Demon’s Soul’s–From Software’s upcoming action-RPG that is being published by Atlus–is a game about death. You will die in this game. A lot. Because of that, only the most masochistic need apply.
The phrase, "You cannot kill me, for I am already dead" does not apply here. When you die in Demon’s Souls, you must start the level all over again as a ghost, this time with half of your original health. If you make it back to the bloodstain that marks where you died, you will regain all of the souls (i.e. experience) that you lost at your time of death. Die as a ghost however, and your bloodstain will be overwritten and all of the souls that you had on your previous playthrough will be gone for good. You are tasked with continually making your way back to your bloodstain, eventually hoping to regain your body by defeating that level’s boss. It’s brutally punishing, and there’s no telling if this will start to grate over the game’s 60 hour runtime or somehow manage to keep things tense throughout.
Demon’s Souls is primarily a dungeon crawler, two words that would usually send me running for the hills. But in Demon’s Souls’ case, it is a dungeon crawler for people who typically don’t like dungeon crawlers. The world is separated into five sections, each comprised of four interconnected stages. After the first level, you’ll be able to tackle the rest in any order, so no two playthroughs will be alike. Each level will be full of enemies of varying difficulties as well as a number of secrets. Early level will have some sections cut off by high level demons, so you’ll be urged to go back to those areas once you are more powerful. You can choose between ten classes at the offset, each with their own unique strengths and weakness. What you choose at the beginning only effects the earlier stages of the game, as you’ll be able to customize your character or class at any time later on.
The most innovative feature of Demon’s Souls is its unique online capabilities. As you play, you can send and receive messages to/from other players that warn about traps and offer helpful hints. You’ll also be able to see where other players have died, and be given the option to watch a holographic recreation of their final moments. Leaving traces of your plight is only the tip of the iceberg, however.
Demon’s Souls also allows you to jump into another player’s game to play cooperatively. If you manage to slay a boss in someone else’s game, you’ll regain your body in your own. The downside to playing online is that your game can also be invaded by a "Black Phantom," which is a malevolent player that has been tasked with hunting you down. If they succeed, they’ll get their body back as well as all of your souls. Of course, you can always play offline if you don’t wish to be invaded, and the game is meant to work equally both as a single-player and co-op experience.
Demon’s Souls looks to be an acquired taste, but those with the patience to learn its intricate ins and outs are likely to get a lot out of this. The online features are truly groundbreaking, making a lonely, uphill dungeon crawl feel like more of a social experience without requiring you to gather a bunch of friends together. For PS3 owners looking to find the definitive "hardcore" action-RPG experience, Demon’s Souls could be just that.
Demon’s Souls is slated for release this Fall exclusively on the PlayStation 3. Can’t wait that long? You can actually import either the Hong-Kong or Korean versions of the game now as they both offer full English text and voice acting. Also worth noting is that the Japanese version does not contain any English, so be careful when importing. You can find out more information about importing the game here at the Demon’s Souls Wiki.