Demon’s Souls remake review. The soul is gone, the demons remain

In the late 2000s, the gaming industry was experiencing a crisis of ideas. Indie hasn’t taken off yet, and “big” games have degenerated: they have become linear, scripted, overly simple and predictable. This trend was broken by Demon’s Souls , which even seemed bad, broken and overly niche to its publisher. However, gamers appreciated it – soon it became not only the ancestor of a whole genre, but also the most important game of the generation according to Igromania .

Now, ten years later, the Sony , which initially refusing familiarize release Demon’s Souls in the West, is back with its remake … but honestly be called a game remaster. And here’s the catch: the nonsense that was easily forgiven to the budget “rough diamond” of the PS3 era, looks completely out of place in the main exclusive of the PS5 launch line.

Pledge of triumph

Although now almost every second gamer knows about Souls, the conversation about Demon’s Souls should still start with what exactly made the game so outstanding. And no, I’m not talking about complexity – it was not the ultimate goal, but only a way to create a sense of constant danger. Ten years ago, audiences craved real adventure, and adventure cannot be without risk and excitement.

Instead of a spectacular but linear attraction with a bunch of cutscenes and QTE, Demon’s Souls offered to plunge headlong into an extremely unfriendly world. The player never lost control of his character, but this hero turned out to be extremely fragile: only a couple of mistakes always separated him from death. And the game threw up a lot of opportunities to make these mistakes: traps, chasms, enemy ambushes …

And death in Demon’s Souls was not without consequences. This in other games just threw you to the nearest checkpoint; here the player lost all the souls earned (those that had not yet been spent) – that is, all the currency and experience. But he did not lose irretrievably: he had exactly one chance to get to the place of death and return the accumulated. I could not repeat the route I just covered – get punished. Harsh, but by no means excessive.

Another undoubted achievement of Demon’s Souls is the integration of online functionality into a single playthrough. Here and there on the ground were visible inscriptions left by other players, and bloody stains showing the last seconds of their lives – so that you know exactly what not to do. The game compensated for its brutality by giving players the opportunity to warn each other about danger – both knowingly, leaving a message, or inadvertently. After all, even your stupid death could save someone’s life.

But this was not the end of the game: the game also had a co-op and PvP mode. A “living” hero could call on other players to help him in the form of blue phantoms, but at the same time PvP lovers got the opportunity to invade his world in the form of black ones. The deceased character continued his wanderings in the form of a soul – with a halved health reserve and without the ability to call for help, but safe from black phantoms (except for NPCs).

The developers of Demon’s Souls not only found the perfect balance between risk and reward, but also built levels where there was always a place for both. Long, complex, multi-tiered, with forks, dead ends and many secret paths that allowed you to take a shortcut to the boss. And to each such “shortcut” had to break through with sweat and blood, at every step risking losing progress, thanks to which the player ultimately received a real catharsis.

All of the above became the foundation for future FromSoftware games . Nevertheless, Demon’s Souls had something to please even a seasoned fan of “soulsborn”, who first decided to join the origins of the series. First, the variety of situations: in it, each level differed from the previous one – if not in art design, then at least in structure. Almost all bosses had their own unique characteristics. One of the brightest opponents is the Old Monk, who does not participate in the battle personally, but calls on another player to defend himself (perhaps simply who wants to help someone). What could be more unpredictable than a PvP duel?

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Secondly, there was the most free PvP of all soulsborns: no rare items, no covenants, no difficult conditions. Having defeated one black phantom-NPC, the player was able to invade foreign worlds whenever and how many. Hunt people, ambush them, take by cunning or, working together with monsters, number – whatever your heart, excuse the pun, please. PvP in Demon’s Souls is a fun sandbox game.

And thirdly, Demon’s Souls is the simplest game in the series. Her gameplay was much less sadistic towards the user than in all subsequent Dark Souls , and even the narrative was built much more straightforward. A significant part of the narrative was conducted not through fragmentary descriptions of objects, but through the lips of characters, to whom it was easy to experience interest and empathy.

