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.