Review

Demon's Souls Review: Shield Up

  • First Released Nov 12, 2020
    released
  • PS5

Bluepoint delivers a Demon's Souls remake that is as much its own as it is From Software's, and it shows off the power of the PS5 with it.

There's much to praise about the remake of Demon's Souls. It's a remarkable technical showpiece for the PlayStation 5; a gripping gameplay experience that oscillates between exhilarating, nerve-wracking, and downright heartbreaking; and a faithful recreation of the seminal title that birthed the Souls-like subgenre. But developer Bluepoint's greatest achievement is that it took something I'm intimately familiar with and made me feel like I was venturing into the unknown.

Fundamentally, Demon's Souls for PS5 is what it has always been. Barring some small tweaks, the design of the game is identical to From Software's original. The core mechanics are unchanged, the enemies are placed in the same positions and behave in the same ways, the devious tricks and traps are still there, ready to catch the unfamiliar off-guard.

And yet, while retreading a well-worn path through the kingdom of Boletaria, I find myself without the confidence I should have. I'm cautiously approaching basic enemies with my shield raised, knowing their every move and how to overcome them, but fearing them still. I stand paralyzed at the end of narrow stone tunnels ominously lit by flickering torches, knowing exactly what awaits in the darkness, but still needing to will myself forward. And as monstrous demons step into arenas in which I've bested them dozens of times, I begin to doubt my chances at victory once more.

Yes, Demon's Souls is undoubtedly an impressive technical achievement. But what makes it special is how Bluepoint has applied its own creative vision to From Software's original to remake the game not just as it was, but as it was meant to be, realizing its full potential. The result is a title that pays homage to From Software's work, but at the same time stands as brilliant in its own right.

In breathing new life into Boletaria, Bluepoint has taken some artistic license with From Software's work, for better or worse depending on your perspective. While the body of the game may look vastly different, its soul remains intact--I could feel as much as I stood in familiar places and absorbed the overwhelming amount of new details. As a result, it was as if I were experiencing the game all over again with a fresh pair of eyes, and in doing so, the emotions I felt on my first time through were stirred once more.

Stepping into The Nexus, the hub area for the game, felt like coming home, but what I once perceived to be an abandoned prison for the souls of wayward warriors now felt like a welcoming place of respite. Candles bathed the cold otherworldly architecture in a warm glow, statues were shrouded in brilliant, hopeful white light, and a fuller, richer version of the orchestral theme played to drive home the melancholic mood of the hidden temple.

Every facet of the environment is rich in detail, from the rippling water in the central pool to the intricate stone carvings and metal detailing on the archstones used to transport you to distant lands in search of demon's souls. Even the people who occupy The Nexus have more detail, which in turn gives them greater depth. Stockpile Thomas, a forlorn figure who sits in a nook of The Nexus and offers to look after your excess items and equipment, tells his story in a way that wasn't possible before. His wife and child were killed and his ineptitude in battle meant he was unable to save them. This is the first time in many hours of playing Demon's Souls that I've been able to read the expressions on Thomas's face, and the pain is visible as he recounts his tragic loss. His eyes look reddened and puffy, as if he'd just been crying.

Though their lines may be brief, the voices of these characters sound familiar--some have been re-recorded with the same actors, while others are new. The way Blacksmith Ed chastises you for not making use of his services, the Maiden in Black's oft-repeated prayer whenever she uses her abilities to strengthen you, Patches' insincerity as he tries to hide his deceitful nature--it all sounds right, and where new or tweaked writing and vocal performances appear, they still evoke the intended effect.

That is true of every area in the game. Each of the five archstones takes you to locales that are jaw-dropping visually and distinct atmospherically. The Boletarian Palace lies in ruin, with battlements barely standing or entirely destroyed. Mindless dreglings wander around, attacking you on-sight with a frenzy of sword swings ending in an exasperated sigh of exhaustion. This is a game that, in numerous ways, serves as a showcase for all of the PS5 signature features, and hearing Demon's Souls is as gratifying as seeing and playing it. Thanks to the 3D audio through headphones, the heavy and threatening breathing of a Blue Eye Knight told me it was nearby before I could even see it. Buzzing flies and the ragged caws of pecking crows made the sight of a decaying horse carcass all the more unsightly. And as archers fired arrows, the sound of them whizzing by my ears revealed just how narrowly I had escaped.

