Demon’s Souls is the game that singlehandedly started an entire genre on its own. It was released all the way back in 2009, but it was completely remade in 2020, and the remake showed how brilliant the title really was. Dark Souls was the massive hit of the series, and it was a spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, sharing many of the same themes and pretty much all of the same mechanics. For whatever reason, Demon’s Souls didn’t hit as big the first time around, but with the remake, it opened up veteran fans of the Souls-like genre to an adventure that was wholly unique while keeping the spirit of the original game alive and well.
All of the quirks and cruelty are here from the Dark Souls games, while some even more mechanics that will make you rage quit are thrown in for good measure. If you’re a veteran of the Souls series, you should know what to expect here, but if you’re new to it, the key to succeeding in this game is patience. At the start of the game, you’re going to die a lot. Part of this genre is dying in order to learn. The more you die, the more you can see when your enemies will be attacking and what they will be attacking with. Use these moments to become a better fighter and use your immortal gift to become a player that predicts enemy movement before it happens, so you can go from being on constant defense to an aggressive but smart offense.
Bottom line up front: My experience with the Souls genre is extensive, and even though completely one of these games is a marathon in itself that takes a great deal of time and concentration to pull off properly, it’s also an incredibly rewarding one that makes achievements in other games feel about half important. You will feel yourself grow throughout this journey from an inexperienced fighter with garbage equipment into a well-oiled machine that can take down foes 5 times the size of you.
The world of Demon’s Souls is a fascinating one, and within, tons of game mechanics combine to give you one of the very best Souls games out there.
Demon’s Souls takes place in the Kingdom of Boletaria. When you arrive at the scene, the land is being destroyed by a cursed fog that awakens Demons who eat the souls of mortals. The main area of this land is known as the Nexus. This acts as a hub for you to take solace at.
It is at the Nexus where you can level up, repair items, or purchase new ones. There are five worlds you can access from here, and each is a lengthy journey of its own. You will travel back to the Nexus each time you complete one of the areas, and it is one of the only places in the game that is considered safe, as there are no enemies in this area.
Demon’s Souls is an action RPG, but it’s far from the usual game in that genre. You won’t be conversing with tons of characters and questing constantly. Instead, you will be taking on one singular quest that has some branching paths along the way. What those paths are and how you access them is up to you and you alone to figure out because Demon’s Souls gives you no hints. You will be fighting through multiple different worlds that each house a unique set of enemies, secrets, shortcuts, and bosses. As you progress through each one, the next world will become unlocked until you reach the final world of the game.
You have several methods of combat which include melee, magic, and long-ranged combat via crossbows of normal bows. Throughout the game, you can expect to find tons of variations of each of these weapon types.
You will find enemies require the use of each of these to be effectively dealt with, and bosses act the same. Depending on which method of combat you choose to specialize in, you will find certain bosses and enemies are far easier to deal with than they would be had you chosen another specialization.
You will find new armor and weapons constantly throughout their journey, and the effects of each of these pieces of equipment aren’t always as simple as stronger or weaker; some have hidden talents that need to be experimented with in order to grasp the full ability of their power.
For example, one of the most powerful weapons in the game is a certain kind of katana, and while the damage it deals is great, it also slowly siphons your Health away, so equipping items and armor that might be able to counter this is crucial if you want to use this weapon to its best ability.
At the start of your journey, you will create a character from a variety of different stats and initial starting classes. Your class here doesn’t matter all that much, as you can quickly go down a different path if you prefer, but your stats do, as they determine not only things like Health and defense, but they also will determine how your weapons scale at the beginning of the game.
Weapon scaling is a complex system that has different weapons scale their power with certain stats. For example, you may come across a weak weapon that scales with a stat you are proficient in and then a weapon that’s very strong but only scales with a stat you’ve invested nothing in. While the powerful weapon might seem better at first for you, in the long run, upgrading the weaker one that scales with your highest stat is way more valuable and will quickly outlast the more powerful one. Some weapons even scale with things like magic, so it’s always a good idea to keep your character pretty balanced so that new weapons will fit in nicely.
Melee Combat is the most complex form of combat in Demon’s Souls. When engaging an enemy in combat, you have a variety of tools at your disposal.
You can choose to lock on to an enemy, and once you do that, you can shift from enemy to enemy depending on who you want to target. Fighting without locking on is also an option, and players might prefer this method at times, especially when dealing with large groups of enemies, as this gives you the ability to let your attacks flow freely, hitting a wider range of areas compared to your focused attacks while locked on.
