Review by cananyonesaveme
"An In-depth look at Demon's Souls... long but informative review."
Let me begin by saying I have been gaming since the Nintendo back in the later 1980's. Yes some have been playing longer, but you won't find a lot of people that puts as much time into games as I do. I am not talking about general time on a favorite games, I mean gaming in general. Since I started earning my own money, or around the PS1 and N64 launch, I have had every major system that has come out, including portables. From the PS1, N64, Saturn, Dreamcast, Xbox, etc, I've owned them all; including various hand held's such as every game boy / ds, the psp, and even going back to the Neo Geo and Tiger.com. I also play a lot of PC games.
I don't write a lot of reviews; I wish I had the urge to more often than I do. Only certain games make me feel like I want to review them. I play every genre known to mankind, every sort of RPG, FPS, sports, racing, platform, puzzle, survival horror, MMO, I have played a bunch of all, if not most. I also play niche' title's, you know, the one's that don't get the attention that the next Modern Warfare get's. However I am not a fan boy of any system, I play games to both have fun and escape reality, which is why they are made, just like movies. Enough about me though, I think you get that I spend a lot of time and life on video games, and I hope you considerate that as I write my review.
Demon's Souls is a very unique genre mix-up of both old and new ideas. What makes it unique is the way a lot of the systems are implemented. If you had to give it a genre, I would call it a Strategy Hack N Slash RPG. Weird? No, not really. We just haven't seen it before. This is like the first time an RPG went with a sort of grid format for battles (Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea) only in the Hack N Slash genre. What I mean by that is that while yes, you hack/slash and cast magic and spells at monster's running around in mostly dungeons, there has been an enormous effort into the actual system for combat, where as in say Diablo 2 you could run through as a Barbarian and Whirlwind most mobs to death, EACH and EVERY enemy in this game has to be taken as a threat, and people just are NOT used to that. There is hardly any "cannon fodder" in this game that you can blindly roll past just attacking. This isn't a BAD thing; this just isn't something we have seen a lot of. Let's move on.
Graphics : This game isn't about showing you how bullet's chips away oak off a tree and then the tree collapsing perfectly. It isn't a swing at pure artistic either. The models get the job done well, the weapons, armor, and enemies are unique. By all means this isn't a bad looking game in motion, but it isn't Kill zone or Crysis either. They use Havok for the physics, which gets the job done perfectly. Facial models for your characters are very customizable, but with that comes a sacrifice at higher textures. The particle effects look good, as does the lightening and shadows. The draw distance is decent, and the game has spots to look out across the land, and while to my eye's it isn't textured very high (or not at all) it looks great most of the time. There hardly isn't any clipping to speak of, although sometimes a weapon does poke through. Overall, a solid effort, and works wonderfully for what the game is striving for.
Sound - The BGM and Sound effects are great, and the surround sound elements are well used (I jumped when a fire popped that was behind my character with my left surround speaker behind me.) The bass is awesome, esp. with some of the big attacks and monster sounds. The voice acting is not distracting, but it isn't Metal Gear Solid 4. It is very solid, and is easy on the ears. Note that there isn't a LOT of spoken dialogue.
Combat Game-play - There are going to be a few categories for game-play, just because of how the game works. Right now, I am going to go for the actual combat, or fighting aspect. You have your weapon, be it a sword, bastard sword, axe, spear, bow and arrow, crossbow, magic, etc. They all are VERY unique in the way they are used, and what they do to certain enemy. For example, I use a spear on my main character, and also have a bow and arrow, shield, and my magic item (to use either magic spells or faith spells). You have four slots to equip to, and you can change them on the fly at any time, going from spear and shield, to using two hands for the spear, to the bow, to magic and shield, etc. All of this is controlled by simple left and right direction pad changes, and Triangle being used for putting away your shield to hold a weapon with both hands (increased damage, slower speed). Bows can be zoomed in with using L1 and using the analog stick to zoom in and out. There is an auto lock-on function, and it works wonderfully, and you are easily able to switch targets like a flip of the right analog stick. Note that if you hate locking onto enemies, you don't have to.
Combat also has parry's (L2) counters, dodge (circle+direction) and a jump back (circle). Damage is based on a TON of factors. Weapons degrade over time and have to be repaired with either souls (the money) or items. Weapons have their own stats and rankings. Weapons can be upgraded, and even changed, with various ores and such that you find or are dropped. And then of course your characters stat's, like Dex. Str. End. Faith. Etc. In essence you pretty much use your weapon of choice and are not punished for it, as they all can be used effectively. Some have certain benefits for certain situations. Like a spear is great for narrow corridors and can go through multiple enemies and swords are great for combos out in the open where it cannot hit a wall or object.
Also, weapons have types. Some spears do piercing damage, while a club will do blunt. It's amazing the amount of choices you have for dealing with an enemy, no matter what the enemy is weak to.
You also have a stamina gauge, which affects everything you do. When you run by holding down circle, it depletes. It does so with attacking, blocking, and dodging. This is a huge part of combat. The more stamina you have when you attack, the more damage you do. The more you have when you block, the more damage to resist/block. Dodging takes stamina away. Stamina refills after about half a second of not using anything that requires it, so backing away with the direction pad is a legit way to get out of harm's way and regain stamina. Holding block will not stop stamina regeneration, but it will slow it down to a crawl. Stamina is more important than your health or mana gauge, pay close attention to it. Trying to block a huge attack with low stamina can lead to a quick death.
Enemies have various attacks, and know how to use them, and they are all a big threat. Run up to the first enemy in the game and mash the attack button wildly, you are likely to die after his quick combo. A lot of people say this game is hard, insanely difficult, cheap, etc. It isn't if you observe what you're doing. I am not talking about Splinter Cell here, watching an enemies every move, but being ready for ANYTHING. Don't ever take for granted any enemy and you are likely never going to have a problem dying over and over again. Combat is where this game shines.
