Review: Demon’s Souls (PS3 Import)
by Alex Lucard on April 15, 2009

Demon’s Souls
Publisher: Sony
Developer: From Software
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date (Asian): 02/24/2009


One of the reasons the PS3 is my favorite system of the current consoles is how import friendly it is. I’m imported games from Japan like X Edge, which will be known as Cross Edge when it hits US shores next months. Darkstalkers and Disgaea in the same game? How could I not? I’ve also imported games from England like Singstar 2 with a better track list and six months before it hit US shores. Hell, I’ve even downloaded games from the PS Store by making different region accounts.

When it was announced by Sony that

A) Demon’s Souls was never coming stateside AND it was supposed to be one of the PS3’s killer applications

And

B) That the Asian version (not to be confused with the Japanese) was going to have full English options including voice acting and instructions, I pretty much HAD to get it. It took about a month to get here through Yesasia.com, but it was ten bucks cheaper (and with free shipping) than Play-Asia.com, so it was worth the wait compared to the savings.

So now I’ve ransacked Demon’s Souls. As anyone can import for the PS3 without modding the system or getting a boot disc the only question that needs to be asked is, “Should Demon’s Souls be your first import game for the PS3 considering you don’t need to know a word of Japanese to play it?”

Let’s find out…

Let’s Review

1. Story

When I first turned out Demon’s Souls, I was quite impressed. The opening cinematic was quite impressive and pretty and it did a great job of explaining the world and recent events in the game. Basically, a Kingdom has been sealed off from the rest of the world by a thick fog, or miasma. Inside the kingdom, a great number of demons have appeared, collected the souls of humans and growing more powerful with each harvest. Those humans that have managed to survive have gone mad or succumbed to evil. As a lone hero (kind of), you enter into the mist to not only slay the demons, but to collect souls yourself so that you too can grow in power and defeat the menace.

Then of course, you die. This is where the game introduces you to the Physical Body and the Soul Body. When you die, you keep playing, albeit it now as a Soul Body. A Soul Body has less Hit Points than your usual form which puts you at a greater disadvantage than when you died originally. Ouch. You can regain your physical form by slaying a demon or using a special artifact, but for the majority of the game, just assume you’ll be in a Soul Body rather than flesh and blood.

When you die, you will leave a bloodstain where you died. When you return to the game, if you touch that bloodstain, you will regain all your collected souls. As this game has an online component, if you touch a bloodstain from another character, you’ll get to watch a re-enactment of how they died. Neat.

Sadly, this is all the story there is. After that great opening, the rest of the game becomes nothing more than a hack and slash RPG with little to no other story points guiding you or explaining the world of Demon’s Souls. This was a huge letdown for me, as I was hoping to learn all about the various demon lords, their backgrounds, personalities and even encounter some memorable NPC’s. Nope. It’s just one big button masher for the most plot, and the plot be damned.

After an excellent start, the story/plot of Demon’s Souls just dissipated and left me, at best, cold, and at worst, pretty damn bored.

Story Rating: Bad

2. Graphics

I wasn’t impressed by the visuals of Demon’s Souls. To be honest, the character creator looked like something out of a bad WWE game; most specifically the god awful Wrestlemania XXI. No matter what you do, your character WILL be fugly. Thankfully, I chose the knight class to start with so I never had to see my guy’s face. Go armour!

There are five zones in the game, all of which are vast and offer some nice scenery. The downside is that the game is just too shadowy and muted when it comes to colours. I could make the obligatory Gears of War joke, but it’s too easy and cliche at this point. GoW is at least detailed in its drabness. Demon’s Souls is pretty much greys and pastels and just very dull. Due to all the darkness, the overall lack of colour and the awful character designs, the game feels, at times, half finished and it looks more like a PS2 than a PS3 game to me.

The demons themselves are VERY undewhelming, as are most of the enemies you encounter in the game. In fact, a lot of enemies are just generic foot soldiers using the skins of one of the many classes you didn’t pick at the beginning of the game. Here’s a fun example. The first sort of mini-boss in the game is a knight with SLIGHTLY different armour colouration from my character. No, I couldn’t pick my armour colour. So when we encountered each other, I had a bit of confusion as to who I was. Granted I had only played the game for ten minutes and if I had been a Templar Knight, Mage, Noble, Barbarian or one of the other character classes, it would have been easier to tell them apart. Still, again I found myself disappointed with Demon’s Souls If only because this was to be a major release, and yet it has an astounding lack of depth in terms of opponents, colours and textures. I will say that the bosses in this game, especially the Red Dragon and Blue Dragon, are amazing.

What’s here is acceptable and it will easy hold you over for a while, but it’s also nowhere near what we’ve come to expect from top tier PS3 visuals and as I said earlier, it sometimes felt like a high end PS2 game rather than a PS3 title.

What is it with next gen games and a decided lack of colour and detail. Sorry kids, but if you can’t make colour work with a high end high-definition system, then you’re doing it wrong.

Graphics Rating: Decent

3. Sound

I was really impressed by the voice acting and English translations in this game. Considering this is an Asian edition and that Demon’s Souls is more than likely not heading stateside, I was expecting nothing but Engrish from beginning to end. Instead, the menus, instructions and in-game text are nicely done and it felt like I was playing a North American release. The voice acting, especially in those opening cinematics was especially impressive. The actors really made this game feel like an epic adventure. The inflection, delivery and pacing all set me up for that eventual “What happened to the plot?” moment two to three hours into the game.

Sound effects are well done too. This is one of the few games I’ve played where they get the clang of sword on shield just right. It’s a bit odd that none of the humanoid characters make noises when hit or killed though.

When there is music, and to be honest, there isn’t a lot, it’s glorious. Those opening cinematics will really make you think this game will have both an epic plot and score. Alas, neither is true, but at least when they do crop up, it is solid quality across the board.

The sound is easily one of the best aspects of Demon’s Souls. It’s just too bad that there’s so little in this game.

Sound Rating: Good

4. Control and Gameplay

Like most of Demon’s Souls, I was a bit disappointed in this area as well. Although I can understand why they went with the particular control scheme they used, at no point did it ever feel natural of comfortable to me.

