Final verdict: B+
Final playtime: 63 hours
Well I just beat Demon’s Souls so I guess it’s about time I reviewed it. I didn’t have very high expectations for this game to be honest with you. The western fantasy style looked really generic and Oblivionesque. Atlus’s entire marketing strategy consisted of telling people to stop bitching about the game being ridiculously hard. Which I guess I gotta respect for being pretty ballsy. I mean you’re basically giving the finger to almost every consumer and closing yourself off from selling a good number of copies. Well, you’re already doing that by making the game PS3 exclusive, but hey. It’s almost like they don’t care about profits!
But anyway, all that noise about the game being stupidly hard made me think. There’s a chance that it’s just bullshit, frustrating, and not hard in a good way. But after playing it, I can tell you that’s it’s not really THAT bad. No, it’s not easy. But I’ll get into that later. As for the quality of the game, hwell. You can see the score. It turned out to be damn good. Probably the best game on PS3. Yeah, yeah, I know that ain’t saying much. Still it’s a great game though.
Like I said, I pretty much hate the generic western RPG setting and style used in this game. The old medieval sword and sorcery fantasy setting. So fucking sick of that shit. I prefer contemporary settings or futuristic ones. Hell, even post-apocalyptic settings or the recent past. Just anything but this tired dungeons and dragons shit. Demon’s Souls looks a lot like Oblivion. So in that sense I guess you could see this game as what Oblivion would be if it didn’t suck an entire bag of dicks.
So yeah, setting. Come the fuck on people. In the interest of helping developers decide on a better setting for their RPGs that people will actually like (and by people I mean me, because fuck everyone else), here’s an idiot’s guide to setting:
Contemporary (example: Persona 3, Earthbound): Excellent!
Futuristic (example: Xenosaga, Star Ocean): Excellent!
Modernish industrial (example: Midgar in FFVII): Excellent!
Recent past (example: Devil Summoner): Excellent!
Medieval (example: Elder Scrolls, Baldur’s Gate, too fucking many): BAD!
What the fuck is this shit I don’t even (example: Final Fantasy XII): God fucking dammit go to jail how can one game be this bad.
So there you have it. Now you too can make sensible design decisions! But where was I? Oh yeah, Demon’s Souls. Next, the music. Wait, what music? No, fucking seriously, what music? I bought the deluxe edition that came with the official soundtrack but I swear to god I don’t think the game even had any music. That’s how bad it was. Another failure these ameriboos probably borrowed from western RPGs: instead of having good songs, they go for boring music used as ambience or really generic songs. Bah. I honestly don’t understand why you’d even make a soundtrack for shit like this. I mean, if your game is Symphony of the Night or some shit like that then fucking YES give me the soundtrack. But if your game is Oblivion then don’t even bother because that shit’s going in the trash.
Now let’s get into what I said before about the game’s difficulty. Is Demon’s Souls hard? Yes and no. You’re going to die a LOT. Hell, in the beginning you’ll spend about 90% of your time dead. But it’s not really hard in the sense that you need a lot of skill to play it. I think more accurate words to describe the difficulty in this game would be unforgiving, ruthless, unfriendly. Maybe cunt. The reasons for this are almost all related to the way the game handles risk, stakes and punishment:
1) In Demon’s Souls you CANNOT SAVE. It works similarly to MMORPGs in that there are no save points or save states or anything like that. The game’s state is being saved at all times and you can never go back to a previous point. Frankly this is bullshit and I hate it. You make a mistake? Too fucking bad because Demon’s Souls will never let you undo it. Used up that one of a kind soul? Haha, sucks to be you. Upgraded the wrong weapon and used up that rare mineral? That’s what you get. Died and lost all of your souls? Eat it, bitch. I’m sure you can all see how this is a dumb way to add “difficulty” to the game.
2) Dying has big consequences. In a normal game, you generally don’t give a shit about dying. You just try again, no big deal. But in Demon’s Souls, since you can’t save, once you’re dead you stay dead. You can still play while you’re dead, although you’ll be gimped and only have a fraction of your health. To revive yourself you either have to defeat a boss, or use a rare item that revives you (it becomes a little more abundant as the game goes on). This, again, is bullshit.
2b) Since you can’t save, when you die, you have to start the level again from the beginning. To be honest this isn’t as bad as you might think. Most of the dungeons are designed in such a way that you can make shortcuts for yourself. For example, you might open a gate, or lower a drawbridge, or activate an elevator that leads back to the entrance. Shit like that. So it’s not so bad.
