Demon's Souls
October 8, 2009 3:32 PM   Subscribe

"Demon's Souls, an Atlus-published action-RPG out this week on the PS3, is way too hard for you. We say this without knowing a thing about your skills and with no equivocation." Demon's Souls was released this week in North America, and its reviewers are coming to terms with its staggering difficulty level.

"We're not in the business of reviewing games we don't finish, so I'll say right away that I did not finish Demon's Souls. [...] Because of this, we will not be giving it a review score this week. [...] It's not that I didn't want to finish it. I truly do, and I look forward to doing so. [...] My problem is that I died far too often. You'll see: you will die in minutes."

"[Its] punishment systems ensure that life has far greater value than in most games, especially as the incessant autosaving ensures restoring from a back-up is impossible. As such, you inch forward, shield up, knees-a-knocking. Demon’s Souls is the antithesis of the fashionable approach to gaming. It encourages mastery over mere perseverance and every reward is so hard won as to make it almost unattainable."

"You may have heard this already, but let me say this, just to make sure: Demon's Souls is hard. This is not the same kind of hard that comes from too many enemies attacking at once, from having your level too low to fight a boss, or from having too many guards to take out, lest you be seen. This is a game where you may defeat a tough opponent through attrition and pain, winning with nary a sliver of health left before letting out a battle cry and promptly mis-stepping into a pit that kills you."

The game's US publisher is keeping a running total of the number of deaths occurring in the very first area after the tutorial--before the evening of the release day had even begun, the death toll stood at 3,479. (From that link: "I have a copy of the game in transit and I am kind of terrified. Waiting to receive a copy of the game is like being on death row.")

Demon's Souls is probably best described as an action RPG with roguelike gameplay elements--however, it marries those elements (along with the uncompromising difficulty of many roguelikes) to graphics and sound design that are characteristic of big-budget, mainstream console games. (Here's an interesting analysis that focuses primarily on the emotional effect of the game's design decisions). It's considered the spiritual successor to the King's Field series, also developed by From Software. There are two wikis for it--one that covers the Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and North American versions of the game, and another, hosted by Atlus, dedicated specifically to the North American version.

(Previously on MeFi, we discussed the design of difficult games.)
posted by Prospero (59 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
It is pitch black.  You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

> inventory
There was a grue in your bag.  You have been eaten by a grue.
posted by Riki tiki at 3:50 PM on October 8, 2009 [89 favorites]

posted by kmz at 3:50 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I imported this game from China a bunch of months past. GREAT fun, and definitely punishingly hard. I've gone out of my way to not look up anything online for it, and due to that I keep being surprised by new things I learn or come across. YAY.

It's definitely not for everyone, but if you're looking for a good ARPG challenge on the PS3, you owe it to yourself to at least rent it. Hard, but not unfair. It doesn't cheat like Puzzle Quest.
posted by Stunt at 3:57 PM on October 8, 2009

Greetings, Professor Falken. A strange game. The only winning move is... there is no winning move! DIE, HUMAN!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:57 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]

Oh, in case anyone DOES masochistically pick this and finds themselves stuck or confused, but unwilling to look in the wiki and spoil things, shoot me a mefi mail and I'll do what I can to help.
posted by Stunt at 4:00 PM on October 8, 2009

Tougher than Fester's Quest?
posted by starman at 4:02 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

There was an astro zombie in your bag. You have been eaten by a vengeful astro zombie.

posted by boo_radley at 4:03 PM on October 8, 2009


Between this and Atlus' other PS3 games, I might finally have to get one of the things.
posted by boo_radley at 4:13 PM on October 8, 2009

posted by boo_radley at 4:14 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you're a casual gamer, it sounds like you should stay far away from this.

Buzz on the gaming forums I've been reading is that it's very difficult, but primarily if you just assume you can win. You have to, apparently, be tricky as hell, and use the environment in clever ways. If you eke out every "unfair" advantage you can scrounge up, you can survive, but a straight-on approach is usually suicide.

