Demon’s Souls is a great, yet time consuming action hack-and-slash with a unique foreboding atmosphere, great ambiance and killer line up of bosses. Its very immerse and makes you want to stay in the game longer and longer. Its known for being brutally difficult, but I have always questioned that. Demon’s Souls feels more like a calculated grind with a deliberately slow pace. When the game starts, you select your class, mold your character and then get sent into a dungeon to die.
The battle mechanics are where this game shines. You have block, attack, parry (which seems to be useless), roll / dodge (shares a button with run), use item, menu and so on. You pretty much go into every battle holding the block. Let the enemy attack and then its your turn. Its really just as simple as that. You have a stamina bar that wears down when you run, block or attack. if your stamina is too low, an enemy can easily break through your block and then attack and kill you. This is pretty much every battle. It is time consuming. There greater foes that might challenge you with dodges and waiting for the right moment to attack or getting behind them to back stab them. These are more interesting and challenging. Like a heavy knight that will use potions quicker than you and raise his shield quicker than you. The bosses are an absolute highlight of the game if not just a good excuse to kill you.
You can’t really breeze through enemies. Nor can you run through them as you can in other games. Eventually you’ll get blocked or run out of stamina and have a mob of foes ready to kill you. Every attack, block, counter and item use seems to take too long of a time, which leaves you open for any number of things. When your weapons clang against a wall you take damage, which I guess makes sense.
Its not hard, difficult or challenging as people say it is. It is just time consuming. The game does a good job of spoon feeding you things in the tutorial level. At the end of the level, they have a boss that is designed to kill you and oh trust me, the bosses will kill you. See nothing else is really that challenging, but the bosses will just kill you. Once the first boss kills you, then you’re thrown into the reality of the game that you’re a soul that collects other souls as currency. If you just used all of your items on the boss, you need to buy them again with no currency. Then your weapon breaks so you need even more currency and if you spend 45 minutes getting 2/3rds the currency you need to buy a replacement weapon then you die, well that’s 45 minutes you just wasted. There are of course blacksmiths that will repair your weapons at about 1/5th the cost to buy a new one.
As a ‘soul’ in a body, that leads into the game’s uh multiplayer online yet single player mentality. The game is really single player, but you can see ghosts of other players. You can see blood spots from where they died and you can see a ghost of how they died. This will warn you if you want the warning. This is totally by choice that you can see it. You can also leave messages and read other messages left by other people. They can even tip you for your message whether its a hint, tip, warning or trick. There are plenty of people warning you of simple things and plenty more people trying to get you to recommend a message so they’ll get tipped souls in return. Seems more like people trying to get out of the grinding.
Since this is an RPG there is plenty of reason to come back to this game after you beat it. You start each game by picking a class and your stats, movement and weapon skills vary, which can drastically alter your game experience. Such as I see plenty of dead spots with ghosts of archers and pikemen. Every weapon has its own rythem too. Quick blades you go stab stab stab once you find an opening, while larger blades are too slow, but effectively 1 swipe is worth 3 dagger stabs. Also with stabbing weapons you need to lock onto a target by pushing the left thumbstick. Otherwise, without locking on… you’ll be lucky to hit something.
It is rare that I will actually play a game for hours and sink time into a game, but Demon Souls was able to get hours and hours out of me. I feel very committed to the game, because every action is so time consuming and yet rewarding. You get further being cautious than you ever will being quick about things. Your being cautious will keep you alive and keeping you alive will keep you playing.
Now for the few downsides. Let’s start with the poor camera controls that prevent you from looking into a doorway when a first person perspective would let you see everything. Also, even with all of the warnings, you really need to stock up for bosses or use trial and error methods against the bosses. The only catch is that if you die on a boss… you restart the level. All of the enemies are there again and you lose all of your souls (currency). You still keep your items, you just need to slog your way through everything. That’s your punishment for failure. Sure there are unlockable gates as a sort of shortcut through the levels, but if the boss is at the beginning of a level and you need fire to beat that boss, but the merchant is all the way at the back of a level, that just means you’ll be playing for 30 more minutes before you face the boss again.
So be prepared to pour hours, days and weeks into this game. Every time you pick up the controller it turns into a commitment that is rewarded and punished for failure.