Developed By: Bluepoint Games
Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 5
Reviewed On: PS5
Demon’s Souls came out for the PS3 in 2009 and From Software’s classic sealed the Souls series legacy as one of the most compelling gaming experiences in recent memory. It was hard, unforgiving, frustrating, controller-breaking but also immensely rewarding and satisfying for every hurdle that the players overcome. The breakout success and reception created the Dark Souls series, Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice that challenged players even more but created a huge following that even other games try to emulate.
Bluepoint Games, responsible for excellent remakes that include The Nathan Drake Collection, Gravity Rush, and most recently Shadow of the Colossus were tasked with bringing back Demon’s Souls as a PlayStation 5 launch title. Thanks to the wonderful folks at PlayStation, we were able to secure a review copy coinciding with the PlayStation 5’s launch here in Malaysia. I did not play the original when it released way back when and I have heard that the remake is quite faithful to the source. I found the whole experience to be impressively challenging but still wonderfully satisfying.
Soul of The Lost, Withdrawn From Its Vessel
Demon’s Souls story is simple and vague but still very terrifying due to how the experience unfolds for the player. The kingdom of Boletaria is in turmoil due to an Old One rising that brings forth demons that plague the land. Players will take control of a hero whose soul is trapped in the Nexus and is tasked with pacifying the Old One back to its slumber and bringing an end to the madness.
It may sound barebones but through impressive level design, incredible atmosphere, challenging progression and well-placed interactions with NPC’s, the whole experience of Demon’s Souls never feels hollow. The entire experience is reminiscent of Frodo’s quest to Mount Doom where the triumph through impossible odds is worth the pain and hardship of the journey there.
I honestly believe that for a console launch title, even though it is a remake, the quality of Demon’s Souls really stands head and shoulders above similarly positioned launch titles. Drawing inspiration from and updating levels and characters models have been done fantastically with recognizable features that will sear themselves in players memories for years to come.
From the ruins of war-torn Boletaria Castle ravaged by dragons and demons to the fetid swamps of the Valley of Defilement each area does its job well to build atmosphere and fill players with dread for death waits around every corner, sometimes literally. I personally found the beauty in destruction to be effective from start to finish.
Enemy and boss designs are macabre, fearful, and sometimes even overwhelming but brought to life in such spectacle. Whether it be battling the fiery Flamelurker, the huge Tower Knight, or the enveloping Storm King, each battle always brings an enthralling experience up to the point where you see Boss Vanquished flashed on the screen.
I must also highlight how fantastic the lighting in this game can be especially with HDR enabled that really does not require too much tinkering around with. Graphically the whole game from start to finish really was quite polished with no pop-ins that I can remember, and the animations were top notch. I played through the whole game on the performance mode which had smooth 60fps for the most part although I did find it odd how cinematic mode felt rough.
Sound design in video games can really be a sticking point for me as some do it really well but others just fall disappointingly flat. I am thankful though that Demon’s Souls does not disappoint in that regard. The clashing of blades, whizzing arrows and fireballs to even screams and roars of enemies is perfectly integrated save for just one or two moments where the depth of sound just feels off.
The first one I encountered was when the dragon first appears to torch the bridge in Boletaria castle and it seemed that every time it roars, just crossing a line mutes it entirely in a jarring fashion. In a later level, the same thing happens where I felt like an enemy was closer than he was supposed to be. Luckily, these were very rare in an otherwise immaculate experience.
The epic and majestic soundtrack only elevates further what is already an eventful journey with tracks like Storm King, Flamelurker or even Old King Allant with full orchestral arrangement. Even slower tracks like the Maiden in Black, Maiden Astrea or One Who Craves Souls is just beautiful, melancholic, and unforgettable.
Let Strength Be Granted, So the World May Be Mended
I think by now most players would be well acquainted with the Souls formula. Being the originator of the continued evolution of the formula I did find that Demon’s Souls to be one of the hardest experiences in gaming I have had especially since I did not play the original.
Keeping with tradition players will need to select a class at the start of the game. I did find that selecting the right class goes a long way towards ensuring your playthrough is better or just worse, but I’ll get into that later. After selecting your class players can go through a sort of tutorial section or skip it entirely and come to the Nexus which serves as a home base throughout the game. It is here that players are introduced to the various NPC’s that will assist you in your journey.
The blacksmith with repair your equipment because yes there is item degradation in the game and upgrade your weapons. There is a storage to keep all the loot you acquire due to a limited number of items that you can equip and carry at every given moment. There are also NPC’s where the player will be able to buy spells from if you are playing a more magically inclined character. Along the way players will also meet random NPC’s in each location that will be a vendor for support and if you help some of them will return to the Nexus to provide better benefits like access to stronger spells. Beware though as there are wolves in sheep clothing so make your choices carefully.
Now as the game is titled Demon’s Souls so naturally there is a mechanic that revolves around said souls and that is every time your hero kills an enemy or a boss, they will absorb souls that in turn the player can use to power up themselves for the journey ahead. This is incredibly essential as there are multiple “walls” that will frustrate the player as often as it can due to sudden difficulty spikes in an already difficult game. There is a catch though, if the player dies, they will then resurrect in Soul form where the hero’s life will be halved, and the world tendency will slowly shift blacker. The souls you collected up to that point will also drop at the location you died, and you must navigate through everything back again to claim them. Everything in between will respawn as it was save for a few enemy types and if the player somehow fails to retrieve their souls then it will be lost forever.
If that is not bad enough other players can also invade your world and try to murder you when you least expect it.
Welcome to Demon’s Souls.
As I mentioned earlier, even though I have played Bloodborne, Dark Souls, and Sekiro it does feel like Demon’s Souls is much harder. I initially started with the Knight class but kept hitting walls left and right and I admit was getting quite frustrated, so I looked to discussions online and the consensus was magic is basically easy mode for this game. I decided to roll a new class just to try it out and honestly as broken and easy that a lot of people are claiming it makes the game, it really does not feel that way for me. It felt like I was finally understanding how to play the game the way it was meant to be played and it still was not easy just so much more manageable. So yeah, hot tip, magic is essential.
Every enemy has a pattern that players just need patience to pick up on even when against bosses. Encounters never felt cheap but rather an exercise in reminding me as a player than fools rush in. The ensuing rush of satisfaction after overcoming a particularly difficult section or boss is exhilarating. I’ve read that the creator based it off his own life experiences and I think on a personal level I can understand and feel it coming through. Life always hits you so damn hard but there is always a way forward. Always.
What I Liked
- Graphics – Beautiful in-game graphics accompanied by amazing cinematics. Not a technical glitch in sight.
- Soundtrack – Epic and beautiful arrangements that elevate atmosphere to higher highs than before.
- Haptic Feedback – The haptic feedback implemented in the game is nothing major but for me still plays such a huge part in immersing the player in each encounter. Just having that sensation of metal on stone or wood and even directional vibrations is ace.
What I Wished Was Better (Maybe)
- Difficulty – I can’t be the only one who feels that Demon’s Souls is an exceptionally hard game at times that can really turn off most players not used to it. Without magic, it just feels torturous at times.
Demon’s Souls really tested my patience. It really did, and there were many moments where I just wanted to drop it as I did not really have the time to push myself through torture just so I can say I finished it. Luckily, I decided to find a class more suited for me and really dig in and that resulted in me really just enjoying it so much more. The difficulty is not going to be for everyone, but I can definitely assure you that it is worth the climb to the top of the mountain. As a launch game for the PlayStation 5, Demon’s Souls really has set the bar on the quality of launch games players can expect moving forward and I for one cannot wait to see what Bluepoint Studious have got cooking next.