On February 5th, From Software introduced Japan to a new, role-playing exclusive Playstation 3 game dubbed ďDemonís SoulsĒ. To those familiar with the long retired Kingís Field series, this game is regarded as its spiritual successor by the very same creators. Much in the same vein as its predecessor, Demonís Souls pits players against demonic monsters in a dark medieval-fantasy setting.
Unlike many role-playing games, Demonís Souls is very light on the story. After a quick introductory cutscene, players are off to venture in the fog swept land of Bolteria. What Demonís Souls lacks in story and cinematics, the game makes up in the experience. Characters have unique personalities and are memorable. Surprisingly, actors perform convincingly and the script often feels poetic. The game also exclusively features full English voice acting, which is highly unusual for a game only released in Asia.
After starting up a new game, the character creation screen is immediately brought up. This feature is very similar to the one from Oblivion, offering a ridiculous amount of sliders to tweak your characterís face anyway you want. Sadly, you will also have difficulty trying to make your character appear human. The next step requires you to choose a class anywhere from the melee-magic spectrum. Classes determine what kind of gear your character will start with. For example, the soldier class will start equipped with a broad sword, spear, shield and the plate armor set, while a barbarian is basically naked and equipped with a club.
This is the Nexus to where your soul is bound.
Ironically, the character you create dies shortly after the game starts and you are shortly summoned to the nexus in soul form. The nexus is essentially the world hub where you can interact with merchants and other non-playable characters. It is important to note that this place is a safe zoneÖ unless you start attacking the npcís. Yes, you have the freedom to kill off any npc at your own discretion.
At the Nexus, you also have access to the five stages at any time in the game. Your job is to exterminate all the demon bosses at the end of every level within the five stages. Each stage is a different region of Bolteria which includes a castle palace, an abandoned Dwarven mine, a prison tower, cliffside ruins, and a polluted valley. Each locale is unique in its design and approach, along with the type of enemies they contain. Some of the creatures whom simply live in the environment may not actually be hostile, unless you start attacking them first. Merchants and other npcís may also be seen lingering throughout the levels, waiting for your business or to be rescued.
Trust me, they really do want to die.
As you can probably guess, the game is centered around the souls of demons. In this world, souls act like currency. Players collect the souls from slain enemies to buy items, repair equipment, and level up their character. The souls you receive from demon bosses may be used to forge unique weapons and magic spells. Death in Demonís Souls is portrayed differently than other games. When you die, your character is revived as a soul form. This is usually indicated by a glowing blue aura and a 50% max hit points penalty. The only way to become living again is by slaying a Demon Boss or defeating other players via online pvp. These actions also influence your character and the world around him. Defeating a certain number of Demons or online players may trigger events in certain stages.
Try not to die!
Combat in Demonís Souls can easily be easily mistaken as a typical hack and slash. Simply running up to enemies and hacking away will often get you killed. Players have access to a targeting system to lock on to individual enemies. The best approach in most encounters is to lure one opponent at a time from a group of enemies. Many situations call for the use of a variety of weapons. For example, swinging a giant sword in outdoor areas is a great way to knock down groups of enemies. In tight corridors however, swinging a long sword and hitting the walls will degrade the weapon at a fast rate. Lastly, aerial based opponents are best met with a bow and arrow or magic spells.
An experienced player speeds through the first level in New Game+
Because of the difficulty of Demonís Souls, very few gamers today will appreciate this game. Demonís Souls was truly intended for an old school audience. Everything in this game wants to kill you, and you will frequently. The only way to progress through the levels is to learn from your deaths. Strategically placed traps and enemies scattered throughout the levels wait for unsuspecting players. Some of the tougher enemies can kill your character in a single blow, and you will instantly die from falling into endless pits. However, if you progress far enough in a level, shortcuts may be discovered. This is usually in the form of unlocking doors or activating lifts that can be accessed in the beginning of the level. The intense difficulty of Demonís Souls never feels cheap, but only cleverly designed. The sense of accomplishment from finally beating a level is reminiscent of games from the past.
One of the most shining aspects of Demonís Souls must be the epic boss battles. All of the bosses are generally well thought out and designed on the developerís part. Each and every boss requires a different tactic and careful thinking. Without spoiling too much of the game, one certain boss encounter throws you into an arena-styled match between another human player. One other boss is actually able to suck levels out of your character!
Many players looking for an easier time will likely use the gameís online mode. Other players can drop down pre-composed messages anywhere on the floor with useful hints. They often reveal anything from hidden treasures, traps, and enemy weaknesses. Whenever a player dies, a blood pool left behind. You can activate these blood pools to view a replay of their death, giving a little insight to what is ahead. Living players may also summon up to two more players to play co-op. The only downside of co-op is that communication is limited by a number of emotion-based gestures.
On the contrary, other players online can also screw you over. A handful of some cunning bastards will leave false messages to get you killed. The way pvp works in Demonís Souls is also rather unusual. When your character is living, any player in the same 10 level range as you can forcefully break into your game and challenge your character. Defeat may result in losing all of your characterís progress in a level.
Aesthetically speaking, the graphics in Demonís Souls are only just above average. Beyond the graphics however is the gameís highly immersive atmosphere and artistic direction. Levels are wonderfully crafted with every attention to detail and a consistent air of dreariness. Given that the game is played in third person, the character animations are also given the same attention to detail. Every animation from walking to attacking is given an accurate sense of weight. Sounds will emanate from every movement your character makes depending on the heaviness of the armor.
It's okay, Steve Irwin didn't make it past this guy either.
Thatís not to say Demonís Souls has its fair share of technical problems. The biggest eyesore is the gameís framerate issue. Whenever there are many things happening at once, lag is pretty much predictable. It is a shame to see that the slowdowns apparent in the last yearís TGS demo have not been fully resolved in the released version. Less troubling, the corpses of slain enemies have the same weight as balloon animals. No matter how large the corpses are, you character will kick them out of the way like a deflated soccer ball. Personally, I think it adds a little character to the game as well as comical relief.
As mentioned before, Demonís Souls is intended for a niche audience. For those looking for an excellent dungeon crawling role-playing game with a bit of a challenge, I cannot recommend Demonís Souls enough. This game will last quite awhile for those who hunger for souls. Along with a New Game+ mode, at least two playthroughs are required in able to see everything the game has to offer. After personally logging more than 100 hours into Demonís Souls, you can bet that wonít be much of a problem.
Things you may enjoy:
-Challenging, rewarding gameplay -Epic boss battles -Wonderfully immersive atmosphere
Things you may hate:
-Framerate issues -Limited communication options -Forced pvp