Subm.: Demon's Souls

Discussion in '50 RPGs per Hour' started by SnapSlav, Sep 27, 2012.

  1. SnapSlav

    SnapSlav NMA's local DotA fanatic

    Jul 1, 2012
    Demon's Souls, 2009
    Developed by FROMSOFTWARE
    PlayStation 3 (North American, Asian, or European versions/servers)
    Physical copies must be purchased at any retail outlet that carries used copies, or websites such as Amazon.com




    The Setting:

    Demon's Souls takes place in the fictional realm of Boletaria, a medieval kingdom among many others in a world beset by soul-devouring demons. You are a mere human who has willingly (perhaps foolishly) embarked on a journey into Boletaria to slay the demons and claim their legendarily powerful Demon's Souls, becoming trapped within the cursed realm in doing so. Unable to pass on when you die and being forced to return to endlessly battle the demons, what hopes have you of facing down these immortal creatures far beyond your meager understand and limited capabilities? To combat them, one must become a Demon themself...

    While somewhat generic, the backstory truly comes into play for gamers who go looking for it. Every item and NPC in the game has its own history relevant to the game's lore- which is quite extensive -yet Demon's Souls never goes out of its way to force the narrative upon players. It's there for the adventurous souls who go looking, and there they may find a tragic tale depicting the true darkness within the human heart...

    The Good:

    Demon's Souls immediately sets itself apart from other RPGs in its unique design. Unlike many RPGs, Demon's Souls avoids lengthy narrative and exposition, in favor of giving the player full control of their destiny. As a whole, the distinct and creative mechanics of the game are so vast that entire Wiki articles have been dedicated to fleshing out and explaining each particular one. But in a nutshell, the core of the game focuses on combat, and character design. Players begin the game with a choice of classes, however as they progress they have the ability to modify their stats and equipment as they see fit. A Player can start out as a Knight and evolve the character into a powerful spell caster or design some Jack-of-All-Trades hyrbid. Unlike games such as Diablo, the classes in Demon's Souls are entirely up to the player's design, whether they choose to build an archetypical RPG hero, or something totally unique.

    Demon's Souls's combat allows players to personalize their approach to fights, right down to the degree of finesse or skill they wish to employ. If players wish to combine stealth with brute force, they can use spells or items in conjunction with a powerful weapon. If they want to use a bow and a sword/shield AND spells, they can equip all 4 at once and swap between primary and secondary left/right hands to quickly access the desired items/abilities. The game allows players to use a "lock-on" targeting system, but this can also be avoided if they so choose. The benefits to either are subtle, but enough incentive to encourage them to practice playing without lock-on (characters move faster without lock-on and many spells and bows have longer range than lock-on distance) or ignore such an "elite" tactic in favor of expedience.

    What makes Demon's Souls truly stand out, beyond its character creation capabilities, more so than the endless details of its combat system, is that the game stresses consequences for your actions. Kill an NPC? That NPC is gone for good, unless you start a new game, or new game+. Did you die while trying to reach that loot on a narrow beam? The area you've fallen in will now become more difficult to encourage you to employ more caution. Do you prefer to play as a disembodied soul? You can, but your HP will be roughly halved, unless you use a ring to partially counter the effects, which means using up a ring slot that might have been useful for another, better ring. There are no checkpoint systems, so dying means starting over from the beginning of every level. Every action has a subtle reaction, so while your choices may never seem world changing- apart from the last-second ending choice -you will notice a result of your actions as you continue forward.

    Lastly, the online component of Demon's Souls deserves a great mention. Players who revive their disembodied spirits and reclaim their human bodies have the option of summoning the spirits of other players to help them along their journey. At the same time, more bloodthirsty players can invade such players as a vengeful Black Phantom with the singular goal of impeding the host players progress. Anything goes, and if they wish to gang up on players with the AI-driven enemies, or pursue a more "honorable" one-on-one duel with the player, whatever the players wish can be accomplished. Successfully slaying a player as a Black Phantom or slaying a Demon (the bosses of the game) as a helpful Blue Phantom will reward players with the return of their corporeal form, so the cycle can continue. The online component can be avoided, but the game strongly encourages its use.

