The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
On the second stage of Demon’s Souls, I conquered a dragon. I
encountered the beast in the very first area during a tense set piece
where I had to dodge blasts of fire while sprinting across a bridge. It
was in the second stage that I realized I could actually hurt the
gigantic creature. I climbed up a tower and proceeded to spend 15
minutes taking pot shots at the dragon with my weak “Soul Arrow” spell
every time it took a pass at the bridge below. Slowly but surely I
chipped away its health until it crashed to the ground.
of Demon’s Souls’ experience is easily compared to this battle of
attrition. This isn’t a game where you perform amazing feats by tapping
a few buttons in a quick time event. If you want to accomplish
anything, you need to dig in your heels, roll up your sleeves, and
stubbornly tell the game: “I will defeat you.” If that’s intimidating,
let me assure you that I, too, was scared. But in this case, the sense
of pure satisfaction from doing something like killing a dragon – a
task that seems downright pedestrian in many games – is so great that
time and time again it completely toppled any frustration I was
The biggest reason that Demon’s Souls succeeds in
the face of overwhelming difficulty is pure excellent design. Each of
the levels – split into five “worlds” of three to four areas each –
feel like real places. The ramparts and walkways of Boletaria Palace
look like they were once bustling but were only recently abandoned for
some sinister reason – especially once you begin meeting the few
members of the kingdom left alive. The third world, Latria Tower, is a
prison for the damned that completely creeped me out and stood out as
one of the most disturbing locations ever realized in a video game.
The “Other” Perspective
every great triumph you experience in Demon’s Souls, you should also be
prepared for a devastating setback. The smallest mistakes or single bad
encounters with the game’s touchy camera can end with your character
cut to pieces. Even worse, if you die on the way back to your body, all
the experience points you’d accumulated but not yet spent on leveling
are gone. Warn your television to watch out for flying controllers
before you risk trying to tackle this beast of a game.
sense of difficulty and desperation that Demon’s Souls creates is aided
greatly by the game’s unique use of the PlayStation Network. Rather
than hooking up with other players through a menu or your PSN friends
list, you can summon random “blue phantoms” (other characters who are
currently dead) in any area where they’ve dropped a summoning stone.
Though there’s no easy way to communicate with your ally, it works out
because the goal is always the same: Kill the demon at the end of the
level, which will allow you to progress and allow the blue phantoms to
be resurrected in their own game.
The helpfulness of the blue
phantoms is balanced out by the terror of black phantoms, online
enemies randomly placed into the world of another player who they must
hunt down and kill to be resurrected. The atmosphere of Demon’s Souls
is already intense and moody, but when you receive a flashing message
notifying you that “Black Phantom Noobkiller3000 has invaded,” it’s
hard not to start sweating.
In the end, though, the game’s PvP
works for the same reason that the regular demon-hunting does: You are
always in full control. The action is much slower and more measured
than most action games, but no matter how incredibly big or powerful
your opponents seem, you have the tools to defeat them within your
grasp. When you die in Demon’s Souls, nine times out of 10 it’s because
you made an identifiable mistake, and one that you know to avoid next
time around. The game only falls back on trial-and-error laziness in
one or two regrettable levels, and even those can be overcome with
Demon’s Souls has received a lot of hype for being
monstrously difficult, and while it’s clearly not the kind of game you
can pass in a weekend, its finer points shouldn’t be lost in all the
fear. This game is tough, but also rewarding, interesting, evocative,
and, in its own special way, brilliant. Add in extensive new game-plus
options and the strangely compelling multiplayer, and Demon’s Souls is
one of the first truly great Japanese RPGs of this generation, and
certainly the most remarkable.