Demon's Souls Review: A New Benchmark For Remakes, And A Great Start For PS5
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Demon's Souls Review: A New Benchmark For Remakes, And A Great Start For PS5

Joseph Yaden
20 November 2020

The greatest PlayStation launch title ever?

The original Demon’s Souls for PS3 was -- in many ways -- ahead of its time. It offered immersive, challenging gameplay, with a slew of intriguing online features, and fantastic level design. Now, the beloved classic is back on PS5, serving as one of the most ambitious launch games ever. Rebuilt from the ground up, Demon’s Souls on PS5 is a marvel to behold, all thanks to the hard work at Bluepoint Games.

Everything In Its Right Place

Demon's Souls is familiar, in the best ways

Nearly everything from the original is in its place, from enemy positions to item locations, and most importantly, the level design. With a few minor exceptions, it’s a one-to-one remake, and it's clear that Bluepoint wanted to stay as true to the original as possible while improving on some of the game’s outdated design choices that were limited by the hardware at the time. Knowing what to change and what to keep the same was likely a challenging process, but nearly every design decision implemented in the PS5 remake is for the best.

Gone are the long loading screens that would cause frustration when travelling to a new area or after death. Thanks to the PS5’s SSD, what once took upwards of a minute now loads in less than five seconds – and we cannot overstate just how much of an impact it makes. 

Even with knowing the original game inside and out, I still didn’t expect to be surprised while playing Demon’s Souls on PS5. I couldn’t have been more wrong – and that is a testament to the tremendous job done by Bluepoint Games. I was often in awe while walking through the world of Boletaria -- whether it was from gazing at the top-notch visuals or running to a specific location to check to see if an enemy was still there. Spoilers: They were. 

Even some of the original game’s “cheese tactics” were kept in the game, allowing players to use some -- but not all - exploits from the PS3 version in the new remake. This might seem like a strange choice from a design perspective, but the exploits aren’t game-breaking by any means and feel more endearing than anything. These are things like being able to hide in a very specific location to avoid being damaged by a boss (if you have the right loadout equipped), or sneaking up to and poisoning a boss by using certain items.

Other, more egregious exploits like being able to shoot a boss through the fog gate, or item duplication glitches have been removed, and this is for the best. The fact that Bluepoint left any exploits in at all just proves how well the team knows the original game and its community, paying real reverence to what came before.

A Truly Next-Gen Looking Game

Demon's Souls might be the best looking next-gen title

Aside from the virtually non-existent load times, the remake looks incredible and feels truly next-gen. To be frank, the original Demon’s Souls looked kind of muddy, even at the time, but that is not the case with the PS5 version. Characters are full of life and are animated like you’d expect – perhaps even more so than you'd expect, in fact.

I remember screaming “look at that – that's what a person looks like!” after first encountering The Maiden in Black in the Nexus. Those who played the PS3 version will feel right at home on PS5, but even if you’re new to the series, you’ll likely at least appreciate just how good this game looks. The 4K visuals are incredible, making the already stunning design of Boletaria feel much more believable and alive. 

Everything from the creature designs, to the way they move, and the new assets created for the levels are unlike anything we’ve seen on a console before. Even the idle animation of your character looks realistic, your character breathing and blinking while turning their head ready for the next challenge lurking around the corner.

Bluepoint did take some liberties with a handful of creature designs. Some of these have caused some controversy in the community, due to them looking more humanoid than monster-like, particularly the design of Maneater. While these criticisms are undoubtedly subjective and I personally would have liked some of the creatures to look more like hideous beasts, the alterations don’t distract from the experience. 

A World of Difference

Don't get too comfortable

One thing Bluepoint did not alter much is the iconic gameplay. I was worried it would feel off, or not close enough to the original, but by and large Demon’s Souls feels untouched compared to the PS3 version -- with a few minor improvements here and there. It’s still just as challenging as you remember, and in some places even more so, thanks to some AI tweaks. 

