Demon’s Souls & its brutal(?) difficulty (PS3)

Demon’s Souls for the PS3 arrived last Tuesday and it’s been the only game I’ve played since. That should tell you something. I wanted to wait until I’d logged 8 hours in the game before writing a post, though, because I thought I was missing something.

You see, all the previews, reviews of the Japanese versions and even reviews of the North American version have talked about the brutal difficulty level of the game, and I haven’t found it to be that hard. At least not so far.

I’m no uber gamer, either. Maybe there’s a big difficulty spike later in the game. Or maybe I picked the easiest class (Soldier). I dunno. Maybe I’m just old enough that I remember how hard games used to be. Or maybe my rather methodical style of gaming works well with Demon’s Souls.

Whatever the reason, I’m enjoying the game tremendously. Yes, you have to think. Yes, you have to advance carefully. And sure, you’ll die, but really the death penalty is pretty mild. Upon dying you lose all the souls (souls are currency) you’ve collected and restart the level with all enemies respawned. But you don’t lose your items, or your weapons or armor. Anyone remember Diablo? Dying there meant running back to your body naked if you didn’t have the presence of mind to drop some backup gear in town. That could be hard. And here, if you get back to where you died, you get all your souls back anyway.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s my MMO experience that’s making the game not seem as hard? MMO players are used to respawning enemies. We’re used to ‘pulling’ foes a few at a time when necessary. We’re used to respawning back at some pre-set spot when we die. And we’re used to having to replay areas of a game.

What does add to the challenge is that there’s no ‘bank’ to store your souls in. So when you’re saving up for something that costs 1000’s of souls…yeah, you start to think pretty hard about what would happen if you lost them all. But that’s what makes the game so exciting. You can replay levels/areas over and over again, so you have to make benefit-risk assessments. Should you play it save and replay a lower level area a couple of times? Or push into a difficult area where you’ll earn souls faster but you might lose it all? Hmmm.

Here’s what saves the game: combat is fun and satisfying. So when I say “replay a level” and you start thinking “Ugh, grindfest!” well, you’re wrong. In fact replaying easy levels is both good practice (you can practice some of the tougher moves) and a blast to do. It makes you feel mighty. Parry, riposte! Dodge & back stab. Block, shield smash and rush forward. It’s all incredibly fun. (Of course, if you don’t like the combat, the game is going to be awful for you.)

So now you have a sackful of souls. What are you going to do with them? You can: repair your gear, buy a weapon, upgrade a weapon or armor, buy a new spell, buy a new miracle, or level up your character (1 stat at a time). All progress comes from souls (there’s no concept of experience points here) so again, you have to make smart and sometimes tough choices. And for the most part, souls come from killing things. There aren’t any real quests, nor does anyone want to buy your rat skins or dog livers. Or even your old gear. If you can’t use it, just throw it away.

I guess I’m putting the cart before the horse here, going on and on about why I like the game without really explaining the basics. Now have I talked about the fascinating multiplayer system. The problem is, I can’t wait to get back to playing…so for now you’ll just have to find out the basics from the reviews linked to above!

One thought on “Demon’s Souls & its brutal(?) difficulty (PS3)

  1. Hm… where MMOs are often a soulless grind, this is a grind for souls? 🙂

    I think you do not feel it is difficult because you get rewarded somehow. Once you spent the souls on gear, you advanced your char, if he then dies, it is only mildly disappointing to do the level again, as you hopefully managed to improve your char before.

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