I think I'm gonna pass on this one, myself. I've filled my lifetime game-punishment quota.
posted by Malor at 4:19 PM on October 8, 2009

This game is actually much easier than the reviewers think. You just have to burn the rope.
posted by brain_drain at 4:25 PM on October 8, 2009 [6 favorites]

Tycho of Penny Arcade wrote a few paragraphs about his experiences with Demon's Souls here and here.
posted by jedicus at 4:44 PM on October 8, 2009

I tend to stay away from games that aren't fun.

That said, every single link in the post is blocked here at work but I am bored stiff and would love to read them - any transcripts or cut and pastes would be really appreciated. MeMail so as not to clog up the tubes.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:02 PM on October 8, 2009

I'm going to end up buying this, aren't I?


Damn roguelike fascination...
posted by WinnipegDragon at 5:03 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Atlus, the nail hard pedigree of: Etrian Odyssey (here's a stylus, draw your own fucking map), The Dark Spire (here's a dragon, write your own fucking plot), Knights in the Nightmare (here's some ectoplasm, go nuts)

They've staged a revival of the stat-heavy PC proto-rpgs (Wizardry, Might and Magic, Bard's Tale) on the DS.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:10 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a feeling that JHarris will adore this.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:31 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


*giggles* I forgot about that video. CLASSIC
posted by effugas at 5:36 PM on October 8, 2009

Atlus makes some great games. Not my usual genre, but if I could just stop playing Trials HD for a while, I'd be tempted to give it a try.
posted by box at 5:52 PM on October 8, 2009

is this just that ghosts 'n' gobins is difficult? cos i think i already got that memo
posted by litleozy at 6:11 PM on October 8, 2009

I finally was convinced to play Nethack a couple of months ago so I'll play Demon's Soul after I ascend in Nethack.

In 2013.

Or so.
posted by vapidave at 6:45 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Jonathan Blow talked about difficulty in games design in one of his recent game conference presentation. I can't find it now, but the gist was basically that there is a problem with games that are primarily narrative in nature and focused on providing 'experiences' over creating a space to 'play' in that people who buy a story based game are more interested in consuming the story than they are in defeating the challenge of the game.

Providing any sort of genuine challenge in a narrative game is frustrating to your audience because it interferes with their primary motive for playing the game which is to experience the story -- so you have to provide only faux challenge -- an activity which consumes time, but which is not difficult -- essentially brainless gameplay.

I think Fable 2 is a prime example of that -- it's game as personality test. You can literally just push one button the entire game and follow the yellow line and make it through, and never make a game play oriented decision --- it's basically got no more gameplay than a choose your adventure book.

I note that nobody has talked about the story in this game -- I think that's actually a good sign that the designers thought this through thoroughly -- if the game had been about 'story' and was this difficult, everybody would absolutely hate it. It sounds like they focused on making the game play itself the point.
posted by empath at 7:02 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Hmm. I wonder if sandbox games, or for that matter a system like XBox 360 Achievements, provide a possible end-run around that problem. In GTAIV, for example, it's probably easier to play through the story mode than it is to complete some of the goofier side missions, let alone some of the more involved Achievements.
posted by box at 7:12 PM on October 8, 2009

I don't care to play this (my gaming time is too limited nowadays to spend on something frustrating) but the online features of this game look brilliant. From the Gamasutra article:
First of all, there's player messages. You can choose to leave a message at their feet at any point...If you're playing online a small random selection of these messages from other 'souls' will appear in your game as unobtrusive scrawls in the ground that you can read with a button press...If you like them, you can say so with a further button press. If somebody somewhere gives one of your messages the thumbs up, you get a little health back. It's nice.