2c) When you die, you lose ALL of your souls (souls are the exp and money in this game). To retrieve them you have to return and touch the place where you died. If you die again before touching it? You lose them all permanently. This, again, is pure bullshit. What the shit is this, an MMO? I don’t need fucking exp penalties.
So in conclusion. A lot of the difficulty comes not from the game actually being hard, but more from it being a cunt. Now add to that the fact that it’s SUPER easy to die. The game is out to get you. SO many enemies kill you in one hit you don’t even fucking know. Every enemy is dangerous. They all do an insane amount of damage to you. Fighting 2 enemies at the same time is pushing your luck. More than that is practically suicide. You have to be ultra careful every step of the way. Sometimes the game will be a dick and make you fall down a bottomless pit. Sometimes it will be an ULTIMATE dick and make you fight a boss that drains your fucking levels. Permanently.
But you know what? In the end, it’s really not so bad. Sure, it has a lot of cunt design decisions. It could’ve been designed better. But it doesn’t make the game unplayably frustrating. And I’d rather it be like this than too far to the other side of the spectrum with rainbows and gummi bears. It makes the game a lot more interesting than if it were too easy. Yeah, it’s not perfect. But look on the bright side. At least it doesn’t have gummi bears.
However, one thing I’m not happy with is that Demon’s Souls is fucking scary as SHIT. I am not fucking kidding. This game is scarier than resident evil. It’s not jump-out-your-seat scary, but there’s always this heavy sense of dread throughout the entire game. The reason for this is a combination of the atmosphere, the graphics, the sound, the details, the fact that the game is so fucking dark, that it’s so fucking easy to die, and that when you do you have to do the level again, lose all your souls and you can’t ever save.
In other games when you get to a boss, you just go right in all like “YEAH WHAT UP NOW MOTHAFUCKA.” But in Demon’s Souls I was scared of almost every boss. I was actually scared of dying. Which is fucking bullshit because in other games I love dying. Another probable reason for the scariness is that for some reason you always feel… inadequate, due to the gameplay. Battles are real time, not all that different from Zelda. In other words, acceptable but not amazing. Obviously that’s fine since this is an RPG and not an action game, but for example, the dodge roll seems to be unreliable and it’s easy to get hit during the recovery. There are a lot of times when you lose control completely. For example, a boss might hit you so hard that they knock you down and you stay on the floor and then he might hit you again when you get up. It also places a really high emphasis on the stamina stat. A bar that gets depleted when you do any action like attacking, running, rolling, blocking, etc, and gets refilled when you’re not doing anything. When your stamina runs out you can’t do shit. You cannot do shit. So say you’re slashing at a boss right. You can hit him 5 times, but after that? Your stamina has run out, and you have to hang back a few seconds while it refills. But it gets worse. Blocking takes stamina. Proportional to how strong an attack was. If a blocked attack takes all of your stamina or breaks your guard (and it will if you’re not high enough level or your shield isn’t good enough), you will just stand there dazed and unable to do shit, even move. While the boss gets ready to hit you with his ultimate attack, of course.
So take games like Devil May Cry. They’re super hard, but it’s never scary. You feel confident in the tools you’ve been given to kick ass. You might die 30 times in a row, but it doesn’t matter, you’re always a badass. But in Demon’s Souls I always felt… I dunno. Maybe vulnerable is the right word. A lot of times if an enemy was too powerful, instead of fighting like a man I’d have to run like a little bitch and whittle him down with magic from a distance, or maybe get it stuck somewhere if it was big, because if I got anywhere near him he’d just break my guard, leave me dizzy, then kill me on the second hit.
I will say the difficulty goes down as the game goes on. Levels mean a lot and by the end of the game when I was level 85 few if any enemies were a threat and I could take all of them head on, including the ones that used to kill me in one hit. Like I said, Demon’s Souls doesn’t require that much skill. Most of the time when you face a boss or a strong enemy, you are either strong enough to kill him… or you’re not.
So yeah. I would’ve liked Demon’s Souls more if it wasn’t so scary, and maybe if it had less asshole design decisions. But despite that it’s still a great game that addicted me like few others. Like I said in the beginning of the review, it’s probably the best PS3 game, so if you have a PS3 this is a must have.
Final Verdict: B+
Final Playtime: 63 hours