As a veteran of the Soulsborne games, a proud gamer and stubborn bastard, I had to buy Demon’s Souls and get stuck into it, I just had to. Ignoring the fact that the PS5 was released and I wanted a PS5 game to go with it, besides the other 3 I bought; I also wanted a fresh taste of a Souls game. You see, Dark Souls was my first entry into the franchise, so for me this isn’t just a lick of paint and improved gameplay, this was a newish experience altogether. Not only that, but it still has a lot of distinct differences from the mainline Souls trilogy that threw me off a little, but it retained a lot of what I loved in the other games.(The BASTARD hard enemies!)
I am certain most people by now know what I mean when I type “Soulsborne” and aren’t just assuming I’ve made up a word for sheer hell of it, so everyone is familiar with some of the best games in terms of world design, combat and difficulty that have ever come about. What is strange is that Demon Souls flew under the radar for a lot of people, and wasn’t as widely known, many believing Dark Souls to be the first. Demon’s Souls released for the PS3 exclusively, and was a spiritual predecessor because the stories, internal world and lore are not connected. What does remain, and this is noticeable right away, are the dangers throughout each of the worlds, filled with deadly enemies, mini-bosses, main bosses and environmental hazards, hooray for me. The differences start with how the world is explored, or worlds in this case, as you are not in a semi-open structure of interconnected areas with one unifying safe area, but you start in a nexus of sorts, a home base, from where you can store items, improve gear, level up and choose which world you want to enter.
(“The bigger they are, the faster I run away!”)
In total there are 5 worlds, with a 6th unlocked later, and each is vastly different in terms of location, enemy type (besides some similar enemies), and they are large enough to be explored for little secrets. There is a proposed system of entering these worlds, because as you reach a certain stage, and the others become available, just randomly choosing one could be a big mistake because they increase in difficulty quite significantly.
Now, the good side of all this would be the vast amount of online support you can find, and what I mean by help is not help towards bosses and enemies, but just more of a friendly push in the right direction so that you aren’t prancing around like an unaware idiot. The first world is probably the smallest, but also acts as the introduction to the game because it’s the easiest, and there are plenty of message etched into the ground that offer hints for controls, and that’s it. The rest must be learned the hard way, a lesson that was passed to its descendants, and shows that in order to achieve you must struggle, giving up amounts to nothing.(Oh Fuck You!)
The first taste of combat doesn’t take long to happen and with the newly improved controller at hand (very pun-intentional), you can almost feel the weight of the weapon itself as the controller hums in pleasure of every clean impact, and the sound of the hit played back so crisply it was almost like I just bonked an undead soldier on the head with a halberd in real life. The controls were silky smooth, something I never really found in the other iterations, and I don’t know if they were a result of delayed reactions to button inputs or just restrictions on in-game movement, but I had complete control of my character, which also meant I couldn’t blame the controls when I walked off the edge of a cliff.The combat was heavy, and I mean bone crunching heavy, but enemies didn’t feel like thin veils of 0s and 1s that just had their health lowered, they felt like walking sacks of meat, bone, and metal. They react, in most cases, to getting hit, and blood splatters over your weapon and clothing after a tough encounter, and enemies will ragdoll hilariously like they’ve suddenly developed superhuman flexibility once they’ve been killed. The combat controls remain the same, so they’re easy to pick up, with the combination of light and heavy attacks, blocking and parrying and the dodge/roll ability. It’s in the simplicity of these controls that a lot of options become available, and the clever switching between weapons and alternating between one-handed and two-handed uses.
(Like, what the fuck is that even meant to be?)
My created character was a Temple Knight, with beautiful armour resembling the Gondorian soldier armour in Lord of the Rings, a halberd, and a shield. I also started with a small healing spell, thinking it might come in use. I didn’t come across many new items at first, and those at my disposal needed to be bought with souls I was unwilling to part with, choosing to keep my gear, and level up my stats instead. The halberd served as a reliable weapon with its reach and good damage but was shit in tight spaces. I ended up buying a sword anyway, just for those moments where I got claustrophobic, and it lent me plenty of help because there will be a lot of corridors and smaller areas, and they will stop your weapon as soon as they make contact.(“I better find a bigger door…”)
There are some useful items littered around, including healing items, throwing weapons and souls, and just spending time to grab them all will provide a massive help in those tougher moments. Taking your time adds the extra benefit of learning the landscape, knowing where enemies will appear, what weapons they have and what surprises are in store. It’s designed to be played repeatedly, and doesn’t become stale or repetitive because you will see the improvements after each encounter and gain the confidence to take smaller risks to see if you can measure the speed of your weapon, the damage it does, its range and how enemies react to a hit. Being a fan of the other games I knew full well what I was doing, but there were still a few surprises that I wasn’t prepared for (including some tougher versions of existing enemies), and no matter how many attempts I made, tricks I used or how close I got to victory, I still had to come back at a later stage after making more progress. Coming back stronger and absolutely destroying the fuckers makes a small grind and a bit of time away from them much more satisfying.
