Demon’s Souls PS5 review. When Bluepoint Games said back in 2019 that its next title would be its most ambitious, they really weren’t lying. Pulled from the depths of PlayStation’s third home console generation, FromSoftware’s Demon’s Souls was the game that indisputably kicked off a revolution in the action RPG genre and now here it is, eleven years later remade from the ground up for PlayStation 5.
Demon’s Souls PS5 Review
A Rejuvenated Masterpiece That Soars As One Of The Best PlayStation Games Ever, At Launch Or Otherwise
Of course, the challenge with any remake is that you run the risk of potentially losing or diluting the essence which made the original so preciously great in the first place. Though remake virtuosos Bluepoint Games have more than cemented their own reputation with its fantastic remake of PS2 Team Ico classic Shadow of the Colossus, something like Demon’s Souls is a whole kettle of fish – a call back to the developer’s own modesty in acknowledging the project as by far its most ambitious to date.
The first Souls title to be fully developed by a western team, it’s entirely understandable that some fans would feel trepidatious about what Bluepoint Games has wrought here – but you needn’t have worried. The absolute crowning jewel of the PlayStation 5 launch line-up, Demon’s Souls gets so much right and nails so much *perfectly*, that it’s frankly ridiculous.
After an especially bombastic and epic introduction that frames the fringes of the Demon’s Souls narrative with newfound vigor and verve, the character creation side of things opens up and it’s here, before you even take your first step into the foreboding realm of Boletaria proper, that the enormity of what Bluepoint Games has achieved starts to take hold.
Though all the usual options are available, including broad body type selections in addition to more nuanced design work such as tattoos, scars, eye colors and other incidental detail, Demon’s Souls character creation is the first exposure that players will have to the grand miracle that Bluepoint Games has worked, clearly showing the extent of the transformative visual upgrade that Demon’s Souls on PS5 boasts over the PS3 original.
Skin is now pockmarked with imperfections. Individual and detailed stitching can be made out on robes. Armour glistens as light strikes metal and leather straps exude ultra-fine texturing that makes them look authentic in a way that such materials just haven’t looked before. These are quite simply the best character models ever glimpsed in a Souls title.
Once you’ve generated your character and taken your first steps into Boletaria it then becomes clear that sheer scope of Bluepoint Games visual talents is far beyond anything we’ve previously seen. I found myself frequently marvelling, slack-jawed, at what the Texan based studio has been able to achieve across a near infinite scale of spectacle.
From just watching the lazy sway of ivy bound foliage which has draped itself over a wall, to silently screaming at the terrifying incendiary apocalypse of a crimson Boletarian Dragon setting ablaze some castle ramparts (and everyone on it) in the Lord’s Path, through to the subtle, moody lighting which follows the shuffling gait of the Cthuluian looking jailers in the Prison of Hope, Demon’s Souls is one of the most gorgeous, detail stuffed games I have ever seen.
There’s just so much going on here in a technical sense that it borders on sensory overload. Every single step you take and just about every camera angle is absolute screen capture bait. Though this might be something of a dramatic platitude, it holds true all the same. This is Hidetaka Miyazaki’s magnum opus reimagined in a level of fidelity that many of us have only dreamt of until now.
In the run up to the release of Demon’s Souls much has understandably been made of the two very different visual presets that Bluepoint Games offers in the game, and the difference is absolutely stark. With the cinematic setting, ultra high quality detail is applied to everything with much more detailed textures, better lighting, superior shadowing and of course, a sizable bump in native resolution. The trade off? The framerate locks at 30 frames per second.
Now of course, if you’ve played Demon’s Souls on the PlayStation 3 back in the day, a 30 frames per second lock might well suit you fine as Sony’s third-generation home console would often aim for that target but usually fall short. The fly in the ointment here however, is that we’ve had Dark Souls Remastered spoiling us in the interim and now we know what a massive difference having 60 frames per second in a Souls title can make.
And this is where the performance preset comes in. Once activated, the framerate shoots up to a liquid smooth 60 frames per second and immediately Demon’s Souls not only looks more fluid but becomes much more responsive too and thus, much more satisfying to play. Split-second evasion rolls can now be executed with ease and ripostes all of sudden become much more achievable than they ever were at 30 frames per second.
Happily, I can also report that the trade off in visuals is not anything close to severe either. In performance mode, Demon’s Souls still looks absolutely stunning and rife with all of those small incidental and yet massively pleasing details that I mentioned earlier in this review. So to me at least, this makes the choice of performance mode over its cinematic counterpart an easy one. Trust me, once you see Demon’s Souls running at 60 frames per second, you won’t be able to go back. Not now, not ever.
Further afield, the PS5’s lightning quick SSD also means that loading times are extremely fast – getting you back into the fight after an untimely death quicker than ever before. This is something that cannot be understated really, as the lengthy load times between deaths and even between areas in the PS3 original could sometimes prove sufficient enough a barrier to prevent an immediate replay of a particularly challenging area. Not here though – the only barrier is your mental fortitude and ability to take punishment, learn and then adapt. As it should be.
