Demon’s Souls Review — The Beginning is the End

Demon’s Souls Review — The Beginning is the End

Demon's Souls continues Bluepoint Games' hot streak of excellent remakes and gives early PS5 adopters a next-gen experience that they can sink their teeth into.

Nearly four years ago when I first joined DualShockers, I wouldn’t have ever considered calling the Souls series my favorite franchise in all of gaming. At that point in 2017 I had only ever played Bloodborne, which I adored, but the Dark Souls trilogy and its predecessor weren’t games I had dug into yet. As I continued on here at DualShockers, I slowly worked my way through all other entries in the series over the years, growing to love them more and more with each installment (except for you, Dark Souls 2). That said, the original granddaddy that started off the whole genre in Demon’s Souls was still a title that had escaped my grasp due to it being essentially stranded on PS3.

In what is now my final week at DualShockers, having my final review with the site be for Bluepoint’s remake of Demon’s Souls just feels right. It’s a game that isn’t only fantastic in nearly all areas, but it has helped validate my decision to purchase a PS5 on day one. Perhaps most importantly, however, it has been a game that I have strangely found a lot of solace in while playing given my own current state of life.

Likely the most incredible part of this new Demon’s Souls comes with just how perfectly Bluepoint has been able to recreate the original game. Even though I’m not someone who had ever played the first installment all the way on PS3, I’m pretty intimately familiar with it. To see all of those iconic locations and bosses remade with a fresh coat of paint has been stunning, to say the least. Even though it has been somewhat divisive with a few longtime fans, Bluepoint was also able to add far more detail to each environment and character model compared to what FromSoftware could do in the past, and I think it makes the entire game look that much more unique.

This level of expertise when it comes to the game’s quality as a remake extends to the gameplay, too. A lot of people don’t trust anyone but FromSoftware to work on these games, but nothing has been lost whatsoever when it comes to the moment-to-moment action within Demon’s Souls. The game controls exactly like you remember it and doesn’t feel aged whatsoever.

Even beyond just mirroring FromSoftware’s original game to a T, Bluepoint has also gone above and beyond to add a number of smaller aspects to the game that further flesh out its world and the lore behind it. To be honest, I would have never noticed half of these things on my own. But those who are way more invested in the Souls scene than I am have spotted some truly incredible nuggets that a majority of players will probably never find. Basically, just go watch VaatiVidya’s latest video on the game if you want to be even more astounded by Bluepoint.

All of these elements combined with what the PlayStation 5 now allows for makes Demon’s Souls one of the best titles to showcase the next-gen console. The game allows for both performance or resolution modes, with the former running at 60fps. Regardless of which option you choose, however, Demon’s Souls is far and away one of the best games you can check out on a console right now. Every environment contains a stunning level of detail all brought about with crystal clear clarity. And even on the performance side of things, I can’t remember ever seeing my resolution drop while playing. I previously asserted a few years back that Bluepoint’s Shadow of the Colossus remake was perhaps one of the prettiest games I had ever seen, and Demon’s Souls absolutely now joins that list.

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Without question though, the greatest benefit that the PS5 has brought to Demon’s Souls comes with the near-nonexistent load times that are present. This is something that we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of in games in the future, but I still could not get over just how remarkable it is to no longer have to start a 30-second or longer loading screen after every death. Even more so than the higher fidelity graphics, the lack of load times continues to be my favorite feature with next-gen titles.

For the most part, the other thing I’m impressed by with Demon’s Souls is just how well it has stood up in the eleven years since it first launched. You could have told me in a vacuum that this isn’t a remake of a game from 2009 and was instead the fourth Dark Souls entry newly-released in 2020 and I would believe you. To say that Demon’s Souls was ahead of its time is to put things lightly.

I also have to say that as someone who is coming into Demon’s Souls after having already played all previous Soulsborne titles, the structure of the game really stands out quite a bit to this day. The five worlds in Demon’s Souls all have their own unique vibe and style, both aesthetically and thematically. I also love that after beating the game’s first proper stage, you can proceed to go about completing the remainder of Demon’s Souls in any manner that you choose. While sure, some levels will be more difficult for lower-leveled characters, the fact that you have the freedom to jump between worlds whenever you’d like keeps things from feeling stale, especially if you have found yourself beating your head against a wall in one specific area.

Demon's Souls Ray Tracing

If there is one element of Demon’s Souls that I just still do not love though, it would be the game’s World Tendency system. World Tendency, for better or worse, is something that has an impact on nearly everything you do in Demon’s Souls. In simplest terms, World Tendency can cause changes in the world around you depending on how many times you die or don’t die in your human form. To that effect, some items, pathways, and other locations in each given world might be open or closed depending on what your current World Tendency state is.

While it’s very much like FromSoftware to implement a system like this, it also just proves to be a drag more often than not. The fact that the game doesn’t really detail the finer ins and outs of World Tendency doesn’t help, either. As a first time player, I had to spend a lot of time reading up on the system and all of the larger effects that it can have on your Demon’s Souls experience. I like that these games are often ones where the community has to work together to figure everything out, but World Tendency itself should at least be something that Demon’s Souls teaches to players a bit more than it does. Let’s just say that I’m glad this element never made its way into the Dark Souls series.

When it comes to the overall difficulty of Demon’s Souls, I think it’s equal parts one of the hardest and easiest games within the genre. The difficult aspect of the game comes with how you’ll receive a semi-permanent cut to your health if you ever die while in human form. The only way to then regain your human form is to defeat a boss or use a specific item that will restore your body. Still, seeing your health bar constantly being cut in half whenever you perish is something that grates on you, particularly in the game’s early hours, and it makes those initial stages far more difficult than may other Soulslikes already are.

That being said, I have to say that the bosses definitely leave something to be desired in Demon’s Souls, especially compared to what has come about in the decade since its release. Some standout baddies like Flamelurker, the Maneaters, and Storm King are among the more enjoyable bouts you’ll engage in, but a number of the other battles you’ll come across in the game prove to be a cakewalk assuming you’ve got a well-defined character build. The lack of a true final boss also exasperates this point even more. I wouldn’t call any of the bosses in Demon’s Souls “bad” necessarily, but the full cast also isn’t too memorable.

Demon's Souls

Demon’s Souls is an excellent game; I’m not the first person to tell you that in the last ten years. Bluepoint’s remake here on PS5 is also in line with the studio’s previous work, which is to say that it’s immaculate. If you already own Sony’s next-gen hardware, this is very much its killer app thus far. I implore you to make this your first Soulslike if you’ve never set foot into the genre before.

More than anything though, Demon’s Souls has allowed me to reflect a lot the past few weeks on my own personal life and where I’m heading. Despite my next career destination not being much of a far cry from what I have done here at DualShockers for the past four years, Demon’s Souls has shown me once again that familiarity doesn’t mean that a challenge still can’t be present. Much like this series of games has taught me over the years, satisfaction in your work and accomplishments is often one that is a result of the strife that you have to go through along the way. And to that end, I’m excited to see what challenges lie in wait for me in the future.

I’ve had a great time here at DualShockers and I’ll never forget this period of my life. Thank you for reading my work and being one of the best communities around throughout my tenure. Umbasa.