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This review was submitted by Justin Robson. If you’ve played Demon's Souls, or just want to ask Justin more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Demon’s Souls (PS3)
It's difficult to say anything about Demon's Souls that hasn't already been said... it's a hard game to play and to review! And that says a lot. (Promising start! - Ed.)
Loved Difficulty: Demon's Souls is an extremely old school experience which, unlike most modern games that hold your hand, leaves no room for error. When you die, you lose all your souls (the game's currency) and go back to the start of the level. You have to be very switched on to play, and it all comes down to you, the player; you're not justified in getting frustrated and throwing the controller, as every time you die it comes down to some direct decision/wrong move you've made. There's always a way through, you've just got to be clever enough to figure it out!
Level Progression: Demon's Souls is a seriously non-linear game. It's based around a hub level called the Nexus, and in true old school fashion, you can go into each of the game's five worlds regardless of whether you're ready or not. You don't find checkpoints in the traditional sense, but shortcuts. Enemies respawn every time you restart the section, and you need to inch yourself forward through the levels, making small amounts of progress at a time. It isn't a matter of merely reaching the next section, and this is what sets Demon's Souls apart from the rest.
Combat: The combat is deceptively simple, with basic light and heavy attacks, block, parry and a lock-on system for ranged attacks/spells. It requires speed, timing and persistence and, as with the difficulty curve of the game itself, it never comes down to luck.
Music: Some of the sound effects are very tacky Japanese late nineties sounding - main menu sound effects, I’m looking at you! - but the music is amazing. It’s percussion oriented and you’ll hear individual instruments as opposed to some epic Hollywood score. The music, most noticeably during boss battles, beautifully reflects the brutality of the combat in ways a lot of other games don't manage to achieve.
Online options: There’s no clear cut online mode in Demon's Souls, rather subtle ways of interacting with other similar players. You can leave messages, to either warn or mislead others, and view ghostly recreations of other player's deaths. There is a PvP mode, but again, it's hardly up to you when you get to use it.
Hated Unforgiving: Demon's Souls is an extremely acquired taste, and it really doesn't screw around. It's nice to be challenged, but it does come across as too much too soon. While you could argue that the challenge is fair, if you were to attempt this game without any kind of guide or strategy, you'd get stuck fast, as a lot is left unexplained for you to figure out on your own. It's a game to play to challenge yourself, not to relax. When you do really well in an area, you might find you don’t want to progress for fear of messing it all up, and because of this more than anything, it can be a slow game to progress through.
Character Creation: It’s easy to make a character that sounds great on paper, but is near useless when it comes to playing the game. You might want to check out a character creation guide first. Equally, it’s basically impossible to make a character that doesn’t look like it’s got Down syndrome. Thankfully, there are plenty of helmets to choose from!
Demon’s Souls is not a holiday blockbuster, and it doesn’t conform to any kind of current RPG conventions. Yes, it’s stupidly difficult and unforgiving at times, but it’s the kind of rewarding gameplay experience that makes it so memorable and heavily repayable. You can take my word for all of this, but you still might hate the game. However, if you’re genuinely intrigued by its format and difficulty curve, and you’re up to the challenge, you’ll easily see why it’s one of the best RPGs of this generation of consoles.
Reviewed by: Justin Robson
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