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Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) artwork

Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) review

"What would happen if Godzilla and the Alien from Ridley Scott's movie had gone to hell to merge together, then came back as a hideous demon with a lean eight-pack(yes I said eight since it's not human..) and a mean punch that Captain Falcon would be proud of? Why you would get the towering monstrosity known as the Dragon God! Its roars are deafening even from far away. Your heart is beating fast. Its rage is seething uncontrollably that it never stops moving. Yet all you can do is wonder ..."

What would happen if Godzilla and the Alien from Ridley Scott's movie had gone to hell to merge together, then came back as a hideous demon with a lean eight-pack(yes I said eight since it's not human..) and a mean punch that Captain Falcon would be proud of? Why you would get the towering monstrosity known as the Dragon God! Its roars are deafening even from far away. Your heart is beating fast. Its rage is seething uncontrollably that it never stops moving. Yet all you can do is wonder how you can even begin to approach this monster, but you do anyway and you'll pay dearly for it...with your life! Before you manage to raise your blade...Ka-pow! You skid about a hundred feet or more face down on the floor. You lie there lifelessly in a crumpled heap.

YOU DIED - Your body has been trapped by the Nexus
(screen fades to black)

This is the reward you get for completing the opening tutorial of Demon's Souls. It is one of many memorable moments from From Software's epic tale of death and soul-starving demons. What immediately grabbed me when playing Demon's Souls for the first time was its unconventional approach to the tutorial. Where other games force you to learn moves before moving onto the next section, in Demon's Souls the game doesn't need to hold your hand. You have free reign over how to play the game at your own pace. In other words, the game encourages you to explore and experiment with the controls. There are glowing red glyphs on the ground that contain hints or instructions but you aren't required to read them. They are only there for clarity. Fortunately, the controls for the most part are intuitive to learn without the help of hints and the button placements make sense for this style of gameplay.

The other interesting thing about the Tutorial is that it isn't just there for you to familiarize with the game's controls. It is also designed to kill you! No matter what the outcome is, your first death in Demon's Souls will, in fact, take place right here in the Tutorial. Regular enemies here in this elaborate ruse won't pose a threat to you. They are only fighting at half-strength. You'll fight Zombie men, Swordsmen, Blue-eyed Knights and Archers along the way. You could run away from them all because the tutorial doesn't care or you could let them drain your life completely and you'll still live because they are only fodder for the real battle that's ahead. Up the stairs and into the chamber you will meet Vanguard, the actual boss of the tutorial. The Vanguard is a huge ogre with a huge axe and it likes to swing at things. If you are unlucky one swing will kill you instantly, two if you are lucky. Most players will likely die on their first try because this stubborn beast takes more than several dozen blows before it goes down. Those who persevere will get to meet the aforementioned Dragon God himself along with some spoils that will be helpful to you in your next life.

The next life I am referring to will be life as a soul in the Nexus. This is where the real game begins. The Nexus, as some of you are wondering, is the hub that connects to the rest of the stages via Arch-stones. It is also a purgatorial chamber where souls with a purpose linger. Your real, physical body has been trapped by the Nexus. When you are a soul, you have half the HP of your human form. Only when you defeat a major demon or use a stone of Ephemeral Eyes can you reclaim your humanity back! Players will spend the majority of the game traveling between the Nexus and each of the five worlds conquering demons and gathering souls. Souls are the game's currency. You'll need them to level up, buy items, learn spells and upgrade weapons from the NPCs lounging around the Nexus but be careful. If you harm them they won't look at you the same way again and if you kill them? They will be gone forever except for the Maiden in Black of course.

Unless you've figured out the annoying trick to abuse the system all your actions will be auto-saved at random moments. Personally, I wish this was an optional feature, but I can see what the developers were trying to do with this "actions having consequences" schtick. This is important to know because when you die you lose all your souls but there is a catch. You can go back to the spot where you last died and touch your bloodstain. Only then will your hard-earned souls be saved. If you were to die again before you retrieved your bloodstain you will have created a new one thus, your old stain will be lost along with all your souls for good! The damn fault is your own. You simply weren't careful enough because at least you were given a fighting chance. It's an interesting risk/reward mechanic that puts fear and determination in the player, because in Demon's Souls death can claim you at any given moment when you least expect it. Death can only make your will grow stronger.

