A Flawed But Amazing Masterpiece
A lot has been said about the level of difficulty in Demon's Souls, and unfortunately, that seems to have been a deal-breaker for many folks. Sure, it's a challenging game – very, very challenging in some areas – but so was Resident Evil 4; New Super Mario Bros. Wii is no cakewalk, either, late in the game. It should be obvious what I'm getting at… Demon's Souls is, I believe, misunderstood in many ways, and if you love great adventure gameplay, you shouldn't fear the unknown.
But enough about the game's difficulty…
What is it that makes Demon's Souls great? Well, for starters, it's actually more of an adventure game than an RPG. Yes, you can level up your character (at least, you can level up their stats, anyway), and yes, there are many ways in which you can affect the world around you – many ways! However, the focus of Demon's Souls has less to do with powering up your character than it does with simply learning how to stay alive. No matter how much you level up your hero, you're never going to be able to tank every obstacle in your way. Regardless of how you slice it, Boletaria is always a dangerous place.
If I had to pick one thing, though, as being the defining characteristic of Demon's Souls' gameplay, it would probably have to be stamina. Your character can't simply wail away endlessly and then roll out of harm's way without a care in the world. No, your character's stamina is drained each time you attack, roll, or block damage. So, it's important to pace yourself and master timing when engaging each and every enemy; that's really where much of the fun and strategy lie in Demon's Souls.
Additionally, your character can only equip and carry so much weight before they're overburdened, which causes them to move and react slower. I wouldn't go so far as to say these aspects of the game make Demon's Souls a more realistic experience, but they're definitely considerations that force you to approach the game on much more practical terms.
Now, I could go on and on…and on about the many nuances of Demon's Souls' world and gameplay – its world-tendency mechanics, the crafting, the incredibly innovative and truly enjoyable online components – but those are all things you've likely read about in some other review. All I hope to offer here is the opinion of a typical gamer.
Yes, Demon's Souls is challenging, and yes, it's meant to be played in big chunks, requiring both time and patience. It's also an incredibly rewarding adventure that can take over your life. There's so much to do and see here, and if anything, the learning curve only serves to ensure you'll be having fun with the game for a great many hours. No, it's not a game for everyone, but personally, I think that has more to do with the atmosphere of Boletaria than the game's level of difficulty.
To be fair, the game isn't perfect. The ragdoll physics can be humorously flighty, and the lock-on system takes getting used to. And though I really love the idea of world/character tendency, having your world tendency revert back to the average tendency of the community each time you play online can make attaining certain events unnecessarily frustrating. It's also worth noting that there are quite a few exploits in the game – bosses who can be cheesed in many ways and glitches that have yet to be, and may never be, patched. Still, there are ample ways to work around these minor quibbles, and unless you're one of those folks (like myself) who spend all their off time discussing the game in related forums, you probably won't notice half these issues.
I've got nothing to prove, and I don't subscribe to some secret organization of super geeks. (Well, actually…) I do love great entertainment, though, and Demon's Souls has some of the very best I've ever experienced. If you're a mature gamer looking for true adventure, definitely give Demon's Souls a look. I wouldn't suggest buying it outright because, again, it really isn't for everyone. If you make it through the first real level, chances are you're one of the few who "get it." If not, you can send it back without taking a hit to your wallet. Either way, everyone with a PS3 should, at least, take a peek at what lies beyond the realm of the living.