Demon’s Souls comes to PS5 in the form of a remake, developed by Bluepoint Games, to demonstrate the potential of the new console. Does it live up to its legacy and what is expected from a next-gen game? Let’s find out in the analysis.
In 2008, Sony decided that it was not worth launching the new FromSoftware game outside Japan. It was difficult to say enough, the levels were too convoluted, it had incomprehensible menus and the atmosphere was so oppressive that a simple game was exhausting. No one in their right mind would want to play something like that… would they?
In 2020, the remake of Demon’s Souls is one of the launch games for PS5. Not only that: it is the title that is destined to demonstrate the potential of the console, the one that can make the balance tip one way or another for those who hesitate to make the leap to next-gen. It makes a parallel with the most iconic message that can be read inside the game: “the real next-gen starts here”.
If anyone had told their director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, they would probably have called him crazy. But, as you know, neither Miyazaki nor FromSoftware have done the remake (although they have his blessing): Bluepoint Games, the American studio known for its good hand in reviewing classics (such as Shadow of the Colossus), are responsible for breathing life into the game; giving it a new soul. The result? We tell you about it in our analysis of Demon’s Souls, the remake for PS5.
Remaking a classic
Demon’s Souls is a remake in the classic sense of the word: a game made from scratch with a completely renewed graphic section and absolute respect for the content. That is to say, it doesn’t make drastic changes in argument or playability, like Resident Evil 2 or Final Fantasy VII Remake, but it is still a full-blown remake.
And that’s precisely where we find the first and probably the greatest strength of Bluepoint Games’ work: when we take the controls, the sensations are exactly the same as those of the original Demon’s Souls. The control, the way the character walks and runs, the dodges, the attacks, the behavior of the enemies… Everything is as it is. And it has a lot of merits because it recreates so faithfully a game in which each weapon has a different ‘move set’ and there are so many variations depending on how we assign the points when we level up… It must have been a titanic job.
But best of all, despite the enormous loyalty… They have made Demon’s Souls a next-gen game. The original game is more than ten years old and there are aspects in which it has aged, but Bluepoint has recreated its gameplay down to the smallest detail, making it feel up to date at the same time. We think it’s a marvel. And we would dare to say that if someone who hasn’t played the original plays this remake, they would be unable to guess that it is a revision.
On the other hand, if you’re an old hand or if you’re fresh with PS3’s Demon’s Souls, you’ll immediately notice the changes: much more elaborate animations, even more precise ‘hitboxes’, a system of physics in which even the apples on a bowl (and the bowl) have their own response when a blow destroys the table on which they stand… There are a thousand and one details, some almost imperceptible, that make the gameplay of this remake what is required of a game that will be launched at the end of 2020 on a new console.
Of course, there are also many changes in other areas – some inherited from the more recent Souls – with the aim of correcting the original imbalances, such as new limits (of number and weight) on healing objects, the possibility of consuming a large number of souls at once, many more options when it comes to customizing the character’s physical appearance or the possibility of sending objects into storage when the weight limit is exceeded (a blessing). All are appreciated and do not go out of tune.
The camera was one of the biggest drawbacks of the original game, and here it has been almost completely corrected and rarely causes problems. Sometimes it zooms out to provide a greater field of view of the area we’re in, while other times it zooms in to allow us to see something in detail, like when we’re talking to an NPC. The camera also has a small deflection that gives it a more cinematic look, but if you find it annoying it can be turned off from the options.
Our only regret is that Bluepoint did not dare go one step further to include the sixth Archipelago, the level that had to be cut from the original due to lack of time. We regret this, but we understand it: they wanted to respect FromSoftware’s vision as much as possible and to have introduced a completely new level would have been the closest thing to heresy.
It’s also understandable that they didn’t want to alter anything too much in terms of gameplay since this is the game that started it all: the father of a genre and the most influential work of the last decade. In Demon’s Souls, you can appreciate all the elements that FromSoftware has imitated without any dissimulation in their following works, elements that made the original and this remake great: a high difficulty but always fair, an exquisite level design and with a unique atmosphere, a hub with very charismatic characters, confrontations against memorable bosses, a giant enemy that complicates the progress just to start, a zone of footbridges where we are torpedoed, a venous swamp (ugh), combat whose victory does not grant satisfaction, but sadness…
And, of course, an online system that broke all the molds. There is nothing more beautiful in a videogame than progressing with our friends, sharing the discoveries and secrets that we are discovering. Demon’s Souls turned this idea into a mechanic through the players’ messages, useful both to help and to troll, but also to vent frustrations or to bring out our communicative ingenuity. His greatest achievement, however, is that in a desolate world where everything is designed to make us give in so that we don’t get up after being defeated… We never feel alone.
Note that Demon’s Souls is the first “Souls” to have dedicated servers, which should greatly improve online gaming.
