Mark is a college lecturer from Liverpool. He has a keen interest in Japanese culture and loves video games. A proud father and grandfather.
The genius of Hidetaka Miyazaki and FromSoftware is clear when you consider that Demon’s Souls first came out in February 2009 on PlayStation 3. Not many games start off a new genre, but "Souls-like" is the name given to games with similar mechanics.
If you have played RPGs (Role-Playing Games) before, you probably consider dying to be a failure on your part. In Demon's Souls, however, it is a mechanic. Each death should be considered a learning experience. If you go into the game with this realization, you won’t get as frustrated.
Trial, error, and exploration are the cornerstones of the design. Expect to die, especially in the beginning, quite a bit. With each death, a lesson is learned.
So you have your new PlayStation 5 and you want to play Demon’s Souls. You've made an excellent choice! But you may have heard that it’s "too hard." Well, replace that voice with mine. Demon’s Souls is not too hard, but it is challenging. But wait, aren't they the same thing?
No, they aren’t! If you took a test at school and you failed, what would you do? You'd research the areas you failed in and go back and ace the test. Demon’s Souls has a similar concept. It’s only "hard" because you don’t know the easy way of doing it, which you usually only find out when you’ve completed many hours of frustrating deaths and even one or two rage quits!
Below are some handy tips and tricks you will need to reduce your frustration and kick these demons right where it hurts. This guide does not contain any in-game spoilers. The joy of discovery is what makes these games what they are. I recommend you try and play through it once with no walkthrough guide to help and see what you discover for yourself then use a walkthrough guide and see what you missed.
Mechanics and How the Game Works
So why is Demon's Souls more challenging than a normal RPG? It is the normal game mechanics that have been removed that make it more challenging.
Lets take any Assassin's Creed game then take away:
- The map
- The mini map
- Objectives and objective Markers
- Save points (only saves at the end of the level)
- Areas re-populate with enemies on death
- You lose all your souls on death
- Any explanation of what to do next
As you can see, the game does not hold your hand in any way. It's up to you to explore and discover.
Each enemy, when killed, grants you a number of souls, from small numbers like ten for the annoying foot soldiers up to thousands for the bosses. You gather souls and then you can spend these souls in numerous ways.
Here is where Demon’s Souls differs from the norm. If you die, you lose all the souls you have gathered up to that point, and you have only one chance to get back to that same spot to retrieve them. If you die again on the way to getting them back, they're gone for good. Unfair? No, the game is testing to see if you have learned from your mistakes and teaching you what not to do. This is how you learn.
You can spend your souls on many things. You can:
- Level up
- Buy items such as weapons
- Use Boss Souls to make special weapons, once you have unlocked Ed the Blacksmith in World 2 and given him a specific Demon Soul.
When you die, the level is re-populated with all the enemies that you have just spent ages killing, so to retrieve your souls you have to do better than your last attempt.
Progress isn’t marked by how far in the level you have gotten, it is from leveling up your character and weapons. Each time you level up, the area becomes a little bit easier to do, so sometimes you have to gamble. Should I go back to the Nexus and spend my souls on a new level, or should I carry on and try and earn more souls?
Your Soul Level, or character power, is in the top left. You spend your souls to increase the Player Attributes bottom left.
Some attributes increase your attack power, and some increase your strength so you can carry more, wear better armor, etc. Here is a run through of what each attribute does.
- Vitality increases your Health and Item Burden
- Intelligence is for Mana and Spell Memory
- Endurance is Stamina, Equip Burden, Fire Defense, Bleed and Poison Resistance
- Strength provides a Strength Weapon bonus
- Dexterity provides a Dexterity Weapon bonus
- Magic increases your Magic Weapon Bonus, Spell Damage
- Faith increases your Faith Weapon Bonus, Miracle Damage and healing, Miracle Memory, Magic Defense
The possibilities are endless, but don’t let this confuse you. Leveling up your Vitality, Endurance, Strength and Dexterity are the main ones to go for early game. These greatly enhance your character to be able to deal with the low level enemies in World 1.
But there is another twist. When you die, you are transported to the Nexus and you level up by talking to the Maiden in Black. But the Maiden does not appear until after you have killed the first boss. This is so that you have to learn the basics before getting overpowered.
This will help you get through the rest of the game. The term "git good" was invented for Souls games. Usually, when someone was complaining that they kept dying, this two-word answer was thrown back at them. But it isn’t so much an insult it is the KEY to the game.
There are no easy modes to activate (although the magic in Demon's Souls is considered the easy mode by some people) and this is why the game restricts your levelling up until after you have learned the basics.
