Posted by: Erbse | February 2, 2011

The crawling has been redefined

Who of you doesn’t remember the good old times of dungeon crawling and getting whacked in the face for only a less than a hand full of times to roll over dead? Those that don’t certainly have missed out.

Last week my order finally arrived, consisting of Mirror’s Edge, Final Fantasy 13, Valkyria Chronicles, White Knight Chronicles and the titles I yearned for the most, Demon’s Souls.

I was unfortunate the point that Demon’s Souls was only sold by a 3rd party shop on the Amazon market place, hence arriving a few days later than the rest of the package. Then again, that gave me enough time to dip into the other titles until Demon’s Souls finally reached my hands.

I’m not really a console enthusiast anymore, haven’t been for a long time and I still swear on the good old NES times where a lack of skill got you killed brutally and without mercy. Well, of course time has advanced, but fast forwarding to this day it is obvious that most games got so piss easy that you should earn a trophy for actually dying. The age of the one shot wonders and/or healthbars seems to have come to an end.

Luckily not so much with this title, as it’s quite hardcore, if put into comparison to the rest of the available titles anyway. Firstly I’ll get into the games’ bad points that turned me off.

Mainly my only complaint lies within the HUD. It’s buttugly and rather annoying to handle as far as equipment and inventory is concerned. I’d think that a nice GUI should be the give and take in this age, you’ll want to at least please the eye of the user rather than turning them off. While you certainly get used to it eventually you’re still about to shed a tear for the sake of its horribleness.

Further point of complaints is the lack of a tutorial / introduction. I’ll be frank, this game doesn’t have much of a story, or at least none I listened to. It doesn’t have to either, because its gameplay is brilliant and totally meets my taste but dear lord, it’s outright crappy. The only thing you’re technically told is which keys do what.

No one tells you that you need minimum stats in order to even learn magic / wonders, nor does anyone tell you that you cannot level up before having defeated the boss of the first world. Lastly, if the occasion arises and you’re send to a certain NPC within the ‘town’ don’t get frustrated and just simply search till you find it, or google it, because you don’t get much of a direction.

Lets get to business then; The game consists of 5 worlds, each world consisting of at least 3-4 major bosses (Demons) and partially of optional ones. To advance to the next part you’ve to kill the boss in charge, obviously. You’re however free to explore and tackle any world you desire once you’ve beaten the first boss in the first world.

While enemies for most part remain the same during the 3-4 parts of the same world they get significantly stronger in each part and learn new abilities, which causes you to adjust your approach. For example will they start to kick in you starting with part 3 of the first world, causing your guard (shield) to drop and then proceed to rip you a new one.

Demon’s Souls is famous for its hardcore difficulty, which certainly is given as a newcomer. My first run on my first toon with a tad of farming took me solid ~40ish hours. When I decided it was time for a second toon it was a breeze by comparison, only taking ~20 hours. The game certainly gets easier as you know how the things work.

The difficulty arises from a very simple thing. You remember Diablo II, do you? How you had a chance to reclaim your corpse for your gear after having died? This applies to Demon’s Souls as well. You don’t lose your gear upon death, but you do lose you earned Souls, which in the same run is this games’ currency that is used for everything. Souls are earned by defeating monsters, and here’s the deal, if you die you’ll leave a mark of blood on the floor and respawn at the beginning of the map. All mobs will have respawned and you’ve to fight your way through to your corpse again. There’s only one blood mark at a time, meaning if you die again on your way to your original corpse it will vanish and be overridden with the one you just left by dying again. Meaning everything you may have had originally will be gone, completely.

Gear is less of a factor, much like level. Of course upgrading your weapons becomes a necessity eventually but gear only gets you so far, inevitably it will boil down to whether or you’re capable of operating your controller correctly. Even apparently weak monsters can put a hurting on you if you took them too easy and they ended up landing a streak on you. Bosses are likely to one shot you a lot of the times or you barely survive it for that matter. Hence be on your toes, know your enemy better than yourself and start dodging like champ. In Demon’s Souls it’s likely that if something looks kick ass and threatening will kick your ass. I for one never feared Dragons as much as I did in this game and I have played Dragon Age and Might and Magic VI as well as Gothic II.

The game, while initially really hard and unforgiving, will eventually get easy though, as it all boils down to know how and knowing the perks, however the way to get there most certainly is incredible amount of fun. However, if the game turns out to easy you can just keep on playing through, for every time you finish the game you’ll start a new cycle (New Game+(++++)) for which your foes gain larger multipliers to all of their stats. So while the game might have been easy or moderate at best at NG, or NG(+) you shouldn’t be too surprised if NG++ and above will have a comeback and make you cry.

When playing online it gets even more trickier as you can be invaded by others (PvP) who appear in your world as Black Phantom, or play with friends, who appear as Blue Phantoms. The PvP can be very delicate, tricky as well as frustrating I imagine. So far I didn’t get the chance to dip into it, but certainly will, eventually.

The only real short comings I see with this game, except those aforementioned up above are the lack of item disparity – while there certainly are a bunch of weapons to deliver damage they all wind up resulting in the same unique weapons for most part. Though, those unique weapons are likely to not carry you through a NG++ anymore, but you’ll need to craft yourself some build suiting ones.

That gets me into this games’ crafting. Each weapon can be upgraded, basic weapons can vary from +0 to +10. On the way to +10 you encounter various stages where you can alter the weapon’s path. Lets take a Sword for example, a +3 Sword can be turned into either  a +4 Sword, a +1 Dragon Sword, or a +1 Quality Sword or a +1 or a Crushing Sword. While weapons slightly downgrade from +4 if altering its path it in return gets bonuses dependent on the path you choose. While a Sword +4 would only deal slightly increased damage over a Sword +3, a Dragon Sword would deal less damage but in return deal additional fire damage, while a quality sword would balance out the stats contribution of Dex and Strength while the Curshing Sword would eliminate the Dex damage contribution for a larger Strength modifier. While basic enchants go up to +10 the optional paths only go up to +5.

Generally enchanting costs souls (money, so to say) as well as stones. Splitters, chunks and pure stones. They can be farmed and in fact must be farmed if you want to build yourself specific weapons. Once you know how they’re easy to come by, as a beginner however you’ll make quite a lot of mistakes which you don’t realize until later. That’s about the perfect time to start a new character I’d suggest.

Unfortunately I ultimately considered the arsenal as too little, meaning that if you put in some brain and thought into it you’ll quickly figure out what the strongest weapons in the game are. I’d have wished for further variety, but that’s really about the only thing I could rant about.

I do hope for a sequel or other games of the kind, as crappy it may looks on the outside and as harsh it may be to the casual gamer it is a great title for the PS3 and may be cherished as a unique diamond for a long time, even if possibly only by its small hardcore crowd the game is aimed for.

Whoever isn’t up for a serious challenge and several, possibly painful and stupid deaths should avoid this title at all costs, everyone else should most definitely grab it and enjoy it for what it is, awesomeness inside of a box.

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