...Die in Demon's Souls and the game will (unnoticeably) record your last few seconds of life and dump it in some other players' games as a blood splatter. If you walk over a splatter in your game and press a button to touch it you can watch that player's ghostly form act out the last moments of their life, which will usually hint at what killed them. Or it won't, which is always deeply unsettling. phantoms are Demon Soul's co-op. As long as there's an undefeated boss in the area you're in, through use of an item you can call for aid from a bodiless soul to help defeat it. Other players looking to get their body back can then drop into your game as phantoms, and though they can't speak or interact with your world (unable to flip switches, open doors or pick up any of your loot) they can fight and emote.

A large part of playing as a blue phantom is in guiding your partner through the world and its dangers with body language, and if the two of you manage to defeat the boss together then the phantom player gets his body back and a few souls for his trouble.

Black phantoms are great and terrible. Again, to play as one you use a specific item to drop into another player's world, except this time you're no benevolent spirit and your presence definitely isn't requested. You only ever enter the worlds of players with bodies with the mission of hunting down and killing them.
Kudos to the devs for bringing some risky, original, and very fun-sounding ideas to the multiplayer game. Too bad I'll never play it.
posted by xthlc at 7:13 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm not much of a gamer but am currently reading Anathem (finally!) and this post makes me think of this awesome line from the novel, which I just read earlier today:

"Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs. We have a protractor."

Best line, thus far.
posted by mannequito at 7:40 PM on October 8, 2009

You know, mannequito, that about sums up my exact feelings when I first ran into a few bosses in this game. "You want me to kill WHAT? With my mace? Seriously? Screw this, I'm going to go explore somewhere less intent on painting with my organs".

Also, that reminds me that I need to figure out where I set my copy down and actually start reading it again.
posted by Stunt at 8:16 PM on October 8, 2009

I really shouldn't add to the derail, but it's too tempting: I just read Anathem, and that is hands-down the best line in the book (and there are a few good ones). It also comes up again later in the story, to both comic and dramatic effect.
posted by Alterscape at 8:58 PM on October 8, 2009

Honest to God, this is the first thing that has ever made me consider buying a PS3.
posted by naju at 9:01 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Me too naju. Looks like they're about $300. For some reason i thought they were up around $600.
posted by xorry at 9:09 PM on October 8, 2009

Wait.. PS3!? Where have I been. I thought we were talking about the PS2. Man, I'm glad I didn't buy that on accident.
posted by xorry at 9:10 PM on October 8, 2009

I can't decide if I want this or not.

On the one hand, I get real frustrated at hard games. empath describes me perfectly, in that I prefer games that "[focus] on providing 'experiences' over creating a space to 'play' in that people who buy a story based game are more interested in consuming the story than they are in defeating the challenge of the game." I didn't even finish Gears of War because I couldn't get past one of the early scenes.

On the other hand, I love excellent, unique games. And by all accounts, this game sounds both excellent and unique. I love all of the multiplayer stuff they're describing. I love that it's a single-player game with weird multiplayer intrusions.

Does anybody actually have this game?
posted by Netzapper at 9:49 PM on October 8, 2009

This sounds amazing, but I won't be buying it. The idea of having to train yourself mentally and physically for an extended time to play a game, well, as much as I might enjoy it, bothers me fundamentally on some level. I think this might be part of the reason my Game Genie saw so much use and I only beat a few of my NES or Genesis games without it.
posted by Hactar at 10:17 PM on October 8, 2009

It is both excellent and unique, and hard. Honestly though? Not as hard as I expected. I think partially because I spent months reading about it and having people go on and on about how hard it was. The game so hard you're already dead on the cover! The game so hard that you take a break from it by playing Ninja Gaiden! It will kill you mercilessly nonstop and steal all your progress every time it does so!

When I finally decided I just had to try out this bizarre unique experience, I imported it (since the consensus seemed to be that it didn't look like it would ever be published in the US) and braced for the worst. The worst, however, just ended up being Atlus' announcement shortly after I bought it that they WERE going to publish it for the North American market. BLAST. The game itself WAS hard, surprisingly so at times, but because I went into it EXPECTING it to be challenging, I was in the right mindset for it. If some random game I picked up had been this hard I would have likely cursed at it and never played again.