Enemies will be hitting hard and fast most of the time, so you will need some way to defend against them. Those methods come in the form of dodging, rolling, and blocking. Dodging can be done while locked on to an opponent, and it offers you a quick method of getting out of the way of incoming attacks. It uses a little bit of stamina, but not enough that it should drain your entire bar.
Rolling is a more extreme version of dodging and will send you a considerable amount further away from harm. This uses much more stamina and opens you up for an enemy attack far more than the dodge would. Figuring out when to dodge vs. roll is an important part of figuring out Demon’s Souls combat and can often be the difference between life and death in the game.
If you aren’t confident in your abilities to dodge or roll, you can also block attacks. Your blocking can be done with a shield or without a shield, but only the shield offers you the chance to absorb all of the damage while blocking with a weapon will only protect you from a small portion of the attack.
The amount of damage your shield can absorb depends on the shield’s rating, so make sure you know what your equipment can do before attempting to block attacks. Some attacks in Demon’s Souls are unlockable, and these are generally magic attacks or certain ones from bosses, so learn to dodge when these moves come, as trying to block will just have you taking on an enormous amount of damage in the process.
The third option for defense comes with parrying. Almost every enemy in the game can be parried, and that’s including a few of the bosses as well. Timing this action right as your enemy is attacking will leave them wide open for a critical attack animation that you can activate by going up close to them and hitting the attack button. The resulting attack usually is a one-hit kill on normal enemies and on bosses; it will take off a massive portion of Health as well. Timing is huge here, and if you mess it up, you will be completely open to attack, so it’s worth practicing this one on normal enemies a lot before attempting to do it against a boss.
Attacking has a few options as well. You’ve got your light and heavy attacks as well as your jump attacks. Light attacks hit quick with low damage, heavy attacks take longer but deliver more, and you can charge them up on most weapons to deliver a full-power blow. The jump attack does the most damage but opens you up if you miss it and is usually not worth the risk. Dodging can alter your attacks as well, so when engaging an enemy, if you dodge backward and then attack right after, you will perform a lunge attack that can quickly pierce an enemy’s defenses.
Each weapon type comes with its own set of moves, so learning the ins and outs of each of them will help you master this combat system.
As is par for the course with Souls games, the bosses are front and center yet again in Demon’s Souls, and these are the first batch that From Software created, making them a pretty important moment in videogame history.
There are 3 bosses per zone in Demon’s Souls, and progressing through them is key to opening up the next area of the game.
The bosses come in tons of different shapes and sizes, and while some may be pushovers that fall rather quickly, others will be elongated wars of attrition that make it incredibly tough to survive through, putting you through a gauntlet of powerful attacks and multiple forms before you can achieve victory.
In addition to the bosses that are mandatory, there are also several optional bosses that you can fight if you’re feeling up to the challenge, and each one holds an important item or bit of story that can help illuminate what’s going on in this terrifying, and decaying world.
Demon’s Souls multiplayer is much different than the multiplayer in other games. It’s incredibly obscure, so hopefully, this can shed some light on the system for you.
You cannot invite friends through a menu as you would in the majority of multiplayer games, so instead, you’re going to need an item called a Blue Eye Stone, which you get fairly early in the game, to join another player.
The other option is to activate a summon sign that will allow another player to join your game. Activating a summon sign is not that simple, though, and it requires you to be in Human Form to do so. This is achieved by either not dying or recovering your soul by defeating a boss, invading and killing another player, or using a special item.
If you want to join another player, you need not only the Blue Eye Stone, but also you must be in Soul Form. That means you will have to have died once already and not recovered your soul from the last place you died.
You cannot join anyone at any time during Demon’s Souls. The amount of summon signs you see is correlated to the level of your character is. So don’t expect to go joining your friend who just got the game when you’re at level 40, you can only play with people who are similar to your soul level, and the range is generally within 10 levels of each other.
While most of the multiplayer is random, there is a way to join just the friend you’re looking to play with. This was made far easier in the Demon’s Souls remake, and the feature is called password matchmaking.
To access this, go to the in-game options menu and go to settings. There, you will see the network screen. Click on that, and you can turn on an option called password requirement.
