For many PS3 owners, the original Demon’s Souls acted as a sort of entry point into not only the Dark Souls series but also as a first taste into the ‘hardcore RPG genre’. At the same time, the game released under the radar and grew to be a worldwide phenomenon. I never owned a copy of the game myself. Instead, I borrowed it from a classmate who claimed it was one of the greatest games he had ever played. Little did I know that after two weeks, I would make the same claim. Fast forward an entire generation of gaming, and a load of Dark Souls games later, and we the joy to play Demon’s Souls again as a true next-gen-only game. Not only does the game deliver a visual experience like none other on the market, but Bluepoint Games have managed to recreate a dated game that both veterans and newcomers can enjoy.
I often get asked “which is the hardest FromSoftware game” and I still stand by Demon’s Souls. While the Dark Souls series was tough, the original formula for the hardcore RPG never held your hand. Demon’s Souls and its gameplay structure are still the toughest around. There’s no Estus Flask that refills when you rest at a bonfire. Items cost souls to buy, including healing ones. Not to mention the boss fights are often spaced far between checkpoints making each haul towards them daunting. This especially so when you have died and left your souls in the boss room.
Even though Demon’s Souls is a tough ride, it works and if you die and fail you are just bad at the game. There’s no excuse for poor combat choices, rolling too late or trying your luck by chasing down a crystal lizard to only run off the ledge along with it. This is where Demon’s Souls and its excellent gameplay design shine the most. Every level has been carefully crafted to the utmost detail. Every enemy has been placed in a specific spot to ruin your day and every boss fight is meant to challenge your wits and raise your heartbeat to the max. Let’s not forget each Archstone and how every land is filled with a chilling atmosphere that hit me in the stomach and gave me butterflies the moment I appeared through the fog.
It all just goes to show how one of the greatest game designers of our time, Hidetaka Miyazaki, thought about it all and even eleven years later, his work speaks volumes and the experience has not aged at all. So what is Demon’s Souls for those of you who have never played it before? Well, for starters it is an open-hub-like RPG that is divided into different areas to explore throughout the game. Unlike Dark Souls which is set across various interconnecting areas, Demon’s Souls lets you travel to each land through Archstones found in a sanctuary called The Nexus.
For the most part, Demon’s Souls is alike to the Dark Souls series. You die and drop all the hard-earned souls you collected from slaying the deadly beasts in the world around you. These souls act as the currency to not only buy the items you need to survive but they help you level up and upgrade gear. You can get the souls back but it means having to venture back to the place of your death to pick them up again. This makes it tough because there’s always a reason why you died and death also respawns all the enemies which means you’ll have to face them all over again.
This makes much of Demon’s Souls a learning experience. Why did I die and what can I do differently next time? Should I change a weapon or level up and come back? All these thoughts go through your head while running through the game. At the same time, it forced me to be a better player. It was not the game that was being unfair. It was my lack of dedication to the game’s relentless gameplay that bested me. However, this may not be for everyone. Demon’s Souls has a steep learning curve and you can go from one boss to the other and get completely wrecked while doing so. You just never know what challenge awaits you behind the fog walls.
Demon’s Souls is firstly an RPG which means character progression and build makes up most of the experience. The remake has a brand-new robust creation mode with loads of facial expressions, hairstyles and much more to fiddle with. It is levels above the original and I could invest in my character more than ever. Apart from that, you are free to create and tinker your character to your heart’s content. I went with a magic build and specced into magic damage, intelligence and found weapons that scaled off my magic stat. It is not the tankiest build in the game but I always enjoy doing magic build then jumping into a two-handed brute for the second playthrough.
Bluepoint Games have also recreated the Demon’s Souls remake to be as authentic to the original as possible. This means that weapon I remembered picking up on the PS3 game was in the same exact position on the PS5 version surrounded by the same crazy rolling skeletons. Even though I played the original a couple of times, the remake delivered a refreshing experience given how fantastic the game looks. There was always the sense of discovery you crave from playing a Soulsborne game. Not to forget witnessing all the great boss battles from the original all over again in glorious 4K and if you want, 60FPS too.
The whole experience is coated in glorious visuals. Demon’s Souls is truly an exceptional remake worthy of a new generation of gaming. It proves why generational leaps are important to gaming and why there’s nothing wrong with leaving older hardware in the past. Right from the moment the game loads up, I knew it was on another level when it came to its visual fidelity. I also chose a magic build to witness the glorious particle effects that come with the role too. Soul arrow lit up the dark corridors with a vibrant blue glow as the projective beamed towards the enemy in the distance. Fireball provides the same visual impact but left a glowing orange sizzle behind in its wake.
Apart from the pretty spells, every area in Demon’s Souls is gorgeous. Be it the volcanic lakes of Stonefang Tunnels or the empty hallways of the Boletarian Palace. Texture quality is top-notch, lighting is out of this world and every item looks fantastic. I even noticed the insane amount of detail on the NPC’s facial expressions when talking to them in The Nexus. This game is the reason to own a PS5. Even if you end up being really bad at the game, you can just experience the pure beauty across every area and item.
The power of the PS5 shines in more than just the visuals while playing Demon’s Souls. The DualSens controller provides some unique haptic feedback during combat, especially when using magic. Not to forget the 3D audio which I already mentioned in my review of the 3D Pulse Headset provides next-level audio that brings out the smaller details you would often miss.
Demon’s Souls also comes with its multiplayer mode which is alive and kicking. I could summon my brother to help me with a boss or to just walk through an area and aid me in my fight. However, it too is tougher than the Dark Souls games. The summoned player has a fraction of their usual health bar and the summoner needs to be human to bring the player into their world. Becoming human relies on using a rare item called Stone of Ephemeral Eyes. This means that co-op might no always be the best way to go about a boss due to the limited item quantities. Dark Souls, on the other hand, used Humanity which was not as scarce. It just goes to show how much tougher Demon’s Souls actually was.
Demon’s Souls is a remake but it is so much more too. The game introduces the PS5 in the best way possible by pushing next-level visuals which will leave you in awe. It is tough but the more you die the more you learn from your mistakes. It may not be for everyone but those who enjoy the series will never play anything as great as this for a long time.
This Demon’s Souls review is based on a code sent to us by Sony
Available On: PS5 | Release Date: 12 November 2020 | Price: R1,369
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