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Old 06-22-2009, 07:21 PM
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Adam Adam is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Indianapolis, IN, USA
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Default Re: Video Games - Watcha playin'?

A couple months back, I read about a game called Demon's Souls* that was supposed to be fantastic but not available in the US, so on a whim I ordered it from an overseas distributor. I have no idea why the Asia region version of the game is in English (so is the Korean one...the Japanese version is in Japanese), but I'm not going to complain. I promptly forgot about it, until last week, when two things happened. On Tuesday, I read an article on a gaming blog that claimed that Demon's Souls will be available in the US sometime this year. On Wednesday, the copy I ordered back in April finally showed up.

The best way I can think of to describe it in terms of other recent games is that it's sort of like what fable would be, if it were set in a grim demon haunted world, and if it were punishingly difficult. It's an old school action-RPG dungeon crawler, and it's damned awesome. What do I mean by old school? Well, back when I was a kid, before gay marriage and global warming had rotted away all our moral fiber, we used to have a thing called Nintendo Hard. Recently, the trend among game designers is that a game is meant to be experienced, and players should always be able to see all the content you've created. Everyone is supposed to beat every game, and playing a game is not supposed to be frustrating. Old school game design wasn't like that. Old school game designers were angry gods and we, the players, were sinners. If we failed to perfectly execute half a dozen consecutive wall jumps through gunfire while tossing shuriken with pinpoint accuracy at the homicidal eagles that, for some reason, menaced ninja in New York, then we were bad gamers and our punishment was to spend twenty minutes reclearing that level so we could be allowed another shot at it. Demon's Souls is like that.

There's a back story about how blah blah, Good King Whoever awakened the slumbering Old One and yadda yadda the kingdom is full of evil fog and etc etc insane monsters and so forth. The specifics of Generic Fantasy Plotline #78 don't matter much. What at you need to know is this: the world is a grim, dangerous place, nearly everyone in it is a homicidal maniac, and you are going to spend a lot of time experiencing just how grim, dangerous, and homicidal it can be. There's a tutorial level. You will die while playing the tutorial level. This serves the dual purposes of, first, getting you accustomed to dying, since you're going to be doing it all the damned time, and, second, introducing you to Soul Form, which is how you're going to be spending most of the game. Soul Form is the game's cute little way of reminding you how badly you suck. You start the game as a living person. When you die, an NPC** in the Nexus (blah blah archstones that bind the world together, yadda yadda, extradimensional location, etc etc, the last sane people from the ruined kingdom live here, and it's the closest thing this game has to a town and a quest hub) resurrects you in Soul Form, which entails cutting your hit points in half and giving you a glowy, shimmery, I-died-because-I-suck outline. The only way to fully become a living person again is to kill a boss demon or to use a rare item. When you do kill a boss and regain human form, the game gets even more tense because you want to stay in human form as long as possi...WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT, IS THAT A FUCKING DRAGON***, HOW DOES A FUCKING DRAGON SNEAK UP ON...oh, hello, Soul Form, how I've missed you.

Once you die, you aren't going to start over right where you left off. You're going back to the beginning of the area you were in. You'll still have your equipment, but any soul energy you'd collected is still attached to your corpse and, unless you can make it there to retrivee it before you die again, it will be gone forever. I hope you lke corpse runs. Soul energy, since I mentioned it, is what you get when you kill something. Apparently, everyone in this weird bleak fog filled land is some sort of crazy soul sucking vampire, because when you land a killing blow, you get an animation of energy flowing from your victim to you, and you gain some amount of soul energy, which serves as both a currency and as experience points. You can either spend your soul energy to upgrade your own stats, or you can trade it away to various NPCs for, say, repairs and upgrades to your equipment, or teaching you a new magic spell. I'm not going to speculate on the fucked up economy that's implied by the act of killing someone to steal their soul energy so you can take that energy down to the local smithy and get your sword repaired.

The controls are fairly intuitive (with one exception...I can't get used to the target lock being the right thumbstick instead of a shoulder button). You can equip an item to each hand, and the L1 and L2 buttons control your left hand while the R1 and R2 buttons control your right hand. The cool part is that different weapons, and different actions with the same weapon, do different things. For example, the longsword's R1 attack is a sweeping horizontal swing that does moderate damage to everything within arm's reach. Its R2 attack is a slower, more powerful, forward thrust that only hits an enemy directly in front of you. It gets even more interesting when you realize that your weapon won't clip through walls. If you try to use that horizontal swing in a narrow corridor, you're going to watch your sword bounce off the wall and your guard left open for any nearby enemy who feels a bit stabbity. I don't recall ever playing a game before where I specifically carried multiple weapons for use in different situations, rather than just sticking with whatever had the best stats, but I put away my trusty scimitar and get out a spear whenever I have to fight in a narrow hallway.

At any rate, I'm completley immersed. Best game I've played since Fallout 3.

* - Yes, that's how it's spelled, implying that there's one Demon who owns multiple Souls, and it's spelled that way whenever anyone in the game refers to the power of the Demon's Souls too. I'm not sure if it's an incorrect pluralization of the Demon's Soul item you get whenever you kill a boss demon, or if it's meant to indicate that all the souls in the game belong to the Old One, or what.

** - The NPC in question, the Maiden in Black, is a personal favorite for several reasons. She has what's implied to be a tragic backstory, but it's never really explained. She just sits in the Nexus all day resurrecting idiots who walked into swords or off ledges, or inviting the occasional hero to "touch the demon inside me" when they ask her to upgrade their Soul Power. When she isn't tending to the needs of the moron with the sword who can't seem to stay alive for five minutes at a stretch, she sits on one of the stone staircases, kicking her feet waifishly. Also, she's voiced by an Asian actress who very clearly does not speak English, and is pronouncing her lines phonetically, which is a joy to listen to. She's really quite endearing, for an eyeless chick in a magical Nowhereland.

*** - On that note, this is the first game in basically ever that's featured dragons that I'm actually afraid of. Instead of planning how I'm going to spend the gold I get for sticking my Infinity Plus One sword in their scaly faces, I'm wondering if I can make a mad dash to the next stone guardhouse before the dragon circles around to rake the bridge I'm on with fiery death again.
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