Another huge mitigating factor (for me, at least) is the strong sense that *I* was responsible for any of my deaths in the game. Games that feel arbitrarily hard just piss me off to no end. If I keep dying and it doesn't feel like there's much I can do about it, I don't really want to play (a good friend of mine was astounded that I was importing this game given my patience level with some harder games). This one is a bit different. Once you know what you're doing and DON'T die all the time, parts can be accomplished remarkably fast. The game is designed around the idea that you WILL die a bunch, and the flow and pacing seems to fit that. I die a ton on the first level? I just keep going until, eventually, I finally unlock a shortcut that lets me quickly get back to that part of the level. FUCK YEAH, progress. Oh look, stabbed in the face by a bastard demon knight. Once I figured out the controls and stopped flailing around like a drunken puppet, things went smoother. As long as you pay attention to the the cues enemies give you (whiiiich you'll probably die a bit to learn), don't mash buttons senselessly, and just play cautiously (I'm fairly sure I ran around 99% of the time holding down the button to keep my damned shield up), you actually start to do remarkably good.

That's not to say the game hasn't pissed me off. Having an off day or already being in a bad mood caused me to get frustrated pretty quickly, and generally just walking away and playing later helped. Also, it SHOULD be pretty obvious, but alcohol + Demon's Souls is about as good of an idea as booze and vicodin, and should be avoided.

All thing considered this is actually one of my favorite games to come out in quite a long time, and probably ranks alongside LittleBigPlanet on my Games That Make Me Glad I Bought A PS3 list. It's definitely not for everyone, but if you want a dark, challenging, and unique action-rpg I cannot recommend it enough. Dozens of hours into the game you'll still be learning and discovering new things, admiring the bleak scenery, and getting stabbed in the goddamned face by a knight that can so kiss my ass it isn't even funny.
posted by Stunt at 10:21 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]

I, like Netzapper, am torn on this. I do like my story-experience games, but I also like games that keep me coming back for more. I really enjoyed Fable 2, but as noted above, it was too easy and too linear, even with the side missions. I started playing through it again to get the extra achievements, but that got boring pretty quickly. Gears of War & GOW2, on the other hand, are also very linear and story-oriented, but amping up the difficulty level does provide some replay value, but that wears off after a while. This sounds like it would be something that might give me an ulcer, but would keep me coming back for a long time. The gameplay innovations and the mood as described sound amazing, but I also know that I do not always deal well with frustration while playing video games. Of course, it depends on what kind of frustration -- when playing, for example, a fighting game against a friend, and going toe-to-toe for a few minutes only to get defeated at the last second right before I could deliver the killing blow -- that's good frustration. Dying because of a bad camera angle or wonky controls -- that's bad, and it makes me want to kill. I'll probably end up waiting for a while -- I'm still trying to finish GOW2 on Insane difficulty and am slowly playing through GTA4 every now and then, plus there are many other games I've got in my personal queue. After the dissertation, maybe.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:27 PM on October 8, 2009

Stunt, would you say the game is hard because it requires twitch reflexes, or because it requires that you know all manner of weakpoints, attack patterns, enemy placements, etc that can only be learned through trial and error?

I can't get anywhere in, for instance, Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden because I simply can't react quickly enough. Would I be screwed in Demon's Souls.
posted by Netzapper at 10:47 PM on October 8, 2009

Not SO much with the twitch reflexes. They're definitely secondary to knowledge gained through trial and error. Not that good reflexes don't help, but really the action is generally much slower paced than in those games. The only things that are immediately coming to mind relating to really rapid timing are rolling out of the way of stuff or riposting an attack. If you're going with a big heavily armored knight though, then rolling out of the way isn't the most viable option anyway, and if you're using certain types of shields you cant riposte. Both of those things I was able to learn to do with regularity after enough trial and error, and a lot of it still had to do with me just watching for cues and knowing when I had to do things.