That isn't to say this game is hellishly hard. Challenging is more appropriate. You will die and you will die a lot more than any game you've played in recent memory. Dying in a video game feels ordinarily routine, but in Demon's Souls death is a transcendental out-of-body experience. While going through the cycles of life and soul form time and time again, the world's environment can change based on the World Tendency. This mechanic can change the stage by turning it into pure light or pure dark triggering specific events. If you die repeatedly, the stage will turn dark. What this means is certain items and demons will only appear and enemies become stronger. Suicide is an option! If you rid the stage of all demons, it turns white and enemies weaken. Completionists will have to successfully balance both tendencies to gain all items.

By default, you can only go to Boletaria Castle in the beginning of the game until you have defeated the first major demon. Then you are free to go wherever you want. The oppressive atmosphere of Boletaria Castle is unsettling. It once was a glorious castle now turned to ruins. A menacing red dragon swoops over and onto the bridge to greet you. Its hospitality is unwelcoming, then it ominously flies back to its roost. The smell of death is everywhere. Here is the chance to test your meddle and redeem yourself after the humiliating loss earlier. This is your time to glorious, gratifying combat! You will get your fair-share of hard knocks though. Those zombie men I mentioned earlier called Dreglings will haphazardly leap at you like maniacs with sword in hand. Enemies will gang up to surround you. They'll flank you from shadowy corners. Dragons will roast you. Red-eye Knights will fatally impale you with their spears and the list goes on.

You will meet even more repulsive and daunting opponents later on but with enough resilience and might, Demon's Souls' methodical approach to combat is flexible enough to take on any challenge. Lunge at your opponents with a strong attack taking out three-fourths of their health then finish them off with a quick standard attack. Double-hand your weapon for a powerful blow to knock out their defenses leaving them open to strike. Encircle a defenseless enemy and fatally stab them in the back. Alternate between casting a fire spell and sword attack, or you could play it safe from the sidelines and shoot them with arrows. The strategy is up to you. All this power comes with a price. Your stamina meter will indeed go down. Will you have enough left in you to defend yourself? There's no pausing during the action for a breather either. You must play it cool or otherwise you will die.

Demon's Souls has earned its ranks among the console epics along with Ocarina of Time and Shadow of the Colossus. Hell it even gives the Survival Horror and Action genre a run for it's money. Why is it that I find this game more scarier than the last Resident Evil game? Rarely has the idea of death been so meticulously thought out that it permeates the fabric of game design as Demon's Souls perfectly demonstrates.


jiggs's avatar
Community review by jiggs (November 01, 2009)

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If you enjoyed this Demon's Souls review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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wolfqueen001 posted November 01, 2009:

Hey; good job on your first review. I'll say that you seem to convey everything about the game that needs to be said, which is good. I actually like the specific examples you used such as describing the many ways to die or explaining how certain monsters attack. That's interesting..

However, there are some issues I have with this review, but that's quite alright. Most of them aren't anything huge, and, well, it is your first. Anyway, most of the things wrong with this review are mechanical errors that largely have to do with sentence structure and grammar. I pointed a fair number of these below.

Other issues I have with it are also structural in general. Sometimes the review feels cluttered and unorganized, like you're jumping from point to point then returning to a previously discussed point. Also, some of he paragraphs are really long and could probably be broken down into smaller, more concise and to the point ones that better convey your points.

But for now, I think the main issue that I have is your use of HTML and exclamation. I know that you're trying to carry a sense of excitement in the review, but you really do abuse exclamation points throughout. A lot of times it reads like they really don't need to be there. So you could probably erase the ones that aren't especially emphatic and be perfectly fine. The reason I mention this at all is because too many tend to be distracting more than helpful in some cases.

As for your use of HTML, if you had just bolded (or italicized - your preference) the title of the game throughout, you could take out the html for anything you have italicized in there unless it's being used for emphasis. I remember seeing a lot of italicized monster names and game features that can really just be capitalized - which are already done - and still say the same thing without italicization. The reason for this is also distraction. Too much of one thing can be distracting in a review rather than helpful, so it's best to be moderate with that sort of usage.

Anyway, while this does sound like a lot, I guarantee you that, as far as first reviews go, this is quite good. It's solid writing without much fault, outside the occasional mechanical thing I point out later, and it is still effective in getting its point across. I feel that the ten is justified and that this seems like a really cool game that provides a lot of different ways to play. Also, the picture you added in here is pretty cool, and helps demonstrate the unique aspects of the tutorial and other features well.

