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GRIM

Demon’s Souls PS3 Review

Posted on January 28, 2011 by GRIM


Available at Amazon.com

    Introduction
    Demon’s Souls is a western-looking but Japanese made ‘RPG’ – in the loosest sense of the word – which has become somewhat notorious, even legendary, for its ‘challenging’ difficulty and it’s old-school ‘hardcore’ sensibilities. Something which has made it a bit of a hit with ‘hardcore’ gamers.

    This view of the game is horseshit, based on false nostalgia and a failure to recognize that things are a damn sight better these days and that technology has taken us beyond the conditions that made old-school games, necessarily, difficult.

    Story
    A mysterious fog has enveloped a kingdom and all word from within has been cut off. The greatest heroes and adventurers from beyond this land have ventured into this fog and none have returned. Being a masochistic dipshit who can’t take a hint like any reasonable person, you’ve followed them into the fog only to be annihilated in turn by a giant demon and waking up, a lost soul, in a weird cathedral like space called The Nexus where, it turns out, you have to venture forth as a sort of ghost in order to collect enough demon souls to reincarnate and take on the forces of evil lurking in the fog.

    Gameplay
    There’s a massive difference between ‘challenging’ and ‘fucking with you’. Demon’s Souls is very much in the latter camp. The game is not difficult in an honest way but, rather, seeks to deliberately screw with you in order to make the game as difficult as possible, not for any real story reason but just out of pure sadism and the desire to create a ‘challenging’ game experience. This sadistic (and not in the fun kinky way) ethos infects the entire game from the premise and execution of the ‘reincarnation’ gameplay to the exacting timing needed for any of the special moves and actions to work, right down to the control method selection. You’ll repeat things over and over and over the slightest mess up means you’ll have to play the whole level all over again, right from the start.

    When you’re playing through the levels to gather enough souls to reincarnate you’re on half health, so in order to play a level normally you’re expected to complete it on a higher difficulty to start with, ludicrous.

    Fuck.
    That.
    Shit.

    You can’t even pause for chrissakes and every time you do fail at a level, you go right back to the start, lose ALL your gains and all the enemies respawn.

    Controls
    The controls seem straightforward to start with, the usual move, block, attack, swap-weapons and swap items controls. The problem comes about with their deeper implications, the combinations and timings of what you’re trying to do and the layout of the controls seems to have been deliberately chosen to make fighting and so on even more difficult. For example, you get a parry/riposte manouevre and a jump-back move that are both meant to protect you in combat. They don’t unless you’re somehow blessed with Neo-like reflexes that slow down time to a crawl allowing you to hit the femtosecond long period in which such moves are effective.

    Atmosphere
    There isn’t a huge amount of atmosphere, despite the nice intro and the fairly lengthy explanations of the background. The levels have all the soul and character of an assault course and other than ‘collecting souls’ you have little to no reason or understanding as to why you’re repeatedly going over the same, grindingly-dull fights and one-shot kills of your character over and over again in the vain hope of lady-luck striking and you being able to progress to another level of frustrating, repeated death.

    Graphics
    The game is pretty enough but a little off, a western style RPG that feels as though it was made by someone working on second-hand descriptions that they didn’t quite get. It’s dark, nasty feeling, the bad guys – at least the ones I saw – are spooky enough and not over-the-top as they can be in many games. Skeletons, mad-men, demons and the possessed. We didn’t make it past the first proper level though, so I can’t tell you anything about the later sections.

    Conclusion
    Old school games were tough because there often wasn’t the technology to save your position, so you had to play them in one sitting. They were also often difficult because difficulty was a way of adding longevity to a game when you didn’t have so much storage and memory to play with and couldn’t necessarily have shitloads of levels for people to play in.

    Old is not always better, that’s a logical fallacy. We have the technology now to make games that aren’t pixel-bitching snorefests and enough storage that games can have a lot more play and story value without forcing you to beat your head against a wall six-hundred times to progress.

    I think this is part of some backlash against the Wii, Kinect, DS etc and the casual game/kiddy game/’girl game’ and their percieved level of easiness but I think how games have actually developed is more into interactive entertainment. I don’t generally play a game on hard, rather I normally choose easy or normal as I want to balance the pleasure of accomplishment with not being horribly frustrated – plus I don’t have a huge amount of time to invest in these games and I use them as a break.

    I remember old-school games and while they were difficult, they didn’t deliberately set out to fuck with you. The controls weren’t deliberately foxed, special moves might be difficult – but they were possible. If an old-school game was a difficult mountain climb, Demon’s Souls was a difficult mountain climb made worse by being forced to wear lead shoes and having a rabid weasel stuffed down your pants.

