Let's travel back to 2009: there is a war between two gamer camps. This does not mean the feud between Xbox 360 fans and PS3 fans, but between hardcore and casual audiences. With the great success of the Nintendo Wii, there followed a glut of accessible games across platforms that were intended to appeal to the broadest possible target group. Gesture control, holding hands, family modes – the self-proclaimed hardcore gamers who longed for a challenge and the good, tough arcade times often and often turned up their noses.
An obscure one fell on this fertile ground Action RPG from Japan: Demon's Souls. Thanks to word of mouth and excellent ratings from the press, an ever larger fan base was gradually gathering behind the dark fantasy adventure.
Today, eleven years later, everyone is Genre name Souls-like a term. But before we drift off into a history lesson, let's turn to the game this review is about: The remake of Demon's Souls, launch title for the PS5. Is the original Souls formula still as fascinating a decade later as it was back then?
A knight in a new guise
The new edition was not created by From Software itself (the are currently working on Elden Ring, her next big brand after the Completion of the Dark Souls trilogy and Sekiro), but at Bluepoint Games. Playstation fans probably know the developers from Remake of Shadow of the Colossus – an adventure that also captivates with a dark setting and a cryptic story. Accordingly, it was unlikely from the start that the content removed from the original would appear in the remake of Demon's Souls. And indeed it is Demon's Souls (buy now € 27.99 ) on the PS5 almost identical to the PS3 game. That means: a few new items, but no new game world. However, this does not mean that Bluepoint Games were inactive. A lot of effort has obviously gone into designing Demon's Souls on the PS5. And this is a double edged sword.
Who am I and what am I doing here?
Source: Computec Media GmbH
But before we discuss the reasons for this, first a (spoiler-free) summary of the gameplay and story in Demon's Souls: As in many of the studio's games, the setting is a world that is in ruins. A little like in Bioshock, where you can guess from the ruins how magnificent the underwater city of Rapture must once have been, Demon's Souls celebrates the beauty of decay. On the PS3, many areas of the game were bare, even bleak. Of course, this was also due to the technical limitations on the PS3 and possibly also to the capabilities of the studio, which was smaller and less experienced at the time. In any case, Demon's Souls exudes an incomparably oppressive-desperate flair on the PS3, far from the splendor of a high-glossHigh fantasy works like The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. This also fits the plot that, not how about in a Final Fantasy 12 came up with political maneuvers, an extensive group of characters and socially critical topics, but rather resembles a fairy tale: An empire is veiled by fog and overrun by demons who steal people's souls. What is behind it, why you slay demons and what the moral of the story is – if it exists – to find out is largely up to the player. This created an unfamiliar feeling of being lost in a hostile world.
And hostile is a good keyword, because Demon's Souls puts players to the test of patience with its nasty opponents and traps. As is now established in the Souls-like genre, the souls won from defeated opponents are used to level up, buy stuff and repair equipment. If you die, your unredeemed amount of souls remains at the place of death. Only if you return and pick up the lost goods can you save them; if you fail, all souls are lost. Previously defeated enemies – apart from red phantoms and bosses – must in most cases be conquered again or at least skillfully bypassed. This is sometimes frustrating, discouraging, annoying, but without a doubt provides an increased level of thrill compared to titles with various safety nets and help options for inexperienced players. Not only the background story, but also many game mechanics have to be worked out or worked out.
Source: Computec Media GmbH
In order to forge special weapons out of boss souls, for example, you have to give a character a certain soul – if you suppress conversations quickly, you will probably never find out. Another example of deliberately opaque game design is what is known as the world trend. There is a separate menu item with an overview for this, which initially leaves the newcomer at a loss: What do the colors mean? How do they come about? And what difference does that actually make? Sure, the answer to these questions is only a Google search away, but with other large video game productions it would be inconceivable to include a feature in the game that is so little explained in-game. Especially since whole quests and access to other areas depend on the world trend.
Demon's Souls on the PS5 has the same DNA as the PS3 original, in other words, it is still a bulky adventure, the newbies have to be aware of that. But: In the meantime, the Souls principle has become much more naturalized in the gaming community. Anyone who had fun with a Souls title or even from From Software themselves will undoubtedly find a lot of fun with Demon's Souls. And what about the old hands who know the original inside out? This is where the changes that Bluepoint Games made come into play. First of all the optics: Boletaria and any other From Software game has never been as beautiful as Demon's Souls on the PS5. Tons of details, sharper textures, particle effects, more and nicer lighting.
Source: Computec Media GmbH
This opulence and the blaze of color stand in stark contrast to the dreary original concept, how annoying you find that is ultimately a question of taste. Especially since you can regulate contrast, brightness and so on yourself and some filters are available, including one called "classic", which desaturates the colors, whereby the mood comes a little closer to that of the original. Fortunately, Bluepoint Games did not randomly stuff all environments with new light sources, as the tutorial level initially suggests. In the valley of desecration and in the Steinfang tunnels, everything is beautifully dark and eerie.
New technical possibilities
Background music was used very sparsely in Demon's Souls. The weird synth ensemble in the original intro has given way to a real orchestra, which of course sounds more epic, but also more interchangeable. German texts were already in the game in 2009, but the remake on the PS5 now also has German speakers. They do a decent job, veterans will probably prefer the beloved English voices. The fall attack, which premiered in Dark Souls, wasn't built into Demon's Souls on the PS5 afterwards – it's a shame, after all, it would have been very useful in some places. The sound design, which has also been redesigned, should be positively emphasized: Thickly armored knights gasp and moan in their armor, blades hiss singing through the air, if you ram an opponent's sword in the back, the bones crack terribly.
Source: Computec Media GmbH
The haptic feedback from the controller works well and often subtly underlines the gameplay: In Latria, for example, you can easily feel the pounding of the gigantic heart in the tower through the dualsense controller as you walk past. And then there are all the many, small adjustments and detailed improvements: Instead of laboriously climbing up level by level, you now distribute all available points immediately in the desired value when moving up – just like in the other From software titles. If you are too heavily loaded, you don't have to leave loot and come back later, you can simply send objects from your inventory or directly to the warehouse when you pick them up. The weight of the medicinal herbs has also been adjusted. Stuffing your pockets with weed (there are new varieties of it in the remake) and then strolling through the area without worries or even attacking other players is no longer so easy in Demon's Souls on the PS5 (the ingenious Estus system off Dark Souls, with drink bottles that fill up automatically when you rest, does not yet exist in Demon's Souls).
Whoever has used up his medicinal plants has to go farming for better or worse, a rest at the beacon like in Dark Souls to fill the supplies is not possible. This no longer seems entirely up-to-date and was better solved in the later works of the studio. The same old-fashioned farming principle can also be found in the upgrade system for weapons. Not only does it take a large amount of resources to complete an upgrade path, there are far too many varieties of them. Lifting multiple weapons to the highest level takes a lot of hard work. Anyway: The drop rate has been adjusted slightly, but it's not necessarily fun to kill the same six worms over and over again and hope that you can finally get the material together to get the Crushing Knight Sword at level five. A small consolation compared to the same endeavor in Demon's Souls on PS3 is the fast loading times on the PS5. No more waiting for almost minutes to switch back and forth between Nexus and level wedges!
Source: Computec Media GmbH
Nevertheless, we had to take involuntary breaks a few times during testing, because Demon's Souls froze completely about five times. This happened twice when entering a fog barrier, once during the journey up the Keilstein, and twice when starting the game. Remarkably, the Freeze put such a strain on the PS5 that even the operation of the home menu was not possible at all or only with a massive delay. The detour via the menu was necessary to close the application. When restarting the game, Demon's Souls loaded itself dead again, only restarting the console helped. Fortunately, hardly any progress was lost, when the game was canceled, the game almost left us where it freeze. But that is only a small consolation, at this point should be improved with a patch urgently.
Demon's Souls wasn't a pure single player experience in 2009. With the appropriate items it is possible to help other players or to ambush them. In principle, it works like it did back then, only that a password system has now been implemented in Demon's Souls, which allows you to go out with friends. The cooperation via password also overrides the level range, which normally determines the selection of partners to be summoned. In addition, more heroes can now team up, namely a maximum of four, including the host. Invading and supporting definitely extends the enjoyment of the title, if you want to play it safe from robberies (or specifically influence world trends), you can play in offline mode. This also applies to anyone who does not have a fee Playstation Plus subscription they have to do without the online content entirely.
