When Demon's Souls made its debut, it was ahead of its time. It landed on PS3 with unique online mechanics, fantastic level design, and a sense of atmosphere that remains unmatched to this day. Fast forward 11 years later, and all of these features were improved upon in Bluepoint Games' remake for the PS5 in 2020.
One of the most hotly contested components of the original Demon's Souls was its Maneater boss – often regarded as the most difficult battle in the game. That difficulty stems not from a tough but fair challenge, a mantra that runs through everything FromSoftware has done from Dark Souls to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but because it's a showdown that can feel unfair – as if the scales are purposefully weighted against you. For all the good Bluepoint has done with Demon's Souls, the Maneater battle remains disappointingly familiar in the remake.
The 2020 remake of Demon's Souls is almost an identical recreation of the original, with updated visuals and improvements to the online infrastructure. With that in mind, it's not surprising that Maneater remains a challenging boss, but it is puzzling why so many of its less appealing quirks remain intact.
For starters, Maneater is not an optional boss but an integral part of the second Archstone in the Tower of Latria. Because of its placement, you run the risk of being underprepared to face off against the creature. You can tackle the game's worlds in the order you choose, but many players often opt to save this boss for last to ensure they're as overleveled as possible – an ominous sign, considering its mid to early-game placement.
This flies in the face of the way you might expect to play an action-RPG. Typically, all of the bosses at the first stage are the easiest, then the bosses at the second will present a slight increase in difficulty, and so on, with the final boss of each world typically the most challenging. Even if the fight were more even-handed, Maneater's position in the second Archstone belies the torturous challenge it puts players through.
You get a sense of the frustration that awaits in the setup for the fight. It begins by forcing you to face off against a Maneater, a creature that can fly around, shoot you with magic from afar, and pummel you with its fists, dealing immense amounts of damage. That all might not sound too bad, but the fight takes place on a narrow walkway, meaning one misstep or strike from the Maneater can send you off the side to your death.
To make matters worse, after you've dealt enough damage to the Maneater (or after a minute and a half has surpassed), a second Maneater swoops down, meaning you have to fight two of them at the same time. Ideally, your best ticket to success is to take out the first Maneater before the second one lands so that you aren't outnumbered, but that's easier said than done.
One of the reasons that the Maneater battle can be so tricky is that the first creature has a tendency to fly around and is near-impossible to hit in the air for most Demon's Souls character builds – if you've got a high damage melee weapon, you can't do much if the Maneater is out of reach. Whether or not the creature decides to fly around is also down to luck, which is at odds with the skill-based nature the Souls games have become famous for. All this means that you are often left to waste precious time, desperately trying to eliminate the first before the second arrives and do so without accidentally falling to your death on the narrow staging area.
Even with high-damage ranged weapons like bows or magic, connecting a shot while the Maneater is flying around is unlikely, so you often have to just hope for the best when attempting to take out the first one quickly. Your best course of action is to get the beast stuck in an animation loop, in which it continuously jumps forward towards a wall or other piece of geometry instead of flying away – freeing it up for melee attacks. Having to rely on tactics like this now, just as we had to back in 2009 – gaming the system to stand a chance of winning – is a sign that something might be amiss with this boss battle, and that an opportunity has been missed to amend it.
In most cases, you'll have to face off against both Maneaters at once, which is pretty much unbearable, even if you're over-leveled. All of these design decisions remain in the remake – and, in some cases, are worse than before. In the original, the first Maneater would get stuck in the aforementioned animation loop more often, making it slightly easier to continue dishing out attacks before the second one would spawn. In the original, many players also resorted to cheesing the boss by shooting arrows through the fog door – an exploit that has been understandably patched in the remake.
You might consider summoning someone to help you take the boss down, but even with a second player to help even the odds, you'll still have difficulties, as the same problem remains: attacking the Maneater before it flies away randomly. And, as you might know, when playing cooperatively, the bosses gain extra health to keep things more balanced. This is one of the few instances in which you might actually have an easier time doing the fight solo, simply due to the way the boss is designed.
The other major problem is just how far this fight is located from the nearest checkpoint, making the trek back even more frustrating. It's not the most difficult journey to overcome, but it takes forever to get to your destination – made even worse by the Mind Flayer Black Phantom that guards the final stretch before the boss. It's quite easy to die to this enemy, meaning you'll be spending more time trying to get to the Maneater instead of fighting it.
None of these issues in the original have been updated in the remake, and it's a shame. While Bluepoint Games has stated multiple times that it wanted to maintain the integrity of Demon's Souls, that mantra falls a little flat when faced with Maneater. Bluepoint fixed a lot of issues found in the original; improving the load times, removing many unfair cheese techniques, and allowing the ability to fast travel between Archstones – among other quality of life improvements. So, the precedent for altering the game to make for a more enjoyable experience is there, and it's unclear why Maneater wasn't improved upon in any meaningful way in the remake.
There are many ways the boss could have been altered to be more balanced. Bluepoint could have implemented a longer timer between the first and second Maneater, or decreased the frequency at which the first would fly around the stage. Alternatively, the boss could have been made slightly weaker to allow players to take it out faster. Demon's Souls is by no means perfect, and I believe that re-balancing this battle is a bit of a missed opportunity for Bluepoint, especially when the team clearly put so much work into fixing so many other issues. As a result, Maneater shall remain forevermore as one of the toughest and most unwieldy bosses in the entire Souls series.
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