Demon’s Souls Remake Review – Classic Makeover

FromSoftware have made a roaring trade developing games deliberately designed to make your life as hard as possible. Famous for bosses, level design, combat, and fashion, this Japanese studio is one of the best that still operates as independent. The original Demon’s Souls launched back in 2007 exclusively for the PS3, to widespread critical acclaim and was the start of an entire sub-genre of videogames and a fanbase stronger than any I can think of. Following a slew of rumours, the Bluepoint Demon’s Souls Remake was announced for the PS5. A launch title for the console, this is my Demon’s Souls Remake review!

Bluepoint are a studio famous for their overhauls, with the Texas based studio behind the very impressive Shadow of the Colossus Remake released in 2018. Demon’s Souls is the latest title that they’ve been unleashed upon. To be fully transparent, I haven’t actually played the original Demon’s Souls. I’m fairly well versed in FromSoftware products since then, having completed both Bloodborne and Sekiro, and the large portion of Dark Souls 3, but Demon’s Souls is like a fog gate to me. With that in mind, this review will be less of a comparison to the original title, and more of a review from the perspective of a ‘newcomer’. 

Want an answer to the question “is this a good game for me to start with?”. I’ll be doing my best to address that today!

Available in two SKUs, the regular version of Demon’s Souls will set you back a painful £69.99 on the PlayStation store, or a whopping £89.99 for the Digital Deluxe Edition. Let’s get into it.

Gameplay? 7/10 – Consistently poor AI brings down a genuinely fantastic gameplay offering. All of the new modifications from Bluepoint elevate Demon’s Souls but more should have been done.

Despite the breathtaking visual upgrades that Bluepoint have implemented, they were very keen in the run up to launch to make sure that fans knew the mechanical and system changes. 

There basically aren’t any. At least, there aren’t any that will drastically change your moment to moment gameplay experience. There’s plenty of quality of life gameplay changes though, and I’ll just list them quickly here before jumping in:

  • Multi-directional roll replaces the four-directional version from 2007.
  • World tendency is more obvious.
  • Fast travelling between archstones is now possible, instead of relying on the Nexus.
  • Weight restriction on healing items.
  • Simplified HUD.
  • ‘Send To Storage’ option.
  • Much improved character creation.
  • 6 player multiplayer.
  • New armour and weapons.

That covers the major gameplay alterations from the original 2007 Demon’s Souls, although I’m sure there’s some that I’ve missed given that I’ve never touched the original. On a surface level, all of the additions are appreciated from a relative layman. Years of omni-directional rolling would’ve been a tough thing to drop from my muscle memory, so that’s a particularly excellent addition. 

I won’t spoil the new armour and weapons, but as far as I’ve seen all of the additions are excellent, but it’s a shame that some of it is given as part of the Deluxe Edition. It comes CLOSE to the dreaded “pay to win”, due to the early game advantage, but doesn’t quite hit that mark thankfully. Mostly because Demon’s Souls is hard as balls either way.

For those interested, I actually played Demon’s Souls with the Royalty Class and played a Magic/ Melee hybrid. Royalty is famous for making Demon’s Souls easier than other playstyles, but I actually specced into it because I’ve never played with heavy magic before.

On that note, Magic is still a very easy approach to Demon’s Souls. Mostly due to the major issue of Demon’s Souls – the AI. Bluepoint’s respect for the original game is commendable, but this is one of the few areas that I think it could’ve done with an overhaul.

The AI – It’s Still Bad

When considering the AI in Demon’s Souls, it’s very obvious that this is a 2007 Souls game, and not a 2020 one. In fact the main reason magic is strong? The AI won’t dodge. Pretty much at all.

In fact I only actually saw one enemy actively dodge my magic, and even then I’m not sure it was deliberate. This gives the player a HUGE advantage once you figure out attack patterns, because enemies simply just won’t try to avoid your attacks. Be that magic, arrows, sword, or any other form of offense. 

In much the same vein, enemy pathing is… suspect. I had countless times where the enemies, in their determined nature of walking right at me, would get stuck on level geometry, throw themselves off a cliff, or occasionally just completely ignore me.

Take Maneater, arguably the hardest boss in Demon’s Souls. 70% of the time the AI works fine. It’ll attack you, rotate its moveset, and proceed to yeet you off the bridge you’re fighting on. The other 30%?

The other 30% it’ll fly around completely ignoring you, stand still and allow free hits for chunks of time, and get entirely stuck on simple geometry. In fact the most recommended way to BEAT Maneater is utilising a giant torch in order to prevent him from being able to track you effectively.

Let it be known – I don’t think the AI is fantastic in ANY of the FromSoftware titles, aside from Sekiro. But, being from 2007, Demon’s Souls is by far the worst. 

The game shows it age practically immediately in these areas, which I’m sure original fans of the game will love. But I’m a newcomer, and one who’s played all of the recent FromSoftware titles. So it’s a bit jarring to see a skeleton roll off an edge because it can’t follow you properly around corners. 

General Gameplay

Beyond my complaints regarding the AI though, Bluepoints remake feels absolutely terrific to play. The slew of new backstab and parry animations are glorious, and add much needed variety to a game that needed freshening up. In fact each weapon now has unique animations to suit their style, also different to the original game.

The healing system returns from the original, focusing around varying strengths of healing herbs. In the original it was possible to amass ridiculous amounts of each item with smart grinding (or just not dying). This was because FromSoftware capped every single inventory healing item at 99. Now, in the Remake, Bluepoint have restricted different strengths to different quantities to reflect their effectiveness.

It’s a smart move that really helps to make Demon’s Souls a bit more of a challenge for veterans, and a little harder to cheese for newbies like myself. 