Unlike Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro--From Software's follow-up games--Demon's Souls has a loose structure to progression. It encourages, and sometimes by way of insurmountable enemies, deadly bosses, and locked doors, forces you to travel to locations on other archstones until you are equipped to forge ahead again. This means it can be difficult to get comfortable with any location--it's always ushering you toward dangerous unknowns, and Bluepoint's technically and artistically stunning graphics mean each new area is an absolute joy to behold, as well as an anxiety-ridden nightmare to venture through even for veterans.

[Bluepoint's Demon's Souls remake is] a title that pays homage to From Software's work, but at the same time stands as brilliant in its own right.

Crucially, in each location, the new effects, beautiful lighting, and gorgeous modeling never upend From Software's intent and, in fact, create a truer representation of it. Advancement in technology and game design have given Bluepoint tools to do what From Software couldn't on the PS3 back in 2009. The maze of tunnels in Stonefang feels even more claustrophobic and as you venture deeper, the rippling steam coming off lava makes the sweltering hot environment feel oppressive. The Valley of Defilement's wet wooden scaffolding looks perilous to walk along, and torches burn bright blue, violently moving as if agitated by an unseen toxic gas--you feel gross just standing there.

Bosses are treated with the same kind of care, either true to the original or changed to more closely embody the spirit of it. The Vanguard looks less like one of those rubber Monsters In My Pocket toys from the '90s and more like a disgusting demonic executioner. The Tower Knight looms above you, striking a presence that is both heroic and terrifying, and when it hurls a soul spear in your direction, the booming sound and the screen shake accompanied by the DualSense's arresting vibration will make you think twice about stepping out into the open. The Flamelurker fight, because of how good the animation work is, made me feel like I was a matador trapped in a lava pit with a demonic flaming bull constantly bearing down on me. The thundering sound of its erratic movement coupled with the intense visual feedback turned it into a desperate, panicked battle for survival.

Technically, Demon's Souls is astounding. On Performance Mode, it displays gorgeous visuals rendered at 1440p and upscaled to 4K at a consistent, smooth frame rate. Cinematic Mode runs at native 4K, but this seems to come at the cost of performance, as I found the frame rate to be much less consistent. I stuck to Performance Mode, and did so with the new offset camera view, which I found to frame the game in a more cinematic way. Features such as the ability to make the UI dynamically fade in and out do a great deal to improve immersion. There are also multiple graphical filters available, including the more muted, greener palette of the original PS3 release (although I think Bluepoint's version, with its richness and vibrancy, should be the way you play the first time through). If it wasn't clear, Demon's Souls on PS5 is one of the best-looking and -sounding games I've ever played.

Outside of its presentation, Bluepoint has employed a defter touch. As mentioned previously, Demon's Souls on PS5 plays very much the same, mechanically speaking. However, Bluepoint has clearly spent a great deal of effort on improving the feedback so everything is more impactful. There's a weightiness and heft to the game that is communicated visually and through audio. Everything from movement to attacks, evasion, and even consuming items has a physicality to it. There's a real sense of inertia and momentum as your blade cuts through the air, and noticeable resistance as it meets the steel of armor or the flesh of an enemy. Heavy weapons come crashing down in an incredibly satisfying way, and you'll be thankful for your shield every time an enemy's attack bounces off it. If you pick a magic-based build, you can send your spell off into the distance and watch as it travels, lighting up everything it passes before erupting like a little star going supernova.

Even though enemies haven't changed as far as the kinds of attacks they do, when they use them, or how much health they possess, the visual feedback instills a greater sense of danger. You don't want to get hit by things because it looks and sounds like they hurt, on top of actually taking massive chunks out of your health bar. The physicality now supports and reinforces the deliberate, methodical nature of Souls combat. And that's what stripped me of some of my confidence; the difference in the way it feels--along with actually being a little rusty--has forced me to once again respect Demon's Souls, because it is as ruthless as it has ever been, and in many cases more ruthless than the Souls games that followed it. New additions such as unique attack and finisher animations give weapons more of an identity then they had in the original, and landing ripostes is such a rush that you'll want to try and parry every enemy.

