Demon's Souls | Box art

Standard Review: Demon’s Souls (PS3/PS5)

Demon’s Souls has a reputation as one of the hardest games in the current generation; a reputation that comes fairly. It terms of difficulty, it can in fact go toe to toe with a lot of the hardest games from the 8 and 16 bit era of gaming. However, it is important to consider whether or not Demon’s Souls is a good game rather than being a hard one; IE whether it is good for the right reasons. The answer to that is yes, or at least mostly. There are a couple of flaws to be had with Demon’s Souls that are not often mentioned, but the game overall is a satisfying experience that does far more right than wrong.

The storyline of Demon’s Souls takes place in the kingdom of Boletaria, a kingdom that is isolated from the rest of the world by a strange fog filled with demons. As time passed, people began seeking out this kingdom in order to either save Boletaria or for their own personal gain. Unfortunately, all of whom have done so end up trapped with their soul bound to the nexus and unable to escape even if they died. Your character is one of these adventurers.

One thing to note about Demon’s Souls is that its storyline will likely fly over the player’s head the first time they play the game. The reason for this is because a lot of the background lore is not told directly to the player and is instead found within the game. Despite the fact that it may seem like an excuse plot at first, the backstory to Demon’s Souls is quite intricate.

The graphics in Demon’s Souls are nothing revolutionary but they are up to the PS3’s standards. They tend to be the typical brown and grey designs with exceptions to when there are occasional shades of red. The sound effects are very satisfying with the sounds made whenever you stab or slash at an enemy, and the rest fit well to. Demon’s Souls is mostly silent in terms of background music and there is only music played during boss battles. The voice acting is also very solid when in occurrence.

Demon's Souls | Fire
One of the first levels of the game has you running past a fire breathing dragon. Consider the tone set.

Demon’s Souls is a 3D dungeon crawler where your goal for each stage is to get to the end of the level and beat the boss. Sounds like typical video game material right? Well in Demon’s Souls, it is not so easy for multiple reasons. The first of these reasons is that the level design is flat out brutal and pulls no punches. You will need to be on your guard at all times in Demon’s Souls and will often need to think outside the box in order to clear the levels.

Some examples of this include using arrows to take out some enemies from a distance instead of rushing in. The player will find themselves using this technique constantly despite it taking longer simply because it works. The only problem with this approach is the repetition involved from dying again and again, which brings us to our next reason why Demon’s Souls is hard.

Probably the biggest factor in Demon’s Souls difficulty is the fact that there are no checkpoints in levels. If you die, you get to start from the beginning of the level even if you died on the last quarter of the boss’s HP.

Demon's Souls | Boletarian Palace
Yes…. there is an item called “old spice.”

This naturally results in a lot of punch to the gut moments whenever you need to redo up to 10 minutes of work, but there are some silver linings involved. The first is that there are some levels that, once you reach a certain area or collect a certain item, you will get access to a shortcut if you die and you won’t need to restart everything. The other silver lining is that the levels are simply well designed enough that you will always get to the point where you will master the level and be able to replicate the most efficient methods of getting through. Also it is possible to just reset the game before the game auto saves after your death so you can reload before you died.

If that is not enough for you, you can gain assistance in the form of summoning other players to your game in the form of blue phantoms. These basically allow co op in the game which will naturally make things easier when you have twice the damage or a higher level player. It should be noted that this ultimately depends on the availability of other players, and you can’t just do so whenever you want (additionally, you can also be invaded by black phantoms, other players that will invade your game to obtain your souls) You also need to be in human mode, which brings us to another mechanic of the game. Update: The servers are now shut down so there is no online play anymore.

Demon's Souls | Maneaters
Good thing I beat these guys before the servers went down.

When you first die, you enter the spirit form, which means you have access to only half your max HP (although you get an item early on that changes that to 75% that you will be using for pretty much the entire game). You do regain human mode when you beat a boss or use a certain item. One complaint with this system is that you need to be in spirit form to join other player’s games, meaning you often need to die and lose your bonus HP. This would not be a problem if it were not for the fact that stones of ephemeral eyes are rare items that can’t be used plentifully.

Demon’s Souls is a good game. However, it is not for everyone. It is definitely not the type of game one can put in if they had a bad day and want to play a game to calm down. It is also lacking a lot in the atmosphere department the first time around. There are also some other niggling flaws like soul grinding, unnecessary equipment breakage, and item burdens that drag the game down from amazing to merely above average.

Overall Demon’s Souls is an excellent game to recommend to someone who wants a fair challenge. Its level design is exceptionally well crafted and it does away with a lot of modern day game design cliches and hand holding. Most importantly though, it knows when to relent and does not come across as gimmicky. Definitely a solid title that is recommended to any PS3 owners.

If you are interested in purchasing this game it can be bought here.

This review was originally posted to GameFAQs on June 27th of 2016 and had been edited with enhanced presentation.

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0 thoughts on “Standard Review: Demon’s Souls (PS3/PS5)

  1. These sorts of games aren’t for everyone, but they certainly have their appeal and provide an interesting gaming experience to those who enjoy a challenge and aren’t prone to rage quitting.

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