For example, L1 is for the shield (or secondary weapon) you carry in your left hand and R1 is your main weapon which is wielded in your right hand. See, it makes sense, but compared to other button mashers, it just doesn’t FEEL right. As well, there’s a bit of lag between say, attacking with your sword and then raising your shield. Considering the timing of these two actions is a matter of life or death in a lot of skirmishes, this gets annoying quickly.

Other odd control choices are using the O button for the dodge/backstep/roll option, which would normally be assigned to an R button, and the lack of ability to pause the game at any time. This REALLY sucks. The rest of the controls are pretty straight forward. X is to interact with people or pick up dropped loot. The Square button is for using items. The triangle button switches you from wielding weapons with one hand to two hands and back again.

One of the coolest control options is that by pressing the select button, you can leave messages for other Demon’s Souls players. Let’s say you fall down a giant pit that you somehow missed. When you get back there, you can press select and choose to leave a message like “Giant pit ahead.” The ability to help/warn your fellow gamers is a wonderful idea and it has been a major factor in uniting the Demon’s Souls importer community. Ninety-five percent of the time the messages are helpful, but every so often you’ll encounter a message left by a douchebag that will actually provide you with erroneous information. Thankfully you can rate the messages so the quality ones will stay in the game far longer than the ones written by jerks.

As for the actual gameplay, it’s a standard hack and slash. Enemies respawn whenever you enter or leave an area. You attack, defend and kill or be killed. One very different implementation is the stamina bar. Each attack or block takes a bit of your stamina bar away. When you don’t have enough stamina, you can’t attack or defend. Well you can block, but blocking without stamina costs hit points, so you probably don’t want to do that. The stamina bar is constantly refilling. This is an interesting idea, but there a big problem in the respect that enemies and bosses don’t have a stamina bar or the issues related to it, thus putting you at a MASSIVE disadvantage. I mention this here now because it IS a gameplay issue, but it will also cost some points in the balance section a little later on as well.

The game is surprisingly deep with the fact the game will vary slightly based on if you are in a Physical Body or a Soul Body and that you can shift the alignments of both you and the very world itself with certain critical actions.

Finally, there’s the online component of Demon’s Souls to look at. We’ve already covered the ability to leave messages for each other, but there’s a whole hell of a lot more to experience in this regard. When you get to a certain point in the game, you can actually summon another player or two (The back of the game says up to three other players, but I’ve yet to get a full four man team to actually work, so I’m playing it safe by saying only three players. The problem is that with each update to the game, some things like World Tendency have changed dramatically, so it could just be that the four player party was nixed somewhere…or just isn’t working right.). In order to summon friends or strangers, you must be in a Physical Body and your friends will be in a soul form. You’ll need to find their “Blue Eye Stone” in order to summon them. Together these allies can help you against a boss, and in return, they will be awarded a physical body again. Yay! This nice twist on co-op play once again reinforces an awesome spirit of teamwork and kinship you normally don’t find in playing an online game with veritable strangers. You can even rate each other on how well they worked with you so other players know if they’re summon a twat or not.

There is also a PVP option. If you find the “Black Eye Stone,” you can replace a boss in another player’s game and fight them to the death. This is one thing I’m not a fan of, as this encourages gamers to be complete dicks to each other, such as leveling up pretty high, getting a ton of swank gear…and then going into the game of someone who is new to the game and slaughtering them. Here’s a great example of being a dick for the sake of being a dick in the game.

Overall, the controls are subpar, but the engine is amazingly deep and has a lot of promise to be something major. I also enjoyed the online aspects and how it, for the most part, is geared towards fostering a positive friendly community amongst players.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Decent

5. Replayability

Although Demon’s Souls is a mostly linear game, like most hack and slash games, you can at least go back to previous worlds and areas and catch things you might have otherwise missed. This can be anything from spells to battles with character that were very hard at lower levels but yield a great deal of souls.

You also have nearly a dozen character classes to start from at the beginning of the game. The further you get in the game, the less distinction there is between these classes as everything blends together. However, in those early stages, you live or die based on your character class and the inherent items you receive from your choice. Sure the enemies, items locations, and the like will all stay the same, but different classes and playing with your friends and allies can really change how the game FEELS.

Sure, compared to a lot of other games, Demon’s Souls will feel like a one shot unless you have friends that also imported the game or you are active in the DS import communities online, but compared to other action role playing games, there are a lot of reasons to come back to this title again and again.

Replayability Rating: Above Average

6. Balance

This is the one area where Demon’s Souls falls apart, and horribly so. My big problem with the game is that souls are currency for everything. You use them for stat increases, buying weapons, fixing weapons, buy armour, fixing armour and more. This is all well and good, except that when you die, you lose all your souls and you can’t get them back until you find the spot you died in the last time around. Here’s a perfect example of things going hideously wrong.

“Oh look. I have to fight five things at once. Oh no, my weapon just broke. Oh no, now I am dead because I can’t really fight back. Oh well, I guess I’ll just repair my wea…nope. No souls. I guess I’ll just buy a new…nope. No souls. Oh well, I’ll fight weak enemies until I level up and have a better chance at fighting unarmed. Nope. You need souls to level up.”

See where the problem lies? If you have some item break and then you die, you are sucked into a downward spiral of suck where you are at such an extreme disadvantage that you have no choice but to fight weak enemies, retreat back into the Soul World, heal up and repeat for a long time until you have enough souls to fix your stuff or buy new gear. The problem is that everything is crazy expensive, which means you will more than likely be bored to tears by the time you can get on with the game. By that time though, you won’t want to. You’ll want to move on to something more rewarding and less time consuming.

Even worse is that Demon’s Souls could have had a way around this. The same way around it that other action RPG’s have. Buy a ton of crap and then store. Then you can sell it in case you lose all your souls so that you can at least by something decent. This is known as the Sword of Vermillion principle. However, Demon’s Souls ass rapes you once again by making it so that you can’t sell anything. Once you have an item, you can either store it or delete it. You can’t sell anything, which is utterly insane. It gets even worse when you are considering buying a new weapon or armour as you can’t compare how well the item works unless you buy it! Remember how I said everything is crazy expensive? Well now you just spent thousands of souls on something that was inferior to what you currently have and there’s no way to recoup. This is JUST. PLAIN. STUPID. From Software needs a serious kick in the ass for this.