    In summary, about as much fun as volunteering to be raped with the Se7en strap on, sans lube.

    On the Plus Side

    * Pretty graphics, but that’s par for the course these days.
    * We didn’t pay full price.
    * Deep but ultimately pointless character customisation (like painting the sistine chapel on a conker).

    On the Minus Side

    * Sadistically difficult.
    * Incoherent.
    * Controller-breakingly frustrating.

    Score
    Style 2
    Substance 1
    Overall 1.5

    Review by James “Grim” Desborough

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      3 Responses to “Demon’s Souls PS3 Review”

      1. Tom K. says:

        This game was difficult, but i find it was more difficult in a megaman or castlevania sort of way… you had to learn your enemies attack patterns. I enjoyed the game through to the end, but i do admit it was a game for people who would like a challenge. The beginning of this game is probably the most challenging bit as by the time you have killed the first boss you will have learned how to play the game to a certain degree, and you will know what to expect of the game. This game is not for people without the patience to play it, people who get frustrated with games easily will not enjoy Demon’s Souls, but then again actually having to work towards a victory can be and is rewarding. much of the video games being released these days appeal to instant gratification much more so than this game.

        If anything, it would be nice to have another level or so available via add on content, or something along those lines.

        Reply

      2. IkomaSoji says:

        I found this review to be weak. Funny… but weak.

        You obviously did not play the game very much did you? You didn’t even explain the control scheme properly. There is no “block button,” there are right hand and left hand controls. If you have something that has a block command in your left hand… by golly it blocks.

        You mention timing on any of the special attacks in the game. The only “special attack” in the game that requires precise timing is parrying with items with a parry command, such as light shields, and not only is the timing on it not very difficult at all, you can play through the entire game without even using it.

        You mention needing Neo like reflexes to make the “Jump back move” actually protect you. I don’t know what kind of game you were playing, but the dodge mechanics in this game work just fine for me.

        You mention having only half health after you die in a level and needing to find “enough souls to resurrect.” You failed to mention that not only do you do more damage while in soul form, but the game was designed with you being in soul form as the benchmark for the game. In other words, your “half health bar” is more like what the game intended you to have to begin with. Don’t like it? Wear the ring that ups it to 75%. Not enough? Use the item that resurrects you, of which there are plenty.

        I appreciate that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and you obviously didn’t like the game. That’s fine. You obviously did not put any effort into actually understanding the game enough to write a balanced review however, and that I don’t really care for. This review has single handedly turned me off from this entire site, so thank you for showing me exactly what quality of reviews to expect from here.

        Next time I advice you give the review a little more even handed thought. Talk more about the actual mechanics of the game instead of making stuff up from your limited perception from the small amount you attempted. Talk about the actual meat and potatoes of the game, instead of getting on your soapbox and grandstanding about your feelings that the game was too hard.

        In my opinion, this game was great. It was beautifully done for what it was, the controls were crisp and clean, it was difficult and unforgiving, but it always felt to me like every time I died it was not from the game being underhanded, but from a lack of my own skill to do something about it, and it was something I could learn to master. Indeed this was proven to be true by the fact that on first sitting it took me 2 hours to work my way through the first real level. On my second attempt with a new character I made it in my first attempt in about 20 minutes. If that doesn’t show that the games difficulty can be mastered through skill then I don’t know what will.

        Frankly, I don’t appreciate you calling out the viewpoint that I subscribe to that the difficulty of the game making it a hit with gamers like me as “Horseshit.” I would advice against making derogatory comments that can be construed by your readers to be attacks on there opinions and views.

        I would like to recap and reiterate that this in no way is an attack on your opinion, after all, it is yours to have. This is a statement of my distaste for your article as a whole, the way you wrote it, the lack of any real information about the game in question at all. Reviews like this are a detriment to the community as a whole in my opinion, and I will not be coming back here to find any serious reviews, because this one has shown me that this is not the place to find them at all.

        Reply

      3. Soulless Demon says:

        This “review” oozes with frustration and a biased viewpoint, directly resulting from the frustrating experience the writer had with this game.

        Although I am actually still playing DS in preparation for Dark Souls (only on my first New Game + though) I want to tell you why I can totally understand his viewpoint and – much more importantly – why this game was MASSIVELY overrated and hyped by a bunch of professional writers who probably never even managed a normal complete walkthrough and just joined the choir to self-manifest as “that hardcore gamer who knows what he´s talking about”.
        I am copying this from another site where I wrote it:

        First of all – Demons Souls is not difficult at the core.