Source: Computec Media GmbH
Instead of the sixth Archstone requested by fans, other, less exciting innovations have found their way into the game. On the one hand, there is the so-called fractured mode. It is activated at the statue in the Nexus. There you reflect the game world – this feature was already included in the remake of Shadow of the Colossus and ensures that areas that old hands walk through in their sleep feel a little newer and therefore more demanding. You can also edit the character on the statue for the price of 25,000 souls, i.e. change the appearance or redistribute the points, so there is now a Respec system. Speaking of appearance: the character editor is much more extensive than in the original and the creations look more realistic across the board. The lifting has also left its mark on the NPCs, while some of the models cut a good figure, others come from the Uncanny Valley and do not really fit into the game world. The ratio is better with the opponents and bosses: Most of the opponents have been wonderfully revised and are spreading at least as much horror as eleven years ago, if not more. The tower knight was a little too gorgeous for us and therefore almost looked like it came from another game, but here there are certainly other opinions.
Opponents with intelligence problems
Let's get to the feel of the game: This is more or less the same as the original template, only with a more stable frame rate. We have the choice between the performance mode (60 targeted frames, dynamic 4K resolution) and the cinema mode (30 targeted frames, native 4K). We played most of the time in performance mode because it just feels more fluid and precise. It's also nice that the motion blur can be switched off for a clearer picture. Two ailments were taken away from the PS3 game, which will still cause one or the other trouble or an acute loss of immersion in 2020: On the one hand, there is the artificial intelligence of the opponent, on the other hand the camera. The first point is particularly clear in the second part of Latria, when, for example, the gargoyles attack a brazier instead of you as if from their senses, get stuck at some ledge while flying or maneaters (which you can no longer shoot cowardly through the fog as you used to) always aimlessly flies back towards the bridge and away again. You can of course use the enemies' sometimes lousy pathfinding for your own purposes, but that doesn't feel heroic. As usual in games from From Software, the virtual camera often causes problems. In tight corners you quickly lose track of things and then death is not far. In combination with the occasional bitchy lock-on system, you get annoyed about one or the other unnecessary screen death. But you learn to come to terms with it and soon avoid the corresponding bottlenecks as far as possible – even without camera problems it is ultimately fatal to let yourself be pushed into corners.
A little bit about the adaptive triggers: Much more often than in PS3 times, we unintentionally use the push instead of a blow – you have to get used to the more sensitive keys. Otherwise the control works perfectly and intuitively, Bloodborne Fans will have to get used to using the square button instead of the triangle button to heal, but that's just a detail. Since Demon's Souls is the first of the great Souls games, it is particularly easy to go around the enemies and fall in the back. In later games, the studio put more emphasis on making it harder for players to use the "shield up and circle" tactic.
Source: Computec Media GmbH
Lots of words, a conclusion: Demon's Souls on the PS5 is a good remake, which polishes up the original with small improvements and is graphically very impressive, but could possibly put off fans of the original with a too gorgeous design. In any case, Demon's Souls is more than just the disgraceful sum of all parts and still inspires with demanding gameplay and the typical Souls feeling, where desperation and triumph are close together.
I'm not used to so much splendor from Souls games!
Did it really need this remake? My personal answer: no. Demon's Souls is still wonderfully playable on the PS3, but without the online component, the servers required for it are rotting somewhere in the valley of desecration. The PS5 implementation occasionally adds small quality-of-life improvements, leaves other things untouched and the broken Archstone does not exist either – but the mirrored Fracture mode. Oh, I'm very divided about Demon's Souls on PS5. I would definitely have played it privately if the test hadn't been on my agenda, it's basically okay for me that there are only marginal changes to the content (but I think that's a bit of a shame). Not all of the adjustments are to my liking: The reworked faces, for example, sometimes look too much like plastic dolls, the changes to the background music are not my cup of tea, and why is everything so colorful and gorgeous in the destroyed dark fantasy world? Admittedly, there is the classic filter and some setting options, which allow you to adjust the look to some extent. Nevertheless: All in all, Demon's Souls on the PS5 is too pretty for me – a point of criticism that, by the way, I never thought to formulate. But these personal views arise from the bond with the original, which I played again in preparation for testing the remaster. If Demon's Souls on the PS5 is your first trip to Boletaria, then of course these aspects have no relevance and you can enjoy From Software's prelude to the great Souls success story wonderfully. And I like it too – just not quite as much as the original. But maybe I'll see it differently in a few years, I definitely had a lot of fun with the remake (apart from the freezes).
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