Factor in this issue along with the strange gameplay and the horrible implementation of the stamina bar and you have a recipe for abject failure. Even if all these things were fixed, Demon’s Souls would still be a challenging game due to the size of the world and the lack of a pause feature as well as the lack of a true saving system. WITH all these balance and gameplay flaws, Demon’s Souls is a pretty poorly designed game and it will drive away far more gamers than it will endear. Because the world are so long and you will have to replay them several times from the beginning (as you have to beat or perish in one shot) without any checkpoints, this game has more in common with 8 and 16 bit games where cruel punishment was the sport of the day. I really don’t think people that started gaming with this generation or even in the past two will be able to look past the challenge. Instead, they’ll just be frustrated and pissed at how much they paid to import this thing.

Balance Rating: Dreadful

7. Originality

Although the core of the game is your basic mindless hack and slash, Demon’s Souls does bring a lot of new things to the table, even if most of them are poorly implemented. I love the ability to leave hints and tips for other gamers, and playing with friends is a blast.

Demon’s Souls is amazingly deep and also features some of the biggest worlds I’ve seen in an action RPG, which has both its up and downsides to it. Even the core aspects of an action RPG are tilted on its head, from a very different control scheme to the…sigh, inability to sell items.

Demon’s Souls doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does put a new coat of paint on it.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

Like most button mashers/action RPG’s/beat ‘em ups, Demon’s Souls is quite addicting. The hack and slash combat is one of those things that has sucked gamers in since the dawn of this form of entertainment. You can find yourself playing for hours and not even realizing how much time has flown by.

However, there are some downsides to the game. The first is that the levels are huge, and if you die, you have to start at the very beginning of the level again. Sure you can find some short cuts along the way, but as there are no checkpoints or quicksaves, you have to be prepared to play a level over potentially dozens of times until you get through without a scratch. This will either utterly turn of a gamer, or drive to complete due to a mix of determination and spite. Then there is also the issue of break equipment, which seems to turn off a lot of gamers. Now I don’t mind it. I love Koudelka after all and equipment breaks in that all the time. Still, when everything is so expensive in Demon’s Souls and you lose everything when you die AND you can’t sell items, that’s another thing that’s going to turn gamers off.

Sadly, as good as this game can be, there’s a lot here that will discourage gamers from getting too far into the title. Still if you make it far enough, you’ll find multiplayer makes up for a fair share of the issues that plague this game.

Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre

9. Appeal Factor

As Demon’s Souls is only available by importing currently (and probably forever), that cuts the potential fan base down dramatically, even if the game is entirely in English. Most gamers just don’t want to import, even if they know how.

Even if you do import and you are an action RPG fan, you’ll have to ask yourself if the peculiarities of Demon’s Souls are to your liking. For everything I liked about Demon’s Souls there was also something I really disliked. I have a hard time justifying this purchase to myself, and I’m the most gung-ho import gamer writing for Diehard GameFAN.

If you’ve ever been curious about importing, but had qualms because you didn’t know the language, this would be the game to get. At the price tag for shipping this one across the Pacific though…no, I just don’t think it is worth it.

Demon’s Souls is a cult game at best, played only by those willing to shill out extra money to have a more exclusive English-language game. Even then, half those people getting it won’t be playing it for long.

Appeal Factor: Bad

10. Miscellaneous

If you are interested in importing Demon’s Souls, you will be hard pressed to find a more active and helpful fan community than the one for this game. Just don’t ask, “Does it have a US release date?” and you’ll be fine.

From a very active Gamefaqs forum to a wonderful wiki at http://demonssouls.wikidot.com/intro (Careful, as the grammar/English isn’t that great, but you should be able to weed through it), the English speaking Demon’s Souls community is the most active I’ve seen for an import game since the old Sakura Taisen days. If you’re having problems getting past a boss, need a map, or are unsure of whether you should go for a magic/miracle or melee oriented character, this is the place to go. No matter when I was playing, there were always at least half a dozen other DS gamers online at the same time that I could have summoned or attacked. For an import game, that’s pretty impressive.

So a mediocre game, but with a great fan community for a game designed to actually have a great fan community. That’s something Demon’s Souls excels at, even if it falls short in other areas. If you do decide to import this for one reason or another, you’ll be more than happy with THIS aspect of the game.

Miscellaneous Rating: Good

The Scores
Story: Bad
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Dreadful
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: MEDIOCRE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Demon’s Souls may sport English in-game text, voice acting and instructions for those of you who import the Asian version, but in the end, the game doesn’t provide enough bang for the buck. Although the game occasionally sports some decent visuals, it’s a dingy dull looking title for the most part with a control scheme you will either love or utterly hate. It’s also a wildly unbalanced game sporting many “new features” for an action RPG that might have sounded good on paper but provide some serious issues when it comes to actual follow-through. Still, the game boasts one of the best and most helpful fan communities out there for an import title, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more import friendly title for the most import friendly console of all time. Demon’s Souls isn’t a top tier title, but it does have its moments.



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Alex Lucard

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  • kuran

    you suck. you probably dislike the game because you got owned like a million times by weak souls. lol. It’s worth the $60 in my opinion and other reviewers. Well I guess everyone has their own opinion. sigh…

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Ah, the last defense of a gamer that is too insecure to accept an opinion other than their own. “You don’t like a game because you suck at it.” Considering I’ve beaten the game, I’m pretty active in the fan communities and I’m fairly positive about the game save for the same areas that are generally universally reviled about it, even by its biggest fans…it both amusing and hilarious to read that I both suck and dislike a game where neither assumption are in fact, true.

    I suggest reading and comprehending the text before making a blanket erroneous statement that does nothing to further your cause. Thanks!

  • Free_ASP

    One small thing.
    Bosses do have stamina as well. You just don’t see it.
    If you use Death Cloud (which will damage the health and slows down the stamina regeneration) on some of the bosses who use a lot of stamina costly attacks, they will freeze up after few attacks as long as Death Cloud is in effect.

