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Demon's Souls

Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Fri, 02 Jul 2010
Subject: Now Playing

Ste Pickford

I got myself a PS3 a few months back, mainly to check out some of the downloadable games available on PSN (which seem to be a lot more interesting than what's available on Xbox Live Arcade). I've enjoyed PixelJunk Shooter, but the PS3 mostly refuses to connect wirelessly to my network for more than a few minutes at a time (it's only 5 meters away from the router), so even connecting to the PSN store to buy and download games is proving problematic. (I bought Joe Danger a couple of weeks ago, but it was over a day of network frustration before I managed to actually download the game and start playing it.)

The PS3 was turning into an expensive, dust-gathering DVD player, until last week when a friend lent me his copy of Demon's Souls. "Keep it as long as you like," he said, "I've already had way over 100 hours play out of it myself."

Hmm. I was a bit worried as I'd heard how painfully, unforgivably difficult it was, and I'm not really into difficult games. I was intrigued, but I expected to hate it.

Sure enough, an hour in, and I hated it. I wandered through a castle, got killed by baddies jumping out of the shadows, died, fought my way back to the same point, recovered my soul, and died at the next ambush. I must have fought my way through the first section of castle about 40 times, sometimes getting a bit further, sometimes not, dying over and over again without any feeling of progress. Was I really expected to memorise the whole game? Why wasn't I levelling up or getting stronger? Was the whole game one long snide memory test.

I was close to giving up, but I had a flick through the Guidebook that came with the Special Edition I'd been lent. OK, there's a shortcut that I almost stumbled across myself, but I'd ran the wrong way and died. Go down that tower, pull a lever, and it permantly opens a locked door near the start. Right, now there's some progress. An hour later and I'd opened the doorway to the first boss. Even if I died, I could get straight to the boss now, so I could relax a bit. Here we go! Boss dead first time. Woo hoo! Heh, this is easy!

Only then does the game begin proper, and I can start to level up my character. Ah, that's what those souls are for! Doh, I've lost thousands of them by dying on the way to find a bloodstain. Right, I get it.

The game has totally clicked with me now, and I'm loving it. It's brutal and unforgiving in its strucuture, but I'm not sure it's correct to describe it as hard. Not so far anyway. I've killed a big dragon and another boss, and they weren't anything like the hardest bosses I've ever fought. It's just that the game demands that you die a lot, and you potentially lose all your cash if you can't recover your bloodstain. That's OK with me, it reminds me of the time I spent playing Everquest (which was much worse, as you left all your equipment on your corpse when you died, making fighting your way back very problematic). In fact, the game feels a lot like a single player MMO, if that makes sense. I wonder if the project started life as an MMO? It's certainly very odd that the game has no pause, even in offline mode. The online side of the game seems like it has all the features of an MMO, but maybe they made the game into more of a single player experience relatively late in the project? I haven't been able to play in online mode very much as currently a PS3 system update is required, and the PS3 won't stay connected to the network for long enough to download it!

For me, this is the game that Ico and Shadow of the Colossus promised, but didn't actually deliver. It has all the atmosphere of those games, but with an interesting and playable game included in the deal. I hope it doesn't suddenly get harder now, as I can see myself playing this for a long time.


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I think I got as far as you did in the first hour then just gave up out of frsutration!


Ste Pickford

You're just about to hit the good bit!


If you donĀ“t like difficult games, why did you make Plok in the first place?

It surely is one of the most difficult (and best!) games I ever played!

By the way, what was the hardest game you ever played through?


Ste Pickford

Hah, good question. I think it's taken us a long time to realise that we don't like difficult games. Back in the 80s and 90s we just made game difficult automatically, without really thinking about it, as we were sort of copying coin-ops, which were difficult in order to kick you off and get someone else to pay to play another game.

With Plok we actually had some conflict within the team over exactly how difficult the game was, with John and I pushing to make it easier, and the level designer pushing to make it harder, although it was our (wrong) decision not to have any password / restart points.

I probably played loads of insanely hard games to the end on the ZX Spectrum, but wouldn't have the patience these days.


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