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DEMON’S SOULS

01 Sep 10

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER. Demon’s Souls was originally released in Japan in February 2009, and in the US in October 2009. Finally it’s released to PAL territories and you can now get your mitts on it (if you haven’t already imported it, that is).
Set in a medieval kingdom full of dragons, castles and the clash of swords, Demon’s Souls’ world is one we’re all familiar with. To start with, choose your class and appearance. I chose a Wanderer at fi rst, but that was a terrible decision when I couldn’t beat the fi rst level (more on the diffi culty later). I then created a red-head female (don’t look at me like that!) from the royalty class, well known as one of the easier classes to play, because of its long-range magic attack.
Enemies are fought in real-time as you explore a cobblestoned castle. It’s not your standard Japanese-made RPG, as it takes more of a Western approach. Shields are actually quite important, and you’ll be blocking and thrusting throughout your adventure. Bad guys often hide behind structures and corners, and will jump out and stab you when you’re not looking.
Demon’s Souls is not an easy game – far from it, actually. When you die at any point, you are sent back to the start of the level in ghost form with only half of your health. What’s worse is that every single enemy you just killed has been resurrected, and you have to fi ght your way through them all over again. You must reach your bloodstain and restore all your lost demons’ souls (both the experience and currency of the game). If you die at any point while trying to recover said souls, that bloodstain is replaced by your latest. So whereas in most games you’re constantly levelling, in Demon’s Souls you’re set back until you do the whole thing perfectly.
Now, I can understand that some gamers like a challenge, but doesn’t it make sense to cater for a wider demographic than an elite hardcore? It shouldn’t be that hard to implement several difficulty settings, should it? From Software, please give us wimpier gamers an easy mode with checkpoints; you don’t even have to give us any trophies for it. Just make sure that we can actually finish your game.
Demon’s Souls is by default online-enabled, and it’s actually quite an inventive implementation.
When you see ghosts charge ahead of you, they’re actually other players. You’re taking a glimpse into their game world. By selecting a bloodstain on the ground, you can even watch a replay of an unfortunate player who has gone before you. And it’s not just well-armoured goons you have to watch out for; falling off ledges, explosive barrels, or roasted by dragon’s breath usually mean instant death. Each player can record pre-set messages on the ground warning of dangers ahead, and can recommend helpful messages to give players a boost of health. Using special eye stones can even teleport you into another’s game to kill them in cold blood, or help them past a tricky section. Demon’s Souls is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging games in recent years. If you can stand extreme punishment and have the patience of a saint with nine children, I’d say get it. But I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re like me – one of those far gentler souls.

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