I only have one more quality of life change I want to focus on before moving on, but it does need mentioning. The switch from a four directional roll, to an 8 direction one, is very welcome. It does sadly contribute further to the hokey AI, as you’re able to bamboozle enemies far easier than before. However it also makes the gameplay transition from other Soulsborne titles a lot less challenging. 

In every other area, this is largely the FromSoftware you know and love. In fact, I’d go so far to say that it might actually be better than all other games I’ve played in some areas.

Level Design

For one, level design is truly stellar. There are less checkpoints than other Soulsborne titles, but each level is laid out in its benefit.

Essentially each of the 5 worlds in Demon’s Souls, whether that be Shrine of Storms, or Tower of Latria, is split up into separate boss runs. Complete with shortcuts, intelligent (and frustrating) enemy placement, and plenty of hidden secrets, Demon’s Souls is stellar in these areas.

Each of the boss runs, or Archstones, end in a boss, thus unlocking the next area in the world. The quality of these bosses is sketchy, with some being the FromSoftware standard you love, and others being mild bumps in the road. All are steeped in unique gameplay mechanics, strengths and weaknesses, and no shortage of lore if you want to find it though.

Enemy difficulty can range from laughably easy, to unbelievably difficult, and even after 15-20 hours in Demon’s Souls I didn’t feel confident taking some of them on. Red Eye and Blue Eye enemies can make certain areas a nightmare. Lastly, dreaded Black Phantoms (occasionally brought on by Black World tendency – a mechanic I can’t explain today) can offer mini-boss levels of difficulty to make even hardened players sweat.

Overall, Demon’s Souls can be described as a mixed bag in gameplay. On the one hand, it’s home to the best level design in Soulsborne games, and excellent enemy and boss variety. On the other, the aging (or aged) AI and enemy pathing is easy to exploit, even by accident. 

Visuals? 9/10 – Arguably the best looking video game currently on the market, no title proves the worth of next-gen like Demon’s Souls.

Demon’s Souls is one of, if not THE best looking game I’ve ever played. The differences between the Remake and the 2007 original is unbelievable. Everything from particle effects, lighting, physics, textures, and more all look practically flawless. 

Demon’s Souls is certainly the best looking game available on the new systems, and aside from maybe The Last of Us Part 2, definitely the best looking game of the year. 

Even on performance, the mode I ABSOLUTELY recommend playing on, in upscaled 1440p and 60fps, Demon’s Souls blows most games out of the water in pretty much every area.

It’s served very well by the variety in the worlds, where the high walls of Boletaria feels completely different to rainy shores of Shrine of Storms. 

I cannot overstate how beautiful this game is, from start to finish. It’s unprecedented.

Unfortunately the faces are weird. Yeah I said it. Adding in animated mouths to match the VO is something I welcome but, perhaps due to the excellent visuals and great voice acting, it verges on creepy. The animations of the mouths, eyebrows, and eyes are startlingly accurate, except waaaaay over the top. Each face performs a dance when talking that’s proper freaky.

Other than that? Demon’s Souls is very close to being the best looking game I’ve ever played. 

Audio? 10/10 – With masterful directional audio and a stunning score, the audio is entirely flawless throughout.

While I had that small complaint regarding the Visuals, I don’t have any complaints where the Audio is concerned. 

To start, positional audio is magnificent. I was regularly navigating claustrophobic tunnels only to hear the groans and sighs of an enemy around the corner. I’d hear the wheezing of a Red Eye Knight just before entering a fog gate, and feel more prepared as a result. 

Many AAA games manage good positional audio in this day and age, and Demon’s Souls is no exception. 

Moving onto the OST? It’s noticeably different from the original, in much the same way that Halo 2 Anniversary was noticeably different from the original. Many of the same melodies and themes carry through from the 2007 entry, but in 2020 they’re remastered into flowing and swelling operatic pieces. 

It’s obvious that Dark Souls 3 had a massive impact on the OST in the Demon’s Souls Remake, and I’m personally all for it. The changes might not be for everyone, DeModCracy summarised his thoughts excellently in the below video for example, but I loved it.

The clashing of weapons, the glorious sound of Soul Arrows, and the environmental sound effects all lend a hand in a level of immersion that’s rarely matched. Souls games are always a tense affair, and that’s ramped up to 11 here.

Audio? Fantastic all round.

Story? 8/10 – Better than many FromSoftware entries, the story is still dragged down by an obtuse approach to telling it.

To start negatively, I’m not sure I have any idea what happened in Demon’s Souls. I understand moments, I get (or think I get) the point in my journey, but the climax completely lost me.

But this isn’t too different from other Souls games. Sekiro is easier to understand, but Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 deal in varying levels of obscurity and ambiguity.

But my main criticism of Sekiro’s story was that a lot of the mysticism of the previous games was lost, and I have to maintain that energy here. Demon’s Souls may be obscure, but it’s intriguing, mysterious, and engaging. Each character has life, personality, and some level of development. 

NPC quest lines obviously return, although they’re not always as deep as those found in more recent Souls games. 

Whether or not you vibe with what Demon’s Souls offers narratively will depend on how much you care about understanding the world you’re exploring. I regularly found myself reading wikis, watching YouTube videos, and trying to do my own critical thinking, just to understand the base level stuff.

For that reason, it gets an 8/10. It’s good, great even, but will frustrate newcomers to the developers.

Acting? 10/10 – Completely reworked from the original, the acting in Demon’s Souls is damn near perfect. A true achievement.

Surprisingly, given I’ve heard the voice acting in the original game, it’s actually very good here. The only FromSoftware game that I consider on par in this area is Bloodborne, and that’s a fairly high bar in my opinion.

In their