Soul of the Mind, Key to Life’s Ether
Ever since I got my PS5, every game I’ve played—except Astro’s Playroom—has either been a cross-gen title such as Spiderman: Miles Morales or a straight-up PS4 release like Cyberpunk 2077 which made me feel like I wasn’t getting the most out of my new console. So when I started looking for a strictly-PS5 title to treat myself with, it quickly became obvious that I had to get Demon’s Souls.
I had already platted Sekiro and Bloodborne which definitely gave me a taste for the Soulslike genre so jumping into Demon’s Souls—the game that basically started the hardcore RPG trend—would be something I’d feel comfortable with and would definitely enjoy. Plus, I feel like every Soulslike fan has to play through Demon’s Souls at least once as a rite of passage, and what better way to do that than on a PS5?
Demon’s Souls Platinum Review
A Shaky Start
Tutorials in Soulslike games have me conflicted. On one hand, I totally like that basic key information is delivered through vague messages as the game ties your wrists to your ankles and throws you in at the deep end while it walks off laughing maniacally. On the other hand, I wish some information—especially the stuff left unsaid—was delivered with more depth in a safer environment. I didn’t realise my Royal character had magic right from the start and it was even longer until I realised how I could use that magic. All that being said, I definitely feel like my trial by fire did more good than harm to me. As I said, I’m conflicted.
Standing at the entrance to the Boletarian Palace was one of those gaming moments where you have to stop and just appreciate the view and atmosphere. The gates to the palace stand imposingly tall with bits of wooden scaffolding hugging the walls where pieces have fallen off or been lost during a siege. Higher up, that same wooden scaffolding is ablaze, letting me know that something isn’t quite right in the palace. The walk leading up to the gates is littered with makeshift wooden barriers and undead “Dreglings” hiding behind them. Clearly whatever the soldiers in the palace were trying to fend off made it inside.
My first few steps towards the gate were almost as hellish as the exterior itself. As I approached the first set of wooden barriers, I glimpsed a sneaky Dregling hiding behind the rightmost barrier and I actually thought to myself “aha! I see you. I’m a pro at these games”. Of course, as quickly as that thought came, an unseen Dregling leapt at me from behind a barrier on the left and swung his sword, hitting me square in the pride. My shock didn’t have time to dissipate. This is Demon’s Souls, after all.
Before I had time to process what happened, the Dregling continued his assault with a wild barrage of swings; about 5 in total. My mind quickly grasped at the flimsy tutorials I had committed to memory. “ is block!” I yelled to myself as if that somehow would speed up my counter-attack. I managed to get my shield up just in time to prevent any further damage and to give myself time to assess my failure. With a few brave taps of I had dispatched my foe and bought myself some breathing space to heal up.
I wish I could say that this event was a one-time occurrence, but every unexplored corridor or menacingly dark corner of the game is hiding some form of trap to catch you with your
pants guard down. It’s almost vital to run around with your shield up whenever you enter a new location just to avoid being slapped around. Exploring environments is where a lot of the fun in Demon’s Souls comes from in the early hours when everything is brand new and dangerous.
Each location is crafted in a way that you really get a sense of what might have happened. Boletaria is on fire and is littered with shoddy barriers haphazardly thrown together which hints at some sort of invasion. The Stonefang Tunnels in World 2 are dark and quiet except for the sounds of the now soulless miners mindlessly striking ore with their pickaxes. It feels like the demon’s fog crept up on this world and met very little resistance. Each World has its own distinct feeling and lore which keeps the game fresh.
The combat in Demon’s Souls feels just as snappy and responsive as say Bloodborne, Dark Souls or Sekiro. Hitting to roll away from an enemy attack is instantaneous, unless you’re wearing heavy armour, and provides you with some valuable iframes which can make all the difference in a lot of fights. Of course, your bread and butter of most of the combat is going to be attacking with your weapon of choice.
For melee players, this is obviously going to be swords. Every melee weapon has a light attack and a heavier attack . The heavy attack changes depending on the weapon. For example, short swords have a thrusting heavy attack which works well in tight corridors and on some enemies that have a natural weakness against thrust attacks. For scimitars and falchions, the heavy attack becomes a sort of powerful sweeping motion but will often get caught on walls and other bits of debris.
