Over the past decade, the Souls serie has established itself as a classic, winning over countless fans. We are now at the dawn of a new generation of consoles, and the firstborn of the series, Demon's Souls, returns in a ground-up remake, exclusively on the PlayStation 5.
Here's our complete review after about thirty hours of play. Let's see if the game that laid the foundations of the genre will do as well as it did when it was released in February 2009.
- Genre: Action RPG
- Release date: November 19, 2020 in Europe, November 12 in the US
- Platform: PlayStation 5
- Developer: Bluepoint Games
- Publisher: Sony / From Software
- Price €79.99 / $69.99 / £69.99
- Tested on: PlayStation 5
The founder of classic franchise
Demon's Souls was initially released on PlayStation 3 on February 3, 2009, in Japan and the United States. The game didn't sell particularly well, until Bandai Namco took over distribution of the title in Europe and Australia. It became a hit, enought for FromSoftware to consider a sequel, Dark Souls — and the rest is history.
Demon's Souls is an Action RPG that puts you in the role of a hero facing a demonic threat that plagues the world of Boltaria. Your mission is to travel through the different zones of this land, passing through Nexus Archstones and defeating the Archdemon of each zone. This opens the lair of the Old One, allowing you to bring an end to the chaos.
The game is divided into five regions, plus the Nexus:
- Archstone of the Small King: Four zones
- Archstone of the Burrow King: Three zones
- Archstone of the Tower Queen: Three zones
- Archstone of the Shadowmen: Three zones
- Archstone of the Chieftain: Three zones
- The Nexus: Main Hub and the zone under the Nexus
The Nexus is your Main Hub: you'll constantly come back to it in order to navigate between worlds, and most of the NPCs you'll come across will be here. You'll find the blacksmith, the merchant, the storage manager, spell and miracle trainers, and the blind girl who allows you to level up your character and serves as your guide throughout the game.
Some characters will join you in the Nexus — depending on whether you help them or not. Be careful though, some will bring you good things while others will play tricks on you, and can thus greatly change your progression.
Like in the other games of the series, souls allow you to level your character, buy consumables, and improve your equipment in addition to materials. And, as usual, if you die carrying souls on your character, they will remain where you died. To get them back, you will have to return to your body without dying on the journey.
It's worth noting that this first part of the Souls saga is a very good way to take your first steps in the genre.
Admittedly, Demon's Souls is punishing and difficult, but it's still less so than Dark Souls. The boss battles will be less demanding in Demon's Souls, provided you've properly equipped your healing herbs beforehand.
Like in Bloodborne, healing items are consumables. The management and farming of your herbs will be essential in progressing serenely in the game, knowing that there are several levels of herbs that will give more or less life.
Beauty above all?
First of all, the game is beautiful and runs perfectly well on Sony's new console. Demon's Souls is the perfect example of a solid combination of next-gen graphics and a fluid gameplay optimization.
Every region, every zone and every character or monster encountered is a feast for the eyes. We stopped a lot — whenever the monsters had their backs turned — to take pictures of the different panoramas with the photo mode. The different regions and areas are very varied and have been completely reworked for the remake, with special attention to certain details. All the light and shade effects are excellent, and allow players to feel completely immersed in the world of Boletaria.
In addition, you will have the choice between two game modes: a graphics-oriented mode at a constant 30fps in combination with ray tracing and enhanced light effects, or a performance mode that runs at a smooth 60fps with ray tracing turned off.
We mostly played in Performance mode in order to benefit from optimal fluidity. However, it's good to remember that we're basically playing a 10-year-old game with a facelift.
Visually, it's almost flawless, with exceptionally beautiful graphics and many bugs having been fixed, as well as an upgrade in technical optimization.
However, there's no new content, regions or bosses — we are looking at a pure remake that remains 100% faithful to the original game. Is that a good or bad thing? It's hard to say, as it all depends on the profile of the player.
From our point of view, the price is justified for players who are discovering the game for the first time. For an experienced player who is familiar with the game, the experience will consist of a visual update only, and there's plenty to grit your teeth about.
Demon's Souls easily requires about 20 hours of play — for a player used to Souls games — and can exceed 30 or even 40 hours of play for a neophyte. That's also not to mention the enormous replayability of this style of game, full of secrets and theorycrafting.
Gameplay, World Tendency PvP & replayability
You'll be able to select a class when you launch the game. It will all come down to the distribution of skill points that you will earn when you trade souls to level up.
Nothing's impossible in a Souls game, you might focus on melee gameplay that's all about strength or dexterity, which will require you to know your enemies well and be thorough. Or, you could specialize in spells or miracles while fighting from a distance — which, let's be honest, is a much easier path to overcoming bosses.
Note that you will have to manage the weight of your items and equipment. Finally, several types of weapons will be at your disposal. Each weapon will require you to have very precise statistics to be used, otherwise it will not be effective.
The same goes for spells — that you will have to buy from NPCs — you will also need the right stats and items to learn them. The gameplay is a lot less heavy than in the PS3 version, and we strongly appreciate the 60fps format, which is a real comfort for this kind of game where reflexes are sometimes put to the test.
The World Tendency is a key mechanic that will directly impact the evolution of the game and the player's progression. The only (and big) drawback on this point is that the game is not very talkative about how it works.
The Worlds Tendency is basically a measurement of your actions in each of the five worlds. There are two possible vectors: either a tendency towards white, or towards black, which determine the morality and consequences of your actions during the game.
You will start in each world with a neutral tendency, and it will draw towards white or black depending on several reasons, such as dying in the world while in human form (your tendency will then evolve towards black).
Your tendency will give you bonuses the whiter it is (for example, enemies are weaker but will release more souls or rare materials), with the inverse true if your tendency leans more towards black.
This mechanic is really interesting, but the game doesn't really encourage its use as it's not explicit enough in the player's progression. Most players will go through the game without much paying attention to it.
Co-op and PvP
Demon's Souls has a special multiplayer mode — one later used in the Dark Souls trilogy — where the player can either co-operate with other people or play PvP by invading other players' worlds.
The premise is quite simple: you'll have to be in Soul Form to be able to invade the world of a player you want to attack, and you'll need to have the Black Eye Stone.
In the case of co-op play, things are a little different. You can summon a player in Soul Form or Human Form, and use the Blue Eye Stone.
If you want to be summoned to co-operate, you'll have to leave a sign while in Soul Form.
Finally, the game is very generous in its replayability thanks to all the possibile builds to test, secrets to discover, or milestones to achieve (for speedrunners in particular) — or for players looking for challenges —. Every run you make in the game will be different because there is no set path, and you'll be able to complete the worlds in any order you want.
The variety of possibilities is one of the reasons why Souls games are such a successful experience, since players' creativity is not restricted: they can use any weapon with any armor, regardless of class.
Once the game is over, it will automatically launch in New Game+ mode, where monsters and bosses will be even stronger.
Demon's Souls has been eagerly anticipated for the PlayStation 5 launch, and we are not disappointed — FromSoftware's classic has clearly already established itself as a major title in the PlayStation catalog. This next-gen version takes all the basics of its original release and ramps up the visuals and optimization without adding any new content. All in all, it's a stunning remake — we quickly forgot the somewhat-rigid mechanics of the genre and let ourselves be carried away by the adventure. Bluepoint have done a fantastic job brining a masterpiece back to life, one which didn't have the success it deserved a decade ago.
Content translated by Laure Laborde.