It sometimes seems that Demon’s Souls has been lost to time, the forgotten older brother of the more feted Dark Souls. If so then it’s a fate it doesn’t deserve.
The first in the now-legendary Souls series, which extends to last year’s PS4-exclusive Bloodborne and the rapidly approaching Dark Souls III, Demon’s Souls set the standard that the action-RPG series now follows.
Although its roots can be traced back to the King’s Field series of games, it was Demon’s Souls that laid the real foundations for the modern games. Dropping the player in to the dank and desperate land of Boletaria, the game wastes no time on niceties such as scene setting or introductions. Instead you are left to find your own way across the land, battling dragons and demons while attempting to save the realm from the Old One.
Infamous for its extreme difficulty, Demon’s Souls is not as hard as its reputation suggests. That’s not to say it is an easy game as it is indeed very demanding, but instead it’s one that requires precision in its playing and a good knowledge of its systems to survive.
Central to its success – and integral to mastering the game – is its delicately balanced combat system, which allows players to approach its many challenges in a variety of ways, from brute force to magic. Perfectly weighted, combat in Demon’s Souls enables players to read enemy attacks and always have the opportunity to respond. If you enter a fight that you are unprepared for you can expect to die before you even have the chance to strike. Enter a fight that you are underpowered for, however, and you still have a chance if you know how to play to your character’s strengths.
Of course the other mechanic central to Demon’s Souls’ success is its online component. Familiar now but remarkable back in 2009 (or 2010 in the UK), the game allows players to leave messages throughout Boletaria, warning others of traps and ambushes or alerting them to potential treasures. More importantly it allows other players to assist you in your game or invade, adding an extra level of risk and reward that becomes especially important when your precious supply of souls is at risk.
Souls are the game’s currency, allowing you to level up your character to face the increasing challenges you face. Gained from downed enemies, they can be easily lost when killed by a monster or invading player. Although you can return to your place of death to reclaim lost souls, the path is treacherous and dying before they are collected means they are lost for ever.
This constant risk and reward in the game world gives Demon’s Souls its extra edge, making each play a gamble and the losses as devastating as the wins are gratifying.
If you’ve never taken a step in to Boletaria then it’s well worth a trip if you have the opportunity. Demon’s Souls is as fresh now as it was when it emerged, despite the presence of pseudo and spiritual sequels that have since carried its torch.
A unique game that sparked a legend, Demon’s Souls is one of the best games not only on PlayStation 3 but also of its genre and shouldn’t be forgotten.