But by sticking so closely to From Software's framework, Bluepoint has also carried forward some of the more idiosyncratic aspects of the Demon's Souls gameplay experience. Although World Tendency is explained a bit better and more readily visible to the player, that doesn't make the underlying issues of it any better. It's still, for all but the most learned players, quite obtuse as a concept. World Tendency can skew the state of the various locations towards white or black, depending on certain actions that you take or happen to you, though these aren't ever explained. Most players will notice their health is capped while in Soul form and use an item to restore their human form to access the restricted pool, not knowing that dying in human form makes the world skew towards black tendency, where enemies hit harder. The idea of a player struggling, dying, and the game becoming harder as a result is suspect, but it is nonetheless intact in the remake.

No Caption Provided

Demon's Souls for PS5 also features the same finicky multiplayer system that it had on PS3, and that From Software's games continue to have. There are specific conditions that need to be met and items employed to enable jolly cooperation, but the information around this isn't surfaced in a clear, visible way for newcomers to understand. It then falls on the player to figure it out through a frustrating process of trial and error, seek out guidance from someone in the know, or go hunting for information in a sea of forums and threads written around the 2009 version of the game.

But I can't fault Bluepoint for leaving it untouched, warts and all. The studio is in the unenviable position of remaking one of the most beloved games of all time, which has an incredibly passionate and vocal fanbase. And what might seem like a reasonable change to one person could be an undermining of what makes the game unique, distinct, and memorable to another. While the dissonance between the game's modern look and feel and some of the more outdated aspects of its design is noticeable, it doesn't impact the experience significantly. Although I would have liked to see Bluepoint address the more obviously flawed elements, playing it safe and honoring the work and legacy of From Software and Demon's Souls was the right move.

Quirks aside, Bluepoint's remake is an unmitigated success. It is a technical tour de force and a true showpiece for the PS5 and the power of Sony's next-generation console. But, more importantly, it's also a creative marvel coming from a studio that is clearly showing the world it has its own voice. Bluepoint has taken From Software's original game and expressed it in a richer and fuller way, and in doing so given me something I thought was impossible: the opportunity to relive the experience of falling in love with Souls games for the first time.

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The Good

  • Gorgeous visuals that show off the power of the PS5
  • A respectful and faithful adaptation of an iconic game
  • Silky smooth performance that makes it a great-feeling Souls game
  • Meaningful, immersive implementation of audio

The Bad

  • Obtuse elements of the game aren't explained with enough detail or at all
  • World Tendency can still suck

About the Author

Tamoor played Demon's Souls for 30 hours on a PlayStation 5 and plans to do multiple runs through the game. Both the game and console were provided by Sony.
166 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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TeslaCoi1

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Haven't played any of the Souls games yet, but looking at this video, the feeling I'm most left with is...It looks slow...Way too slow...Both the combat and the movement. It also looks like combat is not very flashy. I think I might get bored playing this.

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kutraz

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Edited By kutraz

Shouldn't the Gamespot take into account that it's simply a new paint job?

Remasters should not have game reviews, especially when the studio didn't add anything to the story or gameplay.

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Undertow207

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@kutraz: Remaster? This game was remade from the ground up. Learn the difference.

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kutraz

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@Undertow207:

Just a paint job, you could boot up the original with your PS3 and wouldn't miss a single thing. It is exactly the same game frame by frame. It looks a ton better but I don't understand the need for a review. Even the animations are the same.

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Undertow207

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@kutraz: Nah. A paint job would be something like the Nathan Drake collection, or The Last of Us on PS4 that simply increased the resolution and upped the frame rate. Demon's Souls Remake is a significant upgrade over its PS3 counterpart, in just about every way. All 5 worlds + the tutorial level and the nexus, every character model, and the whole OST were completely remade from the ground up. WAY better performance. There are also a ton of new animations and a few extra hidden areas, QOL changes, etc. Things like running Firestorm, that completely broke the original games PvP are no longer useable.

