Patreon button  Steam curated reviews  Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | AND | IOS | PC | PS4 | SWITCH | VITA | XB1 | All

Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) artwork

Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) review

"The castle reeks of death. The path leading up to the main gate is littered with corpses. Maggoty, stinking bags of flesh left to rot where they fell. The horses, too. Their bodies were ripped open, with their loads and carts broken on the cobblestone. The crows are already at their flesh; pickings in Boletaria have been very good lately. The inside of the castle is worse. That gaping entrance leads into a seemingly endless black abyss, as if it were the mouth of some otherworldly beast. ..."

The castle reeks of death. The path leading up to the main gate is littered with corpses. Maggoty, stinking bags of flesh left to rot where they fell. The horses, too. Their bodies were ripped open, with their loads and carts broken on the cobblestone. The crows are already at their flesh; pickings in Boletaria have been very good lately. The inside of the castle is worse. That gaping entrance leads into a seemingly endless black abyss, as if it were the mouth of some otherworldly beast. When you walk in, you’ll see how dark it is. How quiet. Even if you have a glowing rock for light, you won’t be able to see more than a few feet. There’s only the echo of your footsteps, and the occasional drip of water. But there’s more. Maybe it’s your imagination, but there’s a faint sound of something walking, scraping along the stone floor. As if there was something down there with you, watching from the dark. Waiting. You could keep going, weapons raised. Or bolt blindly ahead, terrified out of your mind. Either way, you’re about to die.

Get used it. In Demon’s Souls, death happens often. Even the tutorial has a boss specifically designed to smash your guts into paste. Rather than getting sent to the afterlife - you know, the easy way out - you’re spirited away to the Nexus, a purgatory in which the remaining heroes rest between their attempts to save the world. They’re aren’t many of them left. An evil fog has descended over the kingdom, and those trapped within have either gone mad or disappeared completely. The survivors aren’t much better; a depressed knight, a grieving maiden, and a cranky blacksmith are just a few of the people you’ll meet in this eerie limbo. With each new character you meet, you’ll learn more about the story behind the game. The spoken lines are few and far between, but they’re superbly written - you’ll watch helplessly as one NPC slowly goes insane - and delivered with excellent voice acting. It’s not the most elaborate plot ever conceived, but it’s still compelling.

Aside from harboring the majority of the characters, the Nexus serves as the central hub for the rest of the game. Once you’ve gotten far enough, you’ll be able to access different areas of the kingdom and complete the stages in any order that you want. That freedom comes with a price, though; the difficulty level and layout are never indicated, which means you’ll have to explore everything on a trial and error basis. It can be a frustrating process, especially in the first few hours. In the first stage, even the lowliest of the zombie knights and flame-wielding mutants are capable of kicking your ass. It’s not that the controls are bad - the attacking, countering, and dodging moves are as easy to execute as they are to learn - but because the AI is just that good. The thing is, the fights are completely fair. Surviving a battle isn’t so much about the strength of your character as it is learning your enemies’ tactics and using your surroundings. A skeleton warrior might be able to cleave you in half, but a well-timed roll or ducking behind a pillar will keep you alive. Since every swing and dodge costs you stamina, you’re going to have to learn the limitations of your character as well. By forcing you to endure such tough enemies right from the start, the game does an amazing job of beating the mechanics into your brain. It’ll take you dozens of continues (and perhaps a thrown controller), but you’ll eventually get the hang of it.

You’ll have to, if you have any hope of making progress. The game is fairly lenient when it comes to dying; you get sent back to the beginning of the level in a relatively weak spirit form (you‘ll need to beat a boss or use a special item to regain your body), along with any items, weapons, or gear that you picked up along your latest ill-fated crusade. What you don’t keep, however, are the demon souls you earned by slaughtering your foes. Rather than gaining experience points directly from combat, you’ll amass thousands of souls and use them as currency for everything else in the game. Need some more arrows from the local shopkeeper? How about learning a new magic spell? Go kill something to get the money for it. Want a stronger suit or armor? It’ll cost you not only souls, but whatever extra material you‘ve scrounged. All of it is paid for by the souls of your fallen enemies, and the high prices will keep you playing through areas over and over again. It’s what keeps the game challenging; since you’ll lose your earnings if you die, you’ll have to approach each fight with caution and a strategy. One misstep could cost you everything.

Even if you rack up tons of souls, you’ll still face the problem of how you want to use them. Not only are they used as currency, but as the basis for the development of your character. Aside from the impressive customization options - you‘ll get to choose everything from the gender to the skin tone - Demon’s Souls offers a nice assortment of classes, ranging from knights and mages to priests and barbarians. All of them have the typical strengths and weaknesses, like the magic users’ low defense or the thieves’ speed and lack of physical power. You’ll have to use your souls to level up his or her abilities. Do you make your royal magician a magic specialist by maxing their intelligence, or will you make them able to use swords as effectively? Your character might not be able to even wield some of the weapons without getting their dexterity stats boosted. The stats can make a huge difference in how you take on a given battle, which means you’re going to need to plan things out. Such an open-ended approach to the leveling system makes it easier to play the game with your own style.

