The hard difficulty: It’s known by many names, tried by many but conquered by the few. When gamers want a challenge, they replay a game on Hard. Sometimes they can be frustrating, other times they make fun of you. Demon’s Souls however takes your concept of hard mode, spits on it, then forces you to play a skill-focused, harder-than-hard mode instead. Developer From Software and publisher Atlus are known for making difficult games but Demon’s Souls tops the rest of their work.
This game by far is one of the hardest games that I’ve ever played before. This game is, and I kid you not, Contra, Mega Man and Ninja Gaiden all put together hard. With such a hard game, one would think that I just turn it off and be done with it. But no, for some reason I pick up my controller and keep playing.
The game surrounds the search for power and prosperity of King Allant XII who channeled the power of souls. He brought unprecedented prosperity to his northern kingdom of Boletaria. That is, until a thick and colorless fog covered the land's outskirts, cutting off the kingdom from the outside world. Those who entered the fog never returned. Vallarfax of the royal Twin Fangs broke free from the fog and told the world of Boletaria's plight. The aging King Allant XII had awakened the Old One, the great beast below the Nexus, from its eternal slumber and that a dark fog had swept in, unleashing soul-craving demons. The ones that lost their souls also lost their minds.
Chaos reigned, the mad attacking the sane. The Demons grow stronger and more powerful with each soul they devour. The legend was told from man to man; mighty warriors entered the cursed lands, but none have returned. Enter the brave warrior (you) as you make your way into the kingdom looking to save Boletaria and be the hero. Sounds easy right? It is until you encounter the first boss. But before that the game gives a brief tutorial on the gameplay.
Like all RPGs, Demon’s Souls starts off with a custom character mode, to which your hero is created. Traits like hair, skin tone, eyes, sex etc are all accounted for in the creation process. After choosing a look, class and race, the game takes you to the main gates of Boletaria and starts off in an in-game tutorial.
The battle system takes place in real time to speed up the action which is nice. The left shoulder buttons control the left arm which is the shield/second weapon arm. When the character has a shield equipped the L1 block while L2 parries. I found this to be at first confusing, but after killing a few of the enemies I felt real comfortable, although with using the parry, time is key. As for attacking, the game uses the right shoulder buttons, R1 being a slashing/light attack and R2 a lunge/strong attack.
Once all of the attacks are explained, you encounter the first demon boss. There’s no use in trying to fight it though, because after one swipe of its claws, you’re dead. That’s right. Right after finishing the game tutorial, you die, but your soul gets transported to a dimension called The Nexus. The Nexus is a sort of limbo for all souls who venture in Boletaria and are trapped here. In order to escape The Nexus and reclaim your earthly body, the Old One must be defeated and sealed back under The Nexus. In order to defeat the Old One, there are five portals that lead to different locations in Boletaria, each with demons that you must defeat to escape The Nexus.
This again sounds simple enough, but nothing is that simple. Not are only the various hoards of lesser demons stand in your way, but also the environments and at times dragons. Demon’s Souls forces you to be aware of your surroundings. If not careful, death will come swiftly and will send you back to the beginning of the area. That’s right. No mid-way point, no save points, your character gets sent all the way back to the beginning and any “souls” that you have collected will be left behind. It’s frustrating at first, but all experience and the knowledge of what not to do when you go retrieve your lost souls stays with you.
The graphics of Demon’s Souls are really good, from the run down castles to underground mines and prison tower dungeons, everything comes to life. As for your character, From Software could have put in a little more work with the character model. Although he/she doesn’t talk much other than grunts of pain, some facial emotions would have been a little nice. It didn’t matter to me however, I had my character equipped with a full helm, so the face was covered and blocked.
This also happens to be another dark game where the brightness needs to be adjusted. But this suits the game well as to never knowing where the next hazard or enemy will come from next. Sound effects in Demon’s Souls are standard rpg sounds but are carried out very well, being that there is hardly any music playing. Most of the time during the game it’s so quite that a pin can be heard, or the roar of an inbound dragon. The time that there is music is when fighting one of the area’s demon bosses. All of this is done to really immerse the player into the game, which I think is really great, forcing alertness and having to get ready for a battle.
Online play is done with an interesting twist. Up to three other players can join in by having the host summoning their souls to their plane. I haven’t tried this summoning myself, but I have been summoned by another player to help in a quest. What’s really different is that you will be able to see the other players, but only in their soul form and won’t be able to interact with them unless they are summoned to you or you to them. Another twist is that clues or hints can be left at different point by other players to help, warn or deceive others on what lies ahead. And the last thing that I thought was innovative was when encountering a blood pool from another player, a ghost image showing the fallen warrior and how he/she died will appear, letting other know how they died and servers as a warning to be wary. There is some replay value, but you would have to finish the game first in order to replay it. And after struggling through the first play through, I felt that I have climbed the Mt. Everest of games. That feeling of, “Okay I did it once, don’t want to do that again” is in my thoughts. But for some reason, it pulls me back in to play through it again. Demon’s Souls is one of the few games that have that affect on me.
Like I said earlier, Demon’s Souls is hard, yet enjoyable. This is a game that gives a throwback to the games of the past that had only one difficulty and took skill and patients to complete. This game is not for everyone and caters to the hardest of hardcore. Though I complained throughout the game and cussed through the deaths I enjoyed this game, but then again I enjoy playing games often. If you are a casual rpg fan, I’d say give it a rent first. But for those who like to be challenged and have a high level of patience, buy it.
- Mike V.