May 12, 2009
Typical day in Demon's Souls.
At last year’s Tokyo Game Show (Japan’s biggest video game conference), they had three games lined up next to each other. Three big guns, you could say. On one side was Resistance 2, and on the other was Killzone 2. The game in the middle? Demon’s Souls. It appears that Sony knew what it had, and placed it strategically among their biggest titles at the most important conference that side of the Pacific.
Sony banked on Demon’s Souls, and so far, it’s been difficult to keep the title on shelves. It probably doesn’t help that the game can be accessed worldwide if savvy importers dig up the Chinese version of the game (which isn’t terribly difficult with the internet as your ally). The first thing that you should know is the Chinese version of Demon’s Souls is the most import-friendly role playing game ever made. It is 100% in English. That’s right. The menus, dialog, voice acting, and story bits – they are all in English. The only reminder that this game wasn’t make in an English-speaking territory is the instruction manual, which is a minimal loss. After all, if you were shrew enough to find the Chinese version of Demon’s Souls online, then you will easily find many excellent online as well. Also, the in-game tutorial takes care of the most important part – controlling your character.
However, if you’re looking for a game deep on story, you need to look elsewhere. Demon’s Souls wasn’t made to have a deep story. Sure, there’s a story there. Something to justify the fighting, I suppose. But it’s definitely not Final Fantasy, and it isn’t trying to be. No, Demon’s Souls is much more along the lines of a game like Oblivion, where the story is minimal, and half the time, you forget what it is because there are such large gaps between any story elements.
The lack of story isn’t a bad thing if gameplay is the most important aspect of gaming for you. As a matter of fact, that is the exact audience this title was made for. The fighting system is surprisingly deep for the kind of game it is. You can hold a weapon in one hand, and a shield in the other, or you can double up and put 2 hands on your weapon for stronger attacks (but weaker blocking). And you can perform a number of combos with each weapon arrangement that you have, including fast strikes and powerful, slow swings. It’s up to you.
If weapons aren’t your thing, Demon’s Souls has a large variety of magic spells to take advantage of. Like many games, once you become powerful in magic, you are nearly unstoppable as enemies can’t even get close to you to attack. However, I found that I got the most out of the game when I had a good balance between magic and swords.
If you haven’t heard, there should be a warning label on the cover of Demon’s Souls saying “This game is not for the faint of heart.” The difficulty is up there with the best of them. In fact, in the early going, it’s so hard to get further that inching forward at all past where you got last time is a rewarding experience. That 10 seconds of seeing new parts of the level before you die is exciting, and keeps you coming back despite the high level of frustration that comes from constantly dying.
And die you will. Unless you’re some sort of gaming savant, you’ll take your fair share of deaths before you get your barings with the game, and even then, Demon’s Souls has this knack of throwing curve balls. And not the kind of curve balls that strike you out. The kind that chop you head from your neck and leave you without a body. That’s right. When you die, you come back as a soul. And your soul has much less health than your physical body, so dying is even easier. However, if you beat a boss, you win your physical form back.
The graphics are consistently above average, but nothing to write home about. Everything looks good, but rarely are things striking. Generally speaking, the bigger the enemy, the cooler it looks. This is less because the graphics are better than the rest of the game, and because their design and menacing nature make them much more awe inspiring to view. Player animations are generally positive, but some stiff animations do occur, especially when falling. This doesn’t detract from the experience, but it is noticeable.
There are a few weaknesses with Demon’s Souls. While the difficulty can be rewarding, it can also yield a high amount of frustration. If gamers aren’t patient and willing to take a few lumps, many might never pass the first level. The controls, while better than most games of this genre, are still a little loose. For example, if you’re walking in an area and fall off a ledge because you’re fighting an enemy, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s your fault (though, in all fairness, maybe it is).
One thing I love to do in these kinds of games is level my character up to where they are so powerful no enemy stands a chance. Demon’s Souls doesn’t really let you do this. Sure, you will become stronger than most enemies, but some of the baddies in the later levels will still be stronger, and can end the game in just a few hits.
Loot collecting is both fun and rewarding, as getting new loot will change the appearance of your hero (when equipped), and also change your stats. However, loot is all pre-programmed, so you will rarely find good loot drops from enemies. The best loot will come from dead bodies found throughout levels, and these bodies always hold the same items. If you beat Demon’s Souls and play through a second time, there is more loot that can be found, and there are a lot of items, weapons, armor, and so on, to be found, so variety is never a problem.
Demon’s Souls is a an extremely satisfying gameplay experience. It requires patience and skill. An understanding of each level and where the enemies are placed is also helpful. Anyone who loves Diablo style gameplay should enjoy Demon’s Souls. It is easily worth importing. For those who are hesitant about ordering this over overseas, keep your ears peeled this E3. There is the possibility that an announcement will be made for its eventual Western release. If not, it is extremely import-friendly, and more than worth the few extra dollars you will spend getting it from China (or wherever) to your home in the States.
Out of a score of 1 to 10