Game: "Demon's Souls"
System: PlayStation 3
Published by: Other
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: Iíve been looking forward to this game since we covered it in our E3... coverage (seen here in case you missed it). The brief demo they had didnít show much of the game, but it definitely gave the impression of a game with real potential. Potential which was actually delivered on in the final product.
The story concerns the kingdom of Boletaria. Through uncertain means, a tremendously powerful demon known as the Old One was unleashed, and now the kingdom is shrouded in mist, with demons stealing the souls of everyone therein. One knight manages to escape and warn the outside world of whatís happening, and you step in as one of the many glory-seekers hoping to enter the kingdom and stop the now-spreading mist from engulfing the entire world.
Things hit a bit of a snag, however, when you encounter a towering demon who kills you outright. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), your soul becomes trapped in ďThe NexusĒ, a kind of interdimensional safe house from which you can upgrade your abilities, store your equipment, and launch your assault on the five corrupted lands and the arch demons that inhabit them.
One of the most striking things about the game is its dark, brooding atmosphere. The characters are all acutely aware of how screwed they are, being stuck in a kingdom with legions of demons just waiting to devour their souls. The different stages all have the feel of places that may have, at one point, been inhabited by human beings, but it is clear from the almost deafening silence and piles of scorched, mutilated, and disease-ridden bodies that something terrible has happened therein. Furthermore, you know things are looking bleak when you are asked to take down an army of demons by a child-like guardian who is sitting shoulder to shoulder with dozens of other child-like guardians, all of whom are dead.
The enemies, too, stray from normal medieval fantasy fare. The first level starts you off easy with some standard knights and zombies to fight, but in no time at all, youíll find yourself squaring off against blobs of slime equipped with enormous spears and shields, giant flying stingrays, and huge spheres of human corpses.
The action RPG part of the game is prominent at virtually every point in the game, but for money, the game also has a lot in common with the survival horror genre. Part of this comes from the aforementioned dark atmosphere. As in games like Resident Evil, sound plays an important role, often letting you know that something heinous is about to happen. Some of the tougher enemies, for instance, will clue you into their presence with faint noises, like the soft ring of a bell, or stifled giggling. Thereís one other thing that the game has in common with other games in the survival horror genre: death.
The tutorial mission has you learning all the basics of controlling your character, throwing a few puny enemies at you for fodder while you get the hang of timing your attacks, then youíre suddenly faced with an enormously powerful demon who wipes the floor with you. I donít think thereís a clearer indication of the difficulty in this game. Death lurks around every corner. Maybe youíll accidentally stumble into a well-concealed trap. Maybe youíve come into a new area with new monsters, and youíre not expecting the monsters to, I donít know, shoot you with a giant sweeping laser. Maybe one of the levels that stresses carefully dropping off one platform onto another leads into a screaming spiral as you bounce off of several potential footholds and smash into the ground below. I guess what Iím saying is that this game wants you dead.
And death is just the beginning of your troubles: after you die, you lose all the souls you collected from killing enemies and are kicked back to the beginning of the level. Now youíre in ďsoul formĒ, which is like being alive, only you have half your total hit points. Now, youíll need to get back to where you died and collect the souls you lost by touching the bloodstain that marks where you died. Dying in soul form doesnít have any additional consequence, but if you perish before retrieving the souls you lost, theyíre gone for good. So you want to get back alive again, right? All you have to do is A.) Use one of the hard-to-come-by items that instantly resurrects you, or B.) Kill a boss. Easy, right?
The difficulty is mitigated somewhat by the features in online mode. Unlike other games, online mode is always active. During your game, youíll see the half-visible images of other players in other games running through the world, fighting monsters and dodging traps in their own incarnations of the same world. Youíll also find bloodstains left by the other players, which will let you glimpse the last few moments of their lives. This can be crucial in avoiding dangerous traps and such, or it can give you an opportunity to laugh at some poor sap that accidentally did a roll right off the edge of a cliff.
Players can also leave messages for one another on the ground. Since being able to type your own message would lead to far too many warnings about giant penises and racial slurs, players are limited to choosing from a long list of words and phrases. The problem is that the majority of these phrases arenít sorted in any way, and neither can you make a quicklist of phrases you consider the most useful. Still, if you do leave a hint that others find useful, they can recommend it, which gives you an instant health boost. Useful, yes, but the most common message Iíve seen: ďIím in trouble, please recommend this message!Ē
Online mode also gives you two other ways to return to life. The first involves joining a living playerís game and helping them get through the current level. They get all the loot, but you still get souls for killing enemies, and youíll be resurrected if you can help them beat the boss. The other way to resurrect yourself is to invade a living playerís world and kill them. The problem is that certain character builds, particularly ones akin to thief and mage characters, are ill-suited for PVP. Combine this with lag, and you could find some jackass stripping you of your hard-won mortality mere minutes after youíve returned to life. And with no penalties for failing to kill the player whose world youíve invaded, doing so is truly a dick move.
Thereís a lot to hate about Demonís Souls, but thereís so much more to love. Itís a truly unique experience, but itís a truly ball-busting experience as well. There are quite a few enemies that can one-shot kill you when you have full health, let alone when youíre slogging along in half health soul form. If you have a PS3, you owe it to yourself to at least try the game to figure out if you love it for its entertaining and diverse gameplay, or if you hate it because clearly, the game hates everyone.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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