So, I’ve never been a glutton for punishment.
I’m not someone who will play through a game a second time to try the “Hard Mode”. And I would always get discouraged when the game makes me re-do something I’ve already done. Kinda the reason why I’m not very good at NES games. They’re too tough as nails and unforgiving. I don’t know maybe, I’m a victim of modern games holding your hand. But then I started playing Demon’s Souls. This game is the “Hard Mode”. It makes you go back to the start of a level when you die, and it is definitely tough as nails and unforgiving. So why did I keep playing? Why did I try over and over again until I finally thrusted my bastard sword +4 through the heart of Old King Allant? Because of one thing: Accomplishment.
Demon’s Souls is the first of the “Souls Games”.
It came out in 2009 and was a PS3 exclusive. The game and series is known for is punishing difficulty and steep learning curve for first time players. It’s a dark, western, fantasy, action RPG made by the Japanese developer, From Software. So, if your reading this you probably already know, but you play as a hero that you can customize. You can pick your gender, appearance and starting class. You can choose, Soldier, Knight, Hunter, Priest, Magician, Wanderer, Barbarian, Thief, Temple Knight, and Royalty. The starting class just determines your starting gear and starting stats. After you start the game you can play any way you want, Melee, magic, ranged etc… What I mean is if you pick a Magician, you’re not limited to just magic. You can wear or wield anything you want as long as your stats allow it. It can make for some pretty interesting hybrid builds. Personally I’ve always liked to play as a Knight. I wear decent armor with some kind of great sword and a good shield, and I put a few extra points into endurance so my shield can soak up a few hits because wearing heavy armor doesn’t let you dodge very gracefully so I usually keep my shield up and circle strafe till I find an opening to strike. Basically how I got through most of the game. I’ve never played any other type of build so my point of view is from a melee character.
The combat is centered on stamina management.
Everything you do, with the exception of moving around and using items, uses stamina. Swing your weapon, roll or sprint, or block an attack with your shield and you’ll use a chunk of stamina. It regenerates at a rate determined by things like your equipment load and other buffs, but when you use all of your stamina your vulnerable. So the name of the game is stamina management. Don’t attack too many times in a row, make sure you have enough to successfully block an attack with your shield or roll out of the way and keep your self from getting stunned. It takes some practice, some patience and some careful planning.
The punishing difficulty comes from a few things. 1. You have to manage a stamina bar. 2. One mistake could prove to be fatal, bosses and enemies can and will kill you in one hit. 3. You lose all your earned souls when you die, you have one chance to get them back if you make it back to the spot you died and touch your blood stain, but if you die again without reaching your blood stain you lose them forever. 4. You’re sent back to the archstone(beginning of the level) when you die and all enemies re-spawn. 5. Your equipment has a durability stat. If your stuff gets heavily damaged or breaks it can cost A LOT of souls to repair it. This can be a problem if you have none, or lost your souls.
Some specific things to Demon’s souls include: 1. You have an item burden amount determined by your stamina stat. You can only hold so much weight in your inventory so if you find some loot that would over-encumber you, ya need to make a decision on what to drop to make room. Oh and what you drop you can’t get back so choose wisely. However this isn’t too bad of a problem because an NPC in the Nexus called Stockpile Thomas will hold your stuff for you. He’s kind of like a bank. So basically just carry what you need so you can hold the loot you find and bring it back to Thomas. 2. You have to use different types of grasses to heal, unlike in Dark Souls where you have Estus Flasks which refill when you rest at a bonfire. Once you use all your grass trying to kill a boss you’ll have to go farm some more. It can be a problem but if you are a sloppy player who takes damage a lot or somebody who hates farming. But on the other hand this can be a blessing because it means, if your willing to put the time into it, you can stockpile A TON of grass so you will never run out while your fighting a boss where as in Dark Souls you only have so many Estus Flasks you can use until you refill them, which can leave you in situations where you could have defeated a boss if you only had one more flask! Or you could be forced to waste a flask just getting to the boss, which means one less to use while fighting the boss. However this becomes irrelevant later in the game when you’re able to kindle and increase how many you can hold. 3. When you die you are in soul form and your HP is halved. So you need to use a ring slot for the cling ring which gives you more HP when in soul form, unless you think its worth less HP for a different ring.