You have to be on top of things and ready to react, but it's not a twitch fest. Even the parts that might require a bit more focus or reaction times will be the same every time, so you can learn and practice to overcome stuff. Everything becomes predictable once done enough (enemy placement, attack patterns, etc.) so just paying attention and staying calm goes a long way. Undoubtedly you'll come across parts that will be harder than others for you, and you can help mitigate that by not having much to lose right then, or not pushing too far past where you're comfortable. There are chunks of the game that I just didn't mess with for the longest time, and parts even now treat like a trip to the dentist's office.

The most likely thing to kill me (once I got past the initial learning) is complacency, not slow reaction times. Not often have I played a game so able to kill me if I turn my back on it or underestimate it.
posted by Stunt at 11:25 PM on October 8, 2009

I am so buying this game tomorrow.

I'd buy it right now, but I've had a beer, and WalMart doesn't seem to carry it.
posted by Netzapper at 11:34 PM on October 8, 2009

Ha! Just don't hate me if it crushes you mercilessly and devours your will to live. DO, however, feel free to contact me if you need any help.

I don't want my ramblings to get anyone to buy the game who might otherwise totally hate the idea, and I'm not really sure how much of the game you can really take in in a rental period. If anyone does buy it on my recommendation though, by all means harass me for help if you get too frustrated. I was just so thrilled with this game when I picked it up that I can't help but evangelize to anyone who will listen.

Actually, if there are any PS3 owning Mefites who are on the fence about this game, if you can cover shipping I can probably send you my import copy to try for a couple of weeks and make up your mind.
posted by Stunt at 11:48 PM on October 8, 2009

I'm playing it right now. It's fun, but if you mind repetition, this is not the game for you. You will have to play the exact same levels with the exact same enemies in the exact same locations many times (everything, including you, spawns in the same place each time you die) in order to find out how to kill certain bosses. Not to mention the "world tendency" events mandate level replay in order to unlock certain areas on each level that can only be entered once the world is pure white or pure black.

I'm playing online, and while my game hasn't been invaded yet, I'm not sure I'll stay online. I enjoy pvp when I"m playing people I know, but I don't like being hunted by people I don't.
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:38 AM on October 9, 2009

Also, it's worth spending 10 bucks more for the deluxe edition - the included guide, which explains the game's mechanics in much more detail than the actual game manual itself, is very helpful.
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:39 AM on October 9, 2009

The blue phantoms sound really interesting, as do the messages and the death-blood-spatters.

However, black phantoms appear to be simply tiny gods of ganking. I have zero interest in playing a game in which a stranger can enter, kick over my blocks, call me a n00b, and then run away. Because given human nature, that WILL happen anywhere it CAN happen, immediately and repeatedly.

How much of the Black Phantoms' danger is skill-related and how much is item/buff/cheat/whatever powered? Random high-level assholes ganking in lowbie questing areas is why I stopped playing WoW (and having resumed out of boredom, play strictly on non-PvP servers.)
posted by Scattercat at 4:20 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Scattercat, did you read the link longdaysjourney included?

Personally, it sounds awesome. I can imagine having a lot of fun as both the hunter and the hunted. And they can't call you a n00b: there's absolutely no communication between you and phantoms (of either color).

I'd also be willing to bet, in a game as finely crafted as this one sounds, that the levels of the phantom and the invaded player are matched closely. A more skilled player might gank you, but probably not a higher-level character. Here's the wiki blurb on Black Phantoms. There seem to be definite penalties for failure as well.

[Folks who have the game should feel free to correct me.]
posted by Netzapper at 5:23 AM on October 9, 2009

I have this game, and have played three sessions with it of about an hour each so far. If you're on the fence about purchasing it, maybe I can alleviate some concerns. Other players can correct me on some of my facts if I'm wrong.

