Demon's Souls Review
See PixlBit's Review Policies
On 10/20/2009 at 08:32 PM by Nick DiMola
The greatest game of the year or an exercise in frustration?
Players looking for a magnificent, engaging experience who can tolerate high difficulty and repetition of levels will undoubtedly find a lot to love in Demon's Souls. However, the average player will be overwhelmed with the challenge, or completely put-off by the repetition featured in the game.
Demon's Souls is an unapologetically hard game. For full disclosure, I have played quite a bit of the game, but have not made very much progress. The title, set in a dark dreary medieval land, is split into levels each being of considerable length. Unlike most modern games, Demon's Souls offers no checkpoints mid-level, even though each level can take upwards of an hour to complete.
This is where Demon's Souls frustrated me to no end. As I progressed in the level, making it as far as thirty minutes in, I would die thanks to some cheap trap, which was created solely with the intention of killing me. If it wasn't a trap, it would be some enemy placed where I couldn't see him, a slight miscalculation in battle which resulted in death, or just some overpowered enemy that required a strategy in order to beat. In any of the cases, the consequence was always the same: restarting the level from the beginning.
Needless to say, this is an exercise in frustration. It reminds me of Guitar Hero 2, oddly enough. For anyone who has ever played Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd on Expert, you know well that you will ace the first 5+ minutes of the song every single time. It's a total walk in the park. But once the intense part of the song rolls around, especially for the first few times, you can't get the rhythm of it down. Each time you mess that one part up, you have the pleasure of replaying the whole first 5 minutes over again, just to try out that one part that messed you up. This is Demon's Souls in a nutshell.
The game simply requires a massive time investment just to beat something as easy as the first level. The worst part about it is that checkpoints placed throughout the level would've created a much more engaging experience for most gamers. Granted, some shortcuts can eventually be unlocked, but they are so few and far between, they don't offer much help. It's also worth noting, that though Demon's Souls is always saving your equipment, experience, and location, it never feels like it gives you a significant competitive advantage. Players will need to invest a massive amount of time to level up enough to assist them in progressing forward.
When it comes down to it, only players that have the time to invest in Demon's Souls, and the patience to deal with the repetition will be able to appreciate many of the great elements of the game. The worlds are vast, and though dreary and devoid of life, magnificent and beautiful in their own way. The enemy AI is surprisingly adept, featuring a certain randomness that will always keep players on their guard. The bosses are massive, leaving any player in awe upon their first encounter.
Players also have an unbelievably unique way to interact with the community of players. Messages can be left in blood, and because the entire game is online, other players can see these messages. Sometimes they are warnings, sometimes they are a cry for help. Because rating a message fills up the writer's health, it's not odd to see these cries scattered throughout the land. In addition, players can see the silhouettes of other live players as they run around defeating the game's various enemies. Co-op is available to players after beating the first boss, which allows them to pair up with a friend, form a strategy, and take on the enemies which are causing hardship.
Unfortunately, for me, most of what's great about Demon's Souls is totally lost due to the unbending difficulty and the absurd lack of checkpoints. The game offers opportunity for exploration and discovery but dissuades players from doing so by always hanging the threat of death over their heads. While this experience may jibe with other players, it just didn't at all for me.
I say this in closing, if you are willing to invest yourself and all of your time fully in Demon's Souls, there is possibility that you'll discover one of the greatest games of the year. However, if you are averse to replaying large sections of levels over and over again just to make some small progress each time, you may find yourself despising Demon's Souls after just a few short hours with the game.