  • atrumsefira

    “Even worse is that Demon’s Souls could have had a way around this. The same way around it that other action RPG’s have. Buy a ton of crap and then store.”

    Ed’s Grind stone is an item that can be bought, carried and stored that recovers righthand weapon’s duration.

    Don’t know how you missed that if you’ve played through and beaten the game..

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    The item exists, yes but you fail to remember

    A) Things tend to be cost-prohibative

    B) Stores are sparse

    C) it doesn’t really help with dual-weilding

    D) It doesn’t save you from the iherent flaw you quoted and this completely ignored. Take a game like Koudelka that applies the same attributes with breaking weapons, but does it right compared to Demon’s Souls where someone new to the game will end up losing their primary weapon and not have enough souls collected to by anything and the game is basically over for them.

    Demon’s Souls is a game that will only ever appeal to a niche audience due mainly to the design flaws of the game that will push away the majority of gamers while keeping that small sect who enjoy games like say, King’s Field happy. That doesn’t mean the game is awful. it just means designs flaws and odd choices limit the potential audience of overall experience for all but a paltry few.

  • annihilator

    i think it’s funny how this is the only website that give demon souls a bad rating i loved the challenge in the game in fact i wish game’s now and day where half as hard as this one i’d be playing them longer this is an amazing game so it’s hard stop crying and deal with it u know what wrong we are so used to games hold are hand till the end that when a game with a real challenge comes along we cry because there’s no check point damn i made a mistake it o.k. the game forgives me so i’ll just try again. news flash buddy in real life when u make a mistake guess what there is no second chance u have to deal with so stop cry because u suck at playing at a challenge go back to playing little kids games that hold your hand until u beat it don’t talk trash about an amazing game everyone i know who has the game will tell u it’s amazing every reviewer gave it great ratings u know why because there not crying about a little challenge back the on nintendo and so on those game where fun u know why because there where hard there was no easy option. easy option ruins games i never ever ever play a game on easy never if a game is not going to challenge me then i don’t need to play it that’s why i get bored of games now in days shin megami is the closet thing to a hard game in along time until demon souls. so stop crying because you suck there’s hundreds of people playing and there not complaining and in fact some people got 400 hrs 200 hrs so guess what it must be a good game if people play that much and that’s newgame++++++++ so it really is not so bad the only time i die is my own fault because i was careless or just hard headed but i learn from my mistakes and guess what the game is amazing yeah story wise could be better but it’s not the worst and there actually a good amount of side quest if u talk to everybody explore every inch of the map the way u r suppose to play a game.

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Wow, that is some incoherent gibberish right there. If this is typical for the audience of Demon’s Souls fans, no wonder I found it mediocre.

  • ANNIHILATOR

    SO MADE SOME MISTAKES TYPING
    TO BAD DEAL WITH IT BUT MAN YOU MUST BE THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD THAT GIVES IT A BAD RATING U MUST BE GOD. I HAVE SEARCHED AND SEARCHED JUST TO MAKE SURE AND YUP ONLY WEBSITE WHO COMPLAINS U MUST LIKE MINDLESS GAMES THAT REQUIRE NO THINKING RIGHT? YEAH THAT FIGURES.
    U MUST LOVE MINDLESS SHOOTERS RIGHT YEAH LIKE THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE. THAT’S WHILE GAMES HAVE NO CHALLENGE TO THEM. SHAME WHAT HAS BECOME OF GAMING NOTHING BUT MINDLESS BUTTON PUSHING

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Ooh. All caps. That’s…not helping your arguement any.

    I do love shooters though! Not first person shooters, but game’s like R-Type, Ikaruga, Gradius and the like.

  • Mark B.

    So, before this devolves into anyone else turning on Caps Lock, can we maybe all agree on a couple of things?

    Can we all agree that, since numerous people have said this across the internet, that Demon’s Souls is a spiritual successor to King’s Field?

    Can we also all agree that King’s Field is a niche franchise that isn’t going to appeal to everyone, seeing as how it breaks its digital bits off in you from the get-go and never really stops?

    Can we then also finally agree that, if not everyone likes King’s Field because it’s belligerent and uncompromisingly rough in most respects, that not everyone is going to like Demon’s Souls for much the exact same reason?

    I’d like to think that this is a possibility.

  • Dean C.

    Wow. This is the first negative review I have read for this game. That said, I’ve bought it, mostly because I disagree with most every “flaw” you found in the game.

    Cautionary note: This game is balls to the wall difficult. If you found Ninja Gaiden frustrating, run far, far away. If you aren’t ready to die 50+ times before you even become decent at the game, don’t buy it. It’s in a very similar vein to roguelikes in that it will punish you harshly and often. Thought you were doing pretty good, huh? Well, a giant boulder happens to disagree with you.

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    I think your comments are quite interesting as I found Ninja Gaiden so easy I was bored with it halfway through and I’ve never died in a roguelike save Azure Dreams.

    I’ve actually encountered far more people unhappy with the game than enjoy it. It’s mainly because the only people talking about the game are the members of a highly insular and supportive community and those members are also the ones writing the reviews. I can’t deny Demon’s Souls has its charm, but it’s a very niche game that’s only going to appeal to a small percentage of the gaming community.

    As for the flaws I pointed out, you’ll notice Atlus USA, the publisher for the eventual US version has complained about nearly the same exact ones and told the developers to fix things before they release it here. So when the game’s own publisher agrees that the current version of DS is problematic, that’s quite telling.