--I'm finding the game challenging, but not unfairly hard. (I'm not a world-class gamer, but I haven't actually died yet in the first level of the game, though I'm moving through it very slowly when compared to my rate of progress with other games. So after three hours I'm still wandering around the first level, but I'm having a good time, and I'm in no hurry. And I'm sure that a death is on its way, with many more to follow.) In my opinion the beginning of Demon's Souls is easier than, say, the first stage of Ikaruga, or the first stage of Viewtiful Joe, or even the area early on in Resident Evil 4 where the Ganados are having their town meeting. Except for parrying and riposting (which I'm not yet good at), this isn't twitch gaming, and I'm getting by fine without parrying at the moment.

--Speaking of Resident Evil 4: using survival horror strategies for this game helps a lot. This is also an RPG that, for once, encourages actual role-playing: the world is detailed enough so that instead of thinking "How can I win this game?" it's better to think, "I'm in a castle full of demons that want to kill me--what should I do?" Many mistakes can be avoided simply by treating Demon's Souls like it's not Diablo II. Walk from one place to another instead of running; keep your shield up when entering a dark room; use the proper weapon for your circumstance; listen to directional sound cues if you have a 5.1 setup. The game rewards caution.

--Playing online is easier than playing offline, due to the messages that other players leave behind, as well as the bloodstains. (Those mechanics are described in the Gamasutra article, which xthlc quoted above.) If you see a door you haven't yet entered, and there's darkness beyond it, and there's a bloodstain in front of the door, then touching the bloodstain will replay the last ten seconds of another player's life, giving you a primer on what strategy not to use. Players can also leave messages on the ground, and those messages receive a score that represents the total number of times the message has been recommended by other players. If you see a message on the floor in front of you that says "A trap is near," and that message has a score of 65, then you can be damn sure that a trap is near. Messages and bloodstains have saved me from a number of deaths that I would have easily walked into if I'd been playing offline.

--The Black Phantoms aren't as unfair as they might seem (though I haven't encountered one yet). A detailed discussion of the mechanics that govern player intrusions into other games is outside the scope of this post, but the thing to know is that a Black Phantom can only invade the game of a player who's within 10 levels of the invader (the level cap for the game is 712--that's not a typo). Also, because of the game's rules, it's not that often that your game state will even have the properties that will allow invasion; moreover, if a Phantom does invade, you're going to have more hit points than it does (possibly twice the HP, if the Phantom isn't wearing a certain ring). So with respect to stats it should be a fairly even matchup, not a matter of uber-players slaying newbies.

In short, the game's hard because you can't storm through it by button mashing, not because it's unfair. And progress is so hard-earned that even a little thing like finding a ring gives you the feeling you'd get from killing a boss in most other games. (Last night when playing, I said "Hell yeah!" after just pulling a lever to open a door.) Since it's not narrative-driven--the plot could fit on a Post-it note--I don't feel compelled to tear through it to see what happens next: I'm just sort of wandering around this world, looking at things, slaying monsters now and again, and finding surprises. For a game that's so intense, it's also strangely mellow.

Finally--I recommend getting the deluxe edition, because the 160-page guide that comes with it has some material that would, in an earlier age of gaming, rightly belong in a manual--charts that assist with character builds, stats for weapons, and so on. And also, because this is an Atlus game, don't delay your purchase too much if you're going to get this. Atlus's games often get small print runs, and I wouldn't be surprised if the deluxe edition is gone from shelves by the end of the year.
posted by Prospero at 5:24 AM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

P.S. One more thing about Black Phantoms--they can't take your items. As I understand it, the penalty for being slain by a Black Phantom is the same as it is if you're slain by a computer-controlled enemy in your own game.
posted by Prospero at 5:33 AM on October 9, 2009

However, black phantoms appear to be simply tiny gods of ganking. I have zero interest in playing a game in which a stranger can enter, kick over my blocks, call me a n00b, and then run away.

oh damn, i needed to laugh like that. Thanks!
posted by rhythim at 6:18 AM on October 9, 2009

The game is a blend of both symmetrical and asymmetrical multiplayer experiences. The most common is ambient in nature: you can leave messages on the gameworld, which populate other people's games. They're made with a built-in lexicon, and usually take the form of hints (or even misinformation) about a given area. They're also moderated by players. If a player upvotes your message, you return to full health. Can we agree that this is bizarre? But deeply, incontrovertibly interesting?