Magic in Demon’s Souls is often too powerful, but the trade-off is that your MP doesn’t regenerate unless you have an item with an MP buff such as the Fragrant Ring. Spells can be learned/bought from Sage Freke and a lot of them really open up your strategy. For example, you can equip a flame spell to dispatch enemies and bosses weak to fire or you can use the Enchant Weapon spell to buff your melee weapon for increased damage. One special if somewhat cheeky application of magic comes in the form of Poison Cloud which can be used to sneakily kill enemies over time. This method also works on bosses and can really trivialise the challenge in the final boss battle.
My only issue with the combat in Demon’s Souls is the bow. You have to aim with and fire with . The problem is that you can’t finely aim the crosshair because, and I’m only guessing at this, the deadzone is so large that by the time the game registers any movement from the sticks your crosshair has jumped too far. I really can’t see how bows could ever be used as your main damage dealer unless you “cheese” every encounter.
Killing Bosses and Taking Names
For me, there’s no better way to experience a game like Demon’s Souls than to go in completely blind and try to figure everything out for yourself. I had very little prior knowledge of Demon’s Souls except that it’s a From Software game and you have to go on a boss-killing rampage. Oh, and that like other From Software games, the combat would be quite unforgiving.
My experience with killing the first boss in Demon’s Souls was shockingly underwhelming. I had applied a liberal application of Pine Resin and Firebombs to explode the clingy Hoplites from the Phalanx’ body and slashed away at it with my now blazing weapon. “That was way too easy”, I thought to myself and so I stood there waiting for an act 2, a secondary boss or a resurrection not unlike the Undead Ape boss in Sekiro. But as the seconds crept by my tension began to ease. That was it.
I would later find this to be a clever trick as the Tower Knight was a downright menacingly devilish boss fight. Standing at an impressive “however tall a house is and then double it” amount of feet/metres, his presence is reasonably imposing. He had with him in one hand, a large shield that if it were not for the intricately ornate design on the front, I would have sworn he just ripped it from the side of an aircraft carrier. In the other was a spear so large and pointy that I didn’t even have time to think of something witty to write about it because I was already screaming and dodge rolling away from its lunges. These, although terrifying by themselves, would have been totally fine… But then there were several archers littered around the battlements.
After my 3rd attempt, I was pretty confident in my strategy. Ignore the archers, keep moving, and attack the Tower Knight’s ankles until he falls. This was easier said than done as I was quite under levelled and by the time I had travelled from the Archstone back at the Phalanx boss to the Tower Knight’s courtyard, I was mentally and physically shook. Still, I had platted Sekiro and Bloodborne before so I knew the trick was just to keep trying until you build up that muscle memory and keen instinct. Two more attempts later and not only was I better at taking out all the enemies on the run-up in a more efficient manner, but I was more in tune with what the Tower Knight was doing. If he lifts his leg then he’s going to slam it back down which means I need to dodge roll away. If he arches his back and lifts his shield then he’s going to do a slam with a big AoE so I need to really back up to avoid the damage. I managed to kill him at that time with very minimal damage taken on my part.
With the first two bosses vanquished in World 1, I headed back to the Nexus to level up my stats a little bit. At first, I was overwhelmed with the options but pretty quickly settled on prioritising Magic, Intelligence, and Vitality. I also took some time to check out the various NPCs that hang out there. Stockpile Thomas acts as your storage for any items you don’t want to carry around with you. You can choose to send items to storage while out in the world, but you have to go back to the Nexus to withdraw items. Blacksmith Baldwin will repair and upgrade your gear, and sell you some items such as Crescent Moon Grass. There’s also two minor NPCs who will sell you spells and miracles and also ask that you save their friends.
The boss fights in Demon’s Souls act as the main course, however, most of your time is spent carefully traipsing through the sections between. These bits are littered with various mobs, each with their own design, weapons, and moves depending on the world they’re in. Almost every section also has a shortcut that you can unlock that will get you to the boss faster should you fail to vanquish it on the first attempt. Some of them are not always obvious though. I never found how to unlock the shortcut in 5-2.
Demon’s Souls has plenty of items hidden in the sections between bosses which I had to track down for the platinum. Chief amongst these is the 30 rings. Only half can be found on corpses, some are from bosses; the rest are rewards from NPCs. Rings in Demon’s Souls all have buffs that can be very beneficial during gameplay. For example, in soul form your HP is halved but if you equip the Cling Ring, your HP is a little larger. My favourite ring by far is the Ring of Magical Sharpness as it increases your magic damage which can be stacked with some other items that also increase magic damage essentially making you very formidable. There’s also the Thief Ring which makes it harder for enemies to detect you which can be the difference between life and death in some boss fights.
