In prep for this review I dusted off my PlayStation 3 and spent about a week replaying through the original 2009 Demon’s Souls .My main takeaway from that experience was, “Man, as fantastic as this game is, it feels old.” And I don’t just mean graphically: you can only roll in four directions, character controls feel loose, and just overall, there’s a lot of jank.But Bluepoint – the team that so expertly remade Shadow of the Colossus in 2018 – has addressed just about all of those major issues and more in the absolutely gorgeous PlayStation 5 remake, resulting in a game that feels much tighter to control and one that brings FromSoftware’s neglected original Souls game back to the forefront, reminding us what a strong foundation the Dark Souls series was built upon.
Like the rest of the Souls series, the appeal of Demon’s Souls is that it’s an action-RPG that prides itself on difficult, cerebral, and methodical combat, as well as extraordinarily deep character build customization.In combat, every action poses a risk, whether it’s committing to an attack and leaving yourself vulnerable in the start-up and recovery of it, or committing to defense and sacrificing a portion of your stamina to avoid taking damage.Rather than relying mostly on reflexes, Demon’s Souls relies more on making smart decisions both in and out of combat, and making the right decisions in order to overcome its many tough challenges feels incredibly rewarding in ways few other games can match.
Demon’s Souls may be the game that kicked off the Souls subgenre of action-RPGs, but it is the ways in which it’s different from the Dark Souls games that really make it stand out.
The biggest is that rather than being one contiguous open world, Demon’s Souls is split into five isolated worlds , each made up of three to four sublevels, each offering their own unique rewards and challenges.The thing I love so much about this structure is how easy it becomes to just pack up, leave, and try out a new area if you find yourself struggling in the one you’re currently in.Each level is difficult, but in very different ways, and never for reasons as simple or as boring as the enemies simply just being stronger.
Each level is difficult, but in very different ways, and never for simple reasons.“ World 1 is tough because you frequently have to contend with an obnoxious dragon that spends its whole day roasting each of the bridges you need to cross in order to proceed; World 2 ’s enemies are resistant to most damage types outside of piercing; World 3 is a labyrinth that’s easy to get lost in and is guarded by tough mind flayers that can kill you in just one or two hits; World 4 has highly aggressive skeletons that are also resistant to most weapons outside of maces and hammers; and World 5 has a ton of enemies that are easy to kill, but have a nasty habit of swarming you with rapid hits and wild attack patterns.Not to mention the whole “lake of poison” thing.
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What’s clever about this is that Demon’s Souls’ structure makes every playthrough feel different because you’re able to approach each world in new ways.
For my first playthrough, I went with a magic-focused build and went to world 3 first so I could stock up on magic-replenishing consumables and unlock the NPC that grants access to the most powerful spells.But in my second playthrough with a more dexterity-driven character I bounced from world to world, picking up useful items and gear from each one before committing to beating any of them.
It’s this flexibility that makes Demon’s Souls so distinctive among the Souls games.
Demon’s Souls features some of the most memorable bosses of any of FromSoftware’s games.“ Demon’s Souls also features some of the most memorable bosses of any of FromSoftware’s games, and certainly some of most mechanically interesting ones.Many feel like experiments to really push the limit of what a boss could be; of course, not all are successful.The Dragon God was a disappointingly gimmicky boss fight in 2009, and annoyingly it’s just as bad in the PS5 remake.
But others, like the emotional and story-driven battle against Maiden Astrea, or the epic fight against the Storm King that has you picking up a special weapon to shoot giant slicing wind attacks at the godforsaken manta rays that had been making your life a living hell for the last three hours, are absolute classics.
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Verdict: Demon’s Souls is not a game for everyone.Actually, I take that back; it’s most definitely something everyone should try, but the look, seemingly unforgiving nature and themes might be a bit off-putting.Don’t let them be.Every single person that owns a PS3 should at the very least rent this game to see what all the fuss is about, and those that can remember the good ol’ days when games taught through the highly effective use of intense punishment and a heavy price for not playing it carefully should scoop this up instantly.It’s utterly unique among the offerings on any console right now, and absolutely, positively should not be missed.
– Sam Bishop, October 8, 2009
Read our full original Demon’s Souls review All of this is true for Bluepoint’s remake, which largely stays true to the spirit of the original Demon’s Souls, both for better and for worse.Not all of the ways Demon’s Souls differentiates itself from the rest of the Souls series are positive ones.Demon’s Souls is exceptionally grindy in often frustrating, time-wasting ways.
If you run out of health-restoring grass, you’ll need to either farm it by repeatedly killing specific enemies in specific worlds that drop it, or you’ll need to farm souls (that you could have used to improve your character) and purchase it from a merchant.Weapon upgrading is also needlessly convoluted, with 16 different types of upgrade materials to find and make sense of, and almost every weapon type requiring different materials in order to upgrade them.Dark Souls addressed both these issues with the introduction of Estus Flasks and a simplification of the weapon upgrade system, and going back to how it used to be made me remember how much of an improvement Dark Souls was in those regards.
The Quality of Life The real stars of the show here, though, are the litany of smaller quality-of-life upgrades that make me never want to even think of going back to Demon’s Souls on the PS3.There’s so many to touch upon, but the long list includes: The addition of a tool belt that lets you equip up to four situationally useful items in a submenu that’s accessible with the touchpad; the ability to use archstones like a bonfire and reset the enemies without having to go back to the Nexus; being able to see the durability of your weapon in the HUD; being able to see what the next item you have equipped is; and all of this is on top of a much cleaner and more intuitive menu UI that sacrifices some of the original’s unique visual style in favor of simplicity and readability.
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I need to give a special mention as well to the new ability to send items to your storage box without having to return to the Nexus.
Item burden is a huge factor in Demon’s Souls, and in the original, when you picked up something that you had no space for you’d have to either make room for it by permanently destroying something in your inventory or you’d have to just leave it and convince yourself that you didn’t really need whatever it was anyway.And then you’d also have to trek back to the archstone just so you could offload any unnecessary items.This is an elegant fix that still keeps the inventory management without any of the frustration.
There’s still an annoyingly common tendency to use a shove attack when I don’t mean to, and I wish the developers had done something to better explain World Tendency to newcomers.But those nitpicks notwithstanding, Bluepoint did an excellent job of updating Demon’s Souls to modern standards without changing the core of its gameplay.
One other area that Demon’s Souls obviously benefits by virtue of being on a console with an SSD is a substantial reduction in load times.
Rarely will you ever wait more than five seconds in between deaths or while teleporting to a new location before you’re back in the action.I can’t overstate how huge this is for a game like Demon’s Souls, in which you’re expected to die over and over again and also to repeatedly reset a level for the purpose of farming.
Rarely will you ever wait more than five seconds in between deaths before you’re back in the action..