Bluepoint's remake feels like a true showpiece of the PS5 and the power of next-generation consoles.
GameSpot's full Demon's Souls review for PlayStation 5 is now available to read. You can get a comprehensive analysis of Bluepoint's ambitious remake effort there, along with detailed thoughts of what we think of it.
Demon's Souls on PS5 is a sight to behold. It feels somewhat reductive to focus on how pretty it looks, but having played a handful of hours, it's currently what commands my attention the most. As people around the world invest in expensive new consoles, it's incredibly validating to play a game that is clearly taking a stride forward, so forgive me if I sound a bit superficial--but good grief is it pretty.
In Demon's Souls, The Nexus serves as a sort of prison for the wayward souls of those who hunt monsters invading the kingdom of Boletaria. It's the first in a long line of From Software hub locations where the player can seek solace from the ruthlessness of the world around them. To me, however, the PS3 version of The Nexus had an ominous quality and, although it was certainly a safe harbor, it also had frailty to it--like a faint glimmer of light in an endless void of encroaching darkness.
Arriving to the PS5 version of The Nexus, however, was genuinely overwhelming. Admittedly, some of that can be attributed to intense nostalgia for a game that sparked an obsession with the sub-genre it pioneered, but to chalk it up to just that would disregard the amount of work Bluepoint has done to bring Demon's Souls to life the way From Software originally envisioned it. And that, I think, is what seems to be the underlying goal of this remake: Take the vision for Demon's Souls, stay true to it, and express it in a way that From Software couldn't back in 2009. And though I'm still quite early in the game, it currently feels like Bluepoint has been successful in this regard.
The Nexus is now far more striking, and the thoughts and feelings it was intended to impart are more keenly delivered. It's like a forgotten place of worship, where the only congregation that remains is doomed to be a bulwark against an unstoppable tide of evil. And yet, returning to it is comforting. It's melancholic, but also hopeful, giving you the solace and calm needed to gather yourself and venture out once more. This isn't just achieved through the technical work undertaken by Bluepoint, such as higher-resolution textures, detailed models, and some nice lighting. There's also the studio's own artistic expression at work, and many of the flourishes in the game are Bluepoint's own. Crucially, thus far these haven't upstaged or upended what From Software laid out, which speaks to the understanding the studio clearly has for the vision.
Yes, the bundles of candles scattered around The Nexus emanate pleasing pockets of light thanks to the power of the PS5, but Bluepoint has also rebuilt and redesigned parts of The Nexus to lean into its purpose. The candles are deliberately placed so that, amidst the strange otherworldly quality the environment has, there's also a warmness radiating from it. Towering statues of saintly figures are bathed in brilliant light and, accompanied by a new version of The Nexus' theme, with its somber guitar, soft violin, and soothing choir, the familiar hub can be a place that is genuinely moving to be in.
That feeling of Bluepoint bringing out the finer details on a picture painted by From Software extends to the way it plays too. On the one hand, Demon's Souls on PS5 is what it has always been, to the point where my experience with the original meant I could get off to a confident start (though not always a successful one; this is a Souls game, after all). On the other hand, tweaks, changes, and in some cases, new additions also make it feel distinct. My faint memory of enemy placements meant that some of that element of surprise--and the more devious tricks the game pulls on you--doesn't land as hard. However, that hasn't made the game any less enjoyable to play.
Demon's Souls always felt like a slower-paced game than the others in the lineage. It demanded more consideration (and was a bit more punishing of mistakes), and it required precision in movement as well as timing. That is very much still the case, but Bluepoint has elevated the moment-to-moment experience by giving a sense of heft to everything. From walking to running to rolling, there's a real feeling of exertion created by stunning animations, rich audio, and the physics governing it all. Even though I've played this game before, and completed every Souls game that followed it, playing this reminds me of that feeling of trying to push a boulder uphill that I first had when I played the original Demon's Souls on PS3.
The combat still feels deliberate, as it was in the original, but Bluepoint has vastly improved the feedback you get, which makes connecting a sword with the armor of an enemy knight, or the flesh of a wandering warrior, incredibly impactful. The booming sound that arises when you perfectly time a swing of your shield to parry an incoming attack, and the subsequent thrust of the sword delivered with such ferocity that the enemy is lifted into the air and slammed into the ground made me wince the first time I did it. To top it off, the DualSense's subtle vibrations during all of this made each subsequent parry and riposte attack as satisfying.
There's much more to say about Demon's Souls for PS5, but that can wait for the full review. I am eager to get back to playing it, and that should say a lot. Early signs are good for the game. At this point, we've come to expect Bluepoint to put out top-notch remakes, but this is a game that feels like the studio is flexing its own creative muscles too, and as I venture deeper into Boletaria I'm excited to see what else it has in store.