Although this time – thanks to the Russian translation – it will be a little harder to empathize

Disadvantages big and small

But despite all its merits, Demon’s Souls was not perfect even by the standards of 2009. Many of her decisions did not benefit the central concept; much of it could be changed and improved without losing the essence.

The most obvious example is healers. In Demon’s Souls, you could take at least a hundred with you and after each enemy you can calmly replenish both health and mana. This, on the one hand, made it possible to pass almost any level without any problems, and on the other hand, it forced the players to spend time on dull farming if their supply of healing herbs was running out. Dark Souls solved this problem elegantly by replenishing estus flasks and spellshots at checkpoint bonfires that also resurrect enemies. This is more honest.

The game hasn’t even been released yet, and in the Pantheon there are already players with a million souls and … just one murder? The leaderboards were filled with cheaters in the original, but here they seem to break records.

A second example is “addictions.” Awful, incomprehensible, unnecessary mechanics, especially in everything related to the structure of the world. The bottom line is that if you defeated a boss in one of the five worlds of the game, then the “inclination” changed towards white, and if you died, then towards black. With the maximum white and maximum black state, some details changed at the levels: somewhere unique monsters appeared, somewhere new NPCs, and somewhere tracks to objects that could not be picked up otherwise.

Why is this awful? Firstly, such a mechanic had a bunch of nuances, which could only be learned by a lot of trial and error – well, or from a fan’s encyclopedia of the game (the cover of Dark Souls once sent it right there). The person who played blindly, without looking anywhere, most likely skipped all this content. Secondly, it was very easy to spoil the “addiction”, and it was very difficult to restore it, because the number of bosses in all worlds was limited, and everyone was allowed to kill only once. Third, this system forced players to commit suicide with impunity in the Nexus, the central hub, and travel to new worlds in soul form so as not to accidentally ruin the addiction. And this put an end to half of the online functionality, because no one could invade such a player.

The “blacker” the world, the more health the enemies have. That is, by dying, you made the game even more difficult. Thank you Miyazaki!

There was a lot more to complain about. On camera, for example: the game consisted of more than half of narrow passages, and the camera did not know how to fly through walls to give the player a normal viewing angle. The hero had too many characteristics. The equipment screen was divided into two halves, and each of them had three or four more pages that had to be flipped just to figure out how much the found item was better or worse than the old one. Even without a pause.

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And although Demon’s Souls seemed to be designed for co-op, in many places the two players simply had nowhere to miss each other – it was so cramped there. Some monsters were too tenacious, some hitboxes  didn’t match the attack animations. Sometimes the player died through no fault of his own, but because the uneven edges of the platforms turned out to be slippery and threw him into the abyss. The stealth in the battle with the Dragon God was completely crooked. And the list of trophies turned out to be extremely dull: instead of testing the player’s skills, he forced him to engage in a long and uninteresting grind.

In general, Demon’s Souls initially needed an amended and revised version. And finally we got it! .. Or not.

The destroyed portal to the world of giants in the Nexus hints that there should be not five, but six worlds. One could hope that in the remake it would be restored, but …

Neither remake nor remaster

Of course, the good news is that 2020 Demon’s Souls can be proud of their trophy roster, where the wacky grind has been replaced by interesting challenges. Hooray! However, this is the only “hurray” that the remake will be awarded.

The authors tried to fix the problem with virtually endless healers by setting a strange limit of 25 pieces for each type and giving them weight in the inventory … but this did not change much, since now items that do not fit into the inventory can be immediately sent to the warehouse. As a result, the character drags about the same amount of items, only now they clog up all the available space, and with more loot you have to sort out the Nexus. There is little difference.

The remake also tried to fix the camera, but mostly unsuccessfully. Yes, it is a little more convenient when the hero becomes translucent instead of completely blocking the view, but even in this case it is not easy to navigate. The remake has as many as three camera modes, but none of them is optimal – in the local narrow corridors she has nowhere to turn around. Subsequent “Souls”, however, in this regard are also not far gone, but at least they tried to be not as claustrophobic as Demon’s Souls.

