Demon's Souls Hands-On Preview

I was recently given the opportunity to try my hand at a trade demo of From Software’s Demon’s Souls, published by Atlus in the US. I’ve enjoyed my time with it thus far, and am eager to dive deeper into the game, as playing through the training level and the first segment of one of its six major areas reveals the title to be one of the most unique examples of a dungeon-crawling action RPG in recent memory.

The game is set in a world where demons have descended to claim the souls of the living, preceded by a thick and ominous fog covering much of the land. It is up to players to vanquish these demons and clear the world of their influence. To do so, they will fight across a number of different locales both while alive and in a quasi-corporeal soul form, which they enter upon death.

Demon's Souls

Gameplay takes place in a number of rich and immense 3D environments, and players have great control over the character they play. To begin, these characters are fully customizable, letting players choose from four geographic backgrounds (north, south, east, west) and 10 character classes that range from uncivilized barbarians to magic users and royalty. Each class starts the game with its own combination of equipment and attributes, but over the course of the game can be molded to fit players’ preferences and play style.

Gameplay is different from games of this kind. Combat is intricate, and every fight feels like something substantial. Players lock on and cycle between targets using the right analog stick, then press R1 and R2 for normal and heavy attacks. If a catalyst (wand) is equipped and a spell memorized, magic attacks work the same way. The circle button dodges and rolls, L1 raises a shield or weapon to block, and L2 parries attacks, leaving the enemy open for a deadly riposte, a quick victory, and a finishing animation. Players are also given the option of dual-wielding, or using a single weapon with two hands — sometimes a necessity to reap its full benefits, due to strength requirements.

From what I’ve sampled, I can see that survival isn’t exactly easy in Demon’s Souls. Enemies hit hard, and any sizable group has the potential to quickly become overwhelming. Quickly swapping between primary and secondary equipment with the d-pad (left for shield/off-hand, right for main weapon), or using quick-access healing items with the square button will undoubtedly be indispensable strategies on those occasions. On all occasions, it looks like players will be taking it slowly if they want to live.

On top of the massive single-player experience (expected to clock in at around 80-100 hours), the game features a number of unique online components. Throughout the adventure, players can leave messages for other online-enabled players to find in their own games. These may warn of danger ahead or point out secrets, and are limited to a selection of key phrases to avoid the standard vulgarity of online gaming communities. Phantom versions of other characters also make short, intermittent appearances as players traverse the same areas at the same times, and bloodstains on the ground allow you to see visual playbacks of how others have met their demise in those particular locations.

On top of that, players have the option of teaming up in parties of two or three in order to complete levels and defeat major demons. Or they may invade other players’ worlds to fight against them, either to win souls or to be resurrected from soul form in their own game.

Demon’s Souls looks incredibly promising. The concepts of intertwined worlds, the Nexus, and soul form have great potential, especially in an online gaming landscape, and the gameplay itself is a refreshing and competent reinvention of an established genre. I can’t wait to play more.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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