Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why I Like Demon's Souls

As much as I purport to like watching K playing video games, the reality is that I usually have my head buried into a crochet project or I've fallen asleep in some awkward position that I'll deeply regret upon waking. But K was intrigued to find that I was intently paying attention to his new love, Demon's Souls, by making in-game observations like "Watch out for the flying dra... oops" and dropping hints during boss fights because I'd already peeked in the strategy guide. I'm oftentimes reluctant to give yet another review on popular games that he plays, but here goes...

Aw crap, I died again...

Reasons Why I'm Paying Attention to Demon's Souls

1) Not your typical smash-and-bash experience
Demon's Souls is a very intentional game. You definitely can't go through the level mowing down enemies with your sword because the game will slow you down in your tracks by, well, killing you every few feet. For example, K took the game in to show his co-workers and his boss died 7 times trying to get past the first three enemies. (Hmm, reminds me of his brother Steve...)

All the reviews tote Demon's Souls to be extremely hard, but that's not exactly true. The game isn't too bad, as long as you're on your guard the whole time. The designers did a great job of really amplifying the tense gaming experience by eliminating the ability to pause mid-game or make multiple saves. No more min-maxing or just "trying out" a boss before you're ready; you've got one life and one life only. Not that dying is a big deal. When you die, you play in the game in soul form (less health, but a lot stealthier), and you can regain your body form by defeating a boss (more health, but risk of being invaded by another player - see below).

2) Very intriguing "multiplayer" interactions
Another reason this game really draws me in is the awesome, think-outside-the-box ideas they implemented for the multiplayer experience. Technically there is no traditional multiplayer gameplay, where tons of players gather together and interact/fight in the same environment. Instead, Demon's Souls has this story concept where the world is messed up by some evil chaos that descended on the land and now there are overlapping, parallel universes. You can read warning messages left by other players or see blood stains that show you how they died ("hmm, looks like there's a sudden drop around the corner"). You can also enter other players' games to either help them fight a boss (maximum of 2 helpers per game with no voice chat) or harm them (if you kill the player, you regain your body form).

It's your friendly neighborhood blue phantom to the rescue!

All of this really appeals to me because in most multiplayer games, I'm always the weakest character with the least experience. I like being able to play (aka mess up) by myself with useful hints dropped at my feet, as well as the ability to call on others to help me out with a frustrating boss. What can I say, I'm more about PvE than PvP. ^_^;;

3) Subtle music, concept art, and creatures
I'm a sucker for beautiful art, and Demon's Souls is no exception. It has this muted somberness yet intricate design that really appeals to the quieter side of the soul. The soundtrack is similar, favoring tones of melancholy and apprehension over triumphant brass choruses. Overall the game maintains a delicate balance of solemn beauty without being so dark that there's no spark of hope. Definitely brings together what I consider to be a very deep and immersive piece of work.*

What fabulous armor, dahling! I simply must have your blacksmith's name.

*K tells me that many gamers will simply skip all cut scenes and mute the game to play their own selection of music. Unbelievable! Doing this this to a game like Demon's Souls makes me want to conk their heads together...

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