Yes. Yes we can.
posted by The Whelk at 6:37 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I got a PS3 yesterday and am looking forward to the European release of this title. I am not a glutton for punishment, so we'll see how it goes. I think the thoroughly fascinating multiplayer/online components makes this more interesting than most titles.

I gave up on Street Fighter 4 pretty sharpish after I realised that the game actually doesn't like me and doesn't really want me to get better at playing it.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:28 AM on October 9, 2009

However, black phantoms appear to be simply tiny gods of ganking. I have zero interest in playing a game in which a stranger can enter, kick over my blocks, call me a n00b, and then run away. Because given human nature, that WILL happen anywhere it CAN happen, immediately and repeatedly.

I'm of the "get off my lawn" school as well when it comes to non-friends PVP. I wish there was a way to limit Black or Blue Phantoms to people on your PS3 friends list. One of the things I really dislike about the Black Phantoms is that can they not only fight you, they can fight other non-boss enemies in your game. This means that they can change the World Tendency of your game (as well as prevent you from killing those enemies that only appear when the WT is either pure black or pure white). The ability of a non-friends list invader to interfere with my single-player experience to such a degree is a big negative for me.

That said, I will probably stay online for at least one of my runs through the game, since the messages and bloodstains are fun.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2009

The black phantom thing certainly has the potential to be ridiculous, but since you can only be invaded while you are in your living form I found it happening VERY rarely to me on my first run through. One death and I was immune to being invaded until after I had beaten the next boss. That added another layer of tension to things as well, and actually made me relax significantly once I HAD actually died. It is an interesting and kind of pleasant experience for me, actually. The frustrating part for me came in the form of latency issues due to me playing on chinese servers. No amount of strategy helps if your swings never seem to connect and you can be backstabbed when your opponent appeared to be standing in front of you.

Also, when I was in the level range where I found myself frequently getting invaded while I was alive, I ALSO seemed to find plenty of players scattering their little "hey, help me out, take me with you!" stones in the front of the level. I found that nothing helped out with a black phantom dead set on stealing my body quite like having a few blue phantom buddies jogging alongside me.

Of course playing disconnected from the playstation network is always an option, and one that got chosen every now and then when interruptions would not be welcome (I'll be damned if I'm going to spend fifteen minutes hurling arrows at a dragon from a tower just to get facestabbed right before I finish).

Oh, and you CAN always just do what my friend did when he got invaded, and flip off the router. Take THAT, black phantom! How do YOU like inopportune network errors? UNNGH.
posted by Stunt at 12:44 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pope Guilty: "I have a feeling that JHarris will adore this."

I might well, but not just because of its difficulty. Difficulty doesn't make a game fun; often it does just the opposite. There are plenty of hard games that I have no time for. But ideas like the blue and black phantoms, the blood spatters, the leaving of messages for other players, those exactly the kinds of ideas that I like to see in games, and the kinds of things we need to see to get commercial game design out of this horrible rut it seems to be stuck in. Maybe not all of its new ideas work completely, but at least they're new. There is a debilitating lack of new in game design. I find this infuriating.