Which Starting Class Should I Choose?
You may be tempted by the Knight in full armour, or the Warrior and the big Axe, but don’t. The best starting class by far is Royalty, and here’s why.
At the start of the game, you are confronted with low-level soldiers but they are annoying as hell. They can hit you so quickly and they also mob you. In other games, when you confront more than one enemy, they usually stand around and let you fight them one by one.
Not this game. They will all jump in at once. This is death; avoid it at all costs!
The Royalty Class starts with a silver catalyst and a magic spell called Soul Arrow which means you can attack from range and it only takes one shot to kill these low-level soldiers.
Keeping this range at the beginning is one of the reasons why Magic is considered an "easy mode" and is quite simply the best way to start. You will soon progress to a decent sword and shield and that fancy armor, but the beginning is about survival, gathering Souls, and leveling up.
How to Equip and Use Weapons
Here is the Royalty Class.
With the Royalty Class in Demon's Souls, your characters starts with a sword, a small shield, and a catalyst for magic. You need to equip the catalyst in the left hand so you can easily switch between the shield and catalyst but still have the sword equipped at all times.
When you want to kill a target, press on R3 (right joystick) to target them first then L1 (left bumper) to fire. This is also the block button when the shield is equipped. You MP gauge is the blue bar and to avoid running out choose the Fragrant Ring as a starting gift, this regenerates your MP so you will not run out once equipped.
To attack using your right hand weapon, use R1 for normal attack and R2 for a heavier attack.
Press Y to dual wield your right hand weapon which means you have to press Y again to get access to you shield or catalyst.
You pick up various strengths of Grass throughout your playthrough. They are based on the moon cycles. Crescent Moon grass is the weakest and scales up as you get to the Full Moon Grass, and so on.
This gives you back some of your health when you press the square button, so long as it is equipped. You can switch between your consumable items with the down direction pad button. If you hold the down button it will switch to the first item in your inventory so always have a healing item in the first slot for easy access.
When you find new armor and weapons, you can change using the inventory screen, just select the part you want to change and the available items will show up. Try and keep the equipment level below 70%.
When you press circle to roll, if you are over 70% you will roll a lot slower, this is commonly called "fat rolling." Make the choice between heavy armor and a faster dodge roll.
You are also limited to the amount you can carry, Stockpile Thomas, in the Nexus will take your items and store them for you.
Stamina and Hit Animations
One of the most important mechanics in Demon's Souls is the stamina bar. You have to manage your stamina or you will run out of energy and then be open to an attack that you can't get away from.
When you first get your character, try using your sword and see how many strokes you can do before the stamina bar runs out. It is the green strip below your health bar.
If you are blocking with your shield, your stamina doesn't regenerate very quickly so you have to move away and lower your shield to get your stamina to regenerate. The heavier the weapon, the fewer strokes you can do. When you press R1 or R2 to hit,or L1 to fire your magic, once the animation has started you cannot interupt it.
One of the game mechanics unique to Demon's Souls is the World Tendency mechanic. It can be quite complicated when you first start.
You will die on your way to the Nexus at the beginning of the game. You are meant to die, so don't worry. When you get to the Nexus, you are in "Soul" form and you only have three quarters of your health. When you kill a boss, you get your human form back, but if you die in human form in a level, it affects your World Tendancy. Most people will go back to the Nexus after they have killed a boss and throw themselves from a great height to go back into "soul" form to avoid affecting the World Tendancy.
In the Nexus, there are six doorways but only five are available. After you have killed the first boss in World 1, all the other worlds are then open to you. You do not have to finish a world before moving to another. In fact, you are best starting all the worlds as oon as you can as there are great weapons in one world which will help you in the others.
When you start each world, the World Tendency is neutral. See above the white eyes below the doorways, that is the World Tendency.
Every time you kill a boss, the World Tendency moves towards white. After you have completed the last boss in the world, the World Tendency should be all white and somewhere in the world, something changes to allow access into somewhere you did not have access to earlier.
Every time you die in a world the World Tendency descends towards back. When the Tendency goes towards black, the enemies get harder but the loot and souls earned is better. If the world goes totally black then, again, secrets are revealed but it means re-doing the level to find them.
I hope you have found this guide helpful! You will probably need to give the game an hour or so and then come back to the guide as you will be a bit more familiar with the way things work. Don't give up!
If you get to an area that you think is too difficult, go back to an area you have already completed and gather more souls to level up. This will then make you stronger for the next area. You play the game the way you want to play it. There are also multiple endings so more than one playthrough is recommended.
The below tutorial is also a great place to start with getting through tricky bosses. Good luck!
© 2022 Mark