When the Sony PlayStation 5 launched locally a few weeks ago, only a handful of exclusive next-gen titles were made available, each within a markedly different genre and level of appeal – Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure and Demon’s Souls.
While the former two have a more general appeal, it is the latter which has garnered most of our attention in the weeks since the PS5 launched in SA.
Old, welcome nemesis
There are a number of reasons for this, but namely it is the trauma of playing the PS3 original Demon’s Souls, which proved challenging by every possible metric, and for many a player kicked off the soulslike experience on console, and the PlayStation system in particular.
It has been 11 years since the original game from From Software first tested our resolve, so we were eager to see if the remaster would live up to the same standard, as well as deliver the next-gen gaming experience we’ve been craving.
Thankfully it delivers on both fronts. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that calling this a simple remake or remaster would be a bit of an injustice, as the changes are not just cosmetic.
This as developer Bluepoint Games has done a superb job of making the PS5 version of Demon’s Souls feel like a freshly minted title thanks to some quality of life improvements across the board.
Oh, and the fact that it looks fantastic does not hurt either.
So let’s delve into what this next-gen iteration of the game is like to play.
One of the first questions we’ve been asked about it, is whether you need to have played the original to enjoy this game. The short answer is no, it is not a necessity, especially as few players still have their PS3 on hand.
That said, if you did play the original, there is indeed a higher degree of appreciation of the work that his gone into this new version.
Just from a visual standpoint, it not only looks leagues ahead of the original, it also looks slicker and more nuanced than other more recent From Software titles like Bloodborne.
One great example of this is the way in which fire looks in-game, particularly as it is being hurled at you from the shadows by enemies. Motion and lighting are superb on this front, and are mirrored by other elements for this title.
The bigger boss battles are where you get to enjoy this most, while you’re trying not to die of course, as the scale of the environment and detailed enemies are difficult to ignore, especially in outdoor settings.
When fighting in cavernous or cramped areas, the same feeling of claustrophobia has been captured, so kudos to Bluepoint on that front.
It’s not all perfect though. We were particularly looking forward to the player creation portion of the game at the start. Here, a highly nuanced range of settings and features are on hand to craft the look of your protagonist, but despite our best efforts, it just did not look as we wanted.
Perhaps something a nit more simpler in terms of controls are needed.
This is not a dealbreaker, but something worth noting. It also may not be all that important depending on what character type you opt for. The knight for example, which is what we chose, has his face covered up most of the time anyway.
As for the actual gameplay, controls feel sharp and responsive.
That said, for newcomers to soulslike games, it is important to understand that each time you take on an enemy, a measured approach is needed. Hack and slash simply will not work here, unless you plan on rage quitting early on.
Waiting for an opening
Instead, exchanges in Demon’s Souls are more akin to a negotiation, with you needing to keep an eye on both attack power and stamina, with the two having to work in harmony if you want to progress.
Positioning and patience are also key, with a failure to adhere to either often resulting in the now all too familiar “YOU ARE DEAD” appearing on screen. This is of particular importance when trying to read and predict enemy attack patterns.
All of them, even the bosses, have a distinct pattern in Demon’s Souls. It is just a matter of whether you can juggle defence, evading strikes and waiting for an opening. This is easier said than done of course, and we’ve not followed this advice on many occasions ourselves.
As such, the gameplay of Demon’s Souls is not for everyone, and can prove frustrating at times, especially when you need to defend a lot of the time. When you are successful in exchanges though, it feels hard earned and, in many respects, well worth it.
Beat your first boss and you’ll know what we’re talking about.
Looking at some of the other crucial elements, resources are as key as any other part of a successful Demon’s Souls experience. As is your choice of weapons, particularly in the latter stages of the game.
Again, a controlled and measured approach needs to be taken. Healing yourself with resources you’ve scavenged or earned needs to be done methodically, as you can quickly find yourself without any on hand in a crucial moment.
A quick note too on the messages and bloodstains that other players leave behind in-game.
Our initial thoughts were that most players would try to scupper our progress with messages falsely providing intel on what lied ahead, but for the most part they proved quite helpful indeed, especially when it came to an ambush that may be lurking around the corner.
Demon’s Souls is not for everyone, and that’s okay. The gameplay is deceivingly straightforward, fighting is frustrating at times and boss battles require intense concentration to complete successfully.
If that sounds good to you, then Demon’s Souls is the game for you on the PlayStation 5.
The added bonus to this R1 200-priced game is that it delivers a superb visual experience too. There has not been any close integration of the features and controls found on the DualSense controller, however, so the game itself does not feel truly next-gen.
That said, the quality of life improvements made by Bluepoint Games is appreciated, and of the early PS5 titles, Demon’s Souls seems like you’re getting your money’s worth, provided you can stomach the countless repetitive hours you’ll pour into it to finish.
Demon's Souls is not for everyone, and that's okay. The gameplay is deceivingly straightforward, fighting is frustrating at times and boss battles require intense concentration to complete successfully. If that sounds good to you, then Demon's Souls is the game for you on the PlayStation 5.