You won’t have to go at it alone, though. One of the prominent features of Demon’s Souls is its multiplayer. If you can go online with your PS3, you’re going to be in for something far different from the solo campaign. The levels are littered with the bloodstains of other players’ characters. Not only do they serve as visual warnings of something dangerous, but literal warnings as well. Fallen gamers can leave brief hints behind, offering strategies and insights in to their mistakes. If they’re legit (and many of them aren’t, annoyingly enough), you can recommend the messages and reward its writer with replenished health. But if you prefer something a bit more hands-on, you can team up or fight against other players. Teamwork is immensely useful, especially when you’re trying to take down a particularly challenging foe. Invading other people‘s worlds is more rewarding; if you kill your opponent, you can rack up tons of extra souls. It’s also any easy way to revive your characters’ physical body. If you’re sick of being stuck in soul form, a successful multiplayer round could get your character revived. This well-crafted multiplayer adds so much to the game; Demon’s Souls isn’t just an obscenely difficult adventure, but a fun and competitive one as well.

While the combat is demanding and engaging, there are a few inconsistencies. You’re able to lock on to a single enemy (or toggle among others, if you‘re facing a crowd), which allows for better attack accuracy and dodging. The problem is that the game occasionally misreads your command and targets an untended foe, which skews the camera angle and leaves you awkwardly trying to adjust. It’s especially bad when you’ve accidentally locked onto an aerial foe; a moving target could drag your perspective into a wall, leaving you disoriented enough to fall off a platform or leave yourself exposed to attack. The death animations are just as odd; you’ll occasionally see your victims fall through the ground, even depriving you of whatever extra item drops they might have yielded. These issues aren’t major or game-breaking, but they’re still annoying.

Besides, they’re just tiny blemishes on what is otherwise an incredible presentation. Demon’s Souls is all about atmosphere. You’ll have to explore the ruins of an old fortress, stumbling over the splintered remains of wagons and ducking through collapsed walls. You’ll explore a rotting prison, glancing at the gore-stained torture devices and listening to the agonized moans of the inmates. Even the Boletarian Castle, with its stunningly huge scale, is filled with pitch-black hallways hiding all kinds of horrors. There isn’t much in the way of music - the best stuff is reserved for the boss fights and the melancholic Nexus theme - but the silence makes things even better. You can hear the ear-splitting screech of an dragon swooping overhead, or the low growl of something just about pounce. The lighting effects complement it, too; the game is visually as dark as its content, and you’re only equipped with what is essentially a small flashlight. You’ll never be able to see some of the truly beautiful places (the ornate wall carvings in the Nexus especially) without getting close to them. No other game can make you dread exploring unlit areas quite like this.

That could be applied to Demon’s Soul’s as a whole; no other game is like it. The story is a depressing portrayal of a kingdom slowly dying and taking its inhabitants with it. Unless you’re willing to pay attention and learn the ins and outs of the combat, you’ll never make it past the first level. The unforgiving learning curve and challenging enemies will test your tactical prowess and patience. The price of failure is high, but success is very rewarding. There are tons of ways to develop your character, which lets you approach the adventure with your preferred playing style. Since everything revolves around using souls as currency, you’ll have plenty of incentives to go out and slaughter as many enemies as possible. The online multiplayer is an interesting blend of cooperative and competitive gameplay, which makes the game so much more than generic action RPG. So do yourself a favor and try this. It’s not an easy game to get into. But once you do, it’s one of the best you’ll ever play.


disco's avatar
Community review by disco (November 14, 2009)

Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.

More Reviews by disco [+]
Pokémon Conquest (DS) artwork
Pokémon Conquest (DS)

The realm of Ransei is on the verge of destruction. Its people live for only two things: war and Pokemon. There are countless warriors roaming the land with their trusted animal companions, each seeking the glory and authority rewarded to the victors. Legends say that if a single warlord were to conquer all 17 kingdoms...
Mario Tennis Open (3DS) artwork
Mario Tennis Open (3DS)

Mario Tennis is one of the most underrated spinoff series ever conceived. Ever since its debut over a decade ago, it’s gained a small, but devout following. While not quite as addictive or challenging as the Mario Kart titles, the games won over audiences with a blend of wacky personality and creativity. ...
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii) artwork
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)

Eons ago, two titans clashed in the middle of an endless ocean. The Bionis and the Mechonis – essentially the deities of natural and mechanical life respectively – fought each other for reasons unknown. Neither side prevailed; locked in an eternal stalemate, both beings eventually died with their bodies petrified in mi...


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!

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Policies/Ethics | Contact | Sponsor Site | Sponsor Guide | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2018 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Demon's Souls is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Demon's Souls, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.