Bottom line: Bug fixes, clever DualSense support, and truly stunning graphics turn this iconic PS3 title into the PS5's standout must-play. Whether you're a veteran or new to the world of Boletaria, you won't want to miss this special game.
- Stellar graphics
- Fantastic audio design
- Makes great use of new DualSense features
- Bug fixes and quality of life improvements
- Changes to game design are too safe
When it was first revealed, the long-rumored Demon's Souls remake was met with great enthusiasm, including from me. The original game's servers are down and it remains trapped on the PS3. There was no way it would stay there forever, however. This is a special title, something of a cult classic that helped spawn the entire "Souls" franchise (and genre) and elevated FromSoftware's name with spiritual successors in Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
This was a game in desperate need of a remake, but Bluepoint Games and Japan Studio have gone above and beyond in remaking it. Enemies, bosses, areas, armor, weapons and more have all been lovingly redesigned, simultaneously honoring the Gothic, oppressive tone of the original game while elevating the visuals, audio, and gameplay to a level befitting the phrase "next-gen."
I've spent well over 30 hours with this game and I'm sure I'll be spending four times that on subsequent playthroughs in the months to come. It's almost everything a fan or newcomer could hope for, with just a handful of things played too safe keeping it from sheer perfection.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.
Demon's Souls is a classic made modern
|Developer||Bluepoint Games, Japan Studio|
|Publisher||Sony Interactive Entertainment|
|PlayStation Version||PlayStation 5|
|Play Time||40 hours, will vary|
|Players||Singleplayer campaign, 2-6 player co-op/dueling|
|Launch Price||$70 (opens in new tab)|
Demon's Souls is a role-playing game, where players customize a hero that must save the land of Boletaria from the threat of Demons who claim men's souls in service of the Old One. You can make choices, acquire unique weapons or spells, and take on increasingly-difficult bosses all while growing stronger thanks to offering your own captured souls to the mysterious Maiden in Black. If you haven't experienced it before, I won't go further into the story, as there's quite a bit of subtle lore best appreciated as you discover it.
You don't need to understand the story to see one of the most impressive things about Demon's Souls right off the bat: the visuals. Dank, moldy overgrowth creeps on castle ruins throughout Boletaria. Slime and sludge are rendered in disgusting detail in the Valley of Defilement, and flashes of lightning illuminate horrors in the Tower of Latria. This is one of the most detailed games I've ever played and it looks stunning, especially running at 60 FPS in performance mode.
The blocky, near-textureless foes from the original become nightmarish abominations straight out of The Thing. The armor of fallen knights glints and shines in the sunlight as you traverse blood-spattered streets. I only ever encountered one spot where the framerate felt unstable, and it was on a bridge filled to the brim with enemies and explosions. Otherwise, the entire game can play out silky smooth, which makes the gameplay so enjoyable.
However, combat is the name of the game and if you've played Dark Souls or any of its sequels, you know what you're in for. Combat is grounded and brutal, where enemies can and will fight unfairly with glee. The sense of accomplishment from finally beating a challenging foe or discovering a hidden area is immense.
All of this is taken to new heights of immersion through the DualSense controller. The haptic feedback adaptive triggers pair with the 3D audio in superb fashion. It's one thing to watch as your character strikes down the undead and impales a skeleton, it's another to completely hear and feel the difference. Every sword strike and spell blast feel instantly recognizable, while even the creaking of a chain-operated elevator or the pattering of rain add to the overall immersion. It really has to be felt to be understood but the DualSense finalizes this game as having the best gameplay of any "Souls" title.
It's also worth mentioning that the ultra-fast SSD in the PS5 is put to good use here, as the longest loading time I ever experienced while traveling through the Archstones was around three seconds and it was usually a fair bit shorter. Online play works well and the servers seem stable: even with some of us having poor internet connections, myself and a group of friends were easily able to summon each other for co-op sessions, which I highly recommend if you're finding the game too difficult.
The soundtrack has been rerecorded with a full orchestra, meaning that it loses a lot of the brass and overall sounds far superior to me. Many of the iconic tunes are still there but there's a newfound epic scale straight out of Bloodborne, something that gives a new artistic invigoration to every boss you fight.
Demon's Souls keeps to its roots, mostly
While these overhauls are impressive, it's important to recognize that most of the game's code has gone unchanged. Enemy AI hasn't been tweaked at all so if you are a veteran who has gone through Demon's Souls before, you can expect a lot of the same strategies and builds to work, barring glitches and exploits, which have been fixed. If you're a veteran of the original game, remember cheesing Maneater through the fog door on the bridge? That's not happening anymore.
Now, I did encounter one interesting change that makes a particular sidequest slightly more complicated. I won't spoil here but you can read about what has changed, if you want. There's also a mysterious new door that players haven't figured out, which could be something or nothing at all.
The only real complaints I can muster about this game are that perhaps Bluepoint played things just a bit too safe. The imposing and controversial World Tendency system — a kind of morality system that changes the difficulty of the game, opens up new items and pathways, and even unique NPCs — returns essentially unchanged, when some tweaks or more detailed explanations and ways of changing it would've been a good idea. I'm also in the camp that would've loved to have seen new content in the form of a restored Sixth Archstone. The game is already being remade: seeing new enemies, bosses and regions would've been truly exciting.
The big new feature to appreciate is photo mode, which can be used to capture some truly spectacular shots and highlights just how good this game looks. As far as photo modes go it's one of the better ones I've used and I found myself forced to pry away from it simply to progress in the game, quite a good problem to have.
Bottom line: should you buy Demon's Souls?
Demon's Souls isn't just a good game — it's one of the best PS5 launch games available and one of the best launch titles ever. If you're apprehensive about the difficulty, try to find a friend for some co-op because this isn't an experience to miss out on. Bluepoint Games' previous work was well done but this is truly stellar. I don't envy the team trying to figure out how their next project will be even better but I certainly look forward to it.
4.5 out of 5
Really, the only reason I can find that you shouldn't buy Demon's Souls is that you need to have a PS5 first, so if you're still trying to buy one, you may be waiting a month or four. It's somewhat fitting that the game which started the "Souls" trend has now been remade, both opening and closing a particular chapter in gaming history.
Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on PlayStation on Android Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert
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