        It is difficult to manage your frustration at times but difficult in terms of really testing your skill? No, sir.(It is still a difficult game but not living up even close to its reputation, there have been more “difficult” games even on the ps3, ninja gaiden sigma and devil may cry 3 specifically since they are also very similar to DS – just not as punishing)

        The game punishes every mistake you make but these mistakes stem not from your judgment or intellectual capacity but from simply being unattentive. This is not a game you can easily play when tired or in an altered state of mind.

        The enemy A.I itself is atrocious. When From Software emulated the feeling of the good old days they went one step further and introduced enemies I do not remember being such stupid in the early 90′s.

        On top of that they only possess 2-3 maneuvers on average, which might require precise timing occasionally but once you know their attack patterns you know you can kill hundreds of them without taking any damage (that is why it only took you 20 minutes instead of 2 hours – to the post above me)

        Even the bosses are impressively looking but quite uneventful and in all truthfulness, cheesy and exploitable with a few notable exceptions.

        The game does not draw its reputation of being a hardcore gamers wet dream from truly “difficult” combat.
        The harsh punishment and neverending grind is where that comes from.

        And this punishment is so unbearable for many people because ultimately what it does whenever you die is tell you straight to your face – you just gave away an hour of lifetime which will have accumulated to days or even weeks of your life at the “end” of the game without being rewarded with new scenery, an important piece of dialogue, story progression,(if it was your second death already) character progression, etc.

        Even among gamers there are not many willing to waste away hours upon hours on repetition and grinding like it is so usual in japanese games. Not gamers in the WESTERN AUDIENCE at least.

        “Life is too short to play Demon’s Souls.” – European/US gamer.

        There are so many great games out there and if you are leading a “normal” life with certain responsibilities you will have relatively little spare time for playing games and DS is going to suck in that time you could have spent on much superior games like a vacuum cleaner. And it will do that with a total value of circa 20 hours gameplay and 200+ hours of repetion and grinding)

        This is a game made for a japanese audience originally. If you are someone who not only does not shy away from “wasting” his time with videogames but takes it one step further and can participate in the japanese tradition of console gaming and actually waste all this time on extraordinarily repetitive tasks like grinding the same 15 minutes of gameplay for dozens of hours, Demon’s Souls will be highly rewarding for you. Because unlike most typical jap rpg grinders there is a great game underneath it all.

        Still, the vast majority of players would have enjoyed the game much more with a few tweaks.

        Personally I would have LOVED to have more clever, challenging enemies that might have resulted in twice the amount of deaths while progressing through the levels. I wouldnt have cried, I would have welcomed it.
        But please with a checkpoint before bosses! (and more engaging, challenging bosses in return too)

        Because the whole system as it is just shouts out loud “go look up a guide online”.

        The feeling of exploration and trial-and-error is severely hindered(I would say almost completely destroyed when it comes to some of the boss encounters) by unneeded timesinks, especially for boss battles or crystal lizard hunts.
        After you died a bunch of times on a boss you will simply loathe walking through half the level(or worse) again just to try out a new tactic on the boss.

        And at that point the game blatantly arouses very unhealthy and unsatisfying behaviour, reading up on what works against the boss in order to beat him without having to backtrack another 20 times before you figure it out yourself.

        There was potential for greatness here, like Resident Evil 4 where every death was exciting. I probably died much much more on RE4 hard than I did in Demons Souls, but instead of shouting at the TV I had a smile on my face every single time in that game, even when I was cut apart by the same chainsaw for the 5th time.

        And that is truthfully the single most damaging aspect to the game in my opinion. I dont think there are many people who have played through the game without consulting the wiki or another guide to beat it, which is sad and goes against the spirit of the game.

        I am not even talking about the crystal lizards or the inscrutable World Tendency system (and what it affects)

        This game requires not only extensive research within itself, but to truly get all the value out of it you are pretty much forced to read through dozens of articles and hundreds of little details (essentially the whole wiki)

        Hell, the european release came with a bundled official strategy guide even….

        And that´s where I regret some of the gameplay decisions by the studio. The very basic concept resonates well with me but this could have been a much superior game if it gave you more room to explore it for yourself and try new things instead of fearfully consulting a boss guide because you just cant bear wasting another whole game session on repetetive replaying the whole level again just to be killed by the boss instantly.

        Which is also why I call BS on the insane ratings it got on most review sites. Typical case of some geek writers “riding the wave” instead of honestly pointing out that while the difficulty setting is even a little too low once you learn to play, the punishment counteracts a lot of the sense of exploration and fun trial-and-error that could have been had with this game and cultivates unhealthy behaviour in their players, making even the most resistant people consult a guide (me).

        (Judging from their comments so far they seem intent on making matters worse in Dark Souls instead of creating a better game, too bad really.)

        Reply

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