Archive for May, 2009
You can probably make a huge list of things Sony got wrong with the PS3, but let’s not forget that they got an awful lot right, too. One of the main things being region free games. Having every game on the PS3 be region free is a wonderful thing. It means we poor Europeans get to play train simulators, baseball games… and Demon’s Souls. A lovely chap I know online lent me his Asian copy (it’s all in English – and pretty good English at that), so last night I settled down with it and gave it a go. The Internet loves this game, with huge threads on the main gaming forums stuffed with praise. So is the Internet right about this one for once?
Yes, it is.
I went in with huge expectations, the type of expectations that are virtually never met. I was hoping for a game I could fall in love with and which I wouldn’t want to ever stop playing. And that’s exactly what I got.
I think it helped that, while trying to avoid big spoilers, I’d read up on the controls and got some basic hints from the forums and the English-language wiki. It meant that I was several steps ahead of the tutorial and flinging magic about from the start.
But back to the beginning. I downloaded the patch, which didn’t take long, then was faced with the character creator. I named my character Rev, as always, and chose a Royal as my starting class. This gave me a good magic spell and a magic regeneration ring to start the game with, but left me a bit weak and defenseless up close. I didn’t mess around with the face of my guy too much, just making a nice black man with short white hair. Which is what I often end up with when given the choice. I’m not sure why.
Then into the tutorial. At first, despite my brain knowing the controls, I kept pressing the square button when I wanted to attack, which not only used up valuable healing herbs, but left me open to attack while I ate. I didn’t die, but I took far too much damage. Eventually, though, my brain rewired itself and by the end of the tutorial I was hardly ever pressing the wrong button – and after a few minutes in the game itself I never pressed the wrong button again.
I didn’t explore the Nexus (hub area) much, instead diving straight into the first level. It was glorious. A huge castle, filled with enemies who obviously used to be human… but who don’t seem to be any more. My magic could kill them in one hit, so with care I could avoid taking damage and take them out from a distance. Which should have made the game pretty easy… but it didn’t. I died. A lot. Either an enemy would catch me by surprise, or I’d misjudge the speed with which an enemy was approaching, or I’d get caught between two of them, or… There were a lot of ways to die. Like jumping into a interesting swirling vortex. Shortcut? New area? Nope, death. And falling from stairs. I did that quite a lot, too.
All this despite the help from other players. Help came in three forms last night. Firstly, I could see other players playing the game at the same time as me. They appeared as ghostly white figures and if they ran ahead of me and suddenly started running away or swinging their sword, I knew there was trouble ahead. There were also blood stains on the ground. If I touched those, I got a replay of a player death, which was also helpful. (At the beginning of the game I saw a lot of players running into bonfires and dying. I avoided that death, at least.) And finally players can leave messages on the ground. They’re pre-set messages, so there’s no language barrier there. They warn of impending doom or simply beg for help. (If you rate a message you’ve found, the player who left it recovers some health.) I found several secret areas, rescued a chap who gave me a telescope and avoided some traps because I’d read helpful messages.
Progress was still quite slow, though. If you die, you’re sent back to the beginning of the level and all the enemies respawn. (Any shortcuts you’ve opened are still open, though.) You also lose all the souls you collected from killing monsters. (Souls are a hybrid of currency and experience. You can use them to buy goods, upgrade weapons or – once you’ve got to a certain point in the game – improve your stats.) If you get back to where you died you can recover all your souls, but if you die without finding that spot, you’ve lost them for good.
By the end of the evening I’d unlocked a shortcut through the level and ended the night by being burned to death by a huge, scary dragon. Oh.
That would normally be where this post stops, but I got up an hour early to play some more before work. My broadband was down for some reason, so I had to venture further into the castle without any hints from other players, which was quite scary. I recovered my bloodstain from the dragon – I grabbed the souls, rolled out the way of his fire breath, ran like hell, got caught in the next blast of fire, ran some more, healed up and started to breathe again.
