It has been a very long time since I became so frustrated with a video game that I felt the need to launch a controller across the room. The last time I remember such frustration was after an hour long battle with the Emerald Weapon in Final Fantasy VII, finally culminating in my death, and that was only one moment. Demon Souls has proven itself to be a game capable and eager to provide those moments in abundance. I imagine that the number of Playstaion controllers sold during the month of October will spike as Demon Souls makes its way into game library’s across the country.
We’ve been hearing that Demon Souls is hard for months now; every review and preview is prefaced with this fact. Most of us took these statements with a grain of salt as game writers are known for their penchant for hyperbole. It turns out that this time, we were not being misled. The one word that will come to mind over and over as you play is “hard.” Demon Souls is not a forgiving game, and that is what makes its creation, release and game play so triumphant. It has been decades since we saw a game this difficult and rewarding, and the wait was well worth it.
On the surface, Demon Souls seems like a typical RPG. You have knights, demons, dragons and witch’s all battling across a mythic landscape. Games of that nature are a dime a dozen. There is no shortage of fantasy RPG’s on any console, and introducing a new title into the genre doesn’t seem like anything to write home about. Despite the difficulty of surmounting such barriers in the minds of gamers, From Software managed to craft a game that sets itself apart not just from its genre peers, but every other title in the Playstation library.
You begin Demon Souls by creating a character and selecting a class. The stats we’ve grown to know and love are all there; vitality, endurance, strength, intelligence and all the rest are put into the equation while choosing a class. Most RPGs take these into account, but once inside the world of Demon Souls you see how much importance each of these statistics are. Instead of going the route of its peers, Demon Souls takes not only your stats into account, but the build of your weapon, the size and arc of your swing, and the different styles of each different item and how well it suits your character. There are no class limitations on weapons and armor in Demon Souls, but putting an axe into the hands of your mage will result in an instant loss of stamina and a long recovery time before you are allowed to swing again. A two handed weapon in a narrow corridor will only lead to you breaking a weapon on the walls while leaving your enemies unscathed. Every wall, piece of scenery, bead of sweat and pound of armor has a direct, and sometimes major, effect on your game play. Learning which strikes and blocks work in what areas is essential, and the game allows for precious little trial and error, punishing you for any amount of bravado and any experimentation.
The combat is fairly simple in construction. You have two attacks; a weaker, standard attack and a strong but slower attack, bound to R1 and R2 respectively. The left side of the controller controls your off hand for blocking and parrying with a shield, or duel wielding a smaller weapon for attack or disarming. What makes the combat unusual is the way it’s presented. The difficulty in Demon Souls comes from the emphasis on reality From Software placed on the player. Your character is simply human. Your reactions are not lighting quick, you are very vulnerable to every type of attack and you wear down as quickly as a normal person. No matter how high your level reaches, you are never a superhero, simply a strong human. Many enemies will kill you in one or two hits, you can’t scale walls to escape, and simple falls do just as much damage as they would in real life. Add to that the effect of the environment around you on your attacks and movement, and you find yourself having to think and act like you are actually in the game instead of directing the game.
The upgrading system in Demon Souls is also a grueling punishment at times. In order to upgrade your character, buy new weapons and items, or repair your existing equipment, you have to have the currency of the day; demon souls. For every enemy you best you are rewarded with a stock of souls. You use these as gold and as experience, gathering more and more as you progress. After you have collected enough souls, you can travel back to the Nexus, the only hub of safety in the world of cruelty you find yourself stuck in. Here you can enter new areas, upgrade your equipment and rest. You need to continually travel back to the Nexus either through beating a level or traveling to an access point, and the need to do so comes up often; you will become very well accustomed to the Nexus world and the merchant’s desire for the souls you collect.
The curveball here is that upon dying, you lose all of your souls. Regardless of how many you have collected, or where you are, everything you’ve gathered is gone in a puff of smoke once you shed your mortal coil and you begin again at the beginning of the level. You have one chance to redeem yourself and collect your lost souls again, but only if you can make it back to the point of your death without dying again. Since every time you die or leave the level the enemies re-spawn, this is seldom an easy accomplishment. The first time you lose your accrued souls from a forgotten trap, or from an environmental hazard, it will test your resolve and make you wonder if maybe the folks at From Software pulled an elaborate joke on everyone. However, after a few times you realize that you will have to play smarter and more cautiously, and you’ll memorize the world around you and pay keener attention to every detail. Demon Souls forces the player to become immersed in the world more than any other game in recent memory.
We’ve all trained to play games in a similar fashion over the years. Games discs can hold more information, allowing for longer games and deeper game play and negating the need for impossible puzzles and random encounters to lengthen your experience. We are used to being able to jump in and tank through an area, making our character so powerful as the game goes on that death is seldom a worry; if we do die, we have save points and auto saves to put us right back in the fight. The elimination of any saves and the escalating difficulty of Demon Souls makes sure that every step you take could be a fatal mistake. At no point will you be able to plunge into battle against numerous opponents and expect to live. The strategies we’ve polished over the years are suddenly worthless. Demon Souls will force every gamer to learn or relearn a different way of playing, and while the experience in the beginning will force many gamers to give up in disgust, the feeling of accomplishment and relief when you overcome the difficult area or the challenging boss is unlike the experience in any other modern game. This is undoubtedly the most accurate RPG we’ve ever seen, and it is wrapped in a haunting, cinematic world bound within a tragic and chilling tale. Demon Souls is an indispensible addition to the Playstation catalog, and whether you play through the entire game or only a few levels, it will change the way you see video games and role playing games and that is a rare ability in any game.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com