You might have a point with GS reviewing Ori and Gears 5 on the XBSX, Super Mario 3D all-stars on the Switch, but not with this game.

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kutraz

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@Undertow207:

It's the same game. I can play the original demon souls and end up at the exact same place by the end of it. "A few hidden areas" does not warrant a review, let alone a 70 dollar price tag.

But again, my issue is mostly with this review. It's a bit harsh when studios who actually tried to put something original for launch get crapped on because of games like this. The original was a masterpiece but this is simply the original with a new paint job. Bluepoint better not believe that those high scores are due to anything they did. If that were the case, then the people who have been modding Skyrim and GTA for over a decade should be getting applauded as well.

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Undertow207

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@kutraz: Again, a "paint job", or as most would call it, a remaster is a resolution/frame rate bump. Not assets from the entire game, including the sound track being completely redone. You end up at the same place at the end of Resident Evil 2 remake, is that a paint job as well?

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kutraz

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@Undertow207:

So the Skyrim and GTA modders are right up there with bluepoint??

Yes, both the modders and bluepoint made their respective games look "prettier" but that is where it ends. I give a lot more merit to an average game like "Godfall" than to something like this. No original ideas here.

Also, never played Resident Evil, not aware of their "repeat" game catalog.

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Undertow207

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Edited By Undertow207

@kutraz: Uhhh No? If every website reviewed mods it would be cluttered with endless reviews. Mods are a moot point. Comparing mods to a full-on remake that cost millions of $$$ to produce is beyond ridiculous.

Again, not sure why this so extremely hard for you to grasp, Demon's Souls remake was completely redone from the ground up. Literally everything in the game was remade including the animations, every world, voice acting, music, online structure, performance, character/boss models, sound effects, a whole new fractured mode, etc.

I take it you had this same "paint job" energy for the XBSX reviews of Ori and Gears 5, and the Switch version of 3D All-Stars? You know, actual paint jobs? Surely I'll see it in your post history if I checked.

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kutraz

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@Undertow207:

The cost to make all the changes is irrelevant here.

Your in-depth analysis of the demon souls remake can easily apply to countless mods for Skyrim, Fallout, GTA, etc online.

Go ahead and check my post history sherlock, you'll see that I am actually a Sony supporter. I just think it's silly to bash and compare original games while praising a remaster. This game should have been no more than 40 dollars, or even better, included with PS+ for free.

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ad1997_1

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@kutraz said:

@Undertow207:

The cost to make all the changes is irrelevant here.

Your in-depth analysis of the demon souls remake can easily apply to countless mods for Skyrim, Fallout, GTA, etc online.

Go ahead and check my post history sherlock, you'll see that I am actually a Sony supporter. I just think it's silly to bash and compare original games while praising a remaster. This game should have been no more than 40 dollars, or even better, included with PS+ for free.

I think the mistake here is to compare a remake with original games. They set out to be different things. Just because original games get criticised doesn't mean a remake can't be praised a lot. Remakes are created to allow players play an old game modernized to fit the technical improvements that have been done over the years.

This remake does exactly that, from what I have seen. Haven't played it myself yet. The game is built up from scratch, and i think one can argue that a lot of creativity has gone into recreating this game. It's true that there are no changes to gameplay and actual level and boss battle design, but I still feel a lot of effort was put into the remake nevertheless.

There is also the new audio and orchestrated soundtrack. A nice amount of quality of life changes are also implemented, like omni-directional rolling or being able to send items to your storage from anywhere. The new Dual Shock 5 haptic features are also used.

I do get where you are coming from with the price. I never played the og so the price will be worth it for someone like me, but of course it is a bit questionable to release this remake at full price. I guess i have to play the remake myself before judging this, but I do feel like there is at least an argument for this game being full price. It is a remake, but it seems to be done with much more care and effort than most remakes. I guess in the end it comes down to whether you think a remake is worth being sold for full price or not, I personally think if the remake is done well enough, full price isn't unreasonable.

