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Demon's Souls Review

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Bastard hard and bloody brilliant

★★★★

While unlimited lives and endless continues have opened the world of videogaming to a wider audience, something has been lost in pandering to a mainstream audience: a genuine sense of reward. But in stepping back in time and offering an unforgiving, uncompromising, old-school experience where only the most dedicated will reap the game’s rewards, Demon’s Souls offers a deep and lasting sense of achievement for anyone tough enough to hang around until the end credits roll.

The most hardcore action role-player in recent memory, Demon’s Souls hurls players into a relentlessly dark, bleak and downright depressing fantasy world where dragons roar, castles crumble and elegant demons soar in the black skies overhead. And while the resulting game would be a bog-standard medieval hack’n’slasher in the hands of a lesser developer, Japanese coder From Software has taken a very different approach. Every attack must be planned with paranoid detail, since the smallest mistake will see you being hacked to shreds and losing most of the valuable resources you’ve collected. Success is almost wholly dependent on your willingness to play the same sections again and again until you’ve perfected every move with zero margin for error. And with no pause button, an auto-save function that refreshes at an alarming rate to stop you skipping back to earlier triumphs, and punishing skirmishes that inevitably end in death if you’ve equipped the wrong weapons, Demon’s Souls definitely isn’t a game for the faint-hearted.

But while the adventure can be deeply frustrating, success in cracking the game’s challenges is accompanied by an overwhelming sense of exhilaration; a wave of unfettered bliss that instantly wipes out bad memories of the hours squandered trying to defeat a titanic boss or dodge a tricky trap, and making you feel like the greatest gamer on earth.

Innovative online mechanics – where you can learn by the mistakes of other players, leave misleading notes or vital clues for fellow swashbucklers or dive into their games to either help or hinder – also makes Demon’s Souls a refreshingly unique romp, which should be treasured as one of the PS3’s most accomplished adventures to date – provided you’ve got the mettle for it. However, if you’re the sort of gamer who buys new games like sweets, is constantly on the search for fresh thrills and expects to romp through each one, this slow-burning and inherently cruel quest will leave you battered, bruised and begging for mercy.

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