In the recent months, my patience has been wearing out. Other PS3 owners certainly must have felt itÖ ďI bought a Sony console, where the hell are my new high-quality role-playing games?!Ē Yes, Iíve played through the wonderful Fallout 3, but thatís a year ago already. The last title I purchased in an attempt to become addicted to a console RPG was Cross Edge, and let me tell you my expectations werenít met. This is probably a rant better left for its own blog post, but Iíll just say Iíve had my fill of slow, overly complicated battle systems, especially when itís the only thing a game has to offer.
When would I get to be happy again with my PS3? Looking at top sales charts, all I could see was shovelware, family-friendly games; not an ounce of new, not an ounce of challenge. I prayed for a new release that would surprise me, that would make me sit on the edge of my chair for dozens of hours. When I fell into despair, a few moments after I abandoned my console and subscribed once again to WoW, Atlus pushed the cookie jar off the fridge and sent it crashing onto my head. From Software had baked a new, savoury cookie!
Enter Demonís Souls, a game that shatters any expectation you may have of an action-RPG. The first comment Iíve heard about that game is that it can be compared to the Diablo games. This couldnít be further from truth, actually. I think Iíll use this shallow, inadequate comparison to express my deepest love for Demonís Souls and tell her why Iíd rather spend the night with her and not her supposed ďrivalĒ from the Blizzard family.
Letís start with the gameís atmosphere. In Diablo, itís dark alright, but you donít really fear the dark. Some foes are going to emerge from the darkness, screaming or moaning, but you can face them with the assurance that they cannot kill you with the unbalanced attacks, field-clearing magics and stockpiles of instant-healing potions at your disposal. In Demonís Souls, you are simply a guy that can thrust and swing with a weapon, that has managed to tediously memorize a single spell with trainingÖ and youíre stuck in a world where a single demon can jump from the darkness to your right and take half of your health bar away in a single swipe! Trembling, you tread carefully, because this room might very well be the one where your horrible, unforgiving death occurs.
In the second instalment of Blizzardís famous dungeon crawler, you have a stamina gauge, but all itís really used for is limiting the time during which you can keep running. Once youíve exhausted your stamina, you can jump into a fray of twelve monsters and take them all down Ö after all, itís not like swinging a 6-feet iron sword is any trouble. On the other side, stamina is very consistent in Demonís Souls. Simply swinging a weapon takes effort, and repeatedly hitting on your opponentís raised shield is going to get you tired in few strikes. Once youíre tired, your blows have no strength and you have trouble soaking damage with your shield, so you better stand back defensively. Oh, and besides leaving you quite open to a deadly ambush, running ahead is a sure way to tire you and hamper your fighting abilities.
I fondly remember running around as a Barbarian that dual-wielded gigantic axes in Diablo 2. The bigger the weapon, the stronger you were; that was about it. But applying Demonís Souls consistency to this too, the fighting style comes with a hefty cost. It takes you a few moments just to start your swing, leaving you wide open for a rapier or scimitar in your chest. Parrying with an axe in the off-hand is ineffective, soaking little damage. What are you going to do against those archers with the two weapons in your hands? You know that your halberd will glance off walls in narrow tunnels, making you totally ineffective? You intend to roll out of that mageís firestorm in heavy armor?
This is one of the things that please me most about this game: thereís no ďone wayĒ to go for all situations, everything is consistent and realistically balanced. Itís a brutal logic that will certainly anger someone who was looking for a game where he could kick ass like Chuck Norris with swords. This is certainly also going to hurt Demonís Souls sales, but I for one welcome the change in my challenge-less gaming life. This game is, as VG Cats so vehemently expressed, for old-school gamers who killed the robot masters and saved the f@#%& princess.
Demonís Souls make no compromise. You learn from your mistakes and other playersí, via the warnings they engrave on the ground and their bloodstains that show the last seconds before their trespass. As you advance cautiously in the worlds of Boletaria, you know that other players are also sitting tight in their living rooms. You can even witness their ghosts fight unknown foes ahead of you, warning you briefly of the cost of carelessness. There is a sense of being surrounded by the other people playing this game, yet this is mostly a single player experience. Itís a groundbreaking first in the industry, I believe, and to me the gameís originality of concept and consistency of execution just screams ďAtlusĒ. I must say Iím at a point where Iíll buy any game they release simply because I will be certain itís AAA material.
Yes, Iím blinded by passionate love. I LOVE YOU ATLUS!