Kotaku AU Games Of 2009: #3

Kotaku AU Games Of 2009: #3

The countdown of my personal picks for the best games of 2009 is drawing to a close. After a week and a half we’ve reached the final three. And at #3 we plunge our sword through a demon’s chest in slow motion…

3. Demon’s Souls (PS3)

Most video game box art illustrates its protagonist in heroic pose, weapon held aloft, eyes fiercely determined, legs standing firm. He – or sometimes she – is full of purpose and geared for victory.

The Japanese box art for Demon’s Souls depicts a heavily armoured knight slumped against a cold dungeon wall, shield a pin cushion of arrows, mist curling around lifeless feet. He – or perhaps she – is dead.

Almost all your time in Demon’s Souls will be spent dead. And when you’re not dead, you soon will be. In perverse fashion, Atlus have designed a game where death is not only plentiful but meaningful every single time it happens. It’s not just a matter of losing progress that would otherwise, in any other game, be saved by a convenient checkpoint; it’s more that when death can arrive so easily, you value every step, every second of survival all the more.

As you’ve no doubt heard, Demon’s Souls can be a bleak, harrowing experience. Combat is brutal, in the clang of steel on steel and the visceral impact of your blade sinking into flesh. A sombre palette of grey and brown hangs heavily on the toweringly grim architecture and the desolate remnants of civilisation strewn through its complex, twisting halls. But mostly it’s in the exquisitely balanced risk and reward structure where you’re forever faced with the dilemma of cashing out part way through a world to repair and upgrade or pressing on in the knowledge you could lose it all.

Demon’s Souls is ultimately about testing yourself. It’s about realising you’ve got to earn the right to that heroic pose and knowing that victory will mean so much more when you’ve failed so many times on the way there.

Kotaku AU’s Games of 2009 are my personal picks for the best games of the year. I make no claim to have played everything released this year, nor do I pretend to be any way objective in my rankings. I look forward to debating my choices with you in the comments.


  • Nice, the #1 and #2 spots will be hotly contested, still a few great games you haven’t made it in as yet!

    Also, any news on a local release of Demon’s Souls?

    • If you don’t have it there’s really no good reason not to import it. It’s considerably cheaper than it will be here (if it ever gets released) and there’s no region protection on ps3 anyway. It takes a week or two to arrive but that’s better than the months it will be before it may get a release.

  • The online integration is well worth mentioning too; the messages and bloodstains (showing how other people died) scattered around the world incentivise being patient and planning ahead. Being able to team up with living players or attack them is nice too; if still very brutal.

  • I really want to get this game, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere for sale. I think the art direction in this game is well done, no RPG that is trying to establish this kind of tone should be too colourful. I’ve heard from everyone that this game is downright almost impossible in terms of difficulty, that sort of worries me, is it really that hard?

    • You won’t find it locally because it isn’t released locally.

      And it’s really not that hard. It’s difficult, yes, and punishing, yes, but it’s only impossible if you’re the kind of player that gives up after dying a few times (here’s looking at you, Yahtzee).

  • I borrowed this from a friend and just couldn’t get into it, just found everything alittle cumbersome and slow… but I can see somewhat see where the addiction lies…

    Also despite being wrong yesterday, I’m still confident that both AC2 & Batman will hold the top 2 spots. His praise for both games in that back half of the year was pretty loud.

    That just means that Uncharted 2 (which I thought he liked also) missed the cut… perhaps there will be a followup post of the also rans and why some games missed out…

  • I’m from Aust and everyone here imports it.

    Yep from ebay, there’s a seller which sells the Chinese/English versions.

    I’ve finished the game already, its not that great. It definitely has a weak plot, and game is not balanced. Several bosses die in one hit. Yep that’s right it takes only 1 second to kill. About 16-17 bosses in total.

    Remember to use the Royal Class. Easiest class to use to finish game with.

  • The game is frustrating for melee based characters because most enemies are melee.

    This game is about playing combat to perfection, which means not getting hit once. You’ll die in 2-3 hits at most.

    Ranged magic however breaks the game because (enemies) wait there for you to come and you can one-two shot them and basically everything. Magic can also one shot bosses lol.

    I don’t think there will be an AU release because there’s already a N.A release which is just in english. Just import it and start playing. It works perfectly normal.

    • I think local distributors are concerned that almost everyone who would have bought the game has already imported it. Understandable, I guess, but we’ll see.

      I haven’t played as a magic-based character yet, but yes I’ve heard it’s easier and a good choice for a first time player. I did mix in some ranged attacks with my Thief’s preference for melee combat, but I didn’t find it noticeably easier than playing as my Temple Knight.

      • Dave I’m still on my first play through (I’m the type of player that likes to take my time and get everything on the first go, or at least try) and I have to admit that starting as royalty I think made it a bit easier (I did try a thief class) as you get the soul arrow to start with. Now I’ve up the magic and have spells and miracles hanging outta you know what and I’m killing everything.

        I cannot recommend this game enough. It took a bit to get into, but now I can’t put it down, I love it. Way better than dragon age IMO. I just love how they capture the solitude. It’s you against some kick ass demons. Oh and just a note I don’t know what it is but when another player invades your world as a black phantom it gets my little heart racing. I think it’s because it’s you vs him/her and there’s no one else around. Love it.

  • I kinda feel like i played the game differently than the way the designer thought of. Why? becuase most of the bosses battle always easy due to the glitches. I think only 2-3 boss fights in the game don’t have any cheap glitchy way to beat. I’d say the normal encounters and dungeons layouts are far better designed than bosses though.

