Bluepoint Games have proven two things thus far. One, they know how to use the Playstation hardware, and two, they know how to remaster/remake a game for a new generation of hardware while retaining its soul and rekindling those special memories you may have of that title.
Following hot on the heels of their stunning Shadow of The Colossus remake, Bluepoint have tackled the much-requested update of From Softwares original Souls title, Demon’s Souls.
At this point in time, even if you don’t play these games, you’ll know what a Souls or Souls-like game is. Which also means you’ll know whether or not this is up your alley. If it isn’t, well we won’t hold that against you, but if it is, then:
Welcome to the land of Boletaria. Darkness has befallen the kingdom and you’re its last hope. Good luck. You’re going to need it. Cue sadistic laughter.
In many ways, that simply sums up Demon’s Souls quite well. You’re going to need that luck, along with a boatload of skill, to make it through any of the Souls titles as you spelunk into its deep action-RPG world. Despite being the first game in the Souls series and almost twelve years old, Demon’s Souls is still as challenging as ever. At a time when games had been moving towards a more player-friendly focus, From Software decided to bring back ye good old age of gaming when they had been designed to munch your quarters with a difficulty – and oftentimes cheapness – that required true control mastery and memory recall.
Demon’s Souls gleefully crushed our souls (no pun intended). And we loved it. So much so that we have three sequels and an entirely new genre filled to the brim with titles inspired by From Software’s masterful handling of the world and lore, to the sadistic, but not truly unfair gameplay. Now while many old school and retro gamers could pick out much harder games that could be called the original Souls-like – cough Ghosts ‘n Goblins cough – Demon’s Souls brought the art of getting wrecked to the modern gaming world.
“Get good,” it said, “or go home.”
There’s a method to fighting each of the game’s enemies, which means learning their attack patterns and speeds and mastering the timing for that all-important parry. Downed enemies award you with souls, the game’s currency, and experience points, along with the occasional healing item. While dying doesn’t end the game, it transports you to the beginning of a level with all your collected souls dropped in the area where you died. This brought a thoughtful risk/reward scenario to the game in which you had to decide whether or not to risk another run to collect your dropped souls to add to your new tally or forego them by returning to the Nexus, the game’s hub. Initially, levelling up your various attributes, repairing and buying items doesn’t cost too much, but the costs quickly begin to skyrocket after the first couple of character levels; this creates the need for multiple runs through an area without returning to the Nexus and just using the various Archstones scattered across the level. Archstones act as waypoints for fast travel once unlocked and are the only way to get back into the Nexus, outside of an item that also sacrifices souls you’ve obtained for a quick dimensional escape.
Throw in some truly epic and challenging boss fights and Demon’s Souls became an unexpected worldwide hit and is still my favourite game in the Souls series.
For this remake/remaster, Bluepoint built the new game on the bones of the old, creating a slavish, lavish remake that leverages the PS5 hardware to great use with some jaw-dropping visuals and superb technical performance.
And truly the visuals need to be commended. Boletaria looks absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous from the ivy crowding splintered columns to the magnificent vistas evoking the games crushing scale, to the particle effects flowing across the screen to the character animations. Bluepoint have recreated the original game’s cutscenes shot-for-shot too.
The character creator has also been enhanced, bringing the original game’s barebones character creator and somewhat ugly models more in line with what you would find in other games in 2020. So you can choose your gender while tweaking all the smaller details such as hair, scars, etc.
Combat is still the same, though since this is the first game, it doesn’t quite have some of the refinements brought to the play systems in the sequels. You’ve got light and heavy attacks, magic attacks, ranged attacks, in addition to being able to block and parry while managing a stamina bar. Blocking, attacking and dodging all use up stamina, so careful play is required in order to make certain the bar doesn’t run dry during a fight or you will be on the receiving end of hurt you can’t afford. One of the other amazing achievements that Demon’s Souls has in the combat department is that when I died, which was quite often, it usually felt like my own fault. Is there cheapness? Sure, but more often than not, death came through my own actions rather than through unfair game design. Design that subsequent Souls and Souls-like games have clearly forgotten about. . .
Pro-tip: pay attention to the items you pick up in the field. A very useful fire-resistant shield that I didn’t know I had, simply because I didn’t read the descriptions while gleefully collecting loot, made all the difference in the Flamelurker boss fight once I found out I’d had it sitting in my inventory for ages.
On the technical side, the game has performance and cinematic modes. Cinematic Mode runs in native 4k at 30fps while Performance Mode runs at 1440p and 60fps and I noticed no frame dips at all during my time with the game. Finally, there are the super-fast load times of perhaps 2-4 seconds when loading into the world from the main menu which is really game-changing. There are some really cool quality of life extras that Bluepoint have added that are just neat touches, such as the animated postcards for each area at the Archstone selection screen. For those looking for a little something extra content-wise, there’s also a brand-new-to-this-version-of-the-game secret door for completionists to unlock.
Demon Soul’s was reviewed by Gameblur using a PS5 retail copy of the game
Story8/10 Very Good
Visuals10/10 The Best
Audio8/10 Very Good
- Gorgeous visuals
- Stupendously fast load times
- Hard as nails combat
- Amazing world design
- There are cheap moments
- AI bugs from the original game still exist