Developer: From Software
Release Date: October 7, 2009
Pros: Innovative multiplayer aspect of the game, stunning visuals, slew of classes and weapons to customize your ideal hero, refreshing challenge, incredible bosses in scale and look, world tendencies mix up a typical run, New Game + furthers the challenge and content offered
Cons: Tough....like really tough...like old NES games where everything wants to end you tough, very trial and error, shotty camera in narrow spaces, targeting issues with multiple enemies, there is no pause button, added difficulty due to lack of item/equipment explanation
These days games are very forgiving. Regenerating health, numerous checkpoints, and laughably simple bosses prove to be the norm in a lot of recent titles. Demon's Souls proves to be as hard to say as it is to play. Giving flashbacks to the old NES days where an easy mode rarely existed, Demon's Souls offers a refreshing challenge that can be a title worth bragging rights upon completion.
What's this about?
King Allant used the power of souls to bring about a time of prosperity and hope to his kingdom of Boletaria. Unknowingly, the king awakened an ancient being known as "The Old One" that unleashed a dense fog to cut the kingdom off from the rest of the world. Anyone who entered the fog never returned, but one person made it out and warned the world of their kingdom's plight. So like a good little hero, you go charging head first into the fog with little regard for your own well being...cause that's obviously what a hero is suppose to do.
The plot is expanded upon in the beginning of the game, but not really addressed through the main portion. You have some interaction with various other heroes and talk with the vendors discussing their own personal stories, but you never really invest any emotion with any of the characters. The character I got closest to was the blacksmith and that was only because he had to repair my armor for my x-thousandth death. The game basically sets up a plot then literally says, hey, go kill demons. Needless to say the story of this game, though mildly entertaining, left a lot to be desired.
Through the stages of Demon's Souls...there is no music. This is actually a smart move as I imagine the tunes would get incredibly old the 20th time I would be attempting a stage. The only music that cues up is a haunting melody in the Nexus as you shop around and a simple tune as you enter a boss fight. The Nexus tune feels in place but the boss music is nothing to get you pumped up to...well...die. The title track isn't too shabby, and I'm sure a happy upbeat tune would ease the frustration along the stage, but in general the music is nothing to praise or despise.
Some voice acting is also placed in for the different characters you bump into along the way. The most annoying of these being Maiden in Black, who recites the same chant every time you "level up". She speaks in a 'thee' and 'thy' manner in a bizzare dialect that actually made me shake my head the first time she spoke. All of the other voice acting , including our dear Maiden, is not too terrible considering this is technically a Japanese RPG, but the few patrons you speak to are believable and not too over-the-top.
One look at a dungeon or boss battle and it is pretty evident that the game is a real spectacle to behold. The environments catch your eye as you explore and..well...die in each one. Dark dungeons are haunting and the frightening details emerge as your light exposes them, the remains of an old castle are littered with skeletons and charred banners, and murky swamps litter the bottom of a grand tower. Each of the five worlds holds something unique and are a joy to explore.
The most impressive visuals lie in the bosses. Incredibly detailed as they are menacing, these towering figures instantly strike fear into the player the second they pass through the fog gate. Some, like the Tower Knight and Dragon God, have such massive scale while maintaining a detailed look. The smaller enemies prove just as frightening, some made even more terrifying when they emerge from a dark corridor only being seen in time to view their arm raised to attack. The shimmer of your armor in the light and glow of spells in a dark mine further the incredible visuals.
The game works like this: You start in the Nexus also thought of as home base where you purchase equipment and spells, increase your stats using souls you collect from dead enemies, and take a breather. There are 5 worlds to choose from, and a set number of bosses (or stages) to go through. If I die at any time during that stage my health bar is cut in half and can only be returned to my body upon defeating the boss...oh and you are returned to the beginning of the stage....oh and all the enemies respawn..oh and those souls you earned must be retrieved from where you died. This is a game that punishes you for sucking. Though your health is lower, your overall damage does increase and the stages do have some switches and levers that give you a straight shot to the boss which you'll spend most deaths working to kill. You learn very quickly that dying in this game is actually part of the game mechanic.
Though Demon's Souls may have a few flaws to it, the refreshing challenge and incredible stages are worth the experience. While I do enjoy the core idea of the game and innovative multiplayer aspect, there are just too many little things this game could have corrected to make it a better overall game. Those looking for a challenging title and solid RPG, this is a great game to experience...as long as you accept death as a part of that experience.