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Few games have changed the industry quite like Demon’s Souls. Its original, quiet release breathed life into a genre, and a difficulty of game that many assumed was dead. Not only that, but in 2020, it’s hard to think of an action game that’s not been influenced by “soulslikes”.
As such, remaking a classic, even if it’s a recent one, walks a perilous line between the definitive version of an experience and a polished relic that’s difficult to replay. Thankfully, in the case of Demon’s Souls, Bluepoint Games has developed a recreation that delivers on all fronts.
Demon’s Souls for PlayStation 5 excels in bringing relief to scenes whose scope could only be imagined on the PS3. Areas that players will have memorised are suddenly given back their mystery through architecture and art design that will instil fear into the hearts of Boletaria’s most seasoned visitors.
The quiet, cavernous malaise of the plague pits whose silence is only broken by a screaming Depraved One, desperately trying to separate you from your last fraction of health, makes for one of the most incredible atmospheres we’ve experienced in a video game.
The power of the PlayStation 5 is on full show from the beginning. Offering both an upscaled-from-1440p, 60 frames-per-second “performance” mode, and 4K30 “fidelity”, the game serves as instant justification for your newly purchased console.
The beauty lies in the spectacular as well as in the subtle. Yes, the bosses have never looked more imposing, more utterly twisted and intimidating, but things like the castle banners of Boleteria realistically burning as their charred remains float away in the wind are equally as impressive. You’re certain to earn yourself a trip back to the Nexus while you’re marvelling at the game’s lighting.
However, as it’s an incredibly faithful remake, the elements from the original that haven’t aged well also remain. The Dragon God is still a painfully underwhelming boss fight, emblematic of a team finding their feet and treading new ground. Old strategies to farm souls or completely cheat boss fights still work exactly as they did in 2009.
This seems intentional. In the lair of the Armour Spider, there was a piece of the geography in the original game that allowed you to stand behind it and fire arrows, well out of danger. Well, in the remake, that corridor is redesigned and loses the original piece of wall. However, a single, conspicuous body hangs exactly where that wall used to stand, allowing the same, less than noble strategy to work perfectly.
“The bosses have never looked more imposing, more utterly twisted and intimidating… You’re certain to earn yourself a trip back to the Nexus while you’re marvelling at the game’s lighting.”
Inherently, with a remake of a game whose community was built on the uncovering and documenting of said game’s secrets, that element of the experience can’t be recreated. You can’t unlearn where the early powerful weapons are. You can’t forget which sheer drops lead to treasure and which lead to huge letters filling your screen, celebrating your death.
However, amazingly, some of the technical leaps the game has made will have you second-guessing the things you know. While boss attacks remain the same from the original, the animation of said attacks leads to much more menacing sword swings or fists of pure fire reigning down around you. It made us question timing that we’ve mastered for a decade.
Interestingly, the progression of technology since the original game does a lot to alleviate the frustration that the series is known for. Loading times are unbelievably fast, so fast in fact that Bluepoint has stated that they increased the length of time a player has to watch the white fog between levels and after fast travelling, to maintain a slower pace.
The technology is incredibly impressive, but unfortunately, we did run into several hard crashes. In the area proceeding the Flamelurker boss, we had our PS5 crash six times. This area was also home to the only noticeable frame rate drops, which while frustrating, weren’t found in combat areas, so their impact on all-important timing-based attacks was minimal.
The PlayStation 5’s SSD is the star of the show, but the game also takes great advantage of the Dual Sense’s haptic feedback and speaker. “Fat rolling” feels weighty and cumbersome, the strained swing of an overburdened player feels like it takes an age. The impact of a monolithic boss’s crushing blow will reverberate through your hands.
“It’s hard to imagine a better version of this game. Bluepoint established itself as the master of the remake with Shadow Of The Colossus, but in Demon’s Souls they’ve produced a launch game that’s going to be hard to beat for several years.”
The controller is also used for smaller sound effects, like the always satisfying destruction of any barrel that dared to stand in the way of your incoming roll, or the ethereal chime of a Crystal Lizard scurrying away with its treasure.
The magic in Demon’s Souls remains in the moments you’re desperate to tell someone about. Like when we were on our way to the Dirty Colossus, elbow deep in poison and plague, only to be offered respite by an old woman, desperate to trade in order to feed her son. Her stocks of Lotus’ and Resin would have almost ensured our victory in the impending battle, but unfortunately, we’d failed to make sure the coast was clear before talking to her.
A few seconds later, a green, glowing plague doctor was snapping at our heels, and the time to act was running low. We pulled out our Long Sword and slayed our foe, however, we were just too close to the vendor, she fell in a heap, her souls and her inventory we so desperately needed disappearing with her, never to return. Those moments have been the lifeblood of this series for a decade, and they’re as uniquely captivating as ever.
It’s hard to imagine a better version of this game. Bluepoint established itself as the master of the remake with Shadow Of The Colossus, but in Demon’s Souls, they’ve produced a launch game that’s going to be hard to beat for several years.
It’s hard to argue against it being the best looking console game of all time. The gameplay is just as rewarding and fair as ever. It’s one of PlayStation‘s best launch games of all time. If this is what Bluepoint can make on day one of the PlayStation 5, the prospect of what they can achieve with years with the console is incredibly exciting.
The iconic Souslike gameplay as never felt - or looked - better in Bluepoint's stunning remake of the FromSoftware classic.
- The best-looking console game ever.
- The iconic gameplay has never felt better.
- Utterly gripping atmosphere.
- A few technical hiccups.