Title: Demon’s Souls
Price: $59.99 (Deluxe edition with strategy guide is $69.99)
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher (Developer): Atlus (From Software)
ESRB Rating: “Mature 17+” for Blood and Violence
Pros: Lots of customization options, fairly simple control scheme, looks gorgeous, the boss fight music is fantastic, lots of ways for players to interact thanks to the many internet multiplayer options and the way actions determine character alignment is pretty cool.
Cons: May be too challenging and demanding for some players. Pretty much must be connected to the internet to really enjoy the game. Can be kind of easy to lose souls if you’ve been killed.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 90/100, A-, * * * * out of 5
Demon’s Souls is a unique adventure for the PS3. It isn’t because of the storyline, which is, frankly, something we’ve seen many times before in all kinds of RPGs, strategic RPGs and even fighting and platformer games. It also isn’t because of the genre, an hack-and-slash, action RPG that shares some commonalities with the Monster Hunter series. It’s because of its approach to multiplayer.
While there are the typical co-op multiplayer dungeon crawl and player versus player duels, here are also unique features available for those who are connected to the internet. A player within 10 levels of your own could break into your game to hunt you down, adding an extra challenge. Players can also view the death scenes of strangers or leave hints around the Demon’s Souls world to help others on their way.
A greedy king unleashes an evil upon the world.
King Allant XII of Boletaria wanted power, and was willing to do whatever it took to get said power so he could make Boletaria the ultimate kingdom. So he trained to get the ability to use Soul Arts so he could tap the powers of the souls in the Nexus. It worked well. Really well. So well that he couldn’t resist doing it again. The second time he did it, he unleashed a horrible demon called the Old One. The Old One and its minions made quick work of Boletaria, and a dark cloud surrounded the area. Many people had their souls drained by the demons, and became murderous shells. The survivors gathered in the only safe place, the Nexus.
Players get to be the hero or heroine, or if you actions are dark enough the antihero or antiheroine. You battle your way through the darkness into the Nexus, and then do whatever you want. You have five areas to explore and eradicate demons in, quite a few NPCs to interact with and quests you can undertake. If you die, you return in Soul Form and are able to keep moving forward, hunting demons and preparing to regain your body.
Fighting back whether you’re dead or undead, alone or with other souls.
The two most striking features of Demon’s Souls are its character customization features and the online interactions. Your character can pretty much be whoever you want him or her to be. While there are initial classes to choose from, you aren’t limited by them. Yes, there are fixed starting stats, abilities and such for each one, but as you level up you can choose to make your character whatever you want. For example, a magician character can eventually became a tank or physical attacker depending on decisions you make while leveling up.
The online interaction options are also amazing, and sort of provide the massive multiplayer online experience without actually being a MMO. If you’re having trouble with an area, you can check for soul signs to recruit two other people to help you through. If you want to show off, you can take part in duels. If you want to cause a little trouble and be resurrected, you can break into someone else’s game and hunt down their character. Even if you decide to pass on the other features, the bloodstains left by other players are a great way to know something strong could be lurking in an area and the help hints left on the ground by players can be a lifesaver if you’re heading into an area or facing a boss for the first time.
The online interaction portions, though awesome, aren’t perfect. For example, dying while engaging in co-op multiplayer can be a little traumatic. If you’re the host and you die, everyone gets sent home and you basically adventured together for nothing. If you’re a guest and you die, you get sent home and that’s it. You also can only play with strangers who are within 10 levels of yourself, which is a downer if you really wanted to play with friends. It isn’t impossible to meet up with friends to play, but it’s difficult. You have to arrange to meet in a specific area at a certain time and try to all stay around the same level. Thankfully, lag doesn’t seem to be a problem. I wasn’t able to be part of a three player party during my playtime, but I did take part in a few two player parties that went beautifully.
I also feel I should briefly address the difficulty level, since one of the main talking points of Demon’s Souls is the challenge of playing and staying alive. Yes, the game can be quite difficult and, if you don’t play smart you’re going to find yourself dying a lot. If you just take your time, play carefully and take advantage of the online co-op, you should be fine.
A hardcore, action RPG with a unique approach to multiplayer.
Demon’s Souls offers the kind of gaming experience you don’t see everyday. It not only provides an appropriate challenge which is often absent in recent releases, it offers an online experience that hasn’t been seen in an action-RPG before. Granted, it probably isn’t the right game for everyone – the difficulty level may be too much for some people and those who don’t have appropriate internet access may not have as much fun playing. Overall, Demon’s Souls offers a great playing experience and it’s the kind of game we should be seeing more often.