Feeling the Demon’s Souls
Much has been said about the DualSense and the new features it brings to the table of the new generation thanks to the variable resistance triggers and haptic vibration (you can read all about it in detail in our PS5 analysis). And at Demon’s Souls… It’s a real treat.
Through the controller we can feel the blows cutting and piercing the flesh, with different intensities depending on the weapon or if it’s a cutting, blunt or punctured attack; we can feel the fire spreading through the shield after blocking a spell, or the sparks generated by a bomb before being launched; we can feel the tension in the bow’s string when preparing an arrow, the crackling of the flames after smearing resin on the weapon’s blade or the planks spreading on the ground after rolling and destroying a table.
Many of these effects also have their own sound through the controller’s speaker, enhancing the sensations. For example, in the case of breaking the table, we will hear the sound through the DualSense, creating the illusion that there are broken boards under our feet. And if we play with headphones the effect is even greater, because thanks to the 3D audio we can clearly hear whether the sounds are coming from above or below.
It’s a bit difficult to explain because you have to feel it to understand it, but we think that the application of DualSense in Demon’s Souls is fabulous and the best thing that could have happened to a game where now, more than ever, every blow counts. Every impact, whether against the enemy or against us, we literally feel it in our flesh. It’s a little strange to say this, but thanks to the DualSense and the combat adjustments made by Bluepoint, the gameplay of Demon’s Souls is probably the best ever seen in a Souls.
The DualSense is “the next-gen”, okay, but what about the graphic section? Is there a generation gap? Today, of all the games that have been released for PS5, Demon’s Souls is by far the best. Maybe the jump is a little less evident than in past generations (or maybe it’s that we have graphic beasts like The Last of Us Part II very recent), but it looks great even without Ray Tracing, like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Special mention for the detailed textures of the armor and the lighting effects.
Where you can really see the jump is in the performance. Demon’s Souls has two display modes: performance and kinematic. In the latter, you get a higher resolution and maybe a little more detail, but once you try the performance mode at 60fps… It’s impossible to go back (no wonder it’s the default). In this mode, the Demon’s Souls still looks great and moves great too. It’s too early to say for sure, but it seems that in this generation the shots are going to go that way: instead of a huge graphic jump, the games are going to bet on performance…
And the loading times! They didn’t lie when they talked about the benefits of SSD. To give you an idea, the longest wait we’ve ever had was about five seconds. Five. Seconds. The rest have been almost instantaneous; transition through fog and we’re already playing. We’re still trying to get used to it (we have the reflex act of taking our hand to the mobile phone every time we die, but there’s no time to unlock it), but the charging speed is noticeable and much appreciated, even more so in this kind of game.
The graphic renovation of the Demon’s Souls remake has also brought an important change at a visual level: all the enemies, scenarios, bosses, etc. have been completely redesigned. From a technical point of view, it’s obvious that it’s much better than the original, but from an artistic point of view we are facing a clear case of “either you love it or you hate it”. There are redesigns that have managed to capture the essence perfectly (Latria is incredible) and somewhat drastic redesigns that work well within the context (like the official ones, which are now more grotesque). However, there are others that have missed the mark, moving so far away from the original material that they end up being unrecognizable.
This leads us to talk about what for us is the negative aspect of Demon’s Souls Remake, although it is not a bad thing per se: the soundtrack. As in the case of the visual section, we can safely say that its quality is far superior to that of the original game, but in remaking it the essence has been completely lost. The main characters of Demon’s Souls’ compositions were the drum and the trumpet, achieving a sound more typical of the horror genre.
In the remake that distinctive sound has been lost, betting on a soundtrack with a style very similar to the one heard in Dark Souls or Bloodborne (abusing choirs and violins). We insist that the soundtrack is not bad, on the contrary, and there are even some songs that have come out winning, like the King of Storms. But in the attempt to modernize it, its own identity has disappeared.
To help you understand it better, here is an example: listen to the original song of the Nexus. Pay attention to the use of silence, to those pauses that seem eternal and manage to transmit a sensation of melancholy and sadness, with a small glimmer of hope. In comparison, the same melody in the remake seems to be a muted version, as if it were an echo of the past that is not heard clearly.
One could argue against it that “it’s a remake, much of the work was already done”, but we are talking about Demon’s Souls, an RPG action with infinite variables, with a combat system measured to the millimeter that gives rise to unforgettable moments of tension. A hardcore game, complex and deep, that if we immerse ourselves in its online options can give us hundreds of hours. In short: a huge game, which despite the fact that “it was already done”, it was not easy to do it again… And even less so with so much success. Bluepoint has once again shown that they are the best at what they do: this is how remakes are made.
It’s hard to believe that such great work is a throwing game. It’s hard to believe that Demon’s Souls is a PlayStation 5 game.