Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Working Up The Nerve to Play Demon's Souls

By Kirk Hamilton

Sometimes I do this thing with extreme horror movies where I get obsessed with reading reviews and features online, even though I know I'll most likely never see the film. It happened with Funny Games, for example - here was a movie that, from all accounts, was so misanthropic and sadistic that I couldn't possibly imagine sitting through it, and yet... I found myself tracking down every last review, critical takedown, and traumatized recounting.  I did the same thing with The Descent, but actually wound up seeing that one, and it's now one of my favorite movies.

I'm also taking this approach with the recently-released PS3 exclusive Demon's Souls. Considering how much content is left in Dragon Age: Origins, I'm not really feeling the need to buy another RPG at the moment, but all the same, the critical response to Demon's Souls has me so intrigued/interested/freaked out that I know at some point I'll play it.

Here's the thing about Demon's Souls.  It's hard.  Like, so, so, so, sooooo frickin' hard that you won't even believe it.  You die in the game more or less constantly, and instead of resurrecting, you first lose all of the experience points you'd gained, then go back through everything again as a ghost with half your health, re-facing everyone in the dungeon where you died and hoping to make it back to where you were killed and reclaim what you lost.  Here are some choice quotes:
The old Japanese adage 'The nail that sticks up will be hammered down' could be the design brief for Demon's Souls. You are the nail. You must be hammered down repeatedly, without mercy, with extreme prejudice, forever. The end. (Eurogamer)
I've been roasted by a dragon, used as a pincushion for ghoul spears, and hacked to death by an axe knight, repeatedly. I keep trying, and I die and die again. Are we having fun yet? (Leigh Alexander)
 Just how punishingly old-school is Demon's Souls? That's something that's rather hard to quantify without actually shoving a controller in your hands and just letting you play it for yourself, but nearly everything about the game's no-nonsense approach to delivering the action can be summed up in one very simple example: you can't pause the game. Ever. (IGN)
 Demon's Souls is full of complex challenges and complex concepts, a game with no traditional save point system, no pause option and no coddling of the player who may have become accustomed to simpler, more forgiving fare. it is a hellish place of suffering, where men are routinely crushed by the powerful demonspawn that inhabit it. (Kotaku)
But for all these initial discaimers, every one of these reviewers (and countless others) go on to praise Demon's Souls as an incredible, unique experience - punishing but fair, offering a difficult but rewarding risk-reward setup and really well-designed gameplay. So I sit here on the sidelines and watch the on-field bloodletting, knowing that it's only a matter of time before I suit up and enter the fray, dreading and anticipating it in equal measure.

In the game's opening sequence, you fight a no-win-battle against a demon the size of a house and promptly get the shit killed out of you. For some reason, I find myself looking forward to it.


David said...

I'm scared as well.