The game is split up into 5 different areas that you warp to from the nexus (the central hub area) with 3-4 levels within each area. At the end of each level is a boss demon with some levels that are just the boss fight. The final level in each area is an arch demon boss. Once you kill all 5 arch demons you fight the “real” final boss. The nexus is where the Maiden in Black is located. She lets you spend your souls to level up your character. Leveling up lets you choose a stat to increase by one and with each you level up the cost of souls goes up so you want to choose wisely and have a general idea of the type of build you want otherwise you’ll end up wasting stats and souls. One of the two blacksmiths is located in the nexus and lets you repair and improve your weapons and shield in exchange for souls and upgrade items. There are also other NPC’s in the nexus who sell you spells, or miracles, or other items, as well as other NPC’s you’ve met or helped while making your way through the levels.
Warping from the nexus to the other areas makes you feel like the game isn’t connected. In Dark souls the areas are connected so it feels like a real open world. I like the open world design of Dark Souls better because it encourages exploration and i like the freedom to go where ever I want.
The boss demons are challenging and some of the most intense parts of the game. If your not prepared or have no idea what your getting into, it can be pretty aggravating, and you’ll probably die. Although some bosses are pretty easy to figure out within a few minutes of fighting, and some can be easier or more challenging for a certain build. Plus the risk of loosing your souls and having to travel through the level again from the start really add to the stress you’ll feel while fighting. But once you figure it out or come up with a strategy that works for you and that victory text comes across the screen you know it was all worth it. You gain a large amount of souls and the accomplishment of killing a boss in a game known for its difficulty. It feels awesome.
The online aspect.
That’s basically the whole game, fighting through the levels and killing bosses. But there’s also an online element to the game. Sometimes when playing online you can see phantoms of other players playing the game at the same time. Also, other players can leave messages on the ground for players to read, to help or try and trick the gullible, and when a player dies their bloodstain will show up in other players games. If you touch their bloodstain you get to see how they died. There is also the ability to be summoned into another persons game to help them out and vise versa. But players can also invade other peoples game with the intent on killing them… jerks. However you can only be invaded when in human form. So if your playing in soul form you don’t have to worry. I really like reading all the messages and seeing the blood stains and phantoms everywhere. It makes the game feel more alive.
There is a story that involves the Kingdom of Boletaria being cursed which brought demons and something about lulling the old one back to sleep to lift the curse, but it’s not really all that important, and I feel weird saying that. Usually I need a good story in a game but in Demon’s souls, I didn’t care as much. It’s there if you want to know and there’s lots of lore in the NPC dialog and item descriptions if you care about it. After beating it, I had to read a summary online, but don’t take that the wrong way. It’s an interesting type of story telling. It doesn’t shove the story in your face or have lengthy story cut-scenes. It relies on the player to read, listen, and play the story.
Here’s my advice to new players:
=Be patient, and take your time when going through the levels. Look around everywhere, sometimes you can spot traps and ambushes before you run into them.
=Use a shield on your first character so you can learn the game and get a feeling for how to play. The other types of characters are more challenging and are for more experienced players, in my opinion.
=Watch the durability of all your gear. Repair your stuff often to keep costs down. Nothing like spending thousands of souls each on broken gear when you have none.
=Dump all the stuff you don’t need or aren’t currently using into Stockpile Thomas’s stockpile. Especially the upgrade items. They don’t need to be in your inventory to use them at a blacksmith.
=Kill Yurt the Silent Chief.
=Don’t be afraid to look stuff up on wiki’s if you get stuck.
So overall Demon’s Souls is an awesome game.
If you like deep, challenging but fair gameplay, the ability to play the way you want with lots of customization, options and strategies, risks vs. rewards, and a sense of accomplishment. Give this game a shot. In my opinion it’s just as good as Dark Souls and for me, it was the harder game of the two. I have to say though, I prefer Dark Souls over Demon’s Souls. I could write a lot about why but I’ll save that for another day. Anyways, you should go play it!