I’d like to make my presence known as a new writer to the site with a retrospective review of one of my all-time favourite titles; Demon’s Souls by From Software for the Playstation 3. You see, I’m a life-long gamer and as the industry we all love grows and changes I think it would be remiss of me not to cast a fond eye back on titles that stood out as exemplary and encourage fellow gamers to try them out. Old games are fun and let you push the boundaries of your gaming knowledge without breaking the bank. I’m Dil, I’m a retro freak and this is what I thought of Demon’s Souls.
“Right, time to be a hero” I told myself, starting up Demon’s Souls. I’d heard from everyone who came into contact with the game that it was tough as a concrete codpiece, but that was just more enticing to a hardcore gamer like me. The first thing that was difficult was making a female character that didn’t look like a neanderthal. Nose bridge depth, tip angle, width and height are just some of the things to choose from when editing the nose alone, there’s gotta be over two hundred facial features to tweak and I’m no expert. Settling for something unisex with long eyelashes I made a mental note to wear a helmet with the visor closed.
Choosing the Temple Knight as a class, due to its high defence and healing magic, I started my quest in the training area. Via ingame messages left on the floor like the scrawlings in your local public restroom I was taught the buttons for dash, block, heavy and light attacks and was soon slaying skeleton soldiers left, right and centre. There’s a knack to the combat, you have to watch your opponent carefully and strike at the right moment. Swinging a weapon uses stamina that you use to block and sprint so if you use it all up the enemy’s attack will stun you, leaving you open to more brutal punishment. If I’m honest I picked up the combat quickly and found it interesting and not too challenging, “most people don’t like to think when playing games so that’s why they found it hard”, I thought to myself.
By the end of the tutorial I was eating those words as I entered a room with a gigantic ogre that turned me into a crimson smear on the flagstones. When I awoke I was addressed by a lady clad in black robes and some kind of wax all over her face like really bad conjunctivitis. She told me I was dead and that whenever I died I would be taken to the Nexus, which acts as a world hub. What I was not told however is that I would have to clear the first world as a spectre with half my maximum health.
From then on things got interesting, more often I read the messages players would leave around the levels, warning of danger, they were helpful and allowed me to prepare. Preparedness counts for nothing, however, if you can’t fight effectively so I would creep around areas, stealthily stabbing unsuspecting enemies in the back and robbing their corpses. A couple of times I was ripped apart by rabid wolves or reduced to a puddle of molten chainmail by a dragon performing strafing runs, but after some farming I was a force to be reckoned with. Undead bodies shattered against my shield and ghoulish possessed armour was as nothing against my enchanted blade when suddenly the game thought “enough playing around” and had me trodden on by a twenty foot tall armour clad behemoth.
Demon’s Souls revels in ruining your day. It gives you the opportunity to craft a brilliant fighter ‘gainst whom the forces of evil break like waves then whips the rug out from underneath you and watches you meekly retrace your steps with more than a little humility. It was when I started being a total bastard that I was let in on the joke. Taking advantage of the fantastic pseudo-online capabilities, I forced myself into another player’s game and tracked him down like an animal. You see when you die you have three choices available to you. Firstly you can reach the point where you died to regain your lost souls, then defeat the boss and get your body back. Secondly, you can turn into a Blue phantom and aid another player in their world and get your body back. Finally, you may choose, like I did, to become an infamous black phantom and ruin someone else’s day whilst simultaneously stealing half their souls and getting your body back.
Now, I’m not mean spirited exactly, but if given the chance to vent my anger on a hero as brave and bold as I once was I’d gladly take him down a notch to satiate my displeasure. Following the trend of storming through levels and hitting the brick wall of the boss monsters, broken up by stints of gleeful mischief, I made it through to the end of the game. Admittedly I summoned a few blue phantoms to distract the bigger adversaries whilst I hacked away at the back of their legs. At the end of the game you’re given the age-old choice of saving the world or enslaving it, and I’m proud to say I saved it. Whether this was in repentance of all the bad things I did on the way to the top or to be sure that no hero could rise to overthrow me I cannot say.
Demon’s Souls was a real challenge and I’m really glad I saw it through to the end. There were times I’d be seriously ticked off after being killed by the impossibly tough bosses, but luckily there was a steady stream of other players I could vent my frustrations on, who were quick to tell me what they thought of me via private messages.
I whole-heartedly recommend Demon’s Souls to any hardcore gamer who thinks that the role-playing genre needs some new blood, a fresh perspective and isn’t afraid to put in the effort. It’s a grueling experience but terrifically rewarding when you master it. The online aspects meld seamlessly with the single player experience and don’t break your immersion. There’s no chat boxes, no party systems and who joins your game is left completely to chance, there’s just you, a dungeon full of baddies and the occasional phantom out for your blood. Granted, this is not a relaxing game you’d play to unwind, it’s a test of willpower and perseverance so don’t say I didn’t warn you!
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