Demon’s Souls (Review)

Demon’s Souls.  Not everyone knows this, but this really was the start of a sub-genre of Souls-like games, followed up by the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne from this game’s core formula.  But does this remake stand the test of time?


GAMEPLAY

…the high of victory is the sweetest song.

While I love jumping right into answering core gameplay questions, I actually want to preface this section with the understanding that the developer wanted to preserve the original formula or the “gamers” would lose their proverbial minds on how the game got “ruined”.  And thus, having said that, there are many things that do NOT stand the test of time.  Such as stiff movement, archaic platforming, and movement navigation where you just can’t fathom why this isn’t possible from a modern standpoint.  And then there’s the core gameplay element: dying.  Yes, you’ll die up and down, left and right, backwards and forwards.  It’s ultimately frustrating, but also results in the ultimate high: victory.  When you do face repeated deaths under the pressure of purposely stacked odds, the high of victory is the sweetest song.  At the same time, that pretty much sums up gameplay: explore, die, fight, die, repeat until victory.  Naturally, part of that victory comes from upgrading your equipment and exploring your build as you level up and put souls into whichever stats you wish.  The gameplay really does rely solely on your penchant for a challenge, and there’s both a good and bad to that.  The good is that for those of you seeking a challenge, you’re met with one.  The bad is that for those of you that want to kick back at the end of a long workday, this game is more “work” than it is “play”.


CONTENT

This game is loaded with little discoveries…

This is a bit of a weird one.  I got through it around 25 hours, but that comes from both my familiarity of the strategy with this sub-genre and also because I would dip in and out of co-op to learn the boss ahead before fighting it myself.  The game really started to shorten in the second half because I was upgraded and could just walk in and destroy most of the bosses, and others were purely gimmick fights.  A lot of your “content” is really the cycle of dying and figuring out how to persevere.  In fact, this even manifests in the game on the whole: once you’re done playing the game, it tosses you right back in and you’re at it for round two fighting things a different way.  It’s the new game cycle that may really give you some insight into things you missed the first time through since now you know what to expect, and I found doors I never found the first time simply because of it.  This game is loaded with little discoveries like this, some taking multiple playthroughs to find.


PRESENTATION

Everything is impressively detailed…

Finally, a game that was designed with the PS5 in mind.  Granted, it doesn’t seem to have any ray-tracing, so everything takes on a surprisingly dull appearance, but that doesn’t stop this from being one of the best-looking current gen games on offer in cinematic mode (which I once again suggest since this isn’t a twitch shooter).  Sure, it’s not quite at the level of a tech demo (which we probably won’t see until Horizon Forbidden West), but between the art design and technical prowess between lighting and texture work, this game is a looker.  The fact that the cinematics are running in real time but have an almost pre-rendered look to them is particularly astonishing.  Everything is impressively detailed, both artistically and technically, in dark and in light.  It’s a looker, plain and simple, all the time.


CONCLUSION

If you want to punish yourself, go right on ahead…

This is a tough one.  The hardest part is that I can’t recommend this game.  That’s not because it isn’t a really good game: I want to rate this higher into the upper tier of scores; but I just can’t because not only did they focus most of this remake on the excellent graphics, but because the preserved core design of this game is just not amicable in the modern day.  Newer Souls games have long refined the formula, with Dark Souls III ending on a high note from me.  But Demon’s Souls?  This is about nostalgia and punishment.  If you want to punish yourself, go right on ahead because when you do finally destroy the punisher, you’ll feel an unmatched boost in confidence.  But if you’re looking for something to play to escape the punishment of real life, this game just isn’t for you.

I give Demon’s Souls

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