Demon's Souls may not be a new game, but its impressive DualSense functionality makes Bluepoint's remake feel like a next-gen experience.
Demon's Souls is all about close calls, and they feel a hell of a lot closer with the DualSense in hand. By now, you've probably heard all about the DualSense. Its adaptive triggers add tension to R2 and L2, and its haptic feedback adds a bit of nuance to your classic controller rumble. By and large, these features are great. While they haven't fundamentally changed the way games are played, they can lead to some clever ideas, especially when it comes to shooters, as our very own Jean-Luc pointed out in his video feature about Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
However, my favorite showcase for the DualSense so far is Bluepoint's Demon's Souls remake. Rather than making any sweeping gameplay changes to From Software's masterpiece, the developer uses the DualSense to accentuate the experience. Nearly every action you take in the game is reflected using haptic feedback. That's a fancy way of saying that rolling through barrels and smashing barricades feels even better with the DualSense's context-specific rumbles.
But it extends far beyond my systematic destruction of every single wooden object in Demon's Souls. When passing through a fog door before taking on a hulking boss, it yields a soft rumble. A near-deadly fall could send a powerful jolt through the controller, and a ferocious dragon soaring overhead at breakneck speeds will make the DualSense shudder in your hands.
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Combat, in particular, feels heightened thanks to haptic feedback. Connecting blows with a weapon, whether the formidable Bastard Sword or your bare fists, will elicit a different rumble depending on the surface you hit and where your weapon connects. The "where" in this context may seem a bit strange, but it makes sense when you think of the rumble as you would stereo audio. If you hit an object or enemy slightly to your right, the rumble will be more prominent on the right side of the DualSense. If you thrust your weapon, the rumble will feel centralized. Just like stereo audio, the positioning and source can affect the rumble.
For example, if I slash a brick wall to my right, I will feel a sharp, quick rumble on the right side of the controller as my sword bounces off the hard surface. If I face the other direction and swing, then I feel a longer vibration in the left side of the DualSense that mimics how my character dragged his sword across the wall at the end of the swing.
Sure, it's minor, but it makes your weapons feel heftier and deadlier thanks to that extra bit of precise feedback the DualSense provides. This is even more true when it comes to backstabs, parries, and ripostes. If you've played a Souls game before, then you know how satisfying a successful parry and riposte is. In the Demon's Souls remake, your character's actions are given a wonderfully distinct pattern that matches the animation every time you pull one off. I've put myself in harm's way far too many times just to execute one of these slick counters. Also, let's give a shout out to the unarmed riposte, because it might just be the most satisfying animation of 2020.
Rather than making any sweeping gameplay changes to From Software's masterpiece, Bluepoint Games uses the DualSense to accentuate the experience.
But let's be honest, you will undoubtedly spend a lot of time taking blows and hiding behind a shield. This is Demon's Souls, after all. Of course, the Dualsense accounts for this as well. Attacks that bounce off your shield yield a single soft and confident rumble. The haptic feedback is amplified when your guard breaks, leaving you open to direct attacks.
My favorite use of the haptics has to be the spells. So, if you need a good excuse to play "easy mode," hear me out. Just like weapons, each spell is given a different vibration pattern that's mirrored the animation. For example, Flame Toss starts with a subtle vibration that builds as if your character is drawing power from within themselves until they've mustered up the energy to unleash a ball of fire from their catalyst. At which point, the Dualsense gives off an explosive vibration. If the spell hits a nearby enemy, a final violent rumble will shake the Dualsense. I've never shot a fireball out of a wand, but I imagine it probably feels something like this.
Alternatively, if you cast something like Water Veil, the results will be appropriately more subtle. The Dualsense will vibrate as you cast it. As long as its effects are active, you will feel a slight, consistent rumble until the spell wears off. Aside from just feeling cool, this is a handy way to know when a buff expires and it's time to recast it.
These examples taken alone may seem small, but as a whole, they make Boleteria feel alive and real. Obviously, the game looks and sounds incredible, but the DualSense gives the world a tactile feel that up to this point has only been explored with rudimentary rumble features. It's particularly powerful in Demon's Souls because the game is harrowing as it is. The moments I look back fondly on and want to share with my friends are the ones where I barely scrape by, whether it's delivering the final blow to a boss with only a sliver of health or narrowly dodging a fireball in a room full of explosive barrels. When you add in the controller's precise and deliberate feedback, these moments feel even more palpable. Deadly encounters feel even more deadly, which, when you overcome them, feel all the more satisfying.