    The Bad:

    Demon's Souls isn't for meek RPG fans seeking a quick-fix of "something different". The unique structure of the game's mechanics require time and dedication to truly appreciate, and players lacking in patience will find themselves increasingly frustrated by the unrelenting nature of the game. Also, while it encourages mulitplayer, Demon's Souls avoids allowing players to directly communicate with one another, in favor of ambiguous animated gestures that could mean anything at all, or nothing at all. Because the game plays in real time at ALL times, even spending the few minutes to type out a PM to another player could risk certain doom if a patrolling enemy or freshly invading player should find you whilst you're busy. Players who wish to immerse themselves in a world and its tale might find Demon's Souls lacking in this category. While the story content IS definitely there, by avoiding forcing it upon players, some RPG fans might find themselves lacking in motivation to continue onward. Perhaps the greatest drawback to the game is that its core mechanics, such as built-in restrictions like damage caps and coop level-restrictions that DO actively affect the player, are never outright explained to them. While the online community has assembled all of the details and crunched the numbers, the game itself never gives this information to players, furthering the difficulty in mastering the game. Additionally, even the "good" aspects of the game have their "bad" aspects. Some RPG fans aren't so keen to experience a world that stresses the consequences of death and the unsettling emptiness of Boletaria. The messaging system, which allows players to leave permanent marks on the ground detailing cryptic messages, can be helpful as well as deliberately misleading. What works for one player may not work as well for another.
     
  2. Surf Solar

    Surf Solar So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Aug 20, 2009
    Nice summary! After I really really enjoy Dark Souls I would really like to give this game a whirl, but I don't own a Playstation 3. :(
     
  3. SnapSlav

    SnapSlav NMA's local DotA fanatic

    Jul 1, 2012
    Ah, that's a shame.

    Yeah, at the time of its release, I really loved Demon's Souls for being a PS3 exclusive, because I took such pride in my ownership of the system. But ultimately, they wanted more sales for the next title, so they went with the dual (and now triple) compatibility model. And as time goes by, being exclusive only hurts the title, in the long run...

    One word of warning, however (and this is why I DIDN'T submit Dark Souls), is should you ever get a PS3 and a copy of Demon's Souls to play, it's much, much harder than its spiritual successor. They didn't just make Dark Souls more accessible on different systems, they also made many of the functions more "noob-friendly". Basically don't expect to be able to make an end-all Lightning weapon that reduces the difficulty overall, cause that ain't gonna happen.... XD
     
  4. SnapSlav

    SnapSlav NMA's local DotA fanatic

    Jul 1, 2012
    Damn! I wrote all this over four years ago??? Tempus fugit indeed...

    Well, although this serves more or less the purpose of a bump, I would also like to add that I've replayed the game fairly recently, immediately after playing the most recent titles in the series (Dark Souls II, Bloodborne, and Dark Souls III) and from that I have gathered a few new insights about the pros and cons of Demon's Souls.

    Pro

    How I forgot to mention that the controls and mechanics, however elusive and not thoroughly detailed, are incredibly intuitive and well-designed, I'll never know. I've played a number of games where some actions are mapped to truly bizarre buttons that make absolutely no sense. It's all quite ergonomic and practical with Demon's Souls, and it's easy to master. An optional tutorial level will explain every combat maneuver, with a not-too-dangerous opportunity to experiment with the new tactic you've just learned. Even the first real level of the game begins with a large expanse with small groups of weak enemies which you can infinitely respawn to further practice these controls, if learning them proves difficult in any way. For a title that is infamous for its unforgiving nature, it is quite accommodating for newcomers!

    Con

    Character creation is kinda funky... When Yahtzee did a Demon's Souls review, he mentioned that the characters could all be described all fish-faced with bulging foreheads, and he's not exactly wrong. Unlike some RPG character creation systems which have certain (extensive) numbers of facial attributes to choose from (25 kinds of lips, 20 kinds of brows, 30 kinds of chins, 50 kinds of torsos, etc etc) which yields many varieties of good-looking characters, Demon's Souls uses the sliding bar system, so what you get isn't entirely obvious by the position on a bar you choose. Also fairly disappointing, moving a slide bar for one attribute (like brow) will move the slide bar of another (like inner brow) so the system somewhat prevents outrageous and exaggerated creations which these sorts of engines are normally infamous for. Yet they still come out looking oddly swollen and falling into that definite uncanny valley territory. It's unfortunate.
     
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