Staying on the technical side of things, the DualSense wireless controller is used in satisfying, if not unexpected ways too. With a staunch focus on the haptic feedback capabilities of Sony’s next-generation controller, Bluepoint Games have been able to strengthen the link between the player and the realm of Boletaria, making you feel every successful melee attack, every spell thrown and every blow absorbed.
Put simply, when the Tower Knight slams down his gargantuan, cinema-screen sized shield in front of your face, you’ll feel it, you’ll love it and then you might relieve yourself in the process too.
As to the actual guts of Demon’s Souls, Bluepoint Games has thankfully opted to enhance rather than eschew what Miyazaki and his team created back in 2009. Indeed, Bluepoint Games’ own reluctance to create a sixth Archstone is testament to its humility and respect for the original work and that level of deep regard for Miyazaki’s work extends throughout the core of this remake too.
As the architect of the Souls formula that not only other games would follow but which FromSoftware would iterate on themselves in the years to come after Demon’s Souls original release, Bluepoint Games remake steadfastly embraces the essence of the game which kicked off an entire subgenre. Broadly, the premise is to unseat the corruption which has invaded the kingdom of Boletaria by working your way through five very different worlds as you learn enemy patterns, adapt your class and style of play to fit and finally, uncover well hidden secrets to bolster your prospects further.
With minimal hand-holding beyond the initial control tutorial at the very beginning of the game, everything that happens in Demon’s Souls feels precision engineered to surprise and delight. Whether that’s the discovery of some hidden secret loot, or the cathartic, fist-pumping defeat of a boss that you previously spent tens of lives trying to overcome, Demon’s Souls boasts rewarding satisfaction by the truckload and it feels great.
Though the difficulty of Demon’s Souls, while not quite as onerous as that glimpsed in the Dark Souls games, still remains substantially challenging, it makes for a masterclass in gamifying the archetypal risk/reward dynamic that further contributes to that feeling of great satisfaction. Do you cautiously farm an area for souls in a bid to slowly upgrade yourself, or do you push your luck like a win-intoxicated gambler, carving your way through an area until you hit a brick wall of opposition that murders you a single strike?
And it’s this level of challenge, coupled with the emergent possibilities afforded by how it permits players to face up to its many challenges that has made FromSoftware’s defining title age so very well over this past decade. Demon’s Souls has always been about players pushing the possibilities and boundaries of their own capability and in 2020, despite the introduction of high-end SSDs, fancy RDNA 2 architectures and all that other jazz, that fact has not changed one bit.
That said though, if Demon’s Souls game length of between 50-60 hours isn’t enough for you, Bluepoint Games have thrown in the new ‘fractured mode’, which is exclusive to this version of the game. Here, after paying a sacrifice of some 25,000 souls (not a paltry sum, I’ll say), a version of Boletaria emerges in which the player tackles its numerous worlds and areas in reverse and can even pay to have a seperate version of their own character exist in this mirror world, too. Sure, it’s more of an eye-brow raising distraction than anything, but veteran players will surely appreciate this additional fresh take on a world they have loved for so long.
A fact that is often overlooked is that despite its high difficulty relative to other games that exist in the Souls series, Demon’s Souls is actually at its heart, extremely welcoming to those folks who have yet to sample its myriad of delights. Nowhere is this concession to accessibility and easing of the usual brutal difficulty that we’ve come to associate with the Souls games better enshrined than in the Nexus hub area.
Marking a noted departure from the Dark Souls games that would follow, the Nexus hub area in Demon’s Souls allows players to dip into each of the five worlds (via a series of archstones) and their subareas from a central point. By presenting and essentially dividing up the game in this way, Demon’s Souls becomes a much more digestible proposition than any of its successors, though fans of the Dark Souls titles may well bemoan the lack of a single, massively connected world in this regard.
In terms of making Demon’s Souls seem far less like an indomitable task, the PlayStation 5’s Activities functionality also does some fine work here too. By aiding the break up of Demon’s Souls otherwise monolithic offering into more easily consumed morsels on a per boss and event basis, PlayStation 5’s Activities function ends up giving rise, somewhat ironically, to the notion of Demon’s Souls as the sort of game that you can hop in and out of for a brief spell and still manage to accomplish a great deal. Who’d have thought it?
In this sense then, Demon’s Souls surely looks set to repeat history once more, ushering in an entirely new generation of gamers into its fold and reigniting the bonfire of inspiration that defined a decade of action RPGs. Easily the best launch title to ever grace a PlayStation console and equally one of the best launch titles on any system, Demon’s Souls soars as the quintessential next-generation PlayStation exclusive. That’s gotta be worth a ten right? Well yeah, it is.
Demon’s Souls is out now for PlayStation 5.
Review code kindly provided by Sony UK.