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Sorry Demon's Souls, it's not me, it's you

It took me a long time to finally get around to playing Demonís Souls. I suppose the reason why it took so long is an incredibly shallow reason: itís how it looks. There is something about the type of fantasy set in middle ages Europe that I find incredibly uninspiring. Itís also the reason Iíve never seen Game of Thrones, the reason why I couldnít find any drive to play Dragon Age and the very reason I dismissed Skyrim the very moment I saw it. All of it reminds me of the plague, and they always look as appealing as contracting the plague.

But with Demonís Souls being something of a phenomenon within the gaming community how could I continue to ignore it? A lot of games are like over bearing parents these days living in a safe, green suburb, making sure you have everything you need and going over the directions with you incessantly to the point of tedium, and even when youíve set off on your bike youíll catch a glimpse of them running along behind you clasping the underside of the seat to keep you steady.
How refreshing it is to have a game that parents you like a pair of selfish, alcoholics would, by making you fend for yourself and have you excavate in the putrid pantry for sustenance to survive. Weíre gamers. We donít need the nanny-ing, Mother, will you stop tucking my shirt in! What! Iím not fidgeting! Iím an adult. Iím a gamer.

Itís also not as if I canít look past a gameís aesthetics and enjoy it purely for the gameplay. I donít like modern warfare type games but I love the Battlefield series because of their emphasis on teamwork and the variety of play styles; not because I get a giddy feeling over the sight of an Apache gunship. So the same could happen for Demonís Souls, right?

So Demonís Souls drops through my letter box and I slot it in my PS3 to finally see what this new sensation is all about. To finally experience the game that left so many people dishevelled and screaming the Lordís name in the dead of the night.
After initially being unimpressed with the character creation system because no matter what I did my guy looked like a grimy mannequin found in a skip round the back of a fancy dress shop, I actually started to warm to the game. It encouraged a considered pace which I actually found relaxing but just difficult enough to find engaging. Both relaxing and engaging, like a conversation with Stephen Fry (I imagine). Thatís a hard combination to get right but Demonís Souls does it effortlessly.

Managing crowds, putting extreme importance on position and timing makes the combat in Demonís Souls a unique experience. Traps are inventive, and the level design is consistently of a high standard. I started to think that this game is definitely something special. What an idiot I was for putting it off so long. But then the cracks started to show, and I started feeling like I should have stayed with my gut instinct.

You died.

If there is one thing I hate in games its repetition, and you do that a lot in Demonís Souls because when you die itís back to the beginning of the level with the souls youíve accumulated stripped from you. I get why itís like that. Making death a genuine punishment gives the game its foreboding atmosphere and makes you play at that pace I was so fond of but to me the enjoyment crumbles away like old masonry when it comes to the bosses.

You died.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking; youíre thinking I just suck weeping gangrene at this game and maybe thatís true but thatís not whatís putting me off. I enjoy a challenging game but when I walked into the fort where the colossal Tower Knight stood and all it took was two mighty and guard breaking swings of his lance and I was left a plastic-y corpse propped up against the wall. It took me five or six attempts to finally slay the iron clad giant; each death also included another tiresome battle to the fort once again, fighting the same grunts, just so I could try out a new tactic.
Iím just not for this kind of game design. Itís dull.

You died.

When I struck Tower Knight down for the final time with my axe I was expecting a genuine sense of victory. Finally heís down and I can continue my adventure, but it never came. The sensation I did get was the same one Iíd get from my time working in customer service. Youíd get certain customers who were demanding and unreasonable. They would treat you like the enemy when you were just trying to help, while also balancing loyalty to company policy. After you successfully dealt with one of those customers your brain isnít swimming in endorphins as you punch the air, you would just do a big sigh and wearily put the phone down, hoping to never have to go through it again.
Thatís how it also feels defeating a boss in Demonís Souls.

To me, God Hand is the king of infamously difficult games and since I just finished that this year itís always in the back of my mind as I play Demonís Souls. God Hand is unrelenting fun and also incredibly challenging, but it doesnít feel the need to threaten you with repetition if you die. Each area is an individual challenge and has quite frequent checkpoints so youíre free to play; free to experiment with your customisable combos while also maintaining the same sense of dread that comes with the fact a common grunt can end you, much like Demonís Souls.
And the bosses donít kill you instantly, you have time to figure them out, but the challenge comes in executing that plan, not by catching you with your breeches down.

I guess there is something about this type of game design that was quite common in older games that Iím actually happy to see the back of and to see it return and be heralded as the best games this generation confounds me slightly.
The only way I understand it is that it is a poke in the eye to hand holding that is depressingly common in todayís games, but I just canít shake the feeling Demonís Souls is not the true answer.
Playing Demonís Souls can be like trying to scoff down a vindaloo which is so hot the restaurant calls the local press round whenever someone tackles it and King Crimson are playing some freestyle jazz to accompany the eating. Itís certainly a challenge, but itís not fine dining. God Hand is fine dining.

Still, these thoughts are from someone whoís just put ten hours in the game so far, but I put the phone down mid argument on the leech boss after stomping on the Armoured Spider. Maybe my opinion can be changed.
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About Leigh Davidsonone of us since 4:59 PM on 09.14.2010


I'm a gamer from the 90s who was raised on games with cute characters in them, both the genuine, heart-warming kind and the cynically designed ones.
But despite me mostly being a Nintendo fanboy it was probably the holy trinity Final fantasy VII, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil that truly got me into gaming.

Now I play anything as I'm open to anything.

Favourite game of all time? probably a toss up between Mass Effect 2, Persona 4, Metroid Prime, Killer7 or Resident Evil 4.

I write bits for the gaming site BitParade

My Twitter - @LeighDavidson
Xbox LIVE:DifferentClass
PSN ID:DifferentKlass
Steam ID:DifferentClass
Mii code:0228-6106-8734-8508


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