When it comes to reviews however, I think it's understandable when a remake like this gets such good scores. If the reviewer likes the core game that wasn't changed a lot, and likes the improvements to graphics and other stuff, than the game can of course get scores like 9's or 10's. In the end, reviews are there to review the quality of a game. If the gameplay is still fantastic without changes, it's still likely to get good scores.

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Undertow207

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Edited By Undertow207

@ad1997_1: Don't even waste your time replying to this clown. He'd have the same nonsensical opinion about Resident Evil 2 remake. "paint job"

Save your brain cells.

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kutraz

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@ad1997_1:

I give a lot more merit to an average game like "Godfall" than to something like this. No original ideas here.

My "Modders" example still stands. There are mods for games like GTA and Skyrim, that add the same level of detail yet they don't charge 70 dollars nor get a review praising them for doing a "cover".

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mrgorgun

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I solely want a PS5 to play this right now. Otherwise i don't mind waiting on it.

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soccer676

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Are the souls games actually hard and test your skills or do they just test your patience to figure out the enemies fight patterns?

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Dragerdeifrit

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@soccer676: A pretty organic mix of both i'd say.

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Pyrosa

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@soccer676: About 1 out of 5 bosses are legitimately "hard." About 2 out of 5 are harder for certain single-focused builds. All of them reward patience and observation.

It's the environments and exploration that are the foundation of the obsession IMO. You never feel like you're grinding (unless you intentionally are), and there are no "trash mobs" per se -- anything can kill sloppy button-mashers.

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lokar82

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I've had Sony consoles forever but am disappointed that the PS5 can't deliver a top of the line native 4k/60fps experience on a 10+ year old game.

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twztid13

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@lokar82: could be the devs & not the console.

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I/most didn't stop playing DemonSOuls on PS3 because it felt dated..

It got boring..

*In fact i remember failing to convince my gaming homies to stick with it..

*I think it was competeting with DragonsDogma at the time..

Im glad newcomers get to play this. fact!

But it does nothing for me except waste a launch title..

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CyrusDrake20

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@sippio: Many players did not get to enjoy Demon's Souls though. There's a HUGE amount of new players thanks to PS4's success. Now they can get the full glory this game deserves on a new console. For me, personally, it was a huge factor in pre-ordering a PS5 and I'm not regretting that at all with how good the game has been. Certainly not a waste of a launch title.

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Willywill

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@CyrusDrake20: - I've been trying to get a PS5 just to play this game. That's how much I want to play it. I'm still trying to get but I might have to wait.

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Shinnok789

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Edited By Shinnok789

00:20 - sooo close... it's one of those teeth grinding instances, when one may even end up testing the gamepad's ability to fly :)

03:30 - i don't know why but i was waiting for the attack to finish, so he can recover some of the heath by quickly fighting back... too much Bloodborne, methinks. Love that mechanic, too bad it was never again utilized in the same way, either by a "souls-borne like" or another of From's games.

But I digress.

Demon's Souls looks so good, the atmosphere, the level design, the multitude of graphical details... seeing the video review makes me want to play it even more. I've already preordered it, now i'm waiting for the console to launch on the 19th.

Unfortunately, this whole PS5 stocks situation may end up sucking the joy of getting the latest PS and playing such a good game... If it takes all the way to February-March of next year to buy one, it won't be quite the same. After a few months of trying to find one in stock, seeing reviews and gameplays in the meantime, most of the excitement will be gone. You'll be glad the grinding of finding one will be over, and that's about it.

But hopefully, if everything goes well, and no other delays creep up due to the pandemic, a few more games will launch until then, and many of the PS5's software bugs will be solved... and that'll help to make up for it.

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Atzenkiller

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Man, what a bunch of crap. "They made the game as it was meant to be." Even in DS3 the characters didn't move their lips while talking. That was clearly intentional by From. Whether you like the changes or not, they clearly were not what From had intended for the game. And I'd guess that they probably wouldn't have made those changes either if they had done the remake themselves.

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Pyrosa

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@Atzenkiller: We need those ME Andromeda 1.0 eyes to complete the effect!