In total, there are 16 bosses to face in Demon’s Souls and all of them are unique, though some of them are less challenging and can be easily cheesed. The biggest offender by far is the very last boss fight where you face the False King. If you’re a mage, you can stand behind him and cast Poison Cloud and watch as his health slowly ticks down to zero. Essentially removing the challenge entirely which ruins the fun, but the False King has a grab remove that de-levels you so he deserves it, if you think about it.
New Game+, Again?
At the end of the game, I had defeated all but the aforementioned False King as vanquishing him would lock in the end game and I had plenty of rings to collect and tendency events to trigger before I get to see the credits. To do this, I had to make sure all 5 worlds were pure white which is easy to achieve if you play entirely offline and never die in human form unless you’re in the Nexus. However, upon checking my tendency levels I was utterly dismayed to see that only half of them were pure white. I began replaying my experience in my head to see where I went wrong when I remembered I had been invaded by another player the very second a cutscene ended. I watched as this absolute unit ran towards me and slammed his fist on the ground which caused a fountain of flames to burst out of the ground in a fashion I can only describe as “get rekt scrub”. So thanks for that, random player.
Not being one for quitting, I took a quick smoke break and got back to the grindstone. My plan was simple, start New Game+ and achieve pure white on all worlds as quickly as I can. Not to sugar coat my words, but holy f**k was I overestimating my skills. Everything in NG+ was high on steroids and had a rage I’ve only witnessed in people left on hold with customer service. Even the weak Dreglings in World 1 were slapping me around as if I owed them money which was a problem because I had to defeat the Phalanx before I could begin levelling up my stats again. I’m ashamed to admit that after about an hour or two of struggling, I had given the Phalanx a good hiding and I was free to subscribe to whatever gym these roid raged Dreglings trained at.
Most of my first NG+ playthrough went off without a hitch after I got a few more soul levels under my belt and eventually I was right back at the end of the game. With every world now displaying as pure white, I set about mopping up the tendency events. There are some items and sections that are blocked off and only become available once that particular world is pure white. With all pure white events completed I began to feel robbed as my effort was much greater than the reward. Still, I couldn’t dwell too much on it as now I had to tank my pure white worlds that I had fought so hard for and make them pure black.
In pure black worlds, a unique named black phantom spawns and I had to track down and kill all of them to tip my character tendency to pure white. As luck would have it, or I guess not have it, 2 of the 5 black phantoms dodge rolled themselves off ledges and fell to their death. “No worries”, I thought to myself and carried on. It would dawn on me a matter of minutes later that if the black phantom doesn’t die by your hands, you don’t get credited with the kill and thus your character tendency remains unaltered. I knew what that meant… I had to start another NG+.
Back at the Gates of Boletaria, I had finally let the game get to me and my entire 3rd playthrough was pure anguish. Enemies seemed to hit even harder than last time and my patience for them was very, very thin. Several coffee and smoke breaks later, I had reached the point where the unique black phantoms had spawned. Not to be cheated out of killing them this time, I had uploaded my save to PS+ before I attempted to kill them. If they wanted to be silly and take a swan dive off of a ledge I simply had to redownload my save and face them again.
I must say, these black phantoms on my 3rd playthrough were harder than most bosses and all of them were capable of killing me in 1 hit. I had come too far to quit now and after a few more grueling hours, my character tendency was pure white. Time to reap the rewards. My reward was a ring. I had spent several hours of my life 1 heartbreak away from breaking down in tears for a ring. Excellent. Time to completely undo all my hard work and tank my character tendency to pure black so I could meet an NPC and do a small quest.
In all fairness, this quest was actually pretty fun. At pure black character tendency, a character named Mephistopheles spawns in the Nexus. Talking with her will reveal her to be quite the evil little assassin. She will task you with killing the poor NPCs of the Nexus that I spent the better part of 50 or so hours getting to know. As hard as some of them were to fight, I’m looking at you Patches the Hyena, they were all pretty fun and fair and once the last NPC had been slain by my hand, I ran to Mephistopheles for my reward… Which was another ring. I couldn’t feel bad though, it was the very last ring I needed for the very last trophy. After 50+ hours, the plat was mine.
Various NG+ playthroughs
Demon’s Souls Trophy Guide
God has chosen you to earn your own Demon’s Souls Platinum, and for that we are thankful. Umbasa.
That concludes my Demon’s Souls review. If you enjoyed reading it, please let us know! It means the world to us when we hear feedback and we love engaging with people over the game we just platted. It’s basically the only thing motivating us at the moment!
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