How are you supposed to know when these traps or overly powerful foes are in front of you though? Don’t worry, the game’s got that covered, too. Demon’s Souls is co-op, but not in the traditional sense. Rather, you play online all the time, and see everyone else playing in your area as a ghostly apparition. You have limited interaction with them (more on that in a moment), but for the most part you are on your own. The way you learn about traps, foes and the like though, is through this community. You can leave messages for anyone else to see, messages such as, “There’s treasure ahead” or “Take a step forward” or “Beware the powerful foe/trap/horde of enemies ahead” and so on. Early on, you might think, “Whatever, I can take whatever the game throws at me”, but you will be wrong. In the very first stage, there’s an enemy that you won’t be able to defeat in hand-to-hand combat until you’ve put in probably 10-15 hours”"he’s guarding a door that you can’t even open until very late in the game, much later than when you are capable of defeating him the first time. Listen to the messages of the community, and you will succeed”"even if some of them are just trying to cause trouble (there’s a “Beware of false messages” message for a reason).
In addition to this system, you can also view bloodstains. Bloodstains are left in the game world when someone dies, and you can view a little movie of the apparition in their last few moments when you touch one. This gives you a hint about an upcoming situation; for example, let’s say a road looks clear, but there are bloodstains from people walking a few feet further and quickly dying. Looks like someone or something is lying in wait for you ahead, no? These work when no one has bothered to leave a message to be found, and is the game’s way of helping you out if the community cannot. You also leave a bloodstain when you die, and to that bloodstain go all of your souls. Return to the place of your death before you perish once more, and you will be able to recover these souls, but die before you reach it and you’ve lost them forever.
Did I mention all of the regular enemies you’ve defeated return when you die? Doors and such remain unlocked and open though, so you don’t need to replay the entirety of a level when you die, but you do need to survive the sticky situations you may have barely escaped previously in order to recover these souls. You can liken this to, of all things, classic platforming games: you passed through most of a level but failed to pass an enemy or a trap or a jump (though jumps don’t really apply here”"falling without dying does though), so you have to replay it. The thing is though, you’re now aware of that particular problem’s existence, so you are better equipped to handle it with this knowledge.
You can get a bit more hands-on with the co-op aspect by summoning a phantom into your game (or offer to have yourself summoned) so that two of you can attempt to beat difficult portions of the game together. This is done via an item, and can be very helpful, but be warned: your new found friend may not be great at the game, and may end up leaving you to fend for your lonesome once again. You can check ratings before you accept though, so you can weed out some wasteful situations. Conversely, people can force themselves into your game through the use of another item–if they die, they will chance the difficulty of that level for themselves by making its tendency darker, but if they succeed, well, you’re dead and that sucks. People have to be within 10 levels of you to interfere though, and in all my hours of playing so far, it hasn’t happened to me yet (crosses fingers).
Souls are both your currency and your experience points. You can spend them on upgrading, repairing, or buying weapons, armor and items. You buy spells and miracles with them. You also level up with them, and just like XP in any other RPG, the amount needed for each subsequent level rises, and quickly. You don’t want to waste XP on a balanced character”"play to your strengths and tend to the weaknesses that will get you killed, but don’t spread yourself too thin or you’ll regret it later. Souls are the key to everything you do, and figuring out how to balance leveling with spending and upgrading is important. Come up with a plan that works early, and try to stick to it to get the most out of your souls. The good news is that level grinding or farming is not a tedious experience in Demon’s Souls”"you pick up plenty of healing items and other drops from weaker enemies if you go back to areas you know you can handle, and there are always powerful foes scattered throughout levels that will give you large numbers of souls. Plus, even when you’ve leveled up some, earlier areas retain some difficulty if you don’t proceed with caution.
Blast Factor: There’s nothing like Demon’s Souls on the market, which means everyone that calls themselves a gamer should experience this title. It’s brutal, it’s relentless, but most of all, it’s satisfying. There is nothing like taking out a massive enemy or anyone who has been a thorn in your side for 5-10 hours; it’s a feeling and sense of accomplishment that reminds you of why you started to play video games in the first place, and beats the hell out of some Trophy or Achievement any day. It’s a difficult game, especially for those that do not have the benefit of very old-school gameplay in their lives, but the satisfaction derived from beating even a minor boss makes every death and lost soul worth it. Demon’s Souls is one of the best games on the Playstation 3, and as an exclusive, one of the key reasons to own the system. Do not miss this title.
Demon’s Souls is available exclusively on the Playstation 3, and retails for $59.99. A copy of this game was given to us by the publisher for review purposes.