Preview: Demon’s Souls Eyes-On – Staring Death in the Face

DemonsSoulsEyesOn.jpg

Monday evening I was invited to sit in on a video web cast of a live press demo for Demon’s Souls, Atlus USA’s upcoming PS3-exclusive action-RPG. Obviously I wasn’t able to actually play the game for myself (though I will have an early review build coming in any day now), but I did get to watch Atlus’ PR front man (and keeper of the “sticky white stuff”) Aram Jabbari play the game (and get his ass handed to him repeatedly) for roughly an hour and a half, asking questions about the game along the way. It was a fun demo and I learned quite a bit about the game I hadn’t heard before.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard numerous stories about how difficult Demon’s Souls is, but until you see (or play) it first hand you really can’t appreciate just how hardcore it is. Before playing Demon’s Souls, there is one important thing you must know – you will die and you will die a lot. But what you also must know is that death doesn’t mean game over like it does in other games. When you die in Demon’s Souls you are actually just getting started.

When a nasty mob cuts you down you enter Soul form, and while exploring the world in Soul form your health is capped until you’re able to return to the realm of the living. This is where the game gets interesting.

In order to return to your living body, you must do one of three things: grind out enough loot (in a weakened state, remember) to get yourself a special resurrection stone, offer your services to another player as a Phantom and fight side by side in co-op to help them slay a mighty demon, or invade another player’s game as a Black Phantom and strike them down PvP style. The choice is yours.

Another interesting thing I learned about was the game’s tendency system. Depending on your performance, the game world actually shifts in difficulty…but not how you might expect. If you find yourself dying a lot, the current area will actually become more (not less) difficult, yet when you are successful the mobs actually become easier and new paths may open up. I guess the developers wanted to reward players who think about what lies ahead and use smart combat tactics and penalize impatient players who charge into the fray without a battle plan.

During the demo we actually got to see the extreme end of the tendency system’s impact on the game world when Aram joined into a game with another player who was obviously a complete moron and had been failing repeatedly, as the creatures were virtually impossible for them to kill. But don’t worry, the tendency of an area isn’t permanent. If the difficulty gets too out of hand, an easy-to-kill demon will spawn in and, once defeated, return the tendency back to a reasonable level.

The main purpose of the demo was supposedly to show more of the game’s co-op multiplayer component, but unfortunately Aram had a tough time finding another player to team up with (he was playing the Japanese version and I guess the servers were slow due to the time difference) so we never really got to see that part of the game. This raised some important questions about the game’s method of matchmaking.

You see, although the game has familiar elements of an MMORPG, it isn’t designed to be a game you can jump into with a few buddies and slog through dungeons – think of it more as a solo RPG with multiplayer benefits available if you need them. Technically, there is no matchmaking, you can’t invite friends from your friends list, and there is no support for voice chat (text messages can be created from a variety of predefined words and phrases though). When you are in Soul form, you can place a marker on the ground offering your service to other players in the area, and if another player walks by and needs help they can invite you into their game. But if no one else is around, you are sort of out of luck. That may seem a bit harsh, but that’s the point.

Demon’s Souls looks like a fairly standard dungeon crawler on the surface, but it is actually a very unique breed of RPG, one that certainly will not be for the impatient or faint of heart. It was difficult to gauge exactly how certain elements worked without my own hands on the controller, but overall, as a hardcore RPG enthusiast I was impressed with what I saw and can’t wait to lead my own adventurer through the perilous lands of Boletaria…and die, over, and over, and over again!

Demon’s Souls is scheduled to ship on October 6th exclusively for the PS3. The game is available for pre-order now in a standard edition for $59.99 and a $69.99 Deluxe Edition equipped with a 150-page strategy guide and collectible slipcase cover. Both versions also come with an art book and soundtrack as pre-order bonuses.

Back with a full review leading up to the game’s launch. In the meantime, if you have any other questions about the game drop them in the comments.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!