  • boradley

    i’m not sure what flaws you are talking about fixing, atlus so far has only committed to a translate and publish. any ‘flaw’-fixing (and i totally disagree that the weapon breaking is a flawed system) is as yet undetermined.

    but back to the weapon breaking/souls problem. yeah my weapon broke early on. it was not a problem and only cost a few hundred souls to fix. easily obtained in the first level. carrying a spare weapon helps as does remembering to repair stuff inbetween visits to the areas. i haven’t had a weapon break again in 80+ hours of play. careful strikes and trying not to let your weapon hit the walls greatly reduces the chance of it breaking.

    also, weapon/armour effectiveness can easily be gleaned from their stat pages (press square on the item in list view) so you should be able to tell if it’s better or worse than what you’ve got. you can check these out before buying the item.

    i too found not being able to sell things a little different, but got over that very quickly. if you do need souls in a hurry there are the soldiers/hero’s souls which can be stored and used for ‘more currency’ at any time, plus a few fairly obvious places to get all the souls you need to buy or repair anything.

    anyway i’m sure you’re aware of all this, i just found the game required a level of attention to your actions that many games don’t and for this reason i’ve been enjoying it far more than any other game i’ve bought lately. at no point did i ever think the game was being cheap with me but blamed every death squarely on my own mistakes.

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Dude, I don’t know HOW you missed Atlu’s comments about From Software needed to fix the game before it gets published here. Even the US official Playstation 3 blog has a video diary on it.

    “Atlus announced last week that they would be bringing From Software’s RPG Demon’s Souls to the US. Though the game is already available with English voice acting and subtitles, Atlus revealed there was still a bit of work to be done before they could release the title. Apart from tidying up punctuation and any spelling errors, Atlus will also be doing some pretty extensive bug hunting. They’ll be looking at player feedback, and sending a list of discovered bugs and glitches to From Software to be fixed before the release.”

    Anyway, I agree with you that the game requires a lot of attention and precision, which was one of the things I DID like about it. If you read the review, you’ll notice what I don’t like is that the game is balanced only to a niche group of gamer’s. It’s an action RPG with little to no story and the majority of the focus in on hack n’ slash. That kind of sucks. I thought the character creation graphics were little better than the CAWS wrestling games have on the PS2 and the visual options for your character were pretty lackluster. Most importantly the game is going to turn off anyone not used to a King’s Field-esque sort of title which is 95% of the potential audience out there. Again, if you’re new and you break a weapon early on without the forethought to carry a spare (as you won’t be able to afford it based on character class) You’re screwed. Fists alone can’t get you souls unless you are crazy meticulous and so those newcomers are going walk away frustrated at their inability to progress. Unless you know, you start from scratch. However, the vast majority of gamers won’t want to once you get into that situation.

    The only three real complaints I have about the game is that the plot is boring as hell (when their actually IS story progression), the game is wildly unbalanced so that only long time FROM Software fans or a very select group of gamers will be able to appreciate it, and that very few gamers will have fun with this save for that very niche audience. I say repeatedly in the review I had fun with the game, but as a critic you have to be able to put aside your emotions and actual review the game you know…CRITICALLY. Demon’s Soul is a deeply flawed title. However the game has that nice core audience thanks to the community aspect of the game. However, the game’s not going to truly expand outside that audience once Atlus brings the game stateside. Everything else about the game is mediocre or average to pretty nice.

  • boradley

    ahh i get what you’re driving at with the fixes. i understood that to mean things like the too-light ragdolls, ostrava disappearing glitch (which happened to me first time through, not game breaking), and some questionable resetting of world tendencies. i don’t think they’ll be changing the stamina bar for instance ;)

    anyways although i don’t entirely agree with some aspects of your review, i do like the way you reviewed it in general. cheers :)

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Yeah, as much as I didn’t like say the stamina bar or the buying/selling aspect at the beginning of the game, I wouldn’t want them to CHANGE it for an American audience. That NEVER works out well.

    And dude, it’s totally cool if you or even the vast majority of DS fans disagree with my review. It’s just one man’s opinion and neither right nor wrong. It’s just babbling about games.

    I had the Ostrav disappearing glitch on me too!

    Honestly I’m looking forward to the actual engine fixes in the game, as they would probably raise the game’s rating from “decent” to “Above Average” or “enjoyable” with me.

  • sabreblade

    I’m not a DS fan yet…I’ve been considering getting the game’s NA release version, but some of the game play elements you listed have kinda turned me sour on this game.

    There is no shortage of RPGs coming out. I may opt to wait for a game like Dragon Age instead of diving into this one.

    I find dying 50 times an extremely annoying and frustrating game mechanic…

    Call me a casual gamer, but I still remember being a lazy bum college student who skipped class to play video games. Hardcore means plenty of free time to practice your skills…that just isn’t something I can afford to do and developers like Bioware, Bethesda, etc. already make games for the demographic I belong to.

    I really appreciate this review and the forewarning it provides because I think a lot of people like me may buy this game thinking it is like another Oblivion, Gothic, or Diablo and really be disappointed.

  • MrMajestic

    @Saberblade, Yes, stick to your garbage wrpgs like Diablo, Dragon Age, Oblivion et al. I will admit though that when it comes to crashes, freezes and game breaking glitches, Bethesda is the premier RPG developer. Stick to your fugly and generic wrpg fantasy games.

  • http://N/A Matt

    Wow, the reviewer is a tool. The game is meant to be hard, and your complaints don’t make sense for the most part.

    -The graphics look fine, it is a dark game, a dungeon crawler, what do you expect?
    -The sound is great, and alerts you to what comes ahead if you have a clue about anything.
    -The mechanics of souls/buying things/leveling up are meant to be difficult. Play the game for 5 minutes and you will see it is easily one of the most difficult games on the PS3, if not THE most difficult game I have played in years.
    -You are supposed to plan things, and have strategy in the game. It is not a “hack and slash”, it is an RPG.

    It sounds to me like the reviewer was simply running into combat, swinging away and getting mobbed and killed instantly. This isn’t a hack and slasher. Sure, you hack and slash stuff up, but you have to do it strategically and with half a brain.

    Use traps to your advantage, look at your surroundings and see what you can use to kill your enemies. Traps, exploding barrels, they can all help (and you still get souls from the kills).

    This isn’t a game for whiners and kiddie players that have to just be able to win without putting forth any effort. The best part about this game is it is actually difficult, and not some joke like EVERY western developed game in the past 6-8 years. This is almost like a bounce back to the old NES/EQ days, with penalties and actually difficulty. Most people that don’t like this game give up too easily, and are simply not good gamers. I think it is great so far.

