The Souls game that started it all is back after its original release from over 11 years ago so let's take a trip to the Nexus one more time.
I consider myself an original Souls fan as I played Demon's Souls shortly after it debuted for PlayStation 3 and mastered every Souls game since. However, not everyone is in the same boat as I am so I decided to break this review up into 3 sections: for people who are completely new to Souls (For new Souls), for people who have played some Dark Souls games but haven't played Demon's Souls yet (For familiar Souls), and for those who are existing Demon's Souls fans such as myself (For returning Souls). With that being said, you're sure to find useful information in all 3 sections no matter which category you fit into so please read the whole review if you'd like to know exactly what Demon's Souls has to offer. Keep in mind; I'm a big fan of the series and can clearly remember my first time exploring the world of Demon's Souls so I hope my perspective will help you understand what to expect from this epic game.
For new Souls
After reading some positive feedback for Demon's Souls after it released and being extremely curious about it, I headed to my local game store to pick up a copy and knowing how exceptionally difficult it was, I found myself completely captivated for the dozens of hours that I played it before completing it for the first time. I knew back then that Souls would eventually become a household name and that its supposedly niche appeal would receive a much larger fan base over the coming years and I was right. What makes it such an exceptional game is that it features a massive game world that's a treat to explore as well as combat that tests your ability to dodge, parry, and time attacks in a way that outsmarts your enemies as opposed to merely hacking and slashing away until you win.
My personal favourite aspect of every Souls game is their game worlds and Demon's Souls features 5 distinct areas which are huge, intricately-designed, and feature unique atmospheres. Boletarian Palace presents a gorgeous medieval castle complete with dragons and beautiful distant sceneries, Stonefang Tunnel consists of elaborate underground mines that'll make you tense as you turn every corner, Tower of Latria contains a confusing panic-inducing prison and a massive interconnected area above filled with dastardly gargoyles, Shrine of Storms is a desolate cliffside fortress with malicious airborne foes, and Valley of Defilement is a disturbing swamp-like cesspool of horrors. My favourite area is Shrine of Storms as it has a pitch-perfect atmosphere that really emphasizes the one-vs-many tone.
For familiar Souls
Of course, if you've played the Dark Souls games and haven't yet given Demon's Souls a try then this release acts as a great excuse to finally do so, especially considering the original PS3 release's servers have been shut down and you can enjoy the online component here. Anyway, the main difference with Demon's Souls is its campaign layout which allows you to conquer its 5 distinct areas one chunk at a time as opposed to exploring a massive singular interconnected world. I prefer the interconnected world approach but the areas within Demon's Souls are so unique that its stage-based setup doesn't feel out-of-place. Plus, the bosses and enemies that you'll encounter are as memorable as the ones in any Dark Souls game and you'll also encounter some bosses that were clearly inspirations for future bosses in the franchise. From its combat to its setting, Demon's Souls should be very familiar if you've played any Dark Souls game.
In fact, nearly everything from Demon's Souls has carried over to future sequels such as its Souls system which doubles as experience points and currency. One significant difference is that you have to manage your inventory seeing as there's a limit on what you can carry. This can get kind of annoying, especially considering you heal with various grasses instead of an all-powerful flask. There's also a world tendency system that makes each area more or less difficult while allowing you to acquire rarer treasures and such but honestly, I mostly forget that it exists and just play whatever area I want. Oh, and character tendency is in play where you can lean towards good or evil by performing various actions. These systems are definitely cool and add a lot of depth on top of the already deep campaign.
For returning Souls
Finally, if you've already played Demon's Souls and love it as much as I do, I have some good news and bad news. For starters, the good news is that Demon's Souls on PS5 looks absolutely stunning. I never thought I'd get to see these familiar areas in such detail and with such visual fidelity. There are moments when things simply look like a work of art and it's hard not to stop to admire the view but you probably shouldn't as a fire-breathing dragon might toast your buns. Another huge graphical upgrade is the equipment which is extremely detailed here and makes equipping new stuff feel all the more rewarding and personalized. There are also some quality of life improvements such as the HUD which I'm indifferent to but I can see some fans either loving or hating it. You'll also notice different attack animations for certain weapons and you can access new items and weapons via DLC which is sure to be divisive.
Speaking of divisive, this Demon's Souls remake isn't really all that much of a remake. It's basically a graphical overhaul of the original with some arguably minor changes. I would have absolutely loved to finally explore the 6th archstone area which supposedly belongs to the Great Giants of the Northern Lands but there's nothing new and exciting like that here. In fact, it's such a similar game that I got déjà vu more than a few times while playing it. At the same time, I found that the overall experience in this remake feels much more sterile than the original. For example, the music is more movie-like as opposed to subtle undertones and the graphics are sometimes cartoon-like and lack the original's sense of menace. Plus, there's something about its combat that simply feels less visceral and threatening than the original game felt. I mean, you could apply visual filters to make it look more like the original but I'm reviewing a remake here.
Demon's Souls is an excellent game whether you're new to the franchise, have only played the Dark Souls games, or are a fan of the original. However, if you fit in the latter group like I do then you may be disappointed by its less visceral yet admittedly gorgeous world.
- + Same incredible world and gameplay that'll keep you hooked until you master it
- + Looks absolutely incredible
- + Some minor quality of life improvements
- - It's the exact same game with no substantial differences besides its graphics
- - The overall experience feels more sterile and less visceral and menacing