Demon’s Souls: A Response
Today, I received some feedback on a two-year-old impressions piece I wrote about how much I disliked the beginning of Demon’s Souls. Looking back at it now, I can see that it’s hasty, frustrated, and judgmental. And honestly, I’m embarrassed to have ever posted it in the form it is in.
I didn’t give the game a chance (and I should have known better, having played so many JRPGs with slow beginnings). And while I didn’t write the post for a publication and was not formally reviewing the game as a whole, to judge a game so harshly after less than an hour of struggle is a tough thing to justify. Clearly, the difficulty really got to me. I may have gone in too recklessly, not realizing how much the game is about survival and being cautious (and not about relying on checkpoints or health pickups). I’ve gotten too used to the ease and hand-holding of most modern games that Demon’s Souls overwhelmed me. I didn’t go in with the right attitude: You play Demon’s Souls for the challenge. I was playing it just to play it.
Thanks to your comments, though, I’ve decided to give it another try. I was being ignorant about the game, and just because I felt strongly at the time does not mean I should have made those thoughts public—especially without further reflection. When I have played a substantial amount, then I’ll post some thoughts.
My original impressions:
What I’m NOT Gaming: Demon’s Souls
Demon’s Souls is not fun. The beginning of this game has no redeeming qualities. I’ll admit, I only played less than an hour but within that time the game spoke volumes.
An adventure game in a medieval setting would usually be exactly my type of game, yet somehow Demon’s Souls fell flat.
There is minimal music - I was carefully walking through a dungeon and all I could hear was the sound of my own footsteps, an audio technique that would be great if used occasionally to build tension, but by the next area and the area after I still hadn’t heard any background music. Running around in the dark to no music just made the game feel boring. How could a game about knights fighting demons feel boring?
Fight, Die, Repeat - The structure of the game is such that players can leave notes on the server for anyone connected to the internet to find and rate, you can see the spirit version of live players running around and fighting enemies they can only see in their game, and players can also find another player’s bloodstain and see what the character (in spirit form) did to get themselves killed. This is helpful, sure, but it doesn’t prevent you from facing tough enemies or falling off a ledge to your death. Most bloodstains I viewed were due to people accidentally falling to their death. This is made worse by the fact that no matter how far into a dungeon you get your only checkpoint is the beginning of the level, meaning you have to go through the entire place again and if you’re similarly unlucky you’ll have to start over another time. To add insult to injury, you lose all the souls you’ve collected and can only reclaim them by taking them off of your cold, dead body (which you must first journey back to).
I didn’t get far enough in the game to find out what you use souls for (upgrades, I presume), but losing anything you’ve collected is a knuckle-slap in the kneecaps.
In my brief time with Demon’s Souls I can say that there was nothing I enjoyed about it. I had no fun at all. If a game is devoid of fun from the very beginning what’s the point of continuing? Even the trophies aren’t easy to get. I saw no reason to continue playing, so I stopped.