October 6th, 2009
Make no mistake, this game will make you cry.
You begin Demon's Souls by setting up a character. This will be the character you use throughout all your playthroughs on a file so choose wisely. There are several different customization options as far as appearance goes so you can get your character to look identical to what you envisioned if you put enough time in it. You can also choose from several different classes which basically start with different stats from the beginning but like any other class can be altered later on.
You then begin your quest in Boletaria where a fog has shadowed the town and Demon's have come to take the souls of mortals. King Allant XII was the ruler who searched for a way to bring a better life to his town by channeling souls that would help enrich everyones lives and so forth. Well this of course doesn't turn out as planned and the town is covered in this evil fog and the town is now cut off from the rest of the world. King Allant awoke The Old One who is an ancient Demon who lives below the Nexus and releases the fog. When outside soldier's attempt to go in and be a hero none ever return. This is where you step in, you are just another soldier attempting to save the town but hopefully you can do a better job than the previous guys, at least you hope that you can. Of course you end up dying and entering the Nexus in soul form where the Maiden in Black gives you a quest to return to the world and retrieve the souls of these Demon's and restore balance.
The music in Demon's Souls is an odd case to talk about. In no way is the music bad, it's actually quite brilliant. The reason one might not notice the music at first because it blends so well with the atmosphere and the tone of the game you can miss it at first even though you are listening to it. The music in this game felt more of a compliment to the environment than it did just to have music in the background for the sake of having music in the background. There might have to be a play of the soundtrack separate from playing the game to hear this great music. It just blends so well with the game itself that it's really hard to notice at first unless you are aware of the fact.
We have all seen some concept art that is released before and after a game hits the shelves. We often wondered what it would be like if that art was near identical to how the game's environment looked. Demon's Souls shows what a great concept art looks like that has come to life. The areas you cover feel like a living interactive piece of art rich in detail and morbidly vibrant. To some extent the graphics aren't as polished as you would expect of a Playstation 3 title but what it lacks in gloss it more than makes up in the overall level design and layout. Make no mistake Demon's Souls is a gorgeous game but it is mostly due to the extreme amount of work and dedication that is clearly seen throughout every stage. Even the cutscenes appear low tech sometimes but it's not about that, it's about being sucked into a living breathing work of art and it does this flawlessly.
Going to break this one down into two simple categories; combat and core mechanics of world/character tendency and how online affects both.
Every RPG thrives on its combat system, the more complex the more of a burden it feels. If it's more simplistic then it just becomes boring and tedious. Well in Demon's Souls it has found a nice middle ground. You don't have to worry about party members
it's just you and you alone. Nor do you have to worry about blisters on your fingers because all you have to do is mash X the whole time to win. FromSoftware took the combat approach with what feels like inspiration from Western RPGs and a JRPG influence, it is kind of a unique blend. Your character moves around in third-person and can roll away, run and even lock-on to enemies. You have your basic movements and then you have your weapons which can be attached to the left or right hand. If you want to hold two weapons fine, go ahead. If you much rather carry a shield and a weapon that's fine too. There is even the option to hold a weapon with both hands by pressing triangle. These can be quick selected by selecting left or right on the D-Pad. You can hold up to two weapons or shields on each arm which does not make too much sense but what does? Also on the bottom arrow of the D-pad you can set usable items such as ones that heal you or temporarily power up your weapon amongst various other tools. The top arrow of the D-Pad is where you can set your magic to use if you have learned any along the way. Magic attacks come in several forms, damage, power up and healing aids. When you attack with your weapon not only does your magic have MP but your weapon use has stamina. So you can't just go swinging around your sword all willy nilly you will use up strength and will have to stop for a bit to regain it, so use wisely. You can go into first-person when using a crossbow which is one of the few exceptions where this mode is possible. Like I said everything is pretty balanced in terms of combat, nothing too fancy yet nothing that can be considered boring.
Tendency, quite possibly one of the most annoying features of the game if you are the type to want to 100% complete a game. In the game you have world tendency and character tendency. World tendency is a little easier to control as all you have to do is defeat demons to raise it or die in human form to lower it. I should have mentioned this earlier but you can play in soul form which lowers your HP and raises attack and doesn't affect your world tendency when you die. Human form is of course more HP but weaker attacks. If you die in a world in human for your world tendency will lower, the bothersome part is if you decide to play online your world tendency will be what the average tendency is between all players so you can never really obtain what you want at that specific time. I might lose some of you here as I am going to split this off Pulp Fiction style.
Online mode consists of co-operative play and pvp (player vs player). You can either team up with someone to beat the game with them or fight them one on one or as a special mode where one person plays as a particular boss of the game. Keep in mind to play with each other you have to be 10 levels apart or else there is just no way. Now character tendency works like this, you kill a black phantom you move towards pure white, you kill an NPC or an ally it moves towards black. Now in the game there are several black phantoms and NPCs to go around but just not enough black phantoms to raise it to pure white if you go too low. This is where online can come in handy, if you defeat another player who is a black phantom you go pure, if you defeat a player who is good you go evil and etc etc. If you also revive a player during co-op you head towards pure white as well. You might be wondering what all of this means, well pure white and pure black world and character tendency unlock certain events or weapons that appear if you are in the purest form of said color. It may sound a bit complicated but this pushes for multiple plays with yourself or with other people through online. The ability for co-op really enhances the experience of the game as it is amazingly fun by yourself to begin with but with a partner it is just that much better.
Due to the difficult nature of this game the core game itself can last anywhere between 30-50 hours which is perfect for any game in its genre. With so many items to collect and so many things that are missable on several sessions it is hard to go through this game just once. You may find yourself replaying the game several times and learning new strategies. Problem is with each new game you play, you keep almost everything you have obtained although the difficult increases with each new game that's started. The online helps out tremendously as it makes some of the tasks within a game that much easier if you have a reliable partner. Don't think for a second you can just play through this game once, consider the first playthrough your tutorial. Not only will you play it again but the enjoyment will not fade during repeated attempts to beat the game again. Not to mention, there are two different endings so one time through is just simply not enough.
Demon's Souls is a fantastic RPG, Demon's Souls is a brilliant RPG. FromSoftware really struck gold this time and have created a world no gamer should ever pass up. It is one of the few RPGs that can be considered timeless and the formula was passed on to its spiritual successor Dark Souls and should be continued on. In terms of difficulty and immersion and the sheer brilliance of the environment Demon's Souls is an essential RPG. Don't let the difficulty scare you, the time that one puts into this game will melt away.