You also have other stuff, such as four armor slots (helmet,chest,gloves,boots) two rings for bonus's, and can equip 5 items for quick use in battle (like a healing item for Hp or MP). Weight of items, both inventory and on your body, plays an important part. Too much body weight and that quick roll dodge turns into a jump onto your back and slowly get back up. It works to dodge some attacks, but not as good as a full dodge.
Environment Game-play - There are various elements that are dangerous, and helpful, all around you. Traps, falls, destructive items, etc. can all both help and hinder you. Always be mindful where you are going, as most traps can be seen before being triggered, falls can be avoided, and destroying stuff can lead to rare items.
Death Game-play - Death Game-play? What the hell is that you are asking? Well, when you start the game, you are alive and well, in a fog where most everyone is a demon or a human gone mad. When you die, and you will, you don't lose the game. What happens is you are returned to what is called the Nexus, or home if you will. And after you start hunting demons, you are returned to the portal entry of the map. In Soul form, nothing changes except your half is reduced by 60%. You can find a ring that increases the reduction to 40%. Now, you can also go back and grab your "body" and gain your demon souls back (currency), but you will not be alive again until you kill the boss of a level/chapter. This isn't a BAD thing all the time. Some builds can be based by attacking with low HP to do major damage, which having less health would be a boon to this build. Also while in soul form, if you die, the World Tendency doesn't change. (More on that later). If you die in body form, you get a -1 to WT, which affects a ton of things. You can do everything you can do in soul form that you can in body, without having to worry about WT changing if you die. And when you die in soul form, you can still go back to the spot of your death and reclaim your souls. (Note if you die trying to get back to your souls, they are then gone and replaced where you just died, with whatever amount you had gained on your way back).
Death Game-play is awesome, and is very unique and an amazing idea.
World/Character Tendency Game-play - These are two very separate things. CT affects you and you only. If you're more in the white color, you can access to exclusive areas that you cannot normally get to with a neutral or black CT, and vice verse.
As for WT, well...this is huge too. This affects everything in the game, down to items, enemy strength, your strength, damage, difficulty, etc. This is very important in online mode, which I will cover later. To sum it up for the basics of this review, the more you die, the easier the game gets. The less, the harder. There are other factors (like doing certain things or killing certain demons) but that is the gist. This makes the game unique every time you play it, and in online mode, every time you turn it on.
Online Mode - This game features online. Note that this isn't like any online mode you have seen before. You don't see others unless they are near you, and even then they can't help you, and you can only see a white outline. Players can write messages on the ground, anywhere. These messages are from a list. An example is Beware of the ambush ahead" where in the place of ambush you could place the word trap from the list. This works wonders, esp. if you do not know what is coming. In the same vein though, another player can leave a misleading message, like "Jump Here" where if you jump you fall to your death. Most players don't leave those though, as messages can be rated. When someone rates your messages, you get an instant heal. When you rate a message, they get one. Also, the more people rate a message, the longer the message stays, as messages go away after time. So if you come across a message with 90 ratings, chances are it's been there a long time and is very good advice.
This isn't all there is too online mode. When in Body form, sometimes you see these bright blue spots on the map. These are places where someone used an item requesting to team up. This other person is in Soul form. If you recruit them, they join you on the chapter to destroy the boss. If they succeed in helping, they go back to human form, and you get the added benefit of having extra help. You can see people that join you (up to two extra spirits) as a blue glowing see through body. This isn't like the white outlines you see, they are there but look like a ghost.
Another aspect is in spirit form, you can invade another players (in body form) world as a phantom, with the goal of killing them. If you succeed, you regain your human form without the need to destroy a boss. If the player kills you, you return to the nexus (your base) in soul form with no other penalty other losing the item needed to invade. If you are killed any other way, it affects the WT and your CT.
There is also PVP, where two players can duel one on one. These can be very long battles, esp. with skilled players, and are a lot of fun. There isn't really balancing issues that I have seen, and it just pretty much depends on skill level if both players are the same level.
Anyway, these online features are some of the best and unique I have seen in a game, and is a huge boon to the games rating.
Other Notes - There is a main story, however it's very simple. It can be explained in the instruction manual or the opening cut scene. As you go forward, talking to other souls and progressing get's you more information. The goal is your own really though. Are you there to banish demons, for power, for glory, or to rule? There, as mentioned, is a sort of currency. As you kill enemies, you gain Demon Souls. These are used for EVERY thing. Repair, buying items, spells, upgrading your stats, etc.
As far as level, there is a cap, but it's in the 700's I believe. One of the cool things is if you start a certain class, like say, a Royal, by the end you can take them towards anywhere you want, being a stealthy bow user to a double handed axe basher. That takes time though.
Speaking of time, the main game takes a solid 40-60 hours. It has a lot of replay value though, for trophies, the different classes, unique weapons, WT events, CT events, etc. It takes at least 3 playthroughs to get the Platinum, and that is if you know what you're doing. But you will never think of it as a choir, but a goal to get that badge of honor, and have fun doing it. Also, there is a New Game +, and the game gets harder for every new game + you do. So by New Game +++, you better be near max level with great equipment to survive.
This game has deserved the high scores and praise it's been getting. From Software deserve acknowledgement for the unique take on this type of genre. I hope the sales do well, as they deserve it. As for my rating, it's a big solid 9.5 (or 9 on gamefaqs.com) because 10 is perfection, and I haven't seen that in a game yet.
This game is a Must Buy and keep title.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/12/09
Game Release: Demon's Souls (US, 10/06/09)
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