Published on November 19th, 2020 | by Nathan Misa
Demon’s Souls PS5 Review – The Old One No More
Summary: No longer soul of the lost, and withdrawn from its (PS3) vessel, Bluepoint has transformed a cult classic into a modern next-gen marvel.
Dark Souls may be the poster-child for spawning the Souls-like genre and its takeover of mainstream gaming, but its forefather Demon’s Souls is the blueprint of its success.
The original Demon’s Souls is the embodiment of a cult classic. Its dark, desolate fantasy world was a thing of both dream-like beauty and unsettling horror, its deep RPG combat systems provided nail-biting challenges, and its oddball asynchronous multiplayer was lightning in a bottle. Its ambition was only held back by the technical limitations of the PS3.
It’s clear Bluepoint Games, the masters of the modern day video game remake and remaster, view the first Demon’s Souls just as sacred as its hardcore fanbase. They’ve transformed a once-in-an-era cult game into a system seller that both shows off the power of the PlayStation 5 – with stunning enhanced visuals, an all-new orchestra score, and blazing fast load speeds – while keeping the soul of the original intact. It just now looks, sounds and plays on a whole level.
But does 2020’s Demon’s Souls change too much, or too little? For me, the balance is perfect.
First thing’s first: Underneath the fresh coat of very pretty paint, Demon’s Souls on PlayStation 5 stays faithful to the original’s mechanical brilliance across gameplay, systems and story. Enemy AI and placement is as you remember, the obscure Character and World Tendency systems are unchanged, and the timeless structure of the world itself is untouched. The co-op multiplayer and invasion-based player versus player systems are all intact. Best of all, the challenge has not been dumbed down in any way. You need to earn survival, as it should be. The oppressive core of Demon’s Souls, so wonderfully strange and punishingly fun, is untouched. Purists, rejoice.
For the uninitiated: Demon’s Souls is a third-person action role-playing game where you create a player character of your preference from a number of diverse classes and customizations options. Across five different worlds, each with their own sub-areas, you’re tasked to fight through progressively difficult enemies with a variety of weapon styles, collect loot and defeat an end-of-level boss to progress. Each monster slain rewards the player souls, the game’s main currency through which you upgrade stats and purchase and upgrade equipment and spells. A hub world, called the Nexus, acts as a safe zone to organize your character and map out your journey, as each area can be tackled in any order, depending on your preference and skillset.
A haunting introductory sequence introduces you to the fantasy medieval kingdom of Boletaria, a cursed place consumed by a deep fog which has turned the majority of people into deranged monsters. The chaos is caused by an entity called the Old One, who was awakened by the foolish King. The Old One’s demons now prowl the ruined lands, and it’s up to your outsider adventurer to slay them and end the nightmarish calamity. The opaque storytelling of the Souls franchise has its roots here in Demon’s Souls, and subsequent story beats are slowly but steadily conveyed through intricate lore, environmental detail and the occasional cutscene.
It’s true plot points tend to be obscure and drip-fed through dialogue with NPCs, and somewhat sparse between hostile monsters and towering demons – it’s a style that’s not for everyone. But Boletaria’s rich landscapes fill every corner with stories of the horrors that occurred; from corpse-filled bridges ravaged by dragon fire, to the wailing inmates and desecrated jail cells of a forsaken prison to the frightening transformations of the titular demons themselves – and it’s Bluepoint’s focus on revamping environmental and character models and textures, lighting, shadows and animations that serves to amplify the impact of the otherworldly setting tenfold.
It’s the presentation – and yes, that means the art – which represents the majority of significant changes. Everything has been revamped with impressive visual detail; from the iconic fluted armor burnished to an eye-popping degree, to the reeking Valley of Defilement rendered in disgustingly impressive detail, to the undead you cut down whose rotted flesh looks more macabre than ever. The demons are stunningly realized as the horrific beasts they are, with the exposed skin of the Adjudicator and the writhing masses of Leechmonger proving to be particularly visceral visual spectacles. Even the character creator is overhauled, so you can finally create an adventurer that doesn’t look like Shrek (seriously, the original was all ugly).
The new sound design also packs far more punch for that extra level of frightening tension; wait until you hear the slurping of the mind flayers or the rattling bones of those damn rolling skeletons. Even without headphones, all the distant screams, crackling fires, crumbling debris and demonic laughter does a wonderful job of reinforcing the harrowing atmosphere. The new score is more open to preference, but the haunting melodies of the original still shine through.
The best part about the new visual experience is undoubtedly the option to choose to play Demon’s Souls with either performance or graphics as your preference. Playing at buttery smooth 60 frames-per-second was a game-changer for me, especially considering the game’s impressively detailed visuals still look stunning at 1440p. The high resolution mode plays closer to 4K at 30 FPS and goes the extra mile for those who value the best image quality possible. Both options deliver serious eye-candy.
Bluepoint also worked their magic with several quality-of-life enhancements that take advantage of the new hardware and only further strengthen the gameplay experience. The dastardly camera of the original is gone (no more getting randomly stuck at certain angles) respawning from death is near instantaneous with the PS5’s SSD, and the inventory menus and UI are a lot more streamlined and less clunky-feeling. The PS5’s DualSense controller’s haptic triggers and feedback makes each hit weighty and satisfying. There’s a new photo mode where you can line up your demon slayer for some great screenshots. You can even pick which server you want to use for online multiplayer. Umbasa!
What makes Demon’s Souls stand out from every other RPG is its emphasis on never letting your guard down and learning from death. The loss of progression is an ever-present threat, whether you’re fighting low-level mobs or fully armoured up with upgraded weapons; the end can come with just one slip-up or underestimation, and to get your souls back, you have to haul back to the area of your demise and risk it all for a chance to get back on track. While the nature of some deaths can be considered unfair, it’s coming back and avoiding a previous obstacle, finding a hidden path or learning the patterns of a demon boss and exploiting it for victory that proves addictive – and immensely satisfying. If you’re not keen for a challenge, this may not be the PS5 launch title for you, but if you give it a chance, the rewards are unmatched. Especially when it looks, sounds and plays this good.
Is it perfect? For newcomers, it certainly will provide a one-of-a-kind new gameplay experience, but for fans, it depends on how open-minded you are regarding Bluepoint’s interpretation, and whether their decision to leave the gameplay and content itself unchanged is one you agree with. The sixth Archstone remains ruined, bosses can still be cheesed, and there’s no completely new enemy types. For me, seeing an old classic faithfully brought to life for next-gen is perfect.
The Final Verdict
Demon’s Souls on PlayStation 5 isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill remake, but a lovingly detailed recreation of a cult classic that strives for authenticity and succeeds in all the right places. Its sheer graphical fidelity, coupled with a new grand orchestral soundtrack and speedy load times, makes it feel like a true next-gen experience in the audio, visual and quality-of-life departments.
It’s a must buy for PS5 owners seeking a deep role-playing adventure and visually spectacular gaming experience you can’t get on any other platform.
Primary Format – Games – PlayStation 5
Game Genre – Action role-playing game
Rating – MA15+
Game Developer – Bluepoint Games and SIE Japan Studio
Game Publisher – Sony Interactive Entertainment