From Software had two console exclusives on its plate at TGS, Ninja Blade for the Xbox 360 and Demon's Souls for the PlayStation 3. Both are dark and moody hack and slash affairs, filled with demonic beasts to slay. But Demon's Souls is billed as an action role-playing game, seemingly a greater time investment than its "cinematic" action sibling. The poorly translated fact sheet describes the game with "Nothing but a player's decision and a tactics of using various weapons are important than anything that you really need to think to play."
While that makes no sense, Demon's Souls is fairly easy to wrap one's brain around.
The TGS demo kicked off with an extended narrated cut scene, explaining why you, the lone warrior capable of saving this endangered kingdom, must take up arms. A plague of, you guessed it, demons are inching ever closer to your homeland, devouring the tasty souls of every man, woman and child.
Your task? Kill 'em.
You'll create your own customised character, based on gender, class and appearance. We fumbled through Demon's Souls' menus, eventually settling on a spellcaster who seemed to be pretty capable with a dagger. While we're sure there's some variance to the classes, they all seem to have one thing in common: extreme ugliness.
Seriously, From Software, these are some of the most frightening looking human faces we've ever seen in a video game. We're hoping some of this is unfinished or placeholder, because our female fighter could easily have been mistaken for one of the game's monsters. Hideous.
Out on the battlefield, we hacked and slashed against some low level zombies. We burned through our mana quickly, our meager wand doing little damage. Fortunately, demons drop weapons, so we quickly upgraded to a deadly cudgel.
In another play through, we opted for a giant Siegfried from Soulcalibur-like knight, complete with over-oversized sword and massive thorny shield. He wasn't nearly as spry as our sorcerer, but was less frustrating to play.
The combat was adequate. Block with L1, attack with one of the face buttons, and lock on a target by pressing in the left analogue stick. A handy dodging roll helps add to the fighting mechanic, but the general impression of combat made Demon's Souls feel more like an MMO in the hand-to-hand department. It took a while to get the hang of the action, resulting in more than one (okay, four) deaths.
Demon's Souls appears to be one of those games that just doesn't showcase well in a ten minute demonstration. Outside of a brief cut scene that gave us Lair flashbacks, we saw nothing of the giant monsters that populate the game's screen shots, nor did the early combat mechanics impress. The environment we adventured in felt dull and lifeless.
The game is listed as only 65% complete, so there's plenty of time to tighten up the graphics and whatnot, but the TGS demo did not impress. Demon's Souls is due for a PlayStation 3 release in 2009, so we look forward to giving it a second chance when things start to shape up a little better.