You’ll find that enemy animations are now more fluid and easier to read, making it clear when you should attack or defend. Though not much has changed from a gameplay perspective, there are countless little differences between the PS5 and PS3 versions, the vast majority of which are welcome improvements.

The main updates come in the form of minor tweaks to outdated mechanics, like having the ability to send items to your storage in the Nexus from anywhere in the world, or being able to clearly tell the status of your World Tendency can make a world of difference. Bluepoint has also vastly improved the online features, utilizing the same password system found in Bloodborne. This makes it easy to pair up with friends, regardless of their character’s level. 

Being able to actually pause the game by utilizing its photo mode is yet another welcome addition. What doubles as a great way to show off the game’s impressive visuals gives you a convenient solution that allows you to step away without worrying about the enemies around you. Individually, these little improvements might not amount to much, but when you step back and take them all in, it’s a night and day experience and will make it tough to revisit the PS3 original.

Organized Bed of Chaos

The game is still not for the faint of heart

Even as a die-hard Souls fan, I’ll admit -- this game has a lot going on and can feel overwhelming with all its systems and various ways to play. So much so, that it almost feels like it’s actively working against you at times. Almost. Push through its obtuse shell, though, and it sinks its hooks in deep. It’s not about bragging that you’re able to beat a certain boss or that you have a high-level character like so many titles that emulate it are.

It’s about the satisfying gameplay that makes it hard to put down. Once you get enough Souls you can level up your character to wield a powerful weapon or buy more useful items to aid you on your journey. Since the game doesn’t explain much, it’s up to you and the community to understand its intricacies. That sense of mystery is one of its alluring factors, especially when you find out that things aren’t what they seem.

On the surface, Demon’s Souls seems like a dark, serious RPG and for the most part, that’s true. But there are many silly moments sprinkled throughout, like the inclusion of Patches, a character whose sole purpose is to troll you the entire game by throwing you into seemingly insurmountable traps against enemies. He’s a jerk, but you can’t help but love him. 

Then there are the wacky notes left by other players, for example, which let you warn (or troll) other players using a template of words and phrases. Seeing a note right by the edge of a cliff telling you to roll off makes you question whether you ought to listen to other players’ advice, and this will hopefully keep you on your toes as you play as you ask yourself "is this person helping me? The answer sometimes isn't obvious.

Despite the challenge and complex systems in place, Demon’s Souls is an ideal starting place for newcomers, due to its linearity. It’s broken up into five distinct worlds with mostly straightforward designs. Of course, there are hidden paths, secrets, and shortcuts to be found, but they’re nowhere near as confusing as what you’d find in other Souls games with their labyrinthine layouts.

This frees you up to really take in the atmosphere while learning the ropes of its combat. Plus, with all the new additions that make it feel modern, there’s arguably never been a better time to test the waters of the genre, or jump in after over a decade of "You Died" screens.

Still, some of the game’s foundational design decisions like having to make the journey all the way back from a save point to challenge a boss again, or losing all your Souls after you die can be frustrating. These designs are still in place in the remake and can still be enough to push new players away, which is understandable, but again, it's worth persevering.

A New Set of Players

The game's multiplayer has aged impressively

The original game was ahead of its time in many ways and Bluepoint has managed to preserve those fantastic mechanics in the remake, 11 years later. Much of what made the original so unique were its online features. 

Aside from simply being able to play with or against friends, the community as a whole can dictate the morality system (known as World Tendency) of your world. Even more impressive is that you can invade a player during a specific boss fight to become the boss yourself, something that still blows my mind after all these years. Thanks to the remake, all of these online features can be utilized once again, bringing in a new community to enjoy the game without needing to dust off your PS3. 

Verdict

Ultimately, Demon’s Souls for PS5 sets a new benchmark for what remakes can achieve on a new generation of hardware. It’s so much more than just an asset swap and a lick of paint, and it's easy to see that the team at Bluepoint Games are fans of the source material as demonstrated by the love and care put into the remake.

It not only serves as one of the most impressive remakes out there but is hands down one of the best PlayStation launch games of all time. This is the reason to grab a PS5 at launch. 

5/5 

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