utilises the PS5 in a way that makes it special. Yes, it’d run on PS4, but you’d lose some of the visual fidelity that makes it so breathtaking. Yes, it’d load, but it’d load in minutes instead of seconds, completely changing the way it feels to play.
These are reasons it shouldn’t appear on PS4, but they’re certainly reasons you should try your best to play it on PS5. They’re hints at what’s to come over the next seven years.
The DualSense is a little underused here, although I think that’s a good thing. After the supremely gimmicky Astrobot, it was nice to play a game that subtly uses the haptics. It’s so subtle, sometimes you won’t even notice how awesome it is until you’ve been feeling it for a while.
The game also doesn’t really use the resistive triggers. I’ve not been overly impressed with these so far, so I’m glad it wasn’t shoehorned in unnecessarily. It’ll make for a better game in the long-run, when developers have all but forgotten the feature entirely.
Demon’s Souls Review – Conclusion
Demon’s Souls isn’t hard, but it will challenge you. It’s not long, but you could spend the next seven year’s playing it. It’s a PS3 game that will make you glad you bought a PS5.
This is a fantastic game, and the more you struggle with it, the more you’ll enjoy it.
In previous generations, Sony have waited a few years to release a game of this calibre on their new hardware. Lucky us that they have, because it’s an instant classic.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some souls to recover…