Long have the cacophonous cries for a remake of FromSoftware’s PlayStation 3 cult hit Demon’s Souls reverberated through the Internet. Those wishes were undoubtedly amplified after the game’s servers were shut down back in 2018, turning a once-bustling bastion of experimental online interactions into just another single player action RPG – albeit a very good one.
The original Demon’s Souls could no longer be experienced as its creators intended, and many had since lost hope that it ever could. Who better to answer the prayers of Demon’s Souls hopefuls than Bluepoint Games after its pitch-perfect performance with 2018’s Shadow of the Colossus. In collaboration with Sony’s Japan Studio, Bluepoint has carefully recreated Demon’s Souls with a deft hand for detail, and it’s made a Demon’s Souls that’s just as fantastic as the original – and even a bit better.
Changes have been made to the visuals, vocal performances, cutscenes, animations, and user interface – but this is still very much the same Demon’s Souls. You’ll create a character, pick a class, play through a series of stages, and die a bunch. Enemies behave exactly as they used to, useful items still sit in precisely the same locations, and the game’s slightly convoluted Tendency systems remain untouched. There’s no radical reinvention here, and this game is all the better for it.
The lack of systemic changes serves to make this an excellent experience for both newcomers and veterans; fresh eyes will be able to appreciate and witness the raw vision of the original Demon’s Souls brought into the modern age, while veterans will pick up on the tiniest of consistencies that show how committed Bluepoint must’ve been to ensuring that FromSoftware’s original creative vision went unaltered. The attention to detail is staggering.
That meticulousness carries through to the new things, too, most notably in the visuals. You probably don’t need us to tell you, but we will anyway – this game looks fantastic. From the shimmering particle effects around magic attacks to the glossy stones in the game’s murky depths, Demon’s Souls is extraordinarily easy on the eyes and that’s regardless of whether you play in cinematic or performance mode. We preferred the enhanced smoothness that comes with the performance mode, but the full-on 4k resolution of the cinematic alternative is crazy good-looking and makes for a great way to show friends how good the new current gen looks.
Your eyes may be in for a treat here, but it’s worth knowing that your ears are, too. The new soundtrack is so tremendously good. The orchestral score is suitably grand and complements the big boss fights beautifully. It does wonders for the game’s tone and helps to make everything feel far more significant in a way that the original’s more manufactured-sounding score probably wanted to but couldn’t quite pull off with its limited budget. This is the soundtrack that Demon’s Souls deserves.
Whenever there isn’t music playing, the environments in Demon’s Souls utilise soundscapes to establish a tangible atmosphere around the player – and they’re equally excellent. Whether it’s the screeches of flying enemies overhead or eerie rumbles off in the distance, the sound design in Demon’s Souls burrows into your brain and makes it known how oppressive and hostile its world is. The new 3D audio also makes for thrilling near-misses as you dodge an arrow that sounded so close to your ear that you could almost swear you felt it whizz by.
However, there is one area whose sound effects we feel took a step backwards in this remake. The prison in the Tower of Latria was a feast for the ears in the 2009 original with its dimly lit halls being filled with a haunting song coming from a mysterious source and dangerous cthulhu-like guards ringing their bells as a constant reminder that they’re roaming the halls. In this remake, the song will awkwardly cut out immediately as you enter certain doorways, and the bells barely ring let alone echo throughout the halls as a constant reminder of the dangerous enemies wielding them that are lying in wait. Every single one of the game’s other areas sound phenomenal though, we were just a bit disappointed that the stage we felt sounded the best back then didn’t quite deliver on the promise of the original.
Now that we’ve gotten the nitpicking going, we should probably also bring up the fact that we’re not big fans of the new UI. It works and it’s extremely usable, but it’s a bit bare-looking. The original’s menu system was a nightmare that could still prove difficult to navigate after hours of play, but it was form over function. The boxes had small flourishes around their edges and the menu bars and icons had a personality to them that felt unabashedly stylistic. That’s all been tossed to the wayside for straight lines and plain rectangles. Like we said, we’re just nit-picking here, but it’s unfortunate that the developer couldn’t reach a happy medium or at least bring over some of that personality from the original.
Nitpicks aside, Demon’s Souls is still superb. Its variety of ravaged environments, top-notch action RPG combat system, and ridiculous fidelity while running this well make it just as much a marvel in 2020 as the original was in 2009. The small additions like useful new items and the mirrored fractured mode freshen things up for those diving back in for their dozenth playthrough, while quality of life improvements like drastically reduced loading times and better inventory management serve to strip away the annoyances and get back to the good stuff. And Demon’s Souls is stuffed full of really good stuff.
Teensy quibbles aside, it’s difficult to imagine how this Demon’s Souls remake could be any better. It looks great, it sounds amazing, and it’s extremely respectful of the PS3 original, which has aged surprisingly well after all these years. This is an exceptional remake, and it’s exactly what Demon’s Souls deserves.