- Total Score - 10/1010/10
“Demon Souls is a great remake of a certified classic.”
Developer – PlayStation Studios, Bluepoint Games
Publisher – Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms – Playstation 5
Back in 2009, I was working Gamestop and I remember that I kept seeing information about Demon’s Souls. On release day, I picked up my copy when I got to work and noticed we received only my reserve. The phone rang all day with people asking if we had any more copies in stock. Nobody really had played anything like it in that generation and it was truly something special. I couldn’t wait to get off work that day to begin my journey through Boletaria. When I finally made it to my couch, I didn’t move until the sun was shining through the curtains.
Fast forward to 2020 and we now have Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro and countless clones all trying to achieve and improve upon the Souls formula. While many have succeeded, few have ever rekindled the feeling of magic that Demon’s Souls provided me way back on the PS3. When they announced that Demon’s Souls was being remade for the PS5, I could barely contain my excitement. Was my memory of Demon’s Souls just a vision through rose colored glasses? Is the game be too antiquated now compared to the advances of the other entries in the series? Would the remaster be a good representation of the original? No, No, Yes. 10/10. That’s it. That’s the review. Go ahead and buy the game now. Oh, you want to know why?
At its core, Demon’s Souls is like any other Soulsborne game in the series. You die, you get frustrated, you continue, you learn, and you eventually win. I love this about the genre. It has no problem beating you down over and over again. It requires patience. Each fight is like learning a dance. You have to discover the enemy’s attack pattern and fight that aching feeling of “I can hit him one more time!”
One of my favorite level design aspects of Demon’s Souls is that worlds are split into separate zones connected by a central hub called the Nexus. The first area is the typical medieval castle, complete with dragons, knights, and archers. As you journey through you begin to unlock shortcuts to make the next attempt a little bit easier all the way until you get to the boss of the section. After you defeat a boss the world expands to allow you deeper into the castle. While you might think that you should stick with continuing your adventure you do not need to and might not even want to. Back at the Nexus the remaining worlds are now open for you to explore.
These lands include a fiery cave full of rock worms, lava creatures, and miners hacking away at the cavern walls to find precious ore. A dark prison, full of poor souls that will never see the light of day again guarded by magic cthulhu monsters that will stun you with powerful magic and swallow your entire head until you die. The fourth world is an island fortress that is under assault by a powerful storm. Residents include rolling reanimated skeletons, and flying stingrays that shoot green crystal lances out of their bellies. Lastly, a murky swamp, filled with flying insects and slug monsters all waiting for their turn to make you slam your controller in frustration.
Each boss fight fits perfectly with the world they reside in. They each have their weakness that you must discover to gain the upper hand in the fight. Surprisingly, none of them have cheap tactics seemingly made just to annoy you. Some even are basically just puzzles that you have to figure out. They keep you on your toes and teach you more about the game’s mechanics.
The best news is the game is a completely faithful translation of Demon’s Souls. I didn’t notice anything missing at all. Every enemy, every item, everything in its place. All in new stunning details that you probably would have missed in the PS3 version. However, they did add some things such as items, a new game mode, and they have made slight quality of life adjustments. Most of which were all welcome in my opinion.
The first quality of life change is the ability to send items to your storage at any time. This might be confusing to those that have played other Soulsborne games but not Demon’s Souls. Here, not only do you have to worry about Equipment Burden weighing you down, you also have to worry about Item Burden as well.
In the original, if you had too many items in your inventory you wouldn’t be able to pick up anything else. Situations you might have picked up a ton of upgrade materials and then you come across a piece of armor that weighed 10 pounds and you couldn’t take with you. You would either have to leave it there, drop other items, or make your way back to the Nexus to put your items in storage and come back and pick up the item. Now, you can send items back to the storage from the menu at any time. This makes farming much easier and also you don’t have to worry about stocking up on a bunch of arrows or healing herbs in worries that you might not be able to pick anything else up.
The second major change is the addition of Fractured Mode. This mode can be purchased with 25,000 souls and you are able to toggle it off and on from the Nexus at any time after that. This mode basically mirrors the view of the game horizontally. Things that were on your left are now on your right. This change isn’t so much about adding difficulty, it just changes the perspective to twist you around a bit. In this mode however they added the addition of Ceramic Coins. These coins are in each world, and you trade them in for a new set of armor. I won’t spoil what it is, but it looks awesome.
There are a few more new items, some of which are behind a paywall of the digital deluxe edition. I’m not sure if these items are just a reskin of other items or if they are completely new stat wise items. If they do have different or better stats I am not a fan of this practice in games with PVP elements. They also added a digital pre-order only weapon which I also missed out on because I pre-ordered the physical game as I wanted it for my collection. I just wish they would have made all new items accessible to every player. It just seems like a slight to those who prefer physical media over digital.
The game also includes multiplayer content in the form of PVP and Co-Op. While the Co-Op can be super fun, the PVP side of the game is probably the most annoying for me personally because it can be absolutely soul crushing!
Your character has two forms, either as human or as a soul. When you first start the game, your character is in it’s human form. The main perk of being a human is that you have access to 100% of your health pool. However, when you die the first time your character will be in it’s soul form. Not only is this how you will probably spend 90% of the game, the soul form has access to about 50% of the total health. You can regain human form in a few ways such as a consumable item or by killing a boss while in soul form and you retain your human form until you die again. This is the circle of life in Boletaria.
The major difference between the two forms is that in soul form you can join other player’s worlds. You can choose to invade a player in human form and hunt them down. If and when you kill the enemy player you will become human form again. Alternatively, you can choose to help players beat the game in co-op if you want.
The opposite is in effect for when you are in human form. Players can invade you at any time or you can summon other soul form players to help you kill a boss. Unfortunately, two times after I beat a boss and was returned to my human form I was almost immediately invaded by another player and killed. After spending so much time trying to beat the boss and finally succeeding, it can be crushing to be sent right back to soul form by players that camp in low level sections with overpowered characters built for PVP. This may turn off new players to the genre. After that you are on your own to either look it up or use trial and error.
Technically, the game is perfect. It ran at a very consistent framerate with little to no drops at all from what I could tell. The sound design and quality is excellent. I didn’t experience screen tearing, glitches, or bugs. Also the graphical detail in this version is pretty incredible. Everything is so clear and crisp. Reflections in the water and new details that I never noticed before were crystal clear. It is such a great feeling to get to go back in time and experience it with new technology.
Overall, for me, the Demon’s Souls remake is the perfect game. I enjoyed playing it so much and I applaud Bluepoint Games for sticking with the source material. They could have easily just took the name and redo everything with their changes. This is the pinnacle of how a game remake should be. I honestly don’t know how I can really take anything away from the score. If I were to fault the game it were to fault the original only.
In 2009, Demon’s Souls was the breath of fresh air that gaming needed. It spawned so many successful spiritual successors, spin-offs, and clones. In 2020, it shows us how technology can enhance but not change what works. It also shows how a game developer can handle a project with grace and to know what to change and what not to change. This way it doesn’t impact the core fans that love the game already and will bring in new fans that never got a chance to experience what gave birth to the games they love now.
Copy distributed by Playstation AU.