    • This is one of my big problems. After my complaints about the game the other day, I did jump back in and play a few more hours last night, and besides the grindfest to upgrade (stats or weapons both), the other thing which greatly irritates me with this game is you go online to get tips on beating a particularly tough section and you find that most people seem to be exploiting pathing issues and ranged fighting glitches. If this was from Activision or EA, it wouldn’t be winning game of the year, it would be being marked down for being so buggy and glitchy. I love Atlus, but I know they can do better than this.

      It has a lot of potential and is very innovative in some ways, but I just can’t get past the sheer amount of grinding you need to do and the lousy AI/pathing on a lot of things. Neither of these things contribute to the real difficulty (in fact, the AI glitches make it easier if you want to exploit them). It also doesn’t help that so much of the game is badly documented, they seem to expect people to look stuff up online to find out what it does (until I went online, I had no idea that my black phantom stone etc were not consumables and I didn’t need to hold onto it to save it for a special occasion… I bet there’s be even more online interaction going if that was made clear to new players). I can’t help but think that this game could have been really amazing with a bit more work, but unlike so many reviewers I’m not willing to just look past these things which frustrate my game experience.

      • You don’t have to exploit the glitches and what do want an in game tutorial? someone to hold your hand? you are not the target market of this game clearly, it was made to confuse, bewilder and break you and if you cant appreciate that buy a Wii and shut up.

        • No, I am the target market for the game. I love Atlus games generally (and overlook the occasional unavoidable SMTing) and turn the difficulty up first thing, I was willing to seek the game out and import it before it even won Gamespot GOTY and before I even bought my PS3. I’m just not willing to bow down at the altar of “hard” and say everything’s perfect with the game because it’s hard. It’s actually not really that hard. I’m beating bosses after a couple of attempts- some on the first- without exploiting. I love the stuff with the phantoms and the messages. I just hate that they haven’t spent the effort on fixing bugs, doing up the UI, toning down the amount of stupid grinding and doing a proper f’n manual or ingame documentation to turn a really good game into a great one.

          Perhaps reducing the grinding would turn off the masochists who love that kind of thing, but it would make the game a lot more fun for more people IMHO. I dunno, if not liking stupid grinding is wrong, I don’t want to be right. If not liking bosses who you CAN kill by standing behind the right piece of scenery and shooting them full of arrows while they can’t touch you is wrong, I don’t want to be right…

          • every game has some amount of ‘grinding’, thats the difference between games and movies, im so sick of seeing every new game trying to be a super polished 8 hour approachable entry point for some new market (resident evil 5) while there is an existing market who doesnt mind a simple game with a few non-gamebreaking glitches (bionic commando) if demons souls shows us any thing its that next gen has spoiled us too much,

  • great game even though at the moment we dont get along, storm shrine sucks.. but definitely is the game I’ve been waiting for since the launch of the PS3, theres never been a better time to buy Xbots!

  • Probably one of the best games I have ever played… coming from a 27 year old gamer who two decades ago unwrapped an original NES I can’t think of higher praise than that.

    It is quite challenging to begin with, but once you hit your groove it is amazingly satisfying. Never Battle-Toads level of difficulty, just unforgiving of any mistakes.

  • Its a good game and includes many levels of innovation of features that truly make use of “nex gen” systems. But IMO its too flawed and bosses and levels maybe too skewered towards magic casters and Projectiles users, leaving the attractive melee classes to be slaughtered.

    But yes, indeed it probably the most unique take on an RPG yet.

  • I love a good hard challenge, I always play my games on the hardest option available and get really annoyed at easy games. But I don’t know if I want to get Demon Souls or not. I’ve heard the punishment of dying is absolutely brutal, stripping you of all your collected souls bringing you back to square one. Is that true, and is it all that bad?

  • I think someone wishes they were Japanese.

    The rest of us got over this sort of thing many moons ago realising that it was just bad gameplay.

    Like everyone is pointing out the main way its being playedis via glitches, that are more thanmade apparent by a half assed online gameplay device.

    Couple this with gameplay made difficult only for the sake of being difficult…

    REALLY Kotaku, really this gets in? You fell for this? Its not a bad game, but it is gimmicky and far to ‘of the past’ for my liking.

    Personally I like when games get insanely difficult, but even on the hardest difficulties dont resort to simply racking everything up, but perhaps in how the enemiesreact, level design or whatever.

    If this was in an arcade, stealing quarters, youd call rort.. but because you are at home.. what? You enjoy having your gameexperience lengthened through gimmicks to extend gameplay time?

    Go get an emu, and play the original Alex the Kidd,because apparentlyit contains the same type of new agegameplay on offer here.

    • sounds like someone is upset they took his checkpoints away, boo hoo! what’s wrong with wanting to be japanese and alex the kid? beats wanting to be black and playing call of booty on live with his homies, keep it real

    • For starters MaXX it is Alex Kidd (no ‘the’).

      Secondly this is David’s personal list. He isn’t trying to curry favour with anyone, the only person whose opinion matters here is David’s.

      More importantly than anything else is that Demon’s Souls is an superbly executed game aimed at a very particular market.

      That you don’t like it is no surprise. It is a game made for a specific audience and it would appear you are not a part of that audience.

      What concerns me about a lot of the flack being sent in the direction of Demon’s Souls is that people do claim it is too hard. No it really isn’t. The game is unforgiving and harder than many others out there but too hard? Not at all. Yes people are exploiting glitches to get through the game but there are also plenty who aren’t, nor do they need to.

      Yes if this game was easier then more people would enjoy it. By that same token the people like myself who consider this an exceptional piece of work will get a title that impresses them less.

      I’d rather an amazing game that appeals only to a small number of people than a lesser compromised vision that appeals to many more.

      Anyway nice choice Mr Wildgoose. I agree. 😛

  • Anyone who has imported this: Does online work okay? Does it connect you with random Americans or foreigners with bad ping or does it know to prefer other Australian imports/good pings in general?

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