I played Demon’s Souls again.

2021 has not been a big year for finishing games. Honestly, most of that is because I keep getting sucked into MMOs. Demon’s Souls is only the fourth game I’ve cleared, and the main motivating factor was that I chanced into a PS5 and felt like I needed to play SOMETHING on it.

Demon’s Souls was something of a revelation for me when I originally played it, back in 2016. I’d avoided the entire series based on tales of its legendary difficulty and hostile online elements, and only gave the game a try because (a) it was ten bucks on PSN and (b) I figured I’d get a funny blog post out of how bad I was at it.

I did not expect to persevere through the entire thing and then play Dark Souls 1-3 and Bloodborne immediately afterwards. So, you may imagine that I have a strong emotional attachment to the game, and I was looking forward to playing it again with the prettier graphics and what I expected would be a more active online community. (Strangely, it was pretty dead. At least I got to fight a player “Old Monk” a couple of times.)

Short version: the PS5 version is gorgeous and has some QOL features that don’t affect the actual gameplay but that smooth out some of the rough edges. The biggest of those is the ability to send items to the storehouse NPC from anywhere, without needing to go back to the Nexus first, which means that you never wind up in the situation where you need to start dropping things mid-level just to pick up a new weapon. 100% thumbs up on that one. Load screens are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them affairs, for the most part, and Bluepoint really used the heck out of the haptic feedback features on the PS5 controller – to the point where I temporarily turned them off during a particularly hairy boss fight because they were a little too immersive and I caught myself flinching at the sensations.

Speaking of boss fights, I had some leftover guilt from 2016, where I used every possible cheesy way to kill a boss, so for 2021, I made myself actually get up-close-and-personal with bosses that I had previously sniped to death from a distance. This made fights like Tower Knight and Armor Spider and the Storm King MUCH more fun, I gotta say. The only boss I resorted to cheap techniques for was King Allant, and I don’t feel too guilty about that because I fought him fairly originally and for some reason I just was not getting the rhythm of the fight this time and the run from the archstone was starting to wear on me.

I have a few small quibbles with the remake, and they’re mostly cosmetic:

Some of the enemy redesigns seem… overdone? Like, the Fat Officials had a creepy circus-clown vibe in the original game, while in this they are grotesque creatures covered in all sorts of pustules. They don’t really fit in with the rest of the enemies in the Boletaria castle zones, which is the most common place you see them.

I’m also not a fan of the new voice acting, not that it’s bad or anything. I just miss the way that some lines were delivered in the original.

What else… oh, healing items are weirdly heavy in the remake. For balance reasons I guess? And for some reason there isn’t a trophy for finishing the game with the good ending, though there is a trophy for the alternate “evil” ending.

My biggest shock, really, applies to both the original game as well as the remake, and it’s this: It may be the weakest game in the series. Not having replayed it since my original run, I had forgotten how many annoying boss runs there are, how crazy the weapon upgrade system is, and how much time you spend farming healing items in the beginning. Looking at the improvements that came in Dark Souls, which was only a couple of years later, Demon’s really feels like a prototype. It’s still a brilliant prototype, and I’m glad that it’s been rescued from its fate of being stuck on the PS3, but I had been remembering it through some extremely rose-colored glasses and the replay was a little disillusioning.

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