Demon’s Souls is a dungeon-crawl hack-and-slash real-time RPG (is there such a genre?), much akin perhaps to Dark Cloud on the PS2, if anyone remembers that. The premise of the story is, some whack-job king (who also happened to be a channeller of sorts) accidentally summoned some sort of crazed demon god and said demon proceeded to cast a fog over the kingdom that makes everyone batshit insane and bloodthirsty. Right, absurd story out of the way, time to see how crazy that sounds after you have a controller in your hand.
First off the bat, let me tell you that this game is INSANELY HARD. There’s no setting to change this, so if you don’t like dying, don’t go buying. There’s no lives system though, and no immediate Game Over, however, death when in Human Form will result in your maximum health being halved, and your amassed Souls (the game’s currency) being taken from you, while you are placed back at the start of the area you entered. You can reclaim a portion of the souls you lost by finding the point in the level at which you died and encountering your bloodstain though, so all those kills aren’t gone to waste, but should you die before you get that far, they’re gone for good.
Right, now that the difficulty issue’s been nailed down, let’s get down to the gameplay. And I can’t talk about it a lot, because I’ve been gazumped by the difficulty. The controls suit the game pretty well, everything’s pretty easy to get used to off the bat and the tutorial covers that pretty well, although what the tutorial doesn’t cover is planting you in a room with a somewhat undefeatable boss. (note you actually CAN defeat it, but you die shortly thereafter anyway).
That being said though, at least in this early stage of the game, I’m not using my gung-ho gaming ways as a handy excuse for calling this a poor game. EVery time I’ve died so far – and it’s happened a lot! – it’s never a fault of cheating AI, it’s always a problem with how you’re encountering a problem. Like one time I was scaling a castle and a part of the ascent had led me to a wooden scaffolding walkway/archer platform of sorts. I encountered a swordsman on the way back in and the fight with him got pretty heated. He had me backed up to the edge of the platform and he took a swing at me, I put my shield up, but the force of the blow knocked me back and over the ledge. KO. Another time I was against a much more powerful and more heavily-armoured opponent, only this time I went all out attack with an obvious disregard for defence. Big mistake, was slaughtered before I knew it.
There is one thing though that I love about Demon’s Souls though, and that’s the community aspect of the game. It’s up there on a par with Monster Hunter in terms of talking to other gamers about how they approached different enemies and bosses and the like, and it’s definitely something that you just wouldn’t see in games like Uncharted or Modern Warfare 2, amongst others.
It’s the only game that’s made me feel paranoid about playing it, because I know I’m going to die and it might not be fun on the way, but honestly, it’s an all-new experience for me and I’m glad for it, to be honest.
Developer: From Software. Better known for the Armoured Core and Tenchu series’ as well as the King’s Field series in Japan, where most of this game takes its inspiration from.
Genre: It’s a bit hard to pin down, but it’s like a role-playing hack-and-slash dungeon crawler game, mixed with some survival horror elements. Honestly, there’s jsut so many possible pigeonholes this fits into.
Time: This depends on your own patience. If you’re not willing to give the game fair trial, one hour. If it intrigues you to play on, you might get 5 out of it. If you want to see this through to the end, you’ll lose weeks to this game.
Niggles: Tge camera’s a bit awkward at times, the target-locking system’s somewhat flawed and there’s a few environmental glitches as well (though they end up saving your bacon instead of making you bacon for the most part.
Get it for the: challenge. Honestly, this game hates you. It hates everything about you, but it makes you want to play it, to rise up to it to see if you’re better than it. It (and the internet hype that surrounds it) says that this game is hard, and it makes you just want to baulk at it by saying “Yeah, you can’t be that hard” before delivering a world of hurt upon you.
Demon’s Souls is available now in Japan and the United States. There is no known intention of releasing within Europe. I imported an American copy in order to play the game.