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Matt – it’s not that the game’s difficulty is a problem. it’s that it’s an ugly bug filled glitchfest that rewards gamers for being dicks to each other. I cake walked through the game but I can definitely see how the majority of gamers will be like “OMGWTF” with this. It’s a very niche game for a small percentage of gamers who will love it. However, the fact of the matter is that the game’s vastly overrated by the tiny minority raving about it on the magical Internet.

    There are too many ways for a person new to action rpgs or rpgs in general to get permanently stuck and have to start from scratch ala the old’s point and click King’s Quest games. That wasn’t considered cool when we were kids and it shouldn’t be now.

  • Ken

    Your review is better than some of your responses. From your review I got the impression that you liked the game but also pointed out what you considered sub-par. In your last response you say “bug filled glitchfest” which is beyond harsh.

    I have not played it very long yet but I have yet to se anything I would call a bug or glitch. The game works as they intended it to as far as I can tell. That does not mean I am happy with all aspects of the game. Not being able to trade unused equipment for souls is the only thing truly do not like.

    As an action RPG, i find the combat in the game quite amazing. I loved Oblivion but found that how it scaled enemy skill to match your level annoying before i completed the game. Combat ended up the same for all encounters with the only difference being how i chose to kill the enemy.

    Combat in DS is the real deal to me. I hate to use the word realistic for games but when a guy is swinging that pick axe down on my skull and i make a small error in timing, I know that i’m either dead or very close to it. Why? Because realistically, a pick axe will mess you up! I love the stamina system as it adds a lot of detail to combat system making it more immersive.

    I think your review is fair on most accounts and with a few changes here I would like it even more but I wanted a hard game with lots of combat and this fits like a glove.

    Final note. If you cake walked this game you have the reflexes of a true ninja :)

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Ken – Are you playing the US version? Remember my review is of the ASIAN edition of the game. Atlus had From Software fix over 100 glitches in the game. ONE HUNDRED. I haven’t played the US version, so I can’t comment on if it as improved at Altus claims, but the Asian version really did have some glitches ranging from annoying to serious. They were bad enough Sony didn’t bring the game over themselves and where Atlus asked in a not so nice way for them to fix them.

    I do have ninja reflexes though. I’m primary an old school scrolling shooter/bullet hell gamer. Those are the games that set the benchmark for hand-eye coordination and generally make DS look like a pretty easy game. I can get through Ikaruga for example without dying once and back when the Game Cube version had online scoreboards I was in the top ten in the world and #1 in the US. As the rest of our DHGF staff can tell you, generally when a game is considered hard due to speed and precision being needed, I can pick up the controller and pretty much ease my way through it. Yet, I absolutely suck at platformers. God damn you, Super Mario!

    Part of being a reviewer isn’t just playing the game and assigning some sort of score to it, but testing it to see how badly you can cheese through the game as well as how badly you can screw up. That’s what my review is about. I DID like the game for what it was. Enough that I imported it and was an active part of the DS international community for some time. But as a reviewer I can’t turn a blind eye to some pretty big issues with the game.

    I love From Software. I import their games regularly, although I strongly prefer the Echo Night series over Demon’s Souls and King’s Field.

    I like my games hard, but we’re talking about a company well known for making buggy glitchy games. That’s what the Asian Version of Demon’s Souls is. I gave Echo Night Beyond the same rating of merely being mediocre from a critical standpoint, but then when I did a countdown of my thirty favourite horror games, it made the list. That’s because that was based on emotional and personal enjoyment while reviews need to be critical and a reviewer needs to be able to seperate their peronal emotion when discussing a game lest they turn a blind eye to the flaws, or if they hated a game, forget to mention the good in it.

  • Voltaire

    Congratulations to you sir, this is the first overtly negative/critical review of Demon’s Souls that I’ve read thus far.

    Since your review was of the Asian version of the game(I can’t speak to whether or not it’s as mediocre as you say), I am quite curious as to what your opinion of the finished U.S version would be. I’ll say this however, it would seem that the graphical presentation has remained unchanged. The armor textures and models are usually pretty, but the environment textures and models are, like you said, reminiscent of a ps2 game….I refuse to speak of the facial models.

    Also – yes, the story is god-awful – boring as all hell. I honestly don’t think this game was about the story though, it comes off as more of a Ghouls & Ghosts type of game. That is to say, it would appear to be purely about the challenge and the game-play. This is where we disagree, I love how the game plays.

    I like the control-scheme, but that’s just a preferential difference.

    I like how (seemingly)unfair the game can be, and if I may, it would appear that you’re warning n00bs more than you’re actually saying that you dislike the game mechanics. Either way, I love finally beating Man-eater on New-Game++ and verbalizing loudly,

    “F@$K, YEAH”.

    *Ahem* Anyways. Though I may not agree with everything you say, I would defend to the death, your right to say it(because I’m not insecure like kuran, stupid kuran).

    Good day to you sir.

  • MayorHundred

    Thank you for bringing up the weapon/armor breaking issue. I put about 13 hours into this game before I moved on. What killed it for me, I mean really killed it was when I got to the boss battle at the end of 2-1. I had maybe 800 souls left, so I figured, well, if I die, no big deal. Then I got hit by the spider’s flames and every single piece of my armor broke. Every piece, and fixing each individual piece would cost something like 3,000+ souls. That’s what, five or six hours of grinding to get back to where I was before I had the temerity to explore a little.

    I suppose I wasn’t hardcore enough to realize I had to read through three or four pages of dense menu stats to figure out my armor was going to break. That’ll teach me!

    I’ve been thinking about returning to the game, starting from scratch, but quite frankly, I’d rather spend my time on better, more enjoyable games.

    Good review. Bad game. Maybe I’d like it more if I was unemployed and had no social life to speak of.

