As a genre name, ‘dungeon crawler’ doesn’t sound particularly enticing, but as games like Diablo and Baldur’s Gate have proven, spending time trawling through dark and dingy dungeons can actually be a rather pleasant experience. Enter Demon’s Souls – a game so harsh and unforgiving it makes Ninja Gaiden seem tame, yet running through its gloomy and oppressive tunnels is never less than entertaining.
Take the tutorial for example. Demon’s Souls gently coaxes you into getting to grips with its dual trigger combat system – L1 to raise your shield, R1 to strike with your sword – imparting info on it’s online note system (more on which later) and generally letting you carefully dip your toe into its scalding hot bath of unrelenting challenges.
Dispatch a few weak enemies, learn to parry attacks with your shield – a well-timed press of L2 – and you’ll start to feel fairly comfortable playing Demon’s Souls. That is until the tutorial ends with you entering a room where a giant Vanguard beast just happens to reside. The game hasn’t even properly begun yet, and already you’re being pounded to puree by a 15 foot tall creature with fists the size of houses.
Before entering Demon’s Souls labyrinthine dungeons, you’ll need to build your own character using the detailed editor. As is de rigueur with the majority of character creation tools, there’s an ungodly level of depth, so you can tweak the size and shape of your nostrils until you’re ready to collapse in a quivering, teary wreck. And yet, no matter how long you try to make your creation look good, he or she will invariably become a dopey, vacant-eyed fool. Still, it’s nice to have five million sliders to fiddle with.
There are also several classes to choose from, each with varying initial statistics. Pick wisely though, because while a knight might be exceptionally tough and handy in a scrap, his soul level is low, unlike a lowly thief with lesser aptitude in combat whose soul level is much higher. As you’ll quickly discover in Demon’s Souls, it’s good to follow the example of the late, great James Brown and get some soul(s).