After turning this on, you will only see summon signs that are from people who have that password. Similarly, in a friend’s game, the same thing will happen as well.
While the random joining of games requires a similar soul level to play with strangers, when you’re playing with a friend, you can play with them regardless of the different soul levels you are at. This makes it so that you can join your friend’s games at any time while not worrying about progressing too far past them on your own time. To balance this, Demon’s Souls will make a player much weaker in order to balance the game, so you don’t go steamrolling bosses when playing together.
In Co-op, you can actually play the entirety of the game together, which means the normal areas as well as the bosses. The one caveat here is that if a player dies, that is visiting using the Blue Eye Stone, they will be booted back into their world. The same goes as soon as you defeat a boss together. This can be a bit frustrating, but you can just redo the process in the next world and jump right back in.
One thing to know is that none of the game progress the visiting player makes while summoned in another player’s game will be carried over. So if you happen to beat a boss in your friend’s game that is still alive in your own world, it will still be alive in your world when you return.
Items also cannot be gained while visiting another player’s world unless that player drops an item for you. This allows you to trade items with other players, and this can be incredibly useful. You will also retain the souls you gain while playing in another player’s world too, so you can at least expect your character progress to carry over.
If you successfully beat a boss in another player’s game, you will retain your human form when you return home to your world.
Not only can you join with other players in Demon’s Souls, but you can fight each other as well. PVP is incredibly unique here compared to most games as it’s not always something you can choose to do; it might just happen to you without you being prepared for it.
If you are on a level in human form, a player can invade your game in the form of a Black Phantom. They can do this via an item called the Black Eye Stone.
For those wondering what inspires their cruelty, they get a ton of souls and get restored to Human Form if they kill you, and if you kill them, you can get a Black Eye Stone of your own.
If you want to avoid the invasions by outside players, it’s advisable that you stay in Soul Form whenever you can.
You can communicate to other players in different worlds via messages left on the ground. These messages are usually random nonsense, but sometimes they are helpful, and you can create your own messages as well from a selection of pre-defined words.
The other method for communication comes through emotes. These are various different gestures you can do towards a friend or foe, and these can usually tell you whether a player is going to be a friendly one or not. In the Souls PVP community, there are standards to adhere to, so things like bowing usually happen before a PVP match takes place, although you’re free to be as dastardly as you feel like being.
Part of what made the original Demon’s Souls so insanely difficult compared to the rest of the games in the Souls series was the implementation of World Tendency. This is a system completely unique to Demon’s Souls. It’s very complex and affects your game in a number of ways.
World Tendency is a system that governs how difficult each of the 5 levels of the game will be. It’s a value that can range from Pure White to Pure Black, though the majority of players will experience a world somewhere in between the two.
The World Tendency can be changed in a variety of different ways, and the obviousness of what can change it is not apparent at all. When World Tendency changes, certain parts of a level might change as well. Pure Black and Pure White World Tendency will cause certain events to happen that change the levels in a notable way.
Pure White World Tendency
When a stage’s World Tendency is Pure White, it will generally be a much easier experience than normal. Enemies are going to remain the same in their location and abilities, but they will deal less damage and die much faster. While in Pure White World Tendency, you can encounter new, friendly NPCs that might help with an item or send you on a side quest for them. You can also discover new powerful weapons and items, and previously unreachable areas might now open up due to a new path appearing.
Pure Black World Tendency
Pure Black World Tendency is usually not a place you want to be in. Enemies all become more powerful and have higher Health and defense as well. In addition to these, random Black Phantom Enemies will start appearing throughout the stage, and you can recognize this enemy by their glowing-red colored appearance that is similar to that of one of the existing enemies on the level. These are incredibly strong opponents, and sometimes it’s better to just run when they appear.
Much like Pure White World Tendency, Pure Black World Tendency can cause events to happen as well. New paths could open up, but in addition, will come specific enemies too.
You will also get unique Black Phantom versions of NPCs you’ve met in this world, and if you can defeat them, you usually get some extremely useful gear. You will also get more items in general, and the souls you accumulate per enemy go up as well, so if you’re looking to raise your soul level quickly, turning the World Tendency Pure Black is a great way to do so.
How to Change World Tendency
There are a few ways to change World Tendency in Demon’s Souls. In order to change the World Tendency to Pure White, you need to do any of the following actions
- Defeat that area’s boss
- Defeat an invading enemy player
- Kill a Black Phantom NPC that appears during Pure Black Tendency.