(That is a whole lot of NO!!!)
The veteran in me will not allow me to call any part of this unfair, or too difficult, at least not without destroying my pride. But, there were some occasions where my controller nearly went through my living room window because I got overwhelmed almost immediately, and it can be easy to forget that this isn’t a game to rush through, and planning ahead is a priority at all times. The placement of enemies in your path is just one thing to be wary of, because there is a multiplayer element too, which is much more limited than the other games but in a good way. Dark Souls 3 was just chaos, with so many different kinds of invading spirits and colours that one bad day would like a mass murder scene between the Power Rangers because of the mad cults they belonged too.Then, there the bastards that intentionally sat in areas where factions will get summoned to defend them, only to find the host player and a couple of Sun Bros waiting to gank you. Yes, the tabled got flipped on that one, with soul farming almost being a career for some of those interested in supernatural agriculture, and the poor invaders becoming the victims for once. Demon’s Souls allows players to be summoned in from using their summon signs placed on the ground to bring forth someone that is between 10 levels lower or 10 levels higher than the host, and they need to be in soul form. Soul form is what happens when you die, and you are transported to the beginning of that world (again, a little much), with your health capped lower. The host needs to be in human form in order summon another player. That other player will be allowed to roam around with you until you die, they die, or you complete the area by defeating its boss.
(Of course he fucking has, the prick!)
Having some friends to help is a fun way of getting around, and someone that is familiar with where you are at can be a comforting guide towards some little treasures and secrets, and will often charge ahead to destroy your enemies to show how badass they are. To join a game, you will need the Blue Orb Eye item; leave a summoning symbol on the ground, and someone may just bring you into their world, as long as you are in soul form. Successful completion of your tasks as a little blue helper rewards you with getting your body back and restoring your health to its fullest. In human form you might also be invaded by another player, a red spirit, and their job is to end you in any way, even if that means making use of the existing enemies to try and corner you, use up healing items and soften you up for an easier kill, and in the reverse, with a Red Eye Orb, you can enter another player’s world to completely turn it upside down. It’s still risky, because sometimes you enter the world of someone already on the edge, zero fucks to give, and will probably charge at you like a crazed inpatient.
(“I’m “back” here, hahahahahahaaaaaa!”)
A truly refreshing experience, because there is no fatigue in this genre despite the exhaustion it causes just to make it through areas as unscathed as possible. It retains much of the difficulty and in some situations more of it, but with the same expectations that it’s possible to succeed as long as you keep trying. There were a couple of drawbacks, such as there being no bonfires scattered around anymore. It might make some sense with the levels being a little more linear despite being large enough to explore, but they are separate worlds. Bonfires were something that brought relief as they were a symbol of hope, somewhere to rest until confronting the horrors beyond, and they made it easy for travelling.
Dying in any of these worlds sets you back to the spawning area at the beginning, unless you defeated a boss, in which case you’ve created a spawn point, but bonfires were just quality of life conveniences that prevented a lot of travel, and having to come across particular enemies, especially when trying to move to the next boss without using up supplies. The graphics are oh-so-beautiful and make very good use of the PS5’s improved everything. Never a stutter, no moving lines, no washed-out textures, everything was just worth taking time to look at. Especially the magic effects, they looked surreal, and everything was seamless, nary a loading screen. The frame rate stayed at 60fps, even in the most intense moments with a lot going on, and it made everything more pleasant to look at. The enemies looked fucking terrifying, seeing how different hey were in each world made it difficult to decide which one I preferred (the storm world, definitely there, fucking tumbling skeletons, that’s hilarious). Despite some of the enemies bordering on the seemingly unfair and just plain nasty this was a treasure to play, and I got to do it for the first time at its best.