Now for specific errors:

What immediately grabbed me when playing Demon's Souls for the first time was it's unconventional approach to the tutorial.


Where other games force you to learn moves before moving onto the next section. In Demon's Souls the game doesn't need to hold your hand.

This should be separated by a comma and lowercase "in" because otherwise the first sentence is an awkward fragment.

The Nexus as some of you are wondering is the hub that connects to the rest of the stages

separate this off with commas

learn spells and upgrade weapons etc. from the NPCs

you don't need the "etc". It's kind of distracting anwyway.

Personally, I wish this was an optional feature but I can see where the developers were trying to do with this "actions having consequences" schtick.

If you rid the stage of all demons, it turns white and enemies weaken etc.

again, the "etc" is unnecessary.

Its hospitality is unwelcoming then ominously flies back to its roost

That reads better if it says "unwelcoming, then it ominously flies back to its roost"

Anyway, I really hope you decide to write more for the site. It's always exciting to see someone try their hand at this. I know you've been around longer than a lot of people, too, so it's really cool that you've finally done something. And really, it really is a good first effort, so I really hope this feedback encourages you to keep at it if you feel like continuing with the hobby.
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jiggs posted November 01, 2009:

thank you so much for the feedback! i will work on correcting those you mentioned. i do have a tendency to overdo it sometimes because when i submitted it..i didn't put all that html crap on there except for a few words. about 8 hrs after posting it i spent the whole morning tacking things on mainly the html and also trying to jig-saw puzzle some new sentences i wrote this morning to fit in with the current one thinking i may have missed out on some detail. i guess i'm trying to do too much when it really isn't necessary which you keenly picked up on. thanks for the heads up. after posting my first review, i feel an addictive rush going. i am gonna try it again.
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wolfqueen001 posted November 01, 2009:

No problem. =D I'm glad this helped and that you're excited to write more. It's always great to see new contributors. I hope you can make this a regular thing for yourself.

Haha. I think I'm starting to sound a little like Jason... XD
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jiggs posted November 05, 2009:

i was just gonna put this on the HG Blog, but feel it might get greater discussion here.

how important is it to mention a game's length in a review? i had the idea of nudging it in somewhere in my Demon's Souls review. i had something like this in my mind:

it will be possible for ordinary mortals to conquer demon's souls in 40 to 50 hours, the greater mortal a little bit less and as for the rest? well good luck to you bottom-feeders. to those who finish their quest, an even more difficult new game+ mode awaits.

i'm sure there are some people who look for this in a review to determine whether they want to spend time with the game or not. i do this too sometimes. if there was a game i was hyped up about...say a "beat-em-up" but found out it takes more than 100 hours to complete on a basic playthrough,i would lose interest fast. i also would be disappointed with the review(s) that didn't mention this.

the question is how many people are there? and even if it was only in the minority, is including that detail still important?

overall i feel satisfied with my first review. i doon't think i can rewrite or condense anything more that ive already said. even if my writing is a bit off-kiltered or a jumbled mess. it's just that, my writing style and i can certainly improve. if people request that i throw a game's length in there i'd put it up. just wanted to know what you all think.
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overdrive posted November 05, 2009:

With me and time, I tend to find worth mentioning under these stipulations.

1. It has a longer/shorter duration than one would expect. Like a retail survival horror game that can be completed in 3 hours right off the bat, as opposed to the 10+ they're usually retailed as.

2. The duration can rapidly fluctuate. Such as the RPGs of today where it might be 40 hours for the main quest, but if you do a bunch of optional dungeons and stuff, you could be at 100 hours when you're done. Sort of a "the more you put into it, the more you'll get" sort of thing.

But I probably personally rarely use time in my reviews just because my final hour-count likely is going to be far different than most people. I tend to be methodical, have the TV on when I'm playing (so I'm distracted by that) and have a habit to taking a break to surf the net or talk on the phone from time to time, while leaving the game on. Which leads to 40 hours turning to 60 for me.
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WilltheGreat posted November 05, 2009:

I just want to say jiggs, you have the right attitude. Too many newcomers might take a critique, even from our dear Wolfqueen, the wrong way.

I think you'll do fine here. Welcome aboard.

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