Demon’s Souls review for PS5

Platform: PS5
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Bluepoint Games
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: Yes

Demon?s Souls is the game that kickstarted an entirely new genre of RPG. ?Souls-like? has become an increasingly popular descriptor for games that present themselves as incredibly difficult, yet fairly balanced and able to be conquered if you are persistent. From Software started all of this with the Playstation 3 exclusive, Demon?s Souls. Initially, it was much more of a niche game than it is today, between the difficulty and the exclusivity, a lot of people did not or could not play it. Then in 2011, From Software released a spiritual successor, Dark Souls, which was cross-platform and brought the series into the spotlight. Since then, we have gotten two more Dark Souls titles, another Playstation exclusive Souls-like in Bloodborne, the different but still recognizable Sekiro, and dozens of other titles from different companies, with varying degrees of success. For every Nioh 2, there is a Lords of the Fallen.

With all of these sequels and Souls adjacent games, there has been a strong and persistent desire from fans to get a remastered version of the game that started it all, Demon?s Souls. After From Software officially shut down the servers for Demon?s Souls on the PS3 in February of 2018, hope was renewed for news of a remake of some kind. Fast forward to June 2020 and Sony officially announced a Demon?s Souls remake for the Playstation 5. Handled by Bluepoint Games, the company that masterfully remade Shadow of the Colossus for the PS4, Demon?s Souls is far beyond a simple remaster. This is a complete remake, from the ground up, built exclusively for the Playstation 5. Fans of the original will find everything where it should be, and it will be like going back to a childhood home that you remember fondly. For players that missed out on the original Demon?s Souls, but have followed the series since the first Dark Souls, this will feel like Dark Souls 4. Everything Souls players love is here, and in absolutely stunning detail.

Demon?s Souls is up there for me as probably my second favorite Souls-like game, behind Bloodborne. And without Demon?s Souls, there would probably be no Bloodborne, and no other Souls games either. If it is your first time playing Demon?s Souls, you might be thrown off initially. It does not boast the same open, layered world that you might expect after playing the various Dark Souls games, and plays much more akin to Bloodborne. You operate out of the Nexus, which is the hub-world you find yourself in at the beginning of the game. In the Nexus there are six Archstones, only five of which are operational. Each Archstone takes you to a unique world, with several bosses throughout each. Each world is incredibly linear, however, with each successive boss being locked behind the previous one.

After completing the first boss in the first Archstone, you become free to explore the other four in whatever order you want. Each of the different Archstones in Demon?s Souls has its own unique environments, enemies, and overall feel. Bluepoint has done an amazing job bringing each of these worlds to life, and there is more diversity in the environments here than in any other Souls game. Harsh desert lands, horrid poison swamps, gorgeous sweeping castles, dark and dreary prisons, each with their own feel and design. These were all present in the original game of course, but Bluepoint has truly recreated them in ways that the original team could not have even imagined back then.

Demon?s Souls also has some of the greatest boss designs in the series, with an incredible score to accompany each one. On top of being well designed, most of the bosses offer more of a puzzling challenge than a lot of the later games. Instead of just being traditionally difficult, i.e. massive health pools, large damage output, difficult movesets, etc. Demon?s Souls has a lot more bosses that are invincible until you do certain things or learn puzzle mechanics. This adds a layer of difficulty, but also fairness to the fights. It is not the final Isshin Sword Saint fight in Sekiro, which demands absolute perfection and a grasp of the combat mechanics. Sometimes Demon?s Souls just asks the player to pay attention to clues and figure out what to do. As a longtime player, it is easy to see the groundwork for so much of the continuing Souls series in Demon?s Souls, it is such an awesome experience to just sit back and look at some of the things that started here and ended up going so far.

The asynchronous multiplayer that Souls fans know and love is present here as well. Messages from other players, bloodstains showing how an unfortunate predecessor met their demise, cooperative gameplay with friends, and of course, invasions. Back on the PS3, I did not have any friends who played Demon?s Souls and never bothered trying to summon anyone so I do not know how it compares to the remake, but on the PS5 with the lightning-fast SSDs, cooperative play takes literal seconds to establish. From the time I place my sign down, I have maybe 15 seconds to wait before I am alive and fighting in someone else?s world.

The difficulty is something that always inevitably comes up with the Souls series. There are people on one side who demand that Souls always remains the same, with no difficulty options or settings. You either beat the game as intended, or you don?t beat it at all. On the other side, there are people who want to play these games but are put off by the difficulty, or downright unable to play because of that. Prior to launch, there were rumors and speculation that Bluepoint was going to include difficulty options for players to choose from. Bluepoint responded and denied this, stating that they kept the difficulty exactly as From Software had it originally. Coming back to Demon?s Souls after so many years playing the other games though, I was surprised by just how easy it really is. Demon?s Souls is without a doubt the easiest of the Souls games, no matter what class you choose to play. If you choose a magic user, however, it is even easier. You can run through the initial areas and kill everything in one hit with magic, and it never really tapers off. There are so many ways to dominate this game, and since the bosses are not traditionally difficult, outside of just a few, Flamelurker and Maneater, for instance, this is far and beyond the most approachable of the Souls games.

This makes it a great choice for the launch of the PS5. In a time when there are not a lot of games, and specifically, exclusives to showcase the real draw and power of the PS5, Demon?s Souls is in a position to help sell the hardware to long time Souls fans who want to experience it, and in a position to be helped by the hardware and end up in the hands of gamers who might not have gone for Souls before, but will give it a go now because of the limited number of available titles on the PS5 at launch. I think this is great for both parties, and with Demon?s Souls being the most approachable now that Bluepoint has given it such a gorgeous upgrade, I think From Software is about to find a lot of new fans.

Demon?s Souls is an incredibly faithful and gorgeous remake of one of the greatest games of all time. Bluepoint pulled off something incredible, all while under the pressure of being a launch title for an entirely new generation of hardware. Demon?s Souls feels genuinely Next-Gen and is in no way held back by the bones of the PS3 version. Demon?s Souls is the perfect PS5 launch title and the definite From Software game. For long-time Souls players, Demon?s Souls feels like coming home. For new players, there has never been a better time or a better entry to find your way into the dark fantasy worlds that From Software creates.

Sony Interactive Entertainment provided us with a Demon’s Souls PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: A