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Best Games Of 2020 - Demon's Souls

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Bluepoint takes experienced adventurers and newcomers to Boletaria to relive the game that birthed an exciting new genre.

Over the next week, we will be posting features for what we've nominated to be the best games of 2020. Then, on December 17, we will crown one of the nominees as GameSpot's Best Game of 2020, so join us as we celebrate these 10 games on the road to the big announcement. Be sure to check out our other end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best Games of 2020 hub.

Who would have thought that 11 years after its initial launch, Demon's Souls--a game described by a current senior PlayStation executive as "crap" and an "unbelievably bad game" when he played it during development--would be the showpiece for a new generation of PlayStation console.

From Software's PlayStation 3 original was, at the time, something that felt harsh and alienating to many. But for those who clicked with it, the game was a wholly unique experience that offered rewarding challenges with a palpable sense of self-improvement, a thoughtfully constructed world to explore and unpack, and a fascinating narrative that rewarded those willing to piece it together.

Demon's Souls fell victim to the progress of time and the advancement of technology. The world moved on from the PlayStation 3 and, by the time From Software's Souls franchise hit a critical mass of popularity late into the life of 2011's Dark Souls, the servers for Demon's Souls had largely been abandoned and copies of the game were hard to come by--going back to see how it all began wasn't an easy prospect.

That is until this year when developer Bluepoint Games delivered a stunning remake of Demon's Souls for the PlayStation 5 that is as much a love letter to From Software as it is a realization for Bluepoint's vision for the game in its own, distinct way. In doing so, Bluepoint has empowered people to enjoy, examine, and explore a game that was far ahead of its time, and that paved the way for From Software to change the industry.

Bluepoint takes great pride in delivering faithful remakes, and that hasn't changed with Demon's Souls. But what sets its work apart with this particular game is that it had the opportunity to paint with its own brush, to a degree. Given the limitations of the PS3 hardware and what From Software was able to achieve at the time, much of what makes Demon's Souls distinct and memorable is suggested more than it is depicted. By current standards, it's decidedly bare and, often, a bit ugly--much of the detail is left to the imagination.

For longtime fans with extensive knowledge and experience of Demon's Souls, Bluepoint's remake gives them the ability to feel what it's like to play a Souls game for the first time.

Bluepoint effectively had a blank canvas to paint on. However, to do so without compromising what made Demon's Souls what it is required an intimate knowledge of From Software's intent and vision, and that's what makes the studio's work so impressive. Visually, the world of Boletaria looks completely new, and yet it is the same. Every inch of it is lovingly and painstakingly crafted with details that were never there but feel essential. Bluepoint showed that it understood the essence of what made Demon's Souls special and brought it to life in a fuller, richer way.

For the most part, the game still plays the same--for better or worse. Of all the Soulsborne games, Demon's Souls is the most idiosyncratic, the most daring, and the most experimental. Not everything works, but the fact that it's preserved here is vital. As previously mentioned, this game is a kind of sacred text for fans of the genre, the primordial Souls soup that From Software still picks ingredients out of when making new experiences. As a result, the failures of From Software's first attempts are as fascinating to look at as the successes, because it allows enthusiasts to trace and track the evolution of one of the most divisive and beloved new game genres of the last few years, and for newcomers to experience it for the first time. So, yes, things like World Tendency--specifically the obtuseness of it--remain unchanged, but the best parts of the original Demon's Souls are still there as well.

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In all regards, the Demon's Souls of 2020 plays just as the Demon's Souls of 2009 did, and is just as compelling. But at the same time, every technical aspect of the game's design and execution benefits from the PlayStation 5's horsepower, whether that's the stunning visuals that run at a smooth, consistent framerate or the speedy load times; the immersive 3D audio or the tactical implementation of adaptive triggers on the DualSense controller. Needless to say, Demon's Souls is the PS5 game to own.

For longtime fans with extensive knowledge and experience of Demon's Souls, Bluepoint's remake gives them the ability to feel what it's like to play a Souls game for the first time. That is something that I highlighted in my review, and the value of it cannot be understated. The Souls community is obsessive, constantly chasing the same high that they get when playing From Software's titles, so to be able to re-experience a game it already knows and loves, but through the eyes of a newcomer again, is incredibly valuable and why Demon's Souls is one of the best games of the year.

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tamz

Tamoor Hussain

Fear the Old Blood.

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