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Review: Demon’s Souls (PS3)

Submitted by on September 30, 2009 – 9:00 am14 Comments

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Known for their quirky, yet deep titles Atlus sent us a copy of their latest RPG foray: Demon’s Souls. Developed by From Software, this action RPG pits you in a dark medieval world where souls are gathered and death lies around every corner. Did Demon’s Souls gather enough soul or is it just another quirky Japanese niche game that will be adorned by cult following? Let’s dive through the fog and see what we uncover.

Now before we get too deep, if the idea of dying, repeatedly, turns you off, go read another article. Demon’s Souls will beat you over the head, at every turn, and as often as it can. This is the quirk. Like it or leave it.

Didn’t turn you off? Good, now we can get down to the nitty gritty. From Software has brought a third-person, over-the-shoulder action RPG set in a medieval world known as Boletaria. With a slight spin on a familiar story, the ruler of this domain unleashed a known evil through the excessive use of a force known as souls, to bring about peace and prosperity, and wait for it, the evil overpowered the good people and things turned sour. Seems the evil overlord had the power to affect the weather and placed a fog around the city to keep any word from getting in or out.

Yes, his sword is flaming hot

Yes, his sword is flaming hot

While all of this unfolded, the demon’s gathered souls themselves and became more powerful, turning most of the inhabitants mindless zombie-like creatures that yearn for souls instead of brains. And so now, for one reason or another you have set out on the task to rid the world of enormous monstrosities and restore the light. Good luck, because you’re going to die, a lot.

In this quest, you have the choice between ten different starting classes. Unlike a traditional RPG, this does not tie you down to a predetermined growth path, but provides the foundation. In other words, you’re not penalized for choosing magic as a Knight-class. There is also a set of tools normally wielded by Hollywood’s greatest make-up artists at your disposal for crafting the physical appearance of your character, if you so choose. Controlling the character is simple as can be, but is it too much to ask for full control reference to be available in game. I accidentally skipped through the bow-and-arrow tutorial and had no idea how to aim, until I looked it up online. (The review copy had no manual included.)

Why is this wall glowing?

Why is this wall glowing?

While it’s not pushing the graphical limits of the PS3, your traversal through the kingdom of Boletaria will be greeted with an excellent presentation. The sad part is that its being viewed through brown and gray lenses. Diablo 3 color haters will rejoice in knowing that there is still a hack-and-slash RPG that hasn’t been stroked with the rainbow brush. Being powered by the Havok engine means that the dead bodies are weightless rag dolls that will be thrown around as you walk through them, oh and there are framerate drops that reared their ugly head even in the first level. The audio on the other hand is excellent, and my only nit-pick would be that the standard levels are sans music. All you will be greeted with are the groans of the damned, grinding of wheels, burning of fire, rustling of the wind, screeching of dragons, and last breaths of those that find the end of your blade. It would be careless to not point out that music does adorn the boss battles, but this addition to the rest of the level would greatly grease the wheels of having to replay the levels repeatedly, as you will die often.

The game play is yet another area where this game truly shines. With the ability to defend, parry, attack, strong attack, cast magic, fire arrows, throw various projectiles, and riposte, just to name a few, it’s hard to tire from action. As you defeat the various enemies, you too collect souls which become the in-game currency for repairing your armaments, upgrading them and your stats. The levels, which are each a distinct realm and connected via portals to a main hub known as the Nexus, are crafted to ease the tediousness of replaying by adding open-able shortcuts that you will use after your successive deaths.

The game does feature multiplayer but not in any way previously experienced. As you play, you will notice glowing scribblings on the ground which are notes that have been left by other players. These writs usually provide insight into some hidden danger, but have also been twisted to create traps. More than once I have seen one and pursued it to get a glimpse of what lies ahead to only be attacked while trying to read it. And speaking of glimpses, another player left anomaly are bloodstains. These markings provide a crystal ball to replay other players’ deaths and hopefully some intuition to avoid a similar demise. There is also the ability to pull in other players for assistance, or jump into their game and become an antagonist. While sounding like true co-op or deathmatch, there is no voice chat support since you are but a specter in their game world, and vice versa.

My experience with the game is that if you enjoy stat-building deep RPGs, where your control of the character is much greater than simply selecting Attack, Magic, Item or Run, then you will find plenty to enjoy here. While I would not label it as hard, the level of frustration is off the scale as you spend plenty of time dying and loading. Even the game realizes this, and this quirk will definitely alienate more than a handful of players. This is the A-list RPG that the PS3 has been waiting for. Demon’s Souls slashes through with 4.5 out of 5 Aeropausonauts.

4.5 out of 5 Aeropausonauts Check out Demon’s Souls and other reviews at Test Freaks.

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  • http://www.aeropause.com mclazyj

    I just heard this morning on the CAGCast that the difficulty of the game was ramped up to extreme difficulty here in the states. It seems that the game was available in Japan for some time, and was completely in English, so a bunch of people just imported the title. In order to give people a reason to buy the game again here in the states, they difficulty was raised to enormous heights.

    It sounds like a ton of reviewers did not get past the first heavy battle, because of this difficulty bump.

  • morphiend

    It is frustratingly hard, and I can attest to spending A WEEK OF PLAYTIME on the first level. It's definitely going to take a lot of time, and grinding, which is what to expect from a decent [J]RPG. The fact that there are things like recovering your body, and level shortcuts to aid in the frequent dying process helps alleviate the problem.

    The only thing that would definitely have helped from a beginners standpoint would have been adding something describing the base character types and stating something about what kind of player its suited for: beginner, advanced, sneaking, long range, etc. Maybe some of this is explained in the manual that was absent from the review copies, too.

  • http://www.fourhman.com Joe Fourhman

    That multiplayer bit sounds wildly cool.

  • InfinityDevil

    Mark Sanger on the PS Nation podcast guys reviewed it as well, and he said that one way to look at it is that being in the spirit state could be as much as part of the game as being alive. He or Glenn mentioned that when in spirit form (helping others?) he was able to kill things with magic a lot more easily for whatever reason.

    Fourhman you're right, the multiplayer element sounds great.

    But I just got Sacred 2 today and spent a few minutes on it at lunchtime. That one's going to eat my time just like James said it would. Sweet, sweet hack and slash surrender.

  • http://www.aeropause.com ShaneW

    Looks awesome, I hadn't even heard of this title until now.

  • morphiend

    I first heard of it through a targeted ad from Amazon about pre-ordering and getting a pack-in bonus. So yeah, I have a bad feeling this one is going to fly in under the radar of most gamers and become a sleeper hit, especially with all of the other titles being released.

  • morphiend

    It is frustratingly hard, and I can attest to spending A WEEK OF PLAYTIME on the first level. It's definitely going to take a lot of time, and grinding, which is what to expect from a decent [J]RPG. The fact that there are things like recovering your body, and level shortcuts to aid in the frequent dying process helps alleviate the problem.

    The only thing that would definitely have helped from a beginners standpoint would have been adding something describing the base character types and stating something about what kind of player its suited for: beginner, advanced, sneaking, long range, etc. Maybe some of this is explained in the manual that was absent from the review copies, too.

  • http://www.fourhman.com Joe Fourhman

    That multiplayer bit sounds wildly cool.

  • InfinityDevil

    Mark Sanger on the PS Nation podcast guys reviewed it as well, and he said that one way to look at it is that being in the spirit state could be as much as part of the game as being alive. He or Glenn mentioned that when in spirit form (helping others?) he was able to kill things with magic a lot more easily for whatever reason.

    Fourhman you're right, the multiplayer element sounds great.

    But I just got Sacred 2 today and spent a few minutes on it at lunchtime. That one's going to eat my time just like James said it would. Sweet, sweet hack and slash surrender.

  • http://www.aeropause.com ShaneW

    Looks awesome, I hadn't even heard of this title until now.

  • morphiend

    I first heard of it through a targeted ad from Amazon about pre-ordering and getting a pack-in bonus. So yeah, I have a bad feeling this one is going to fly in under the radar of most gamers and become a sleeper hit, especially with all of the other titles being released.

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  • DarcyKitchin

    Is Demon's souls available for everyone? I didn't see it in the game store I visit whenever I want something new to play.
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