Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3) Review

By SirLink 17.04.2014

Review for Demon

Dark Souls II was recently released on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, with a PC release following later this month. To mark the occasion, Cubed3 will be looking at both Demon's Souls and the original Dark Souls before delving into the new Dark Souls II. First up is Demon's Souls, a PlayStation 3 exclusive that was developed by FromSoftware and released back in 2010.

Those who may have already heard about Demon's Souls might be familiar with the description that it's an extremely hard game. While it is quite challenging, its difficulty is often blown out of proportion. Contrary to popular belief, it's not a game that's nearly impossible to beat for everyone except very skilled gamers. There's very little handholding, though, and much is left up to the player to figure out. Death is also an important part of the learning process and that's made perfectly clear by a boss encounter right at the end of the tutorial area, which will end in a devastating defeat for many who are playing it for the first time.

Much of the story isn't directly told, but there's plenty of lore to discover by reading item descriptions or talking to certain characters. The game takes place in Boletaria, a kingdom with a king that awakened a great demon called The Old One. Its awakening caused a dark fog to sweep through the lands and unleashed demons that would feast on the souls of mankind. This is where the hero of the game steps in and embarks on a quest to slay the demons that reside in five notable locations through Boletaria called the Boletarian Palace, Stonefang Tunnel, Tower of Latria, Shrine of Storms and Valley of Defilement. These areas are accessed from the Nexus, a hub that is host to a variety of NPCs that offer different services ranging from storing items to selling healing grass or arrows. It's also the only place where it's possible to level up by giving souls to the Maiden in Black.

Screenshot for Demon's Souls on PlayStation 3

While there are a wide variety of classes to choose at the start of the game, they don't actually affect the long-term growth and performance of the character. Instead, they merely dictate starting attributes and equipment, leaving room for plenty of customisation, such as a bulky knight with a heavy weapon and shield that's also capable of using certain sorceries or miracles. The different builds naturally cause certain encounters or areas to be harder for some than they are for others, but it's rarely unfair and there's always the option to go to a different location first, thanks to the non-linear structure of the game. The name, gender and appearance can also be freely picked but these aspects are obviously purely cosmetic.

Combat is very satisfying and one of the aspects of the game where patience and careful planning is more important than raw skill. It's crucial to properly manage a stamina bar that's used for attacking, blocking and evading, while keeping in mind that the enemies can and will gang up on the hero, if given the chance. Rushing through the areas is most definitely not advised and usually ends in death.

Speaking of which, dying causes the character to revert to soul form as opposed to the original body form, which can only be regained by slaying a boss, using a specific item or playing as a black or blue phantom online. The main difference is that in soul form, maximum health is drastically reduced and only reaches 50%, and that's with a special ring equipped. A bloodstain is left at the location of the death, too, and has to be retrieved to recover any collected souls, which act as both experience and currency. If the player dies again before then, all souls are permanently lost. It can be quite punishing, but it also encourages less reckless gameplay and the spending of any big amounts of souls at the Nexus before venturing into unknown territory.

Screenshot for Demon's Souls on PlayStation 3

Boss battles are a highlight of the game and offer plenty of fierce demons to slay. They're well designed and few of them feel similar to each other, too. Two fights in particular stand out; one with its heavy and sad atmosphere that's unlike any of the other bosses and another that can change in a way that shouldn't be spoiled when the game is connected to the Internet. Upon slaying one of them, their soul can be claimed and used for making special weapons or learning advanced sorceries and miracles.

Those who are having difficulties with a particular area or boss can either tackle a different world first or summon up to two friendly blue phantoms to help out via online co-op. Just beware that this is only available in body form and hostile black phantoms with the desire to kill the host can invade the world at any point before the boss gate of the level is reached. Successfully killing the host as a black phantom or helping someone else with killing the boss as a blue phantom are also good ways to regain body form. While the online community is obviously smaller than it once was, it's still fairly active at the time of writing this review.

There are other ways to help each other in this game, too, by leaving behind helpful messages on the ground that can hint at a nearby treasure or an ambush by a tough enemy. Other bloodstains can also be interacted with to trigger a phantom that shows how that person died. Lastly, silhouettes of others that are currently playing in the same area may show up, as well. It's a nifty concept that doesn't detract from the single-player experience, but enhances it in a meaningful way instead.

Screenshot for Demon's Souls on PlayStation 3

Another notable mechanic of the game is the existence of both world and character tendencies. Each of the five main worlds has its own world tendency and it can be either Pure Black, Black, Neutral, White or Pure White. Certain areas or events are only accessible while either Pure Black or Pure White tendencies are in effect. Enemies also change based on world tendency, becoming stronger with higher drop rates during Black and the opposite during White.

It's a nice idea in theory, but it can be a bit bothersome for two reasons, the first being the fact that there are limited opportunities to shift it towards White, while each death in body form will cause it to shift towards Black. This means that it's popular to suicide in the Nexus to return to soul form after each boss, simply to avoid the risk of accidentally causing a shift towards Black. Playing online can also mess with world tendencies, as they can change to an invisible server tendency setting. This forces those who would like to fully complete the game by controlling the world tendencies to play in offline mode until they completed all the exclusive events, missing out on the additional features the online portion adds to the game in the process. That said, it's not really a big issue and mainly affects those that care about finding absolutely everything in the game.

Character tendency uses the same colour system, but it's not as complicated and only affects few things such as maximum HP in soul form or the attack power of specific weapons. Killing invading black phantoms or one of the five named NPC black phantoms will shift it towards White, while invading others online or killing friendly harmless NPCs will cause a shift towards Black.

Screenshot for Demon's Souls on PlayStation 3

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Demon's Souls is a very peculiar game that was unlike anything else when it originally came out. It's the polar opposite of industry trends that are still dominant half a decade later by demanding full attention and dedication from its players, resulting in an adventure that's punishing, but feels very rewarding at the same time. On top of that, it introduced seamless online connectivity to enhance a single-player game, a concept that has become quite popular since then, with numerous developers citing the title as their inspiration when they implement similar features. Minor issues - many of which have been addressed in its spiritual successor called Dark Souls - do hold it back a bit, but it's still a very admirable effort for a new IP and comes highly recommended for RPG enthusiasts looking for a deep and challenging Action RPG to sink their teeth into.




Namco Bandai


Real Time RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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