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You would think after spending a goodly amount of my valuable time on the follow up to this game I'd buy the original at a later date (yes, I know most people would play the original before the sequel but hey, I like to be different!). Alas, I spotted this at £11.99 on a one day special on Play.com and thought, hmm, why not. This is only available for the PS3 as far as I'm aware and the version I purchased is the standard one. There is a limited edition game available but I do tend to find these limited editions rather gimmicky to be honest. Anyway, back to the game. I have been playing this for a good few hours so I've got a pretty good insight to what is going on. Again, you can feel the Kingsfield ancestry rattling through the game's bones and it is a wonderfully crafted world you'll be exploring. I must admit, I was quite chuffed with myself for staying alive through the tutorial level until I met some overinflated bag of flesh called the Vanguard who took great delight in swatting me with some giant club. There are a host of different characters you can choose to be from barbarians, mages, royalty and so forth. I decided to select the thief who comes armed with a dagger and a bow with too few arrows. It was the first time I'd been reduced to a bloody pile of mush and certainly not the last. Yes, you will die, again and again. Unlike Dark Souls, when you die you are taken to a type of limbo known as the Nexus. Oh, and you also lose a big rack of hit points just to make things even easier for you which can only be returned once you defeat the big bad boss who has took possession of your soul. The Nexus is a place where you can talk to certain NPC's as well as drop off excess baggage and purchase weapon upgrades, medicinal materials and so forth. You can also level up but not until you've taken care an outstanding task which is a real pain. The first few enemies are a breeze but it isn't long before you find yourself outnumbered and outmatched. There's a particularly evil knight with red eyes who seems to take great delight in skewering me at the end of a polearm but I will find a way to bump him off. You've also got to be aware of a slew of insidious traps ranging from giant stone balls running you over to fire breathing dragons who enjoy the taste of fresh roasted daft adventurers. Like Dark Souls you leave a bloodied pile behind when you die along with any souls you would have collected. Souls are the currency in this game and if you've been saving for that extra special plate mail chestplate you'd best not make a mistake in trying to retrieve it. For, if you die before regaining your souls then I'm afraid it's a case of tough luck, they're gone for good. Eventually after quite a few trials and tribulations I managed to stumble across the first big bad boss. The dreaded wall of fog warns you of his approach and it wasn't long before I was sent back to the Nexus after being at the wrong end of a spear attack. Sigh, bang went my souls and most of my healing, so I had to knuckle down and try again. I soon fathomed out a weakness and also a rather annoying foible. On the controller, you can highlight the character you want to attack and I manoeuvred myself into position to deliver a blow to a beastie's back only for the target to switch to another. This meant I was flailing mindlessly in mid air whilst being royally skewered. In a strange way, this adds to the charm though. You learn to adapt and when the giant tumbles you feel very pleased and even more relieved that you wont have to go through it all over again. There is an online option but as before I haven't explored this yet. What puts me off to be honest is that you can be invaded by hostile adventurers and whilst I appreciate a lot of people enjoy that I much prefer the co-operative approach. However, that's my own personal take and the online approach has been highly vaunted within the gaming fraternity. In short, a tough rewarding game which isn't quite as good as the follow up (well, it shouldn't be really should it) but still a damn rewarding if sometimes frustrating experience. Most certainly recommended and you will spend hours on it if you get hooked.
The hack and slash genre has never really appealed to me, usually combined with some RPG levelling up I barely give it a glance but I saw Demon Souls on the shelf and couldn't help but a take a look. At first glance it looks like your run of the mill hack and slash action adventure game but that is where the similarity ends. As expected, the game's intro tutorial shows you the controls and general ropes; how to walk, run, roll, attack and use magic. Kill a few enemies and you feel quite good. 10 minutes later (still in the tutorial I might add) and you face a boss monster who will (unless you can master the game within this 10 minute period) kill you in one hit. This is the biggest draw of the game, the difficulty. Most average gamers will hate the punishing difficulty, but for me, this challenge posed the biggest draw for me to carry on. Demon Souls uses a soul system, souls obtained from eliminated creatures as the contraband for increasing your stats. This is simple enough and sounds very menial, in fact there is a degree of level grinding to bulk you character. The twist is that if you die, you drop all your souls. That's right, all of them. There is no bank system, so if you farm 20,000 souls and die, you drop them. They can be retrieved by returning to the sop you died and picking them up, but die again and you can wave goodbye to your hard work. This harsh penalisation for death and the enemies ability to kill you in 2 or 3 hits means you really play a clever game, blocking, parrying and using magic as the situation requires. No charging into 3 enemies with swords swinging, that just doesn't work. This makes the entire game intensely rewarding, even if you just kill a few mid-range monsters. The sense of satisfaction is great knowing how easy it is to die, but also knowing how good you made that look! If you die, you are returned to a central area where you can get items or return to the fight. Once in the game you can't lose as such, you just keep retrying until you complete an area and kill the boss. Even past this, you can go back and farm souls to help buff your character. The controls are simple and rewarding. The satisfaction of a parried attack followed by your swift and deadly counter will raise a smile every time. The magic is easy to use and the two hander wielding mixes things up. The story is not overwhelming but keeps the game rolling, the gameplay really does make up for this. The levelling up is simple and works. You can see the advantages of upping your magic stats or increasing your strength. The levels are well designed and atmospheric, though a little linear at times, but this has to be expected for this genre. Overall, the game is fantastic, and for the more determined gamer, offers a real challenge or both patience and ability, don't miss it. For the more casual gamer, still a great buy but be prepared for a little rage quitting!