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What Makes Demon’s Souls Better Than Dark Souls

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  • Posted on 12th Nov, 2022 05:20 AM

While Dark Souls maintains its status as a cultural phenomenon, its predecessor Demon's Souls still deserves more praise for what it started.

p>One of the biggest reveals at the recent PS5 event was easily the Demon's Souls Remake, complete with a brand new look for the previously PS3 exclusive title. This could be a huge moment for fans of the Souls series and other FromSoftware titles, since the grandfather of Dark Souls may have more to offer players than the more widely popularized installments in the critically acclaimed trilogy.

There are more than a few ways that the Demon's Souls experience can overwhelmingly triumph over the Souls experience that players can expect from other games in the genre from FromSoftware's own titles to Souls-likes like Nioh or The Surge. So, while the original game has its own issues like the item burden mechanic Dark Souls removed, the overall game may have never really been topped by every game that succeeded it.

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The Best Hub Area

Many games in the Souls series include heavy lore and story explanations for why the player is able to revive repeatedly as they die, also repeatedly, over the course of the game. In the case of Demon's Souls, the explanation comes from the player dying in the tutorial and being revived in the hub world referred to as the Nexus. This place is also where most NPCs will spend the game as the player finds them throughout the world, opening up merchants and questlines they'll be taking on as they continue playing.

The best parts of this Nexus area, though, involve the Maiden in Black who becomes the player's source of leveling, as well as the open ended area selection that lets players take on the game at whatever pace they want. While the first Dark Souls almost removed the hub area all together by making Firelink Shrine much less important than the Nexus, both sequels attempted to recreate a central hub with a character like the Maiden in Black, including similar games like Bloodborne. Furthermore, as the Nexus is the central point of the game, it sets up the atmosphere that extends into the the rest of Demon's Souls.

Beautifully Dreadful Atmosphere

Atmosphere can be one of the most important components of how a game appeals to an audience, from Horizon: Forbidden West's flashy Sci-Fi art style to the dreary, hopeless style that has become a staple of the Souls series. FromSoftware's signature design doesn't actually originate from Demon's Souls, coming from the Kings Field series that preceded every other game in the series. However, with the constant reminder of death that comes from the Nexus combined with the decaying kingdom of Boletaria that the game takes place in, Demon's Souls maintains the bleak atmosphere better than any game in the series.

A good amount of the dreary atmosphere comes from the rolling fog that descends on the world as the major plot device within Demon's Souls. It's likely that this fog was really caused by a limitation of the PS3 at the time, which may mean that the stunning graphical updates may diminish some of this obscured dread. However, considering how well Bluepoint Studios managed to keep Shadow of the Colossus' iconic designs in line with the updated PS4 release, chances are that the latest remake will be able to hold onto what made the original unforgettable.

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Choose Your Own Path

One thing that fans love about Dark Souls is the idea that once players pass through the tutorial Asylum section, players can choose which direction they want to go, tackling areas like the Catacombs and New Londo from the beginning. The only issue with that benefit and the open-ended nature of the series is that these other areas are not balanced for players fresh out of the tutorial to explore. However, this is something that Demon's Souls excels at by design, thanks to the way that the Nexus is structured around six archstones that take the player to the five areas available in the game.

To go even further into the design for tackling these areas in whatever order the player wants, most of these places first locations are essentially balanced to be played right from the beginning. In fact, area 1-3 isn't even accessable until players have managed to beat any other area's third stage, emphasizing that players are meant to go swap back and fourth between areas. The result is that the higher level areas are blocked by natural progression and areas are visited in a mixed order to keep things fresh throughout the game, as opposed to the hardest areas in Dark Souls just blocking players off with difficult enemies and giving the illusion of freedom.

World Tendency

While it's true that the execution of this mechanic received in the PS3 release was less than perfect, with moving Tendency from Black to White being more limited than the reverse, the concept is something that FromSoftware should take another look at. It's possible that Bluepoint will be trying its hand at balancing and retooling this mechanic via Demon's Souls Remake's mysterious Fractured Mode that rumors suggest is coming the the PS5 release.

Regardless of the negatives, this mechanic adds a whole new level to replayability in a series where the first playthrough is often referred to as the collecting phase to prepare players for the playground that is New Game Plus. Combining the difficulty multipliers that comes with different World Tendencies with the gear that only becomes available at specific levels, the mechanic makes each dive through the game completely unique. With the exploration being one of the most impressive selling points of the Souls series, second only to the boss fights, giving complexity to that aspect of the game adds a whole new layer to an already amazing game that Bluepoint will hopefully improve with the PS5 remake.

Demon's Souls is available now for PS3.

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