Bluepoint Games, as a developer, have more than proven their mettle when it comes to remastering classic games. Metal Gear Solid, Shadow of the Colossus, God of War, the list goes on. But Demon’s Souls feels like an especially risky proposition. A fanbase comprising of the most diehard of personalities and the game that started said franchise. It’s a risky business, no doubt. But now, on the cusp of the new generation, Bluepoint has come through with a faithful remake. Though stellar in its execution, it’s still not perfect.
Demon’s Souls takes place in Boletaria, a kingdom attacked by an ancient being known as “The Old One” due to abuse of a special type of magic called the Soul Arts. As a result, it’s a world that’s filled with demons and covered in a strange fog. You play as a soldier who has entered the fog to slay the demons and collect their souls to help restore your king to former glory—kind of. There’s a heap of plot and lore buried within Demon’s Souls’ world and environment, but what’s presented at face value is simple and very minimalist.
It’s been so long since Demon’s Souls first graced our displays, offering a deliciously old school experience while establishing what has arguably become a new genre. As such, it’s easy to forget that while Demon’s Souls laid the foundation for the Dark Souls franchise, that it is also entirely it’s own beast. That’s not a bad thing, by any means, though. Demon’s Souls is just as good an addition to the Souls franchise as any. My time with the remake pushed it back up in my own personal rankings to remind me why it’s one of my favourites.
If you’ve never played a game like this before, you’re in for a frustrating yet satisfying treat. Best described as a more methodical action game, Demon’s Souls forces you to carefully consider every action, as failure is extremely punishing. If you die (and you will), you’ll lose all your experience and only be able to retrieve it if you reach the area where you died to pick them back up. It’s a devilishly simple way to add tension, and a good primer in teaching yourself to psychologically let go of any souls you’ve accrued when you inevitably lose them.
Structured a little differently to other Souls games, Demon’s Souls doesn’t have vast and sprawling locales for you to explore that eventually loops around itself. Instead, you’re allowed to decide which of five worlds you’ll venture into in any order you wish. Instead of having bigger areas that all eventually connect, each of these areas is distinctly separate. I preferred this because when I was struggling with a boss (hello, Flamelurker), I could exit that area and try my luck elsewhere. You’ll still hit roadblocks in Demon’s Souls, but the flexibility of the game’s level design means that you aren’t bogged down at a singular point and can work towards other roadblocks elsewhere.
The other thing that stuck out to me most about Demon’s Souls is how differently designed the boss battles are. In the most recent games from FromSoftware, each of the bosses’ strategy remained largely the same. In Demon’s Souls, a lot of the time, the bosses require specific strategies, almost in a Zelda-esque puzzle fashion. I enjoyed this approach to bosses a lot more than the other games – though this did lead to some frustrating moments (such as insta-fail stealth mechanics) in some battles.
But what’s new here? Ironically, not a lot. And I don’t say that with any semblance of a negative connotation. Bluepoint Games has gone to great efforts to ensure that this remake is as faithful as ever to the original. The core code underneath this shiny new coat of paint remains untouched, and most of the fun exploits you remember doing are probably still achievable in this remake. What the Demon’s Soul remake does do, is strips away the cumbersome and frustrating technical shortcomings of the original to expose a better version of what was already a great game.
But Bluepoint’s insistence on bringing over everything as it was brings problems that remained in the original game too. But thankfully, a lot of the new technology in the PlayStation 5 does remove some issues that I had with the original game.
I’ve often mentioned that I feel like these games don’t respect your time, and I still feel that way. But the technological advancements we’ve made in eleven years have done wonders to mitigate the frustrations that come with the death and repetition that Demon’s Souls stakes so much of its reputation on. Where in the original game you’d be out of action for almost three minutes every time that you die, in this year’s remake, you’d be lucky to be waiting more than five seconds. It’s a small benefit of new hardware that has enormous ramifications on the game’s flow and makes things all-around more enjoyable.
Similarly, the addition of graphical modes does wonders in making the combat flow much better than in the original release. While there is a cinematic mode, which is rendered in stunning 4K at thirty frames per second, it feels like the performance mode is the way to go. While this mode doesn’t entirely render at full 4K, it runs a smooth and buttery sixty frames per second. The result is quite astounding; not only does the game look good, but combat flows even better as a result. Parries suddenly become a much more viable option with such smooth visuals, becoming a hell of a lot easier to pull off. I say easier, but the challenge remains too.
Other little changes contribute to a better overall experience in Demon’s Souls, though the camera is easily the most improved. It rarely gets stuck on certain parts of certain levels now, which leads to a generally better experience. Healing items are now weighted now too, so it’s harder to load up on them and grief other players who might invade your own game online with unbalanced healing. Even the “world tendency” mechanic, which would adjust certain aspects of the game world depending on your interactions with it, is much better illustrated than the original.
Of course, none of these visual enhancements can stop the game from having some of the natural jank that came with it all those years ago. Platforming is still a nightmare, and during sections where you have to drop from one platform to another, you’re bound to miss or slowly slip off an edge due to messy physics, losing all of your souls in the process. It’s a frustrating comedy of errors that happened all too often with me in Demon’s Souls, and Bluepoint really could’ve done a bit more to fix these aspects of the game. Still, despite the repetition and monotony that might come with dying so often, the average player can expect to get through Demon’s Souls in twenty-five or so hours.
Maybe more if you struggle a bit – and no – there’s no difficulty options either.
Putting that all aside, one thing isn’t for debate. Demon’s Soul looks nothing short of spectacular. No matter your preference – be it framerate or resolution – it looks fantastic. The Souls games have always had striking visuals and uniquely derived art direction, and this one is no different either. While the grittier looking artistic direction of the original game has been altered, Demon’s Souls is still an absolute looker. The HDR implementation is fantastic too. Whether it be a lone torch in a dank hallway, a fluttering bolt of energy, or the dancing embers of a dragon breath – everything pops.
Similarly, the original soundtrack has been re-recorded with an orchestra to give an extra layer of oomph to the whole affair. This is bound to upset some long-term fans, for sure, as the new dark fantasy sounding soundtrack does come off as a little bit generic and loses some of the original’s vibe. But still, Demon’s Souls sound design remains top-notch. Even the lack of music and the strong design of things as simple as footsteps help make the world atmospheric, tense, and frightening.
Despite some contention amongst fans, Demon’s Souls isn’t going to win over any new fans opposed to the “Souls” formula before. It’s a fantastic remake, and one of the best, without a doubt. Bluepoint’s remake does a fantastic job of leveraging the power of the new generation of hardware, making it that little bit more approachable without compromising the challenge so often associated with the series’ identity.
THE PS5 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER. WE LOVE BRINGING YOU THE BEST GAMING AND TECH BARGAINS. WE MAY GET A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THE SALE THROUGH AFFILIATE PARTNERSHIPS
Demon's Souls is without a doubt one of the strongest PS5 launch titles, providing one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences. Bluepoint's treatment, although controversial, is immaculate and represents the best way to experience the classic that started it all.