  • DSProtecter

    OK first off, Demons Souls, for being as large of an RPG as it is, has very few glitches compared to any other title out there. When you say bug filled glitchfest, that is completely untrue. There are so many things wrong with what you said in your review. You say that you played through the entire game and beat it, yet how did you overlook Grindstones? Are you kidding me, they have been there the entire game. As far as dual wielding, just switch your left handed weapon to your right hand and then use the stone if u want to dual wield. Its not that hard to figure out..Im also upset with the fact that you are simply blowing off everyones comments. The people that comment know this game, we arent idiots. If you hate it so much, why the hell did you stick with it to beat it? Another thing. You said every character you make will be ugly. NOT TRUE AT ALL. Okay yes, i probably spent like 3 hours plus making amazingly hot and attractive characters, but im an artist, i take pride in what i do. It is rather easy to make a good looking character. Compared to say, Oblivion, DS random character build are much more apealing. MUCH MORE.

    -Third, i would like to see you review the US version. Just to see how badly you can really piss me off.

    -The Storyline for DS isnt supposed to be like any other RPG. It is probably the loosest storyline EVER. But i personally like that. I dont like having my hand held through a game like so many RPGs do, or having to stop gaming every two fricking minutes for a cutscene. If i wanted a movie, i wouldnt have bought a video game.

    -You also said that the colors are horrible. Hello! you are crawling around in dungeons and caves..its not supposed to be bringht and colorful.

    -Its not like Atlus made these on accident, the “problems” you found with DS is the very reason why DS players love the game so much. The souls for currency is one of the hardest things to accept, but this game makes you get better. If you dont, your dead.

    @MayorHundred idk what you were thinking when you said it took you 5-6 hours to gather enough souls to fix all your armor. You must have been going against every weak character, because i go to the 4th world and only do the first area, right before you get to Vanguad, where the barrier used to be. Its about 8 skeletons..i believe. Anyway, i can go through that, and have been able to since like level 13 without getting hurt to the point of needing to use any heal items or magic. From those few enemies alone i get 2,000-3,000 and it takes me like a minute or two each time i do it. So there ya go. Also.. it was probably your own fault for not checking your armor and weapons before going against a boss.

    Overall, i dont agree with what you have said, but we live in a world in which everyone has a voice. I question your reasons behind it and all the horiible things you said about DS. If you trully have beaten this game, you know there is much more to be said about it besides what was included in your review. A review should show both sides, the good and the bad.

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    DS Protector – you realize you lose all credibility with the fact you somehow didn’t even realize that

    A) Atlus didn’t make Demon’s Souls. From Software did. Atlus just published it.

    B) Atlus made the request that over 100 glitches and bugs needed to be removed from the game for the US release. So the game that you are “protecting” is a different version from the one I reviewed. The Asian edition was indeed a bug filled glitchfest. If it wasn’t Atlus wouldn’t have had From fix quite a few niggling and annoying issues. They weren’t game ending bugs by any means or things that could crash your game, but From is notorious for these sorts of issues and this is coming from a guy who generally loves their stuff, especially the Echo Night trilogy.

    C) There is no overlooking grindstones. It’s a mention that the average gamer will not notice them or be able to afford them until they are several hours in the game and that new players will end up with broken weapons and not be able to buy new ones simply because the won’t be ready for that possibility.

    I’m not trying to be mean, but the first two in particular are things that are pretty commonplace knowledge about the game.

    Trust me, you are well within your rights to like the game, but the fact remains DS is unaccessible to the vast majority of gamers and just because I had fun with a game since it fit my niche tastes (although not as well as others) doesn’t mean the DS audience is a small fraction of not only RPG gamers in general but gamers across the board.

    I do agree with you about Oblivion. Not a fan of that game either.

  • BenValentine

    I just finished the NA release (having imported it anyway as I live in NZ) and have to say I think the majority of the glitches you have commented on must have been fixed. I know you won’t ammend anything due to this as your review is strictly of the Asian release, but I thought I’d just let you know.

    I personally enjoyed the game greatly, but still appreciate this review. I agree with most of your comments on less than desirable factors in the game, though for me this is not at all a deal breaker for playing it.

    Great review of a great game. Even if your review doesn’t portray how great I personally felt the game to be.

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Ben – Most of my issues with the game’s technical aspects are indeed fixed in the NA version of the Game. I imported it around the launch of the Asian Edition since I generally like From Software games and it was all in English anyway. Atlus sent me the US version of the game when it came out here a few months ago and I did find it to be far superior to the Asian one, but it still wasn’t what I would call my GOTY, or even my PS3 game of the year. It’s like their King’s Field titles – games that only a niche population of gamers enjoy, but if they “get it,” they’ll love it.

    We had another guy on staff review the US version, and he agreed it was a better game than the Asian (which I lent him to compare) but he also wasn’t slobbering over it either. You can take a look at take on the NA version here: http://diehardgamefan.com/2009/10/05/demons-souls-ps3/

  • anon

    I totally agree with this review. I got this game for Christmas and was really excited by the opening as you were. I have to say the lack of story and the drab and mundane environments had me fighting the desire to change games even after 3 hours of gameplay. There is nothing to like about this story or the environments or worlds in which you play. It almost felt like a survival horror game. I will say that the online elements are pretty innovative, and the combat system, aside from the cumbersome lock-on method, is pretty fluid. Ultimately I had no desire to finish this game and have since sold it. I’m sorry, I’m pretty much obsessed with PS3 titles and consider myself a fanboy, but I will not recommend this game to anyone who likes RPGs. There is NO story here, and thus player actions can’t progress a storyline that simply does not exist. Avoid at all costs.

  • Wariyaka

    This review isn’t even valid of the Asin version anymore.

    When it was written in April maybe but since then the game have been patched several times. It was patched thoroughly in June and are since then practically the same as the later NA release. I have both, play both and I note no real differences other than some naming.

    It is true that the original release was screwed and glitchy though. I guess you can say the game was “deeply flawed” as Alex put it or just released prematurely. But that has changed.
    You are entitled to your opinion but it IS based on the product at release not the final product we have today.

    Secondly you repeat that the game have limited appeal to a broader audience and state this as a fault. I find this quite odd as that was quite clear from the very beginning.
    It is a niche game, it was intended as such. The original Japanese reviews made this very clear. Even the developers have said so. So NO, this can not be said to be a fault of the game. Its just was the game was intended to be. Not for everyone.

