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Andy Zahn / Lifewire
Incredible next-generation graphics
Challenging and rewarding gameplay
Faithful and authentic to the original game
Excellent PS5 DualSense controller integration.
Punishing difficulty and steep learning curve aren’t for everyone
Difficulty of boss fights is inconsistent
Demon’s Souls is a faithful remaster that looks and feels like a brand new game. The brutal difficulty requires perseverance to enjoy but provides an unequaled feeling of catharsis and accomplishment in return.
Our reviewer purchased Demon's Souls so that they could do a thorough play-through of the game. Keep reading for their full take.
When it first arrived on the PlayStation 3 in 2009, Demon’s Souls was adored by critics but passed over by general audiences. The brilliance of developer From Software went unrecognized until they brought the series back with Dark Souls, and from there the Souls games grew into a gaming phenomenon. Now, Bluepoint Games has rebuilt Demon’s Souls from the ground up to be one of the biggest titles to release at launch for the PS5, and 12 years later this lovingly authentic remake aims to deliver all the murderously difficult gameplay of the original with a fresh coat of next-gen graphics.
Let me start by saying that though I have long been a fan of the Souls games, I have never been much good at them. I love playing them for their atmosphere and creative design, and the incredible challenge they present, but it requires great patience and perseverance. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s no secret that much of what makes a Souls game such a unique and enthralling experience is their punishing and frankly unfair degree of difficulty. You will die, and die, and die again. As you go forward, you collect souls, which you spend on upgrades for your character and weapons, as well as on items sold by various vendors. Every time you die, any unspent souls you carry are dropped near where you died, and you must retrieve them without dying on the way, otherwise, they vanish forever.
If that wasn’t punishment enough, if you die in body form your world tendency will shift from white to black, reducing your maximum health and impacting the story of the game. Once in spirit form, casualties don’t affect your world tendency, but you can affect world tendency intentionally by helping out other players with boss fights to shift your tendency towards white. Killing friendly NPCs, on the other hand, will cause you to shift further towards black.
The game is played in third person, and possesses many of the conventions of other third-person action RPGs. However, where other such games hold your hand and are generous with tutorials, world design, and adjustable difficulty, Demon’s Souls takes an almost antagonistic attitude towards its players. Unless you have a buddy to give you hints or have an online guide handy, the learning curve will be steep indeed for people new to the franchise.
One feature of Demon’s Souls on PS5 that I particularly enjoy is how it takes advantage of the fantastic haptic feedback and speaker integrated of the PS5 DualSense controller. With targeted vibrations and sound, the controller helps to convey a more immersive sense of your surroundings and actions.
For example, when crossing a bridge I heard a distant roar, felt the vibration in my fingers as heavy wingbeats grew nearer. The combination of targeted sound and rumbling haptic feedback as the dragon’s fire beat down upon the stone mere inches behind my retreating armored boots painted a vivid portrait of my impending doom.
Demon’s Souls on PS5 is stunning to behold, yet has lost none of the atmosphere of oppressive gloom that fans of the PS3 classic adored.
Demon’s Souls on PS5 is stunning to behold, yet has lost none of the atmosphere of oppressive gloom that fans of the PS3 classic adored. The amped-up fidelity of this remake, along with its higher frame rate, only adds to the gloomy Gothic aesthetic and helps to immerse you in the medieval post-apocalyptic world. Every time I walked out of a gloomy corridor or cavern to discover a new grand vista of fantastic decaying splendor in hyper-realistic detail, it was truly jaw-dropping, and all the more rewarding for the grueling slog required to reach it.
The game is divided up into five distinct regions connected by a hub world known as The Nexus, and each is unique in both aesthetics and enemy behavior and design. Furthermore, there is a remarkable degree of variety between the areas within these different regions, which are bookended by boss fights with powerful enemies that are themselves fascinating and horrible to behold. That said, the graphical improvement might also not be to everyone's taste, as there are those who find the lower definition of the original to have its own appeal.
Players of the original Demon’s Souls on PS3 will find the controls largely unchanged, while Dark Souls veterans will need to get used to a less developed system than later games. Interestingly, the boss fights were less consistent in difficulty to those in Dark Souls. Some Demon’s Souls boss fights surpass those Dark Souls, while others are shockingly easy.
It’s no secret that much of what makes a Souls game such a unique and enthralling experience is their punishing and frankly unfair degree of difficulty. You will die, and die, and die again.
The only thing potentially harder to figure out than the gameplay of Demon’s Souls is its obscure storyline. You never really know exactly what’s going on, but that’s just perfect really because your purpose in this dying world is to slay demons and take their souls. The vagueness and mystery fits the aesthetics perfectly and helps draw you in. You can try to unravel what’s going on by exploring the world and chatting with NPCs.
On the face of it, Souls Games don’t seem like a natural fit for multiplayer, yet it is indeed an integral component of the experience. You can leave messages for fellow travelers, warning of danger, hinting at secrets, or slyly tricking gullible adventurers into bottomless pits. The ghostly mirages of other players run past you on their own errands, and by touching bloodstains you can witness their final moments to inform your own actions.
More direct multiplayer is also available. You can place your sign on the ground to be summoned into other players' games to aid them, or you have the option of invading their games to hunt them down. Most of the time these invasions were fatal to me rather than the other way around.
Unless you have a buddy to give you hints or have an online guide handy, the learning curve will be steep indeed for people new to the franchise.
Demon’s Souls features a deep level of both cosmetic and gameplay customization. I spent a long time crafting a cool looking character before diving into the game, though most helmets and other headgear fully obscure your features rendering all that effort mostly meaningless.
There’s a wide variety of armor and weapons hidden throughout the game, though your chosen build will largely determine which gear you will use on a particular playthrough. Be sure to collect crafting materials, since they’re used for leveling up your weapons. Souls are spent on upgrading your character’s stats, and both character and weapon upgrades become progressively more expensive as you progress.
With an MSRP of $70, Demon’s Souls is more expensive now than when it originally launched more than a decade ago. Though the price may seem high, Demon’s Souls is something of a special case. It’s well worth the cost of admission, and it doesn’t hurt that there are no microtransactions or other hidden fees.
Maybe it’s odd to compare Demon’s Souls with Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, but at their core, both are third-person action-adventure RPGs that were released around the same time. Valhalla is much more welcoming to new players than Demon’s Souls. It has variable difficulty levels and in general is a very accessible experience compared to the trial by fire learning curve of Demon's Souls. It’s also $10 cheaper and available on most platforms, while Demon’s Souls is only on the PlayStation 5.
However, as good as Valhalla is, Demon’s Souls is a much more focused game that has a truly handcrafted feel to it. Its brutal difficulty is part of its appeal, with the steep learning curve delivering the feeling of genuine achievement upon making even the most minor progress through the stunning Gothic world.
Be sure to check out our guide for the best PS5 games to get caught up on the latest releases.
A stunning remake of the brutally difficult game that launched an entire sub-genre.
Demon’s Souls on the PS5 is the remake this classic game deserved, bringing this pioneering title to a new generation of gamers with a fresh coat of paint. Its steep learning curve will challenge your determination to progress through its Gothic splendor, but the promise of plunder and grand vistas ahead push you to continue despite casualty after despair-inducing casualty.
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