Demon Souls review

Kicking off the next-generation in style is Demon Souls for PS5, perhaps the only true next-generation game we had at launch for both PS5 and Xbox Series X. It’s back 11 years after it originally released in 2009, only this time the video games market is very different. Back then there wasn’t really anything like this, now ‘Souls-like’ has its own genre and back catalogue of great games.

Demon Souls is where it’s where it all began for FromSoftware, but this time it’s back rebuilt with incredible detail and fidelity by Bluepoint Games taking full advantage of the PS5 capabilities. Demon Souls may look pretty, and if you have the right set up it looks absolutely incredible at 60fps, but it’s as punishing as ever testing your patience and skill to the max.

FromSoftware are busy at the moment with Elden Ring, hopefully, we’ll hear more about that this year and still fresh off the back of 2019’s Game of the Year with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Bluepoint Games have been pulled into to rebuild Demon Souls from the ground up, following on from their successful 2018 remaster of Shadow of the Colossus. Bluepoint has fully embraced the technological toolbox they had at their disposal and realised the world of Demon Souls in glorious detail.

The gameplay of Demon Souls is as tricky as ever. It’s full-on combat where you attack and defend with a sword and shield where the aim of the game is to master timing and enemy patterns. One false move and your likely going to be toast, and it’s the repetition and mastery that ultimately is the most satisfying thing with Souls-like games. Somehow it feels even more intense on the PS5. The fidelity of the enemies, the feeling in your hands with the feedback of the DualSense controller, the fantastic audio design brings the brutal and harsh world straight into your senses. You’ll feel every clash of a sword and smash of a shield in brand new ways you haven’t experienced before.

One of the best improvements in this new version is the super-fast SSD use where loading in massive and detail environments can happen in seconds and as a player you hardly even notice. If you don’t have to wait for loading times, then it’s another mechanism to get fully emerged in the gory world you see before you.

The gothic world before you may look beautiful but deep down this is a horror story. Enemies jump out at you from the shadows, Demons roam the world as well as Zombie like creatures who grasp and reach toward you with menance, some even weild fiery swords. At the start of the game you build your character – you can be a Knight, Hunter, Thief and many more and you have the chance to weild and master a range of weapons. I leaned into the Knight during my playthrough as you start with a nice sword and shield.

The remake is somewhat true to the original in terms of gameplay and controls, whereas the visuals and audio have been given a massive upgrade and overhaul. Demon Souls was the first outing for FromSoftware and some of the more sophisticated systems found in later Dark Souls games hadn’t yet been worked out or developed. One example of this is the Nexus hub world. This acts as your central location, a respite from the constant barrage of battle and also gives you the chance to chat with other NPCs and investigate new worlds. This is different from the later massive and connected worlds that we would see in Bloodborne, Dark Souls and Sekiro.

There’s not a lot of handholding in Demon Souls, you’re put out there in the world with a simple few instructions and it’s best to get on the front foot in terms of attacks. The world is brutal, punishing, but a game hasn’t grabbed me like this in a long time. You will most likely die a lot, but therein lies the ‘fun’. Come back, do it again and learn the patterns of your opponents and next time you’ll do it a little better. The battle system is really only one part of the game – there’s also exploration, magic and secrets to uncover too.

The boss fights remain the highlight of the game. Although the environments this time are gorgeous and deadly in equal measure, actually getting to the bosses will pose a significant challenge in itself. If you’re new to the series, or genre, then don’t expect an easy ride. But persevere, make it through with practice and repetition and this game will reward you time and time again with huge set pieces and great moments of triumph over some enemies that initially look impossible to beat.

As well as the single-player element to the game there’s also multiplayer too with other players leaving notes on the ground for other players to discover. There’s an element of PVP too. The original Demon Souls multiplayer servers went dark a couple of years ago, so this version of the game now is the only way to experience the model that FromSoftware devised back in 2009. The PVP is surprising, I mean it’s not like you didn’t have enough to worry about already with the swath of enemies and bosses in front of you. It does add another layer of danger into the equation, which is always fun.

It’s a risky move to go back to a beloved franchise entry like this, especially Demon Souls which really kicked off the genre of Souls-like. Look around on Steam at the moment and you’ll find 2D and 3D emulators, copies and love letters that span over the last 10 years. Bluepoint Games have done a great job breathing new life into Demon Souls, and Sony has embraced the title and positioned it front and centre of the PS5 launch campaign. We have Spider-man: Miles Morales, AC: Valhalla true… but they are available on PS4 and Xbox One. Demon Souls, for now, is only available on PS5 and is probably the best place for it given the features with the controller and the 3D audio headphones.

Demon Souls is a great game, an even better remake and the perfect demonstration of hat next-generation consoles can do. It’s tough as nails, but there’s also great moments of discovery here too packed full of secrets. Unless you’re an expert in Souls games then it’s not likely one you’ll beat in one sitting, but its something you can come back to time and time again to face off against the tough bosses and brutal environment. If you have a PS5 then this is a must-buy title.

Developer: Bluepoint Games/SIE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 5
Release Date: 19th November 2020