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Wariyaka – My review WAS written back in April. I agree the game has thankfully been patched since then and we have the NA version to thank for that. Since From was forced to patch the game by Atlus they thankfully did the same for the Asian version as well. I don’t think it’s ever a good thing to “release a game prematurely” because it’s basically both a developer and publisher being lazy and saying, “We’d rather have the money now. MAYBE we’ll fix it later.”

    Being a niche game isn’t a fault save for appeal factor. Most of the games I absolutely adore are niche games that only appeal to a small cross-section of gamers. It’s more a warning for the average casual RPG’ers who think this might be like a Final Fantasy or the like. It’s not. It was also written as an import review. Because the game is so niche I wanted people to realize what they were getting into before spending 80 or so bucks and getting a game they weren’t prepared for.

  • Bigolig

    I agree whole heartedly with this review, having just played through the game. There is no story line, period. Over all i did like the game, and the online comunnity was great. However, I spent 90% of this game in soul form simply to avoid having dicks invade my game (in some instences up to for invaders in a row). This made the game very frustrating, as every demon i defeated was followed imediatley by wave after wave of these guys coming into my game. NOT COOL!

  • warhelm

    I agree with most of the points outlined in this review. People say that this game is hard, but that’s not the case at all, it just time consuming. Each time you make a simple stupid mistake somewhere, you have to play through the same level against the same monsters again. This would not be a problem in, say, a platform game, but in an RPG with character development, you need to have all those “souls” left on the ground, otherwise you won’t be able to make any progress in the game. Not to mention that any items you drop on the ground will disappear if you die.

    Basically, these issues make the game feel very out-of-date. We were used to dealing with similar limitations, perhaps 20 years ago (e.g. with NES games, as one commenter pointed out). The thing is, those limitations were in place mostly because of the technical limitations of the systems/consoles of that era. Now, in the age of gigabytes of memory and teraflops of computing power, they are simply not acceptable.

    If you have lots (and I mean lots) of free time on your hands, and if you do not mind spending all that on boring, repetitive gameplay through all same environments over and over again, Demon’s Souls is the game for you.

  • Michael

    Mr. Lucard,

    I read your review and find many of the comments “apply” to the North American release. This game is not for the casual gamer. It is very frustrating early-on and requires a lot of time to become competent. There is nobody that can deny that; except some fan that can’t stand criticism of their game.

    Demon’s Souls is a highly repetitive game that will bore most gamers after they have played through it once. I believe most will move on to other titles rather than advance to the next playthrough. Why? Because nothing ever changes. Nothing. It’s the same enemies and bosses over and over and over. The only thing that does change is difficulty which is easily overcome by leveling up your character.

    One of my main problems is the character stats system. Each stat may be raised to a maximum of 99. Yet, these stats start to have diminishing returns for investment way before 99. For example, I raised magic from 65 to 66 and only gained one damage point to my main right-hand weapon. It’s insane. You expect decent gains for raising a stat. I blame it on poor design and bad math. I think there is algorithm that is failing somewhere.

    Anyway, I think you are spot on with the elements you discussed.

  • Ethan

    The review is right on spot. Anyone who thinks that dying again and again just so that you can memorize every inch of the game, every move of the enemies, every trap, nuisance must have either a lot of time on his hands or taking painkillers to ease the frustation.

    The character classes suck, it costs too much to get the good stuff, enemies have better attacks/blocks, the controls seriously lag, you can’t sell shit in this game to get souls, replaying levels to get souls sucks, no checkpoints, no proper storyline, who is what no one knows and finally you’ll probably die more than you;ll ever get souls. And this really is a special RPG: Reptitively Painful Game.

    I finally sold it and bought Dragon Age Origins, much better than DS.

  • DCravens1994

    Are you crazy!!! This is the greatest RPG to date, and by far one of the few great games on the PS3!
    1. It doesn’t have a “thrilling” story, it’s like every other hardcore game, duh!
    2. Sound is BEAUTIFUL.
    3. It’s a dreary game, the graphic have to look scummy.
    4. The controls are top notch, if you die it’s because your a dumbass! This game isnt a “button-smasher” so DON’T play it like one.
    FUCK YOU and FUCK YOUR REVIEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Wow, such a mature and intelligent response, full of actual repudiation of my points and witty discourse.

    You do realize that by responding like a profane child, you pretty much validate my review of the game and show yourself to be incapable of tolerating opinions different from your own, right?

  • Mark B.

    Conversely, speaking as someone who actually agrees with most of the above made points, Mr. Cravens, you’re not at all helping.

  • Robin

    Personally I love the graphics, even two years after it’s release. I love the sound effects and the music. I adore the gameplay. This is the best game I’ve played since 1997 (FFVII). Rating this game anywhere below brilliant is just hilarious.

  • Andy

    I personally tried to play this for over a weekend and the last few days and I can’t get past the Tower Knight boss (which is the second boss). And I grew up in the 8-bit/16-bit days so I know a hard game. I cut my teeth on Castlevania, Mega Man & Ninja Gaiden and those games at least made you feel you are getting somewhere. And I love decent RPG’s as well.

    With Demon’s Souls, the people at From Software couldn’t be arsed to add checkpoints or even a regenerative health bar. They couldn’t be arsed to do normal or expected things that give a game a sense of polish or even make it fun.

    This review is spot-on. The reviewer actually played the game! Not played an hour of it for a review deadline, not watched someone better play it, not got swept up in the hype and gave a 9 out of 10 or 4 out of 5 like it was candy. I can tell that Alex Lucard actually tried to play Demon’s Souls. I notice that most of the people who derive this game get attacked and somehow it is ‘the person hating the game’s fault’ and somehow they lack the ability to complete it.

    And it’s not just here — it’s on most of the gaming sites too.

  • http://www.alexanderlucard.com Alex Lucard

    Andy – basically it comes down to the fact that the average gamer has a hard time understanding that their opinion in just that and that it may not be universal. Everyone’s game is someone’s favorite and when someone points out the flaws in that game, they get defensive. As well, every game is HATED by someone and if someone outright dislikes a game someone else loves, that doubles the defensive issues.

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