The only way forward was over a bridge. A bridge full of enemies shooting arrows at me… and which the dragon would fly over and shoot fire down. That was very scary, but by picking off the enemies with my magic and running away I got over the bridge.
(I honestly have no idea how I’d have managed to do this level with a melee-only character. I did try melee attacks now and again, but I kept mistiming my parries and having to run away and heal before trying again. At least I had a huge supply of healing herbs. Most I found on dead bodies, but I got several from a vendor in the castle in exchange for my souls. As it’s very easy to lose souls, I had no problem with spending all the ones I could, whenever I could.)
Over the bridge was a lever, which opened the big gate right by the start of the level. I fought my way down some stairs and found myself back outside this gate. I guessed that the first boss would be inside and, indeed, he was. He was called Phalanx and he seemed to be some kind of giant slime beast. I used all the firebombs I’d collected, then fired magic at him until I ran out, then ran around the level for a bit while it recharged, then fired off some more magic and repeated that until he died. I have a feeling that will be the only boss in the game I defeat first time. Just a hunch.
Defeating the boss restored my body to me – it’s a bit complicated, but you play for most of the game as a ghost, with a significantly shorter health bar than when you’re alive – and opened up more of the Nexus. I didn’t have time to explore it, though, because it was time for work. Tonight I’m going to level myself up a bit, maybe upgrade some weapons, then tackle another area of the game. I’ve got a lot to choose from now, I think.
Anyway, that’s what happened, but I haven’t really explained how it all felt to play. In short, it was glorious. The sense of scale is impressive – the castle is huge and feels real, the dragon is as big as dragon should be. The controls, once they click, work very well indeed. And, yes, the game’s hard – very hard – but completely fair. When you die, you want to play again, to recover your souls and get a little bit further. You tell yourself you’ll be more careful, that you’ll be better. And you are. Even without improving your stats and weapons, you’re learning more about the level and getting more skillful. It’s absolutely honed to perfection and feels very much like a roguelike in the way every death spurs you on. I never wanted to stop playing.
I wish I was playing now, in fact. Oh well.
Put this on for, ooh, about two minutes, and had a quick run around before turning off. Wasn’t that I didn’t want to play, just that I wanted to play Demon’s Souls a lot, lot more.
Spent all my money of rubbish just to get more points. I’ll need to do some fruit-picking tonight, I guess.
Got past a slightly annoying level that ended with a fight in a round arena against several flying foes and found myself in a new town. Same old shops and all, but a different look to it. Wasn’t expecting that. What I have been expecting is to find items to create a new spear with, but I haven’t found any yet. I’ve managed to get one of the things I need from the Exchange, but no sign of any more. Ah well, I seem to be doing okay with my current weapon.
I’ve only put three hours into this so far, which seems wrong, but it’s the kind of game I play a lot of in short sessions. I’ll pick it up, play a mission that lasts ten or fifteen minutes, then put it down for an hour or two. It’s pretty much perfect for a quick go now and again, but no more than that.
Trying to get my Nook points up now. I hit the 3,000 mark over the weekend, I think. I’m planning to unlock all the prizes before spending any of the points now, though.
Tried to play, but the cat wouldn’t leave me alone, so I quit after a couple of minutes. I hope to go back and see what it’s about later.
By the way, the cat issue is the reason I played so many games for so little time today – she wouldn’t leave me alone this morning and kept demanding I played with her instead of video games.
Played it until it started annoying me, which I think took a little over two minutes.
Decided this was rubbish about five seconds in, played for about four minutes in case I was mistaken. I wasn’t.
Over-complicated Slime Volleyball. I thought was enjoying it for a while, then suddenly realised I wasn’t and turned it off.
Blast from the past!
Had a hankering for this, so dug it out and have spent an enjoyable few minutes using the stylus to make lines of matching Pokemon. Seems to have been unjustly forgotten this game – it’s a good little puzzler and the cutscenes look great.