Game designers, if they're actually allowed by their masters to design something new, seem paralyzed. They refuse to design anything that might be seen by someone, somewhere, as bad. Maybe there is some reason for this; no one in this world is so sure that they can see where a game is stupid than a player, who, since nearly all computer games rely on limited information, is usually in a poor position to judge. I have seen many players abandon games they they considered to be stupid, when in fact they just approached it with the wrong frame of mind or a closed one, with preconceived notions that limited their ability to enjoy a game. In fact, there are a lot more good games out there than you'd think, but many of them are still unoriginal and by-the-numbers, and that I cannot stand.
posted by JHarris at 1:53 AM on October 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

Gamespot video review. I think this looks awesome.
posted by joedan at 7:44 AM on October 10, 2009

So I DID end up buying a PS3 just to play this game (OK, and Last Guardian... but mostly this). So far it's well worth it.

The things that stand out for me are:

1) The designers don't care whether I'm happy. It's not that they're overly sadistic, it's just that they have an unflinching purpose, a specific series of feelings they want to extract from you (I think it's fear, panic, near-hopelessness, overwhelming triumph, in that order), and your happiness at any given moment simply doesn't factor in.

2) The designers are smarter than I am. They've thought long and hard about the most minute details here, and don't care much for whether their ideas are safe or marketable. If I question their decisions (I can't pause to take a leak? I just lost an hour of progress?) sooner or later it becomes apparent how brilliant the ramifications are. I care deeply about whether I die. I've become deeply invested in my character and his situation in ways I haven't felt since, like, the NES days when there were 3 lives and no continues.

Bravo, From Software and Atlus.
posted by naju at 9:35 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

very interesting game, if i had the time i'd consider buying a ps3 for this.
posted by jcruelty at 6:59 PM on October 10, 2009

Oh, and you CAN always just do what my friend did when he got invaded, and flip off the router. Take THAT, black phantom! How do YOU like inopportune network errors? UNNGH.

I lost internet for a moment earlier... instantly, the game stopping and quit.

Is this a difference in Western and Eastern releases? Or was your friend simply willing to accept that inconvenience if it meant not fighting the phantom?
posted by Netzapper at 1:27 AM on October 11, 2009

The way you describe it, naju, reminds me of Nethack.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:04 AM on October 11, 2009

He pretty much just put up with it a few times to avoid a phantom. Anytime you're playing in online mode a disconnect will boot you, where you can then either reconnect or decide to start the game in offline mode.
posted by Stunt at 12:03 PM on October 11, 2009

Apparently there is not going to be a European release for Demon's Souls, so looks like I'll be importing it from America.
posted by slimepuppy at 10:03 AM on October 14, 2009

So after about six hours I finally beat the first boss of the game, having only died twice in the process (once by stumbling off a ledge and falling into a pit of enemies that tore me apart in seconds; once by attempting to deal with a horde of enemies that were backed up by a dragon. I recovered my souls both times--yay). And I got a bronze trophy that makes a joke out of the whole trophy system, since I worked harder to get that single trophy than I did to beat the last game I played (Katamari Forever) in its entirety.

Now that the rest of the game's options have opened up and I can see the leaderboards (though I guess I could have seen them before if I'd thought to climb up to that part of the Nexus), the numbers that other players are registering are pretty interesting. It looks like players are taking about 40 hours to finish on average, which struck me as low--given what I believe to be the size of the game, I'm expecting to spend somewhere between 60-70 hours on my first playthrough, but then again, I'm a slow, cautious player, and I like exploring secluded areas and so on. There's no hurry.

If I can't beat other players in a speed run, perhaps I can keep my deaths low. We'll see. At any rate, it's great fun, and I won't feel the need to buy any new games for a while.
posted by Prospero at 3:34 PM on October 14, 2009

The guys on the soon to be over Idle Thumbs were raving about this. They echoed Prospero's comment: I'm finding the game challenging, but not unfairly hard. Basically saying that you always understand why you died. And that it's your fault. You never feel like the game's just murdering you arbitrarily. I'd be interested to try this I haven't played a game that made me feel that has made me step up my skills recently.
posted by edbles at 1:05 PM on November 6, 2009

« Older Get a dog, save on your taxes?   |   "In America, it would be like 'Hey, Hey, There's... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments