Demon’s Souls review
Demon’s Souls is finally here, the Japanese & US number one hit third person combat RPG arrives in stores today. It’s quite likely that unless you’ve talked to anyone who’s played the game, you may not have even heard of Demon’s Souls, or barely caught a whisper when checking USA based websites.
Simply put, this game is the true definition of a ‘sleeper hit’ to the point that not many in the publishing industry thought it would do well. Then it sells out nationwide with little or no PR behind it and they wonder how. It’s taken a year and a half for the game, which was already in full English voice and text, to reach our shores.
If you’ve ever wondered what Blizzard’s Diablo franchise might look like in 3D game graphics, this is it. The mechanics are different, but the environment is such that you can be fighting zombie like soldiers, and their variety of heavy armoured demons, that have skill sets on par with yourself. There’s also spear hurling blobs of ooze that are fully shielded from the front, and true fire breathing dragons that menace you. And that’s just the first level.
If you go looking for comments on the difficulty of this game you might hear a range, but most being about how difficult it is. Maybe for a thirteen year old, but if you use your cunning and dodge out of the way, you can beat any enemy in this game. Some players come in expecting mindless God of War or Devil May Cry hack and slash action, only to find they are clenching their own buttocks five minutes in. But don’t worry, that’s supposed to happen.
The story behind Demon’s Souls is simple. Balmoria’s king has awakened a great demon which has clouded the land in fog to stop most adventurers reaching the now demon filled kingdom. You soon find out that you will be the single defender of the land in an effort to seal the demons away, and gain enough soul power to lock away the final demon.
As you play you will learn the story, not from cut scenes, but by reading the worlds’ progress and fighting the bosses which range from the small and agile, to gigantic slow but accurate god-like beasts. They truly are some of the most epic boss battles you will ever experience. You will feel panic, fear, maybe even the odd bowel movements until the moment you kill these bosses, and feel the euphoria and elation of beating them for the first time.
You can also find allies in some worlds which, if rescued, can aid you and teach you new and rare abilities for the price of a boss soul, which you can only obtain once per playthrough. However there are some characters which aren’t so friendly, and while having no problem with you as you rescued them, they will end up killing every character in your Nexus (your safe area). If that happens, you won’t be able to sell, store, or repair items.
Being tactical with your choices is always good, but when you unlock the ability to level up it’s a good thing to specialise in three areas. You may not think adding one extra point to a stat does anything, but you will notice that if you buy one point, your attack stats for example will have raised by twenty, or your health has risen by a significant amount after a while.
Here lies the beauty of Demon’s Souls. You start off as a specific class, but the deeper and longer you play the game, your stats can literally transform you from a wimpy thief into a heavy armour clad knight that deals high amounts of damage if you wish. There’s even the possibility of developing from a knight into a mage. The different classes you can create yourself are equally or even at times more effective, such as the fast moving, hard hitting and invisible ninja.
Now while it is possible to go through the entire experience clawing through boss after boss, stage after stage, it’s not the most effective way to do it. When you are in soul form, you can place a stone on the ground to hopefully join another player’s game. You can then help them defeat the boss in their world and as a reward gain your own body back. The benefit of having a body is having 100% of your health bar, as in soul form you are restricted to just 50%. But there are methods to get more health back. Or you could forgo helping someone and use a somewhat rare stone which will give you your body back, but it will be used up in the process.
The final way of attaining your body is by becoming a Black Phantom. This is a method which enables a bodiless player to break in to another random player’s game, hunt them down and kill them, taking not only that players body but all of their collected souls. You had one of two reactions then. Either utter shock and hatred of the mechanic, or “that is awesome I can’t wait”. This will basically describe the way you will play the game.
However consequences do exist in the forms of Soul Tendency and World Tendency. These not only let the player know the method in which they have played the game, but if maxed out could enable the player to reach previously blocked off areas that only become available if you have either pure black or white world tendency, and your soul determines how NPC’s react to you in some key events.
Levelling as hinted throughout this review so far is a one point upgrade affair, with a max cap of 99 for each skill. There are enough skills to make the final level cap 792! And by the time you reach level 100, you will need almost one-hundred thousand collected souls per level. As you may expect, to get there in just a regular game would take ages. However this is where Demon’s Souls replayability comes in.
When you do kill the final boss, you will then restart the game in ‘new game+’ mode, where the enemies are four times as strong as before, but yield even more souls. Previously Black Phantoms were restricted to when and what they could break into. But now the gloves are off, and they can enter anywhere and at anytime, excluding the Nexus or during a boss fight if you are in one at the time. This adds even more challenge and potential anxiety on top of the existing challenge you will already be facing in this new extreme world. The continued increase in the level of difficulty would be hard for some players, but luckily you will find more allies than you will enemies.
Demon’s Souls is the most rewarding game you can play on Playstation 3, and gives as much satisfaction and replayability as an MMO. This is an experience unlike any you have played before. And to deny yourself it if you own a Playstation 3, is like denying yourself water. It’s essential.