The PlayStation 3 was home to a number of cult classic exclusives, but arguably none were as revered as FromSoftware’s Demon’s Souls. The progenitor to the Dark Souls franchise – and eventually both Bloodborne & Sekiro – Demon’s Souls has since been remade for the PS5 by BluePoint Games. What was once the most obscure Soulsborne game has been given the opportunity to reach an even wider audience.
Demon’s Souls on PS5 highlights the amazing gameplay at the core of the RPG, but not without making some missteps in the process. Like all remakes, Demon’s Souls (2020) is far from perfect, and more than a few staples of the PS3 original were lost in the transition over to next-gen.
10 BEST: Methodical Game Design
Souls games are often written off due to a perceived notion that their primarily focus is offering audiences a challenge. While this might be true for titles like Dark Souls 3, it’s not the case for Demon’s Souls. Which isn’t to say that Demon’s Souls isn’t difficult, simply that its difficulty comes from expecting players to methodically work their way through the game.
Demon’s Souls is hard, but not impossible. All it asks is that players slow down, take their time, and observe the game world around them. Patience plays a role in most of FromSoftware’s early games, and Demon’s Souls is a fantastic example of what slow paced, methodical gameplay can offer a title.
9 WORST: Out Of Whack Balancing
Being the first game of its kind, Demon’s Souls naturally fumbles in areas where the Dark Souls games generally thrive (at least comparatively.) BluePoint Games have done nothing to rebalance Demon’s Souls’ gameplay. While this is ultimately for the best – preserving the original’s game design – it’s hard not to notice how imbalanced weapons and magic are.
To begin with, mages can rip through Demon’s Souls with minimal effort, completely defying the game’s brutally difficult reputation. Extremely heavy weapons like the Dragon Bone Smasher have limited move sets so they can’t always be viable, but their damage outputs are high enough to mitigate these failsafes completely. This is to say nothing of Demon’s Souls’ stats, many of which can ruin a build if levelled blindly.
8 BEST: Fractured Mode
Considering how much Fractured Mode recontextualizes and revitalizes Demon’s Souls’ gameplay loop, it’s genuinely startling how little the addition has been reported on. Unlocked in the Nexus by donating 25,000 Souls to the center statue, Fractured Mode flips the map of every world around, resembling The Legend of Zelda: Master Quest and Mirror Cup in Mario Kart.
Fractured Mode removes just enough familiarity to keep the experience recognizable while also feeling fresh. This isn’t comparable to playing a brand new Souls game outright, but Fractured Mode is arguably a better means of replaying Demon’s Souls than just jumping straight into New Game +.
7 WORST: No Sixth Archstone
FromSoftware infamously was not able to include every intended Archstone into Demon’s Souls, with the sixth and final – The Land of the Giants – ultimately cut from release. While portions of the world do exist in the game’s code (titled the North Limits,) BluePoint Games remade Demon’s Souls as it originally released on the PlayStation 3. As a result, the sixth Archstone remains broken and the three extra bosses fans assumed they were finally getting are still obscured to time.
6 BEST: Unique Boss Design
Cynics might deride most of Demon’s Souls’ bosses as gimmick fights, but that’s selling them short. The Dragon God is as unconventional as bosses come, but stealthing through an ancient temple in order to fell a beast that’s otherwise going to be impossible to defeat makes for a great set piece – same case for the Storm King in the Shrine of Storms.
Not only does this emphasis on gimmick fights allow for Demon’s Souls to craft memorable moments from start to finish, bookending worlds with some of the best scenes in the game (Maiden Astraea’s entire battle being a highlight,) but unique bosses make the more traditional fights feel special. Flamelurker and King Allant hold more weight when they aren’t rounded out by a roster of half a dozen humanoid bosses.
5 WORST: Sound Design
The original Demon’s Souls’ soundtrack stands out as one of FromSoftware’s best – a subdued score that saves its epic moments for when they’re actually appropriately, building a tone that carries throughout the whole game and lingers in the player’s mind long after credits roll. There’s an aversion to the bombastic boss tunes that little Dark Souls 3’s and Bloodborne’s soundtracks.
Or so was the case before the remake. Disappointingly, BluePoint Games have rearranged the entire soundtrack for the worse. While there are still strong tracks, they more or less all style themselves as epic songs meant to evoke feelings of grandeur. Of course, grandeur can only be grand so many times.
4 BEST: Fast Load Times
There’s no getting around just how obscenely fast Demon’s Souls loads on the PS5. Being able to swap seamlessly to the Nexus in seconds, warp to a new world without breaking a sweat, and grind with minimal wasted time is a phenomenal quality of life fix. Less loading also means more opportunities for deeper immersion. This does mean losing the original game’s concept art loading screens in favor of light fog, but that’s more than a reasonable tradeoff considering how quickly the game loads new content.
3 WORST: Art Direction
Taking into account the worse musical score overall, BluePoint Games haven’t exactly done a great job at retaining Demon’s Souls’ original vision, putting a serious dent into the game’s atmosphere. Worse, however, is the new art direction. The original Demon’s Souls was a hazy game that played up the demonic elements seeping into Boletaria.
The remake is a bright action RPG with low fantasy influences that ultimately doesn’t capture the same tone as the PS3 release. Demon’s Souls is nowhere near as hostile or cold atmospherically, more akin to Dark Souls 3 than its own proper game.
2 BEST: Jaw Dropping Graphics
It’s a genuine shame BluePoint Games chose to ignore Demon’s Souls’ original art direction, but it wasn’t done without purpose. More human character models for enemies, a brighter color palette, and less aggressive lighting are all conscious decisions meant to play off the unique strengths of the PS5’s hardware.
Demon’s Souls may be a remake of a PS3 game, but it’s also a tried and true display of what the PS5 is capable of. The remake will always be tainted by the disconnect between original concept art and the final in-game models, but the graphics themselves offer an immersive reinterpretation of Boletaria.
1 WORST: Cinematic Mode
In spite of Demon’s Souls’ outstanding graphics as is, BluePoint Games felt it necessary to add in Cinematic Mode – a game mode which locks the FPS at a cap of 30 while pushing Demon’s Souls’ graphics even further. While the upgrade in resolution and visual nuance is obvious enough, Cinematic Mode’s contributions are at the expense of the gameplay. More importantly, the visual upgrades simply aren’t significant enough to warrant such a dip in FPS. Demon’s Souls already looks fantastic, making Cinematic Mode come off like a misguided effort.
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