Demon's Souls review

  • Provides a hefty, rewarding challenge
  • Fantastic character customization
  • Tight controls
  • Horribly unforgiving difficulty
  • Requires some back tracking
  • Won't fulfill typical JRPG expectations

Everybody has trials in their life, from simply getting up in the morning to giving birth to your first child. You’ll agree with us, readers – life can be hard. Which is something that From Software has realised, grabbed hold of and run with.

In fact, Demon’s Souls is quite simply the toughest and least forgiving game released in the last 15 years. Don’t let that dissuade you, but you have to realise that to play this game is to not just welcome punishment, it’s to invite punishment into your house and make it a cup of tea. You will die loads, you’ll scream and shout, but you will be satisfied after playing the weirdest and best RPG on the PS3. The premise is actually rather simple. A dark fog – known as one of the Old Ones – has covered the land, summoning great evils and turning people bonkers. This is a real crap in your coffee, and thus you decide to head out into the lands, collecting souls and gaining strength in an attempt to (at the behest of the goodly Monumental) stop the world ending.

You’re not the strongest hero in the land, nor a legend, nor anything, really – you’re merely a guy (or girl, if you want) who is going on an adventure. It controls like a more complex Zelda – a straight-up action RPG with real-time combat, rolling, dodging, parrying and blocking with a big shield. What’s special about Demon’s Souls is that you aren’t even locked into a class – if you want, you can potentially build a character both proficient in magic and sword-fighting, if you have the time and the energy to grind sufficient souls.

You run around areas, killing enemies and collecting souls that can in turn be traded for items, weapon upgrades, or be used to upgrade your base statistics. In fact, they’re the currency that controls most things in Demon’s Souls – while the occasional upgrade requires some ancillary item, you’ll always need souls.

This is the first sign that Demon’s Souls is one tough mother. Every soul that you collect has to be rationed and cleverly placed into whatever you need in that moment. Do you choose some herbs to heal you up, or do you save them for a big stat upgrade? Sadly, the game makes the decision for you quite quickly – you’re not going to be saving much of anything.

You see, every time you die, you leave a blood stain – this carries any and all souls that you had collected before your death. That, and when you die, your health is cut in half until you gain a Cling Ring (raising it to 75%) or kill a boss (pushing it back to 100%). It is a brutal, unforgiving game that will constantly punish you for your mistakes, and make you rethink difficulty in games – nothing else will challenge you quite so brutally.

The good news is that the controls are tight, responsive and intuitive. When you eventually learn how to take on each situation, there’s a tremendous sense of power and reward in everything you do. Enemies leap at you, and you can trick them into throwing themselves off bridges. Groups of monsters rumble towards you, and you can roll into the thick of them and in one swipe take them all down, then roll out of the way of an oncoming projectile.

For every one of these large-scale battles, there are equally epic one-on-one melees that play out like the final scenes from Return of the Jedi. You really have to try and learn what the AI is doing to survive, and the payoff is knowing that you really did out-do them. This isn’t a game for the faint-at-heart – it’s for dedicated aficionados.

From Software has made a twitchy, utterly skill-based RPG that requires you to analyse and approach every situation differently. Eventually you become a killing machine, expecting death at every corner, and not letting up until everything around you is six feet under.

It’s a long game, too. There are over 12 different levels, and each one has certain parts that require you to return later. At one point during the first level, you turn a corner and face off against a huge knight with bulging red eyes. If you’re the type to turn tail and run, you can survive his initial strike for the first five hours.

It’s graphically stunning, too, looking more like the old Ultima games than anything that’s ever come out of Japan. You won’t find cat-girls, effeminate heroes or happy endings for the most part. This is a demure, slow and rewarding game that harks back to generations long past, but with the graphical sheen and tight controls that you’ll both thank and curse.

For every moment we spent screaming at our TV and throwing our controller we had four moments of awe. Demon’s Souls is the scrappiest, hardest and best RPG released so far on the PS3 – and, in our opinion, it’s one of the best we’ll see on any console this generation.

Sep 21, 2009

More Info

Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Atlus
Developed by: From Software
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Violence


  • garnsr - September 21, 2009 10:18 p.m.

    Are these the guys who made the King's Field games? It looks similar to them. The difficulty doesn't sound like anything I want to play, it sounds incredibly frustrating. Good to see the PS3 is going to have a great holiday season, though.
  • Ninja-KiLLR - September 22, 2009 12:33 a.m.

    i will shy away from this one. i hate getting mad at games.
  • majorasincarnation - September 22, 2009 8:15 a.m.

    Heh...I have been wanting something challenging enough to make me want to toss a controller through my T.V. I might need to look into this... reCAPTCHA: farace 8-D
  • crumbdunky - September 23, 2009 3 p.m.