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devtech

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I was hoping to play this on my PC which runs circles around the new consoles, horsepower wise. Shame I'll have to wait more years to finally play it on my PC in an emulator. Not planning on buying a console inferior to my PC just for one game I wanted to play.

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Alandave39

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@devtech: and Ds 5 on ps5 looks better then 99 percent of the crap on pc

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Atzenkiller

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@devtech: Well, I'm glad you found a good excuse to tell everyone about the superiority of your PC. And it probably only cost you a few thousand bucks if it really stands a change against the new consoles. What a steal.

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itchyflop

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@Atzenkiller: and just think how much you've spent to miss out !!

However you can still play the now inferior pc port :)

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sippio

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@itchyflop: My PC blows away consoles too yet i still play on console.

Just like i'll play all games like X-com,,,Civ..Stellaris etc on PC..

What does suck is constantly spilling coffee in keyboard...

*Freaking new Razor keyboard w/ cheesy lightup had coffee spillage and although i

got it all=Several keys no longer work..

How do i fix this when plucking the key out & cleaning it didn't work?

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Pyrosa

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@sippio: I type all day long for a living, so i just went back to crappy pack-in kbds. Utterly disposable and worry-free ever since!

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kennethone

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I don't get whats actually cool or "next gen" about this game.

The environments, combat, and level layout still look like a boring 90s dungeon crawler.

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Willywill

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@kennethone: It's a remake of a 10 year old game that alot of people liked.

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@kennethone: but teh load timez...

Just a 60fps version of same game with better textures & lighting.

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sippio

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@kennethone: yup..i knew it was gonna be meh the moment it was announced it would be 'faithful' to the original...

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itchyflop

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@kennethone: yes i used to think the same, then i played them.

Try bloodborne, then maybe this (if you're interested).

They require a different approach for sure, but they're not boring, frustrating at times yes, but that's the point.

The cool or "next gen" factor is the new look and frame rate compared to the older versions of a much loved/acclaimed classic.

To be fair the £70 price tag is ridiculous.

:)

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Atzenkiller

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@kennethone: A 90s dungeon crawler? What games exactly are you referring to? Diablo 1?

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stealthy1

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Cool so they are recycling review scores for these games....

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Cherub1000

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Well, as expected it looks and sounds utterly delicious, it's a shame that trying to buy a console is such a nightmare, I dont see it getting any better till spring next year? Oh well. To all those playing sports far, enjoy. I'm gonna go and continue my latest run on the ps3 version, hey at least it didn't cost me any more if I guess.

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Willywill

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@cherub1000: I just bought a PS3 and a copy of this to play since I can't get a PS5.

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varez

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If you told me this was running on a PS4 pro I would believe you.

Also - will there ever be a day when developers figure out a way to make characters look connected to their environment, not floating - actually moving around as if they are connected? A good example is when the character rolls into the wall instead of jumping. Looks pathetic. It's 2020, move on

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twztid13

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@varez: in 1080p, yes. The difference is ppl want to play in 4k & that's not possible w these frame rates on ps4 pro even w scaled back graphics.

I thought uncharted 2 & 3 especially took a good leap in the direction you're talking about, but then they just quit caring it seemed.

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MaxxDiamond

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@varez: You clearly don’t have a PS5, or you need to get your eyes checked. Demon Souls looks and plays amazingly. They could make it playable on a PS4, but they would have to scale it way back.

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Atzenkiller

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@maxxdiamond: They certainly could but Sony has clearly used thsi remake to promote the PS5. Would it have made sense for them to release the game on PS4 as well? Well, the answer should be obvious considerig how many more PS4s there are out there right now. But it was meant to get you to buy a PS5 because it's only available on that console. The game's identical gameplay wise anyway so toning down the graphics a bit wouldn't even have changed anything.

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

It's great to see both systems launch with a game that gets a 9 from Gamespot. I hope everyone is enjoying their new consoles regardless of platform of choice :).

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Demon's Souls

First Released Nov 12, 2020
released
  • PlayStation 5

9
Superb

Average Rating

9 Rating(s)

7.3