To ensure Pure White World Tendency, defeat all of the bosses in the area without dying. This is quite the task, but if you manage to pull it off, the rewards will be worth it.
To turn the World Tendency Pure Black, the following needs to happen.
- You die in Human Form
- You kill a friendly NPC while in Pure White World Tendency.
To ensure Pure Black World Tendency, gain your Human form back by using a Stone of Ephemeral Eyes item and then die in any way. Repeating this process 7 times in a row will change the area from Pure White to Pure Black.
The change in World Tendency only happens after you leave the world and return to the Nexus, so the next time you visit that world, the change will be apparent.
How to Keep Track of World Tendency
The only way to keep track of what your World Tendency is is by going to Tendency in the options menu. This will tell you what all five levels’ World Tendency is. You can tell this based on how light or dark the eye icon is beneath Archstone.
How Do You Stick To One World Tendency?
The only way to maintain a consistent World Tendency is by playing through the whole game in Soul Form. This is pretty tough because your Health is limited, but you won’t be getting invaded by other players in this form, so it’s safer that way. Be wary that after you defeat a boss, you will automatically regain Human Form every time, so if you want to maintain Soul Form throughout, wait till you return to the Nexus, jump off a ledge to your death, and then you’ll be in Soul Form again without any effect on the World Tendency.
Human Form vs. Soul Form
Demon’s Souls has a number of unique systems at play that separates it from the rest of the Souls games. One of those systems is Human Form and Soul Forms. You will get introduced to both of these forms at the beginning of the game, and you’ll soon learn why they are so important to get a grip on.
When you finish the game’s opening section, you will die according to the game’s design, you will start the real journey of Demon’s Souls in your Soul Form. The way to tell that you’re in Soul Form is that your health bar will be half of what it is in Human Form. Throughout the game, this is always the telltale sign to differentiate between the two.
Just because you’re in Soul Form doesn’t mean that you are at a huge disadvantage, though, but it certainly is a tricky place to be. First off, you cannot summon help from human players while you are in Soul Form, but you can be summoned into another game while in Soul Form, and that’s actually a requirement for that to happen.
An early trick to navigating Demon’s Souls while in Soul Form is by equipping the Cling Ring you can find in the game’s first level. This will lessen the loss of your health bar when turning to Soul Form and makes the game much more manageable. You can always unequip it when in Human Form, so don’t worry about being permanently bound to it.
The best thing about being in Soul Form while playing on your own surrounds the mechanic of World Tendency. When you die in Soul Form in a level, the World Tendency will not change. This means you might prefer spending time in Soul Form if you’re looking to keep World Tendency a certain way for certain story events. If you want to switch from Human Form to Soul Form, just die anywhere in the Nexus, and you’ll switch.
Human Form is the complete form in Demon’s Souls, and it’s where your character is at most powerful. In order to gain your Human Form after being cut down to Soul Form in the start, you need to defeat the boss of the first area. You can also regain Human Form after beating a boss in another player’s world, if you invade and defeat another player, or if you use an item called Stone of Ephemeral Eyes.
Human Form has its set of advantages and disadvantages as well. While you retain your full health bar back, you are now open to all invaders at all times. Fighting these Black Phantoms can either be really easy or really tough, depending on the player controlling them. If you die while in Human Form, that will change the World Tendency towards Pure Black. That means when you return to the level, it will be a bit more difficult each time you die in Human Form.
Question: How long is Demon’s Souls?
Answer: Demon’s Souls is around 30 hours long, but considering the amount of time you’ll be dying and likely exploring and experimenting with World Tendency, you should expect to spend around 60 hours in the game and even more if you want to completely finish everything there is.
Question: Is Demon’s Souls the hardest Souls game?
Answer: Because of World Tendency and the differences between Soul Form and Human Form, several aspects of Demon’s Souls are much tougher than most Souls games, and it requires you to get a grip on this system early on in order to succeed.
Question: Are there side quests in Demon’s Souls?
Answer: While nothing is ever formally assigned to you, some NPCs have storylines that you can follow, and each one offers its own set of rewards, secrets, and even boss encounters.
Demon’s Souls might be the first in the Souls series, but it is easily the most complex one, and while this complexity might’ve scared away gamers who never heard of a Bonfire before, a decade later, gamers should be lining up to experience the Souls-like that started it all.
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