Demon’s Souls was met with criticism for its sluggish gameplay and poor animations, during its original reveal at the Tokyo Game Show 2008.
It didn’t help that there was not much marketing made by publisher Atlus, unusually so, as it was a new intellectual property.
10 years later, Demon’s Souls is the predecessor to the critically-acclaimed Souls franchise.
So why am I reviewing a decade-old game? I jumped on the opportunity after hearing a lot of praise for its difficulty.
Welcome to Demon’s Souls
In the land of Boletaria, King Allant had left it in a state of despair, through his lust of power and greed he channeled dark magic – the Soul arts – to bring prosperity throughout his kingdom. In doing so, he awakened the “Old One“.
A great demon, the Old One releases a fog covering Boletaria, cutting it off from the outside world and surrounded by spawns of soul-devouring demons.
The protagonist is one of the many warriors who try to save Boletaria, and the rest of world, from being engulfed by demons.
Demon’s Souls begins by teaching you a lesson immediately: death.
You are sent to the Nexus, the main hub to reach the five areas of the game: Boletaria, Stonefang Tunnel, Tower of Latria, Shrine of Storms, and Valley of Defilement.
Your goal is to grow stronger and lull the Old One back to slumber.
Die and die again
Souls are the currency of the game. You obtain them from defeating demons, and they are used for upgrading your stats such as strength, stamina, mana, etc.
So why is the game so hard if it sounds like most of the RPGs we play?
For starters, if you die, which is guaranteed to be often, you’ll lose all of your amassed souls and half of your health.
You receive full health only after defeating a major demon (which is not an easy task).
Finally, you respawn at the beginning of the level with all the slain enemies back from the dead.
Choose your own adventure
There are ten starting classes to choose from. Unlike other RPGs, you don’t have to stick to one kind of playing style. They only affect which attributes get more points.
You can choose to be a knight and wield a gigantic sword. Want to be a pyromancer, later on? You are free to do so.
Alongside is the ability to choose from multiple weapons such as swords, maces, axes, bows, and wands.
Most can be upgraded by obtaining rare shards. However, the structure path for reinforcing weapons will confuse newcomers as there are multiple paths that branch out.
A small aspect to the gameplay is the world and character tendency. Essentially, these are the effects of the choices you make in the game.
Actions such as killing a certain NPC may open up new paths that reward you with rare weapons, or block off the chance to meet a character later on.
Misery loves company
The online interaction is an important feature that is available through the use of messages.
Players can leave messages in the floor and others can rate its usefulness, though most of the time it is used for tricking others into certain death.
You also have the option to summon other players to aid you in defeating major demons that may have caused you some trouble, all the while others may also invade your world and try to kill you.
No stone unturned
Graphics-wise it’s astounding and has aged well, thanks to the environment of each level (area).
Each area is unique from each other; from Boletaria’s stone-walled castles to Valley of Defilement’s disgusting plague-infected swamp.
The bleak atmosphere knowing you are one of the few who are still alive inside the fog is enough to get you immersed.
The story to why each area look the way they do is very subtle.
One of the game’s strongest point is its lore which is not given to you in face-value.
The story can only be completely understood if you read the description of items you gather and listen to the conversations given by the few NPCs you encounter.
Why would anyone want to play a game that gets harder when you die?
Demon’s Souls gives you the thrill of accomplishing such feat, and addictive pleasure it brings.
Sure you lose all of your souls, but was it the game’s fault? No, it just punishes you for being greedy and thinking you’re good enough to run through the level.
I highly recommend Demon’s Souls to anyone who has not experienced a difficult and frustrating game in a long time. You might just like it.