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Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) artwork

Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) review

"By demons be driven"

Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) image

"Hurt me plenty," I demanded, and Demon's Souls obliged.

I entered this action-RPG expecting soul-destroying challenge factor, and boy did I ever receive it. Although I completed the game's introductory stage without a hitch, I soon learned the true meaning of pain as I attempted to cleave my way through what is regarded as "level 1-1." There I attempted to ascend a grand castle stairway leading to the fortress's closed ingress. Wreckage and undead goons dotted the real estate before the gate. I figured these creatures would be akin to "goombas," and that I would crush them beneath my feet without a second thought. However, the first one gave me a run for my money and sliced off a considerable amount of my HP. I won the battle, but was in no shape to continue the war, especially not when I met the trickier demons waiting for me further on...

A few weeks later, I initiated a new game for the fourth and final time. I had had it with Demon's Souls. Despite my best efforts, there was always something lying in wait to snatch chunks of my flesh and laugh at my rotting carcass as I lost all of my precious loot. It seemed that the hours I spent upping statistics, acquiring weaponry, and obtaining materials were for naught. Worse than that, the adventure that I thought would be a joyful series of beatings and floggings turned into a "so tough it's bereft of entertainment" kind of ride. Still, I persisted and hoped that I would discover the true bliss of playing Demon's Souls.

...and I did!

Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) image

Some logic and research taught me you can't screw around much in Demon's Souls. I've played plenty of RPGs where grooming a sloppy warrior was no biggie. Any clumsy creation could get the job done in such titles thanks to massive amounts of grinding and easily obtained equipment that takes the intellect out of character customization. In Demon's, you need to be conscientious of your hero's development. You see, boosting a stat requires souls, which you extract from the nemeses you've slaughtered. With each upgrade, the cost of bolstering the protagonist increases, which makes it more difficult to strengthen him after a certain point. Because of this, you can't just farm souls, max out every category, and expect to profit later on--at least not efficiently. Instead, it's more to your advantage to only beef up attributes that are relevant to the class and build you're attempting to create, as well as nabbing or constructing armaments based on that.

Since I almost always create a strength-based combatant, I decided to go with dexterity in my playthrough and smith some Eastern swords using rare metals. Although this made for a drawn out, exhausting week of farming, I did eventually see the perks of patience. Where before I was a scrawny punk with little more than a dented shield and a crude sword to serve as my main line of equipment, I was now a deft one-shotting powerhouse armed with a couple of maxed out katana-like blades, a magical falchion, and a variety of bows. Returning to the original stage for a little payback was almost tedious, as foes practically dropped as I ran past them. The game's mechanics are easy enough to pick up and use that you don't have to be especially gifted with a controller to win. The control scheme is fairly simple and somewhat intuitive, which can transform a technically mediocre player (i.e. me) in control of an above average soldier into a talented hunter--in the player's own mind, anyway. Yeah, I'm gloating, but with all this game has put me through I feel it's well deserved.

What I'm getting at is this: Demon's Souls is a crushing game that's not at all beginner friendly. This can put off a lot of potential players, but those who stay the course and learn to roll with the punches may one day savor one of the game's greatest offerings: sweet vengeance. Did the dragon in the first world piss you off with his flaming breath? Well then, return with a powerful enough bow and go Legolas on him. Can't crush the Tower Knight? Some training and a modicum of pattern memorization could make him seem meeker than he once appeared.

Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) image

Yes, despite your rocky ascent into superherodom, you're still going to die. No, the game won't give a crap. There is hope, though, in the form of finding your corpse. Do that and you can regain your lost goodies, so long as you don't die twice.

It is those who persevere and flourish who will be rewarded, mostly in the form of witnessing some of the dark spectacle and dangerous scenarios that Demon's Souls has to offer. I'll admit, the game does sometimes catch you off guard by throwing in a surprise dragon or having you fall through a faulty part in a floor and into the company of a powerful necromancer, but it's not as though the game doesn't give you subtle warnings. What it does offer is not what you might call "wild" or "exhilarating," but the trail you blaze feels no less like a grand adventure highlighted by perils around every corner. You will find yourself plunging into fiery, convoluted tunnels battling isopod-like monstrosities; trading slashes with skeletal troops on a narrow mountainside cliff; or thrashing your way through a primitive village positioned in treetops of a vile marsh. Mostly, though, you'll be walking cautiously, keeping your eyes peeled for any suspicious activity, and hoping you're powerful enough to overcome the next obstacle--be it living or inanimate--you encounter.

Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) image

Think of Demon's Souls as a reminder how temporary life truly is. Yeah, we're all aware we're going to die. Even the biggest numbskull knows this. However, some of us don't realize that our numbers could be up when we least expect it, and for those folks there is no safer reminder than carelessly charging headlong into a chamber when your hit points are low and taking a fatal slash to the back. Or not looking where you're running and plummeting into an infinite pit. Or arrogantly going toe-to-toe with a boss without proper preparation. As I said before: you will die, and the game will not care. It falls to you to be ready for the inevitable and to greet it with a crazed smile, come death or victory.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (May 15, 2015)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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