Demon’s Souls Remake is a Reminder of How Far FromSoftware Has Come
A brief look at modern FromSoftware titles brings light to ancient systems and the evolution of Souls games
Roll, slash, roll, slash, heal, repeat. The bosses may differ from time to time, but the original Demon’s Souls formula remains strong. FromSoftware, the team behind the legendary Souls series, has used the same recipe for a majority of the titles following the release of this cult classic. The reveal of a next-generation Demon’s Souls remake had fans marking their calendars and getting ready to pre-order a new console just to get tickets to this nostalgia powered roller-coaster.
But what about those who hadn’t played the original Demon’s Souls?
When I started playing the Demon’s Souls remake, I only had FromSoftware’s Dark Souls III under my belt, so I had a fair idea as to what I should be expecting from the game — and I was right. For the most part, Demon’s Souls isn’t too different, but certain systems have changed over the years.
In Dark Souls, healing occurs with Estus Flasks that are refilled at every bonfire, but in Demon’s Souls, players have to take it upon themselves to collect ‘healing grass’ consumables. While this system works fine in most instances, the drag of it is the fact that there are various tiers of healing. Each nuanced healing grass is cleverly named after lunar phases, but having them stack up in your inventory and sorting through all the different versions of grass can be frustrating.
Bloodborne, another FromSoftware title, doesn't uphold the same Estus Flask healing system that Dark Souls has. Instead, it has consumable blood vials that the players collect off of enemies. FromSoftware learned that looking through your inventory for the right healing item is burdensome in the midst of clashing swords, so Bloodborne offers one singular consumable that the player consumes.
On top of this, your build in Demon’s Souls determines the character’s carry weight, so lugging around every phase of the moon in your pocket will definitely weigh you down. Sifting between healing items to find the right one is dangerous when a boss is charging at you.
Bosses are, without a doubt, the staple of any Souls game. Even FromSoftware’s titles that aren’t Dark Souls still have damning bosses that test player’s flexibility to adapt to different patterns and environments. Demon’s Souls, though, was the grandfather of these boss battles, which means they’ve evolved over the years. The bosses in Demon’s Souls seemed lackluster when compared to future games. The attack patterns are more than predictable and most bosses hardly have more than three attacks.
One of the better-designed bosses of the game, the Flamelurker, still only has three main attacks. A swipe, a flaming ground pound, and a leap attack. These abilities do massive damage, especially if your character is a weaker build, but learning the patterns makes dodging through rather easy. The only feature that keeps players on their toes in this boss battle is the climbing aggression level of the Flamelurker, but this too can be remedied with quickly timed dodges. The lacking move pool that the Flamelurker has to pull from makes him (and many of the other bosses) that much easier. Bluepoint had the opportunity to put in a new move that could have thrown off veteran players (such as an attack that rains fire around the arena) but instead opted to keep things the same.
When compared to other bosses in the Souls franchise, the Flamelurker looks like child play. Ludex Gundyr, the very first boss of Dark Souls III, actually reminded me of the Flamelurker; except for the fact that he has a wider set of attacks that change over the course of the battle, making him much more difficult to fight.
While the Flamelurker remains as a fan-favorite boss, others suffer from technological issues that surface even in the remake. The Maneaters, flying gargoyles that infuriatingly knock the player off a narrow arena platform, still contain buggy A.I. I was more frustrated watching the Maneaters fly back and forth away from me in a bugged loop than I was actually fighting them. Instead of changing this particularly weird and perplexing A.I., Bluepoint left it alone to keep the remake “true,” which ultimately resulted in me waiting for the Maneaters to awkwardly land so I could get a few hits in. It’s not even as if the Maneaters were particularly difficult for me either; fighting them only cost me two lives. It was more so vexatious because of how the bosses functioned.
Other systems, such as world tendency, found their way back into the remake of Demon’s Souls. Your world tendency is on a spectrum of light to dark and changes depending on a few factors. The main variable that goes into the world tendency system is death, or rather, death in human form. Demon’s Souls rewards the player for beating a boss with their humanity, granting bonuses to stats such as vitality. Veteran Demon’s Souls players are hardly fooled though, as they know this boon is actually a burden because dying in human form makes the world tendency go down. When your world tendency is down, the enemies of the world are much tougher, and specific areas of the world are locked off. Thus, the most logical thing to do once you’re in human form is to commit suicide in the Nexus by falling, giving up the form immediately.
Bloodborne deals with a similar system that isn’t nearly as counter-intuitive. Insight, a currency that affects the world depending on how much the player has, is granted for discovering and slaying bosses. While there are cons to having more insight, such as enemies performing more “inhumane” attacks (which can be dangerous), there are pros as well, such as seeing things and areas that the player can’t normally see with less. This evolution of the world tendency system is welcome, but also makes the Demon’s Souls remake seem inferior.
Going for the platinum trophy in Demon’s Souls was a true test of my willpower. Powering through a horribly unbalanced new game+ and a third playthrough thereafter just to acquire each ring in the game wasn’t all that fun, but I enjoyed my overall time with the game and respect the work Bluepoint put in to remake the title. It would be wrong of me not to mention how gorgeous the game looks and, despite my indifference to some of the aged systems, how they were able to keep the remake almost identical to the original game. There were actually a few quality of life changes that are worth mentioning as well, such as the ability to buy the favor of NPCs that were angered in accidental attacks.
Bluepoint did a wonderful job with the remake of Demon’s Souls and all 67 hours I spent in the game were worth it. There are a few issues to me that made it from the original title to this one, but many fans argue that the beauty of Demon’s Souls needn’t be changed. As someone who never played the original, it’s hard for me to agree, but Bluepoint and FromSoftware can’t appease everyone. What’s your experience with the Demon’s Souls remake and which boss made you throw your controller down in anguish?