    While it is indeed one of the very few must buy PS3 exclusive RPGs I'd argue that exclusibe RPGs on the whole have been pretty few and far between esp in the "must buy" stakes this gen anywhere! On 360 you've got Mass Effect(console exclusive)and what else? LO? Perhaps. Really, though the jrpgs for this gen haven't been that great with only VC on PS3 and the afore mentioned LO on 360 being both true exclusives AND really worth your cash. I'm not crying console bias at all-(WKC hasn't even landed in the west so who knows about that one and lots of formerly "exclusive" games are going multi(SO4, Talesetc)anyway)-more worrying over the poor quality we've seen this gen(esp from the east)with only the big budhet WRPGs being successful in terms of sales AND meta score. DS, however, isn't even getting the release it and the continent deserves so it'll never reach the market it's quality warrants so fewer games of it's kind will even seem viable to devs in future. First noone buys VC and we lose it to the PSP and now the EU doesn't even eget a release of DS! At least it looks like Tales and Yakuza3 will finally come west on PS3 though.
  • BrandonL337 - September 21, 2009 9:25 p.m.

    Is it harder than Contra 4?
  • N24K - September 21, 2009 9:35 p.m.

    hmmm ... hadnt took much notice of this until now! i may have to get this!
  • Pocotron - September 21, 2009 9:35 p.m.

    Well? IS IT?!!!
  • NelosAngelos - September 21, 2009 10:12 p.m. I want to be yelling at my TV for this unrelenting game? So hard to choose, I think I'd like it, but not if all it does is make me frustrated. Or are you just exaggerating GR?
  • Cyberninja - September 21, 2009 10:25 p.m.

    sounds like great fun for the whole family
  • GoldenMe - September 21, 2009 10:50 p.m.

    @cyberninja- Now you're just trolling. Ban this filth.
  • Corsair89 - September 21, 2009 10:56 p.m.

    If I pick this up, it'll be in 2010. Too much good stuff coming for the rest of '09 to buy. reCapcha: futurum slow-paced
  • forza - September 21, 2009 11:29 p.m.

    3 weeks from release and a review! Well it was 4 weeks before release for Uncharted 2. Why not review Bioshock 2 while your at it. Or wait review Blur it was pushed back until 2010. WTF This game is too frustrating to be a 9. No amount of sugar coated graphics can mask the real problem with this game.
  • crumbdunky - September 21, 2009 11:38 p.m.

    Brandon-To me it's just as hard as any Contra game-just in a different way. DS is as much a test of figuring things out as it is memorizing enemy AI patterns(like in Contra)and both games, surprisingly so in DS's case, need split second timing and accuracy. So while it's not quite as much about the hand/eye stuff as Contra games it's stil got a lot of that in there with the added thinking challenges it brings to the table. Whereas Contra(4 especially, imo) will make you frustrated and feel stupid for finally doing something after trying twenty times(because you knew what you should be doing and just couldn't manage for ages) DS is more rewarding and you feel good when you finally figure out the way to beat a boss as it's nit always immediately plain what you need to be doing at all-the hints from others who've died at various points and left online messages is a great help(apparently-when I played most of this the only people online were Japanese!)and a clever idea too. I think more people would like this game than will ever try it-put off by the legendary difficulty they hear so much about-thing isbecause it's so rewarding it's still addictive and isn't as annoying as when you fail at Battle Toads or Mega Man because when you eventually succeed in something you'll feel like you really did it yourself-that you earned it rather than just managed to leap through the right hoops for the devs. This is a pretty good review and I'm just sad it's so hard that my mate cannot finish his copy as it's stopping me from lending it to finish myself! Why no EU release? We love it hard over here Atlas/Sony other prospective EU pubs! Still, having played around a thrid of this magnificent Zelda for big boys and girls I'm still prepared to import the US version if I have to. Well worth a 9/10 from what I've played(and a third of this game is a loooong time with all the mistakes you'll make! So, yes, it's hard but it's great, rewarding and unlike anything else you're likely to come across on any console for the foreseeable future and in my book it's a must play. A killer app for those of a sadomasochistic bent who also enjoy niche action rpgs!
  • Caio - September 22, 2009 12:14 a.m.

    Sounds great. Now if only I had a PS3...
  • H2A2I00 - September 22, 2009 12:59 a.m.

    so many good ps3 games so little money life is so unfair :D
  • number1hitjam - September 22, 2009 1:55 a.m.

    ps3's coming back!
  • Frexerik - September 22, 2009 3:10 p.m.

    "This is a real crap in your coffee" comments like this is why i love gamesradar, and the game sound tempting! nice review, thanks!
  • michaelmcc827 - September 23, 2009 2:43 a.m.

    yes, while they may be awesome, they didn't write the review...but still.
  • mertor3190 - September 23, 2009 8:01 a.m.

    Never really paid attention to this game, but it sounds amazing. Finally another good HARDCORE game for hardcore gamers. Definetly will give it a try
  • rekof - September 23, 2009 9:09 a.m.

    great review ! thanx for info guys will check it out !!

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