What else has the remake changed? He forbade shooting arrows through the fog, added four rings of varying degrees of uselessness, made him look for a full set of official equipment instead of one hat to save the witch Yuri. He also replaced the word “gender” with “body type” and allowed to change it in the game. But of course, you cannot reset the characteristics of a character (which was available in Dark Souls 2 and 3 ). On gender reassignment, the number of innovations and fixes of the remake solemnly ends.

Purely masculine armor. A half-hearted, incomprehensible icon called

But everything else is in place: overloaded menus, stupid “inclinations”, slippery surfaces, stuffy narrow passages, glitches, crooked stealth and incomprehensible hitboxes. In Bluepoint had a chance to fix it all, but in the end the only achievement of the rebuild from scratch remake became … well, the list of achievements. We have before us the same game from 11 years ago with the same problems. As if since then two generations of consoles have not changed.

Here it is reasonable to recall another remake of the Sony exclusive, which Bluepoint dragged just two generations later – Shadow of the Colossus . There, too, little has changed, but Colossi itself was a minimalist game, and what really needed improvement (camera and controls) was noticeably tightened up in the remake. Demon’s Souls received a number of changes that she did not need, and the broken one remained broken.

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Beauty, but not the same

Well, since we started talking about the remake of “Colossi” … Some players  were vehemently unhappy with how the visual style of the game changed then: they say, the magic of the original was lost. A remake of the Demon’s Souls also  flew all the whole art-design.

Boletaria Castle, formerly modest in medieval style, has stepped forward for several centuries and is now decorated with square kilometers of ornaments. Tower of Latria seems to teleport to Yharnam from Bloodborne , Officials from dummies turned into vile Fatties from Left 4 Dead . All the characters now look completely different and have cartoonish hypertrophied facial expressions. The unnamed sad warrior from the Nexus became dark-skinned (like the faceless phantom from the first cutscene before), Satsuki grew a stupid mustache. Both kings are reminiscent of listless cosplayers. Nothing is right, nothing is right.

At the same time, the picture quality is certainly pleasing. Finally, a decent frame rate, finally, live lighting, promised in the deceitful trailers of Dark Souls 2, but worthily embodied only now. The range of drawing is also impressive: everything is visible from a mile away. However, Demon’s Souls is clearly not the kind of game that can reveal the PS5’s capabilities to the fullest. There is no striking contrast in the graphics compared to the top projects for PS4. One gets the impression that give or take the same Demon’s Souls could have been released on the previous Sony console.

Another innovation is the “shattered world” mode, which artlessly mirrors the entire picture. At one time this was done by the developers of Zelda: The Twilight Princess, making Link right-handed for the sake of motion control. Here, however, it does not change: the sword is on the left, and the right shifts are responsible for it

The game tries to justify its exclusivity with the help of a controller. He vibrates here for absolutely any reason – even a protective spell on the hero makes DualSense tremble – and what he does in the cutscenes! There is no doubt that it is pleasant and useful to feel tactilely whether a blow has hit a wall or the carcass of an enemy, but in many other cases it would have been possible to do without unnecessary shaking.

The same goes for audio. The DualShock 4 also had a speaker – and was rarely used, in moderation. Immediately from it comes, probably half of the sounds. Hit one of the thousands of orphaned pitchers with your foot – the controller notifies you about it. And again, in a second. And further. Stab the enemy with a savory blow in the back – get a chomping of entrails right under your nose.

Honestly, I wanted to get something more from the switch to PS5 than literal whistles.

Now Demon’s Souls will surprise no one. She has already died down, and her followers are so numerous that they can discourage the desire to get acquainted with the founder of the genre. Nevertheless, it is still worth doing it – even if the remake deserves only an assessment, “it will come off”, the original at one time, of course, claimed the title of “masterpiece”. Therefore, the total is their arithmetic mean.

Especially for you Alihan Alihanrin!
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