Bought a PS5 and couldn’t resist checking out one of those so-called Souls games everyone talks about? Great. Here’s some helping tips to get you started with Demon’s Souls.
So, you were lucky enough to secure a PS5 and you blew through Astro’s Playroom and Spider-Man: Miles Morales in a couple of days. Then, you went looking for the next big PlayStation Studios game because wanted to more examples of what this next-gen console is capable of. “What’s this? Demon’s Souls? I’ve heard those games are really difficult, but it sure looks pretty. Ah, why not”.
Congratulations on your bravery, and welcome to your first Souls game. Yes, Demon’s Souls is pretty, and yes, it is very difficult. It can take a lot of time for you to click with the game, and there will be a lot of trial and error. Hopefully, like myself and the millions of Souls fans out there, you’ll be able to push through and come to really appreciate the magic of what these games are trying to do.
Here, I’ve laid out some essential information that goes above and beyond the minimal tutorials found in the game, to try and help anyone in need overcome the initial hurdles of Demon’s Souls and get the ball rolling.
Some of the tips will be obvious, but I decided to not leave anything to chance. Every video game lover should give Souls games a go, and the easier we can make that onboarding, the better. Have some great tips of your own? Share them in the comments and you might help a lost soul out!
Pick A Good Server
Something that’s not obvious from the marketing of Demon’s Souls is that online play is integral to the game. As such, it’s a good idea to make sure your game is connecting to a server that has a relatively low ping. You can find this option in the game’s settings via the main menu.
However, be warned: At the time of writing the servers are having a bad time, so your best option may not actually be the most obvious one.
The Best Starting Class
The important thing to know about Souls games is that the starting classes will not lock you into a particular style of play for the entire game. No matter what you pick, you’ll be able to build your character to play in a completely different manner later on if you wish. All of the equipment on display at the character select screen will eventually be made available to obtain, and the best way to think about the starting “classes” is to just see them as initial loadouts. That said, if you want a breezier start, pick either the Royalty or the Soldier.
Royalty is probably the most powerful class to make your way through the starting areas with, thanks to their magic power and the Soul Arrow ability. Soul Arrow lets you shoot a bolt of powerful… soul energy (or something?) from a safe-ish distance, and will basically one-shot a lot of the enemies you encounter in the first couple of hours.
The Royalty is also equipped with a small Buckler shield and a Rapier, meaning they’re effective enough at close ranges too. It’s important to spend some time getting accustomed to the feel of melee combat in Demon’s Souls — blocking, parrying, and the tempo of different weapon attacks — but the Soul Arrow can definitely feel like a godsend when you’re just a bit too afraid to get close to a mean-looking enemy you haven’t seen before.
If you just want to focus more on melee, pick the Soldier. They’re definitely equipped to be the tankiest out of all the starting loadouts, meaning you can soak up more hits while you wrap your head around how combat works. They’re equipped with a broadsword for close-range combat and a short spear with extra reach, for when you need to be a bit more cautious. Everything about the Soldier makes them very suitable for Souls newcomers to wet their feet with, but don’t sleep on magic abilities for too long — they can be incredibly useful later on.
Always Be Blocking
Souls games are all about internalising the environments. Where are the traps? Where are the enemy ambushes? Is there something around this corner or not? You’ll be taken aback many times by the game’s surprises, which are designed to create a sense of fear and kill you quickly.
That’s why the best thing to do when you’re venturing into Demon’s Souls for the first time is to keep your shield up and move cautiously. Examine the environment and try and spot any enemies hiding in the distance. If you get caught off guard by someone hiding in your blind spot, the shield will mitigate most of the damage and give you a better opportunity to step back and think about retaliation. Always be blocking.
Once you’ve been through the environments a few times and have a good idea about where the dangers are, you can probably let you guard down a bit, but don’t get too cocky. It just takes one mistake to end you.
Upon entering the game for the first time, you’ll notice glowing scribbles on the ground that will initially inform you of the controls. Once you’re past the initial tutorial area however, these scribbles will actually be messages from other players, provided you’re playing online.
These messages can be incredibly helpful. More often than not, they’ll contain warnings and PSAs about what kinds of dangers might lie ahead, how to tackle an upcoming challenge, an item to keep an eye out for, or something similar. If this is your first time through Demon’s Souls, or it’s been a while since you played it, it’s a very good idea to stop and heed the advice you’re given, lest you get ambushed and die. As I said, the game is full of surprises waiting to completely catch you off guard, so if you can expect at least some of the unexpected, you’ll feel that much safer.
You can leave your own messages by pushing the DualSense’s touchpad and navigating to the message screen. If someone “Likes” one of your messages, you’ll get a minor health boost in real-time as you go about the game.
Beware, though. The possibility for misleading and incorrect information definitely exists. The community is usually good about calling bad advice out (if there are a lot of messages in one spot, check them all), but as with anything in this game, it’s best to be careful no matter what.
Interact With Bloodstains
Similar to messages, you’ll come across plenty of bloodstains when playing online. Interacting with them will show you how one player died in the area you’re standing in. Again, if you’re unfamiliar with the area, it can clue you in on an upcoming trap, an enemy around the corner, or a fall you need to be wary of.
Demon’s Souls Wants You To Die
You made it through most of the tutorial area and promptly got smacked down by the Vanguard Demon. That’s okay. If the lesson here wasn’t already clear — you’re supposed to die.
Souls games are all about trial and error. Each death should teach you something about the game or the way you’re playing, and it’s important to think about all your deaths after this and the circumstances that surround them. Did you get blindsided by an arrow? Now you know not to fight in that open area again. Did you walk into a battlefield with two enormous dragons that promptly incinerated you? Maybe there’s another route you can try.
Dying and making your way through again has its benefits, too. Each additional run you make through an area you’ve done before should help you internalise enemy placements and sharpen your combat skills a little bit each time. You’ll also collect more soul currency for your troubles–and don’t forget that if you make it back to the location you died last, you can retrieve the souls you lost.
Losing to a boss multiple times might mean that you need to rethink your strategy, loadout, or approach. You might need to spend more time in the field improving your character. Don’t let it be demoralising, let it be your encouragement. Because the sense of achievement you get from finding a new strategy to finally defeat a boss that was giving you grief for the last hour? Well, there aren’t many highs like that.
Use Demon’s Souls Photo Mode For A True Pause
The big thing about Souls games is that you’re never really safe. When you go into your menu to browse your inventory or equip some new armour, the game is still running in the background and you’re still vulnerable to any enemy attacks. You’ve always needed to make sure your character is in a safe spot before ducking out for a quick break.
That’s not truly the case with this version of Demon’s Souls, thanks to Sony’s new trend of making sure Photo Modes are in their games.
Now, you can completely freeze the action in Demon’s Souls by hopping into Photo Mode: Press the touchpad and navigate to the camera icon to activate Photo Mode and take a breather. You can spend some time in there to frame up a nice screenshot, but you probably just needed to go to the bathroom or something.
Will purists point to this as one of the remake’s glaring flaws? Probably. But my anxiety appreciates it.
Make Sure You Get Demon’s Souls Cling Ring
If you’ll let me be a little bit more specific for a moment, may I advise that you make sure to get this incredibly useful item in the game’s first real level, the Boletarian Palace.
The Cling Ring will increase the maximum amount of health you have when you’re Soul Form–once you die, you come back in “Soul Form” and you only get half your maximum health. The Cling Ring, if equipped, will increase that amount of 75% of your maximum health.
You’ll know you’re close to it when you reach the top of the wall in the Boletarian Palace. It’s outside, there’s a bunch of wooden artillery around–you’ll know if when you see it.
Eventually, you’ll stumble across a fog gate to the side (pictured above), which will have a knight standing in front of it. Just past that door, there’ll be another that leads to an indoor staircase.
Follow the staircase down to the bottom (seven enemies will stand in your way) and when you arrive, there will be a corpse in front of a portcullis with an item you can grab. It’s the Cling Ring! Equip it right away.
You can also open that same portcullis via a nearby lever. This will open up a path directly to the castle entrance. Congratulations! You’ve opened up what will probably be your first shortcut.
How To Get Past That Enormous Demon’s Souls Dragon
You’ll eventually reach a bridge where you’re met by what seems like a dozen enemy soldiers. Rush forward to try and take them down, and you’ll be greeted by some ominous flapping, which will shortly be followed by the arrival of an enormous dragon who will absolutely raze the bridge, killing everyone.
It’s one of many moments in Demon’s Souls design to absolutely strike fear into your heart, a seemingly impassable situation. I remember the first time I encountered that moment in the original–I was too scared to go down that route again, and ended up going around in circles for ages looking for another way out.
But rest assured that like many of these moments, there is a way to get past it. In this case, you simply need to stay back when the dragon first breathes fire down the bridge, and sprint across as fast as you possibly can, as soon as you can. Depending on what armour you’re wearing, you can actually take one or two hits from the fire, too. Just be brave, and remember that death is all part of the game.
How To Beat Demon’s Souls Phalanx
The game’s first real boss that you must defeat (unlike the Vanguard Demon) is the Phalanx, which is made up of dozens of shielded goo enemies. They seem impossible to break through at first, especially if you’ve primarily been focussing on melee tactics up to this stage, but the boss is actually a bit of a lesson in making sure you know how useful consumable items are.
If you hadn’t already come across an in-game message telling you as much, you should stock up on Firebombs and use them liberally on the Phalanx. The explosions will damage multiple slimes at a time, and chances are you won’t even take any damage if you keep your distance well enough.
So yeah, like I said — if something in Demon’s Souls seems impassable, chances are all it takes is a change in approach and a little bravery to find a way around.
Where The F*** Is Demon’s Souls “Monumental”?
I have to confess: The first time I bounced off Demon’s Souls, it wasn’t because of some boss or level that I couldn’t get past. It was being unable to find the stupid “Monumental” in the Nexus hub area in order to move things along.
I don’t want anyone to be stuck like me, so here’s where you go: Once you defeat the Phalanx, upon returning to the Nexus you’ll be asked to find the Monumental. This will require you to climb many flights of stairs, some of them obscured (when you reach a little alcove that lets you review your player profile, there’s a small set of stairs to the side you have to climb).
When you reach the area that looks like the one pictured above, you should notice that along the edges of the room are tiny people sitting against the wall. Head to the left of the statue and eventually, you should encounter one little person you’re able to interact with. They are The Monumental.
No, it’s not obvious. Yes, I was super mad when I eventually worked it out. But if anything, it’s a lesson in making sure you don’t rush through your environments in Demon’s Souls.
There’s a lot of detail in this world — hidden passages, items, and lore — and all of it is very easy to miss if you try and quickly blow through it. Take it slow and keep your shield up.
How Do I Level Up In Demon’s Souls?
Okay, so by this point you may have had thoughts like: “I thought this was an RPG! When can I spend all these Souls I’ve been collecting? When can I start pumping up my character’s stats?”
The answer is … now. Once you find and chat to The Monumental you can return to the ground floor of the Nexus and speak to the Maiden In Black (the woman with the eye patches and large staff) in order to spend your souls, increase your character attributes, and grow stronger.
Yep, you can only start levelling up 1-3 hours into the game, depending on how long you spent in the first area. If this is your first Souls game, you may be surprised by how differently it does things. It can be frustrating at first, but take your time with it. Let it wash over you. Be open to reconfiguring your brain and learning how Demon’s Souls does things. Learn by exploring, doing, and dying.
There’s a reason why so many people think Souls games are special, and hopefully, I’ve given you a tiny bit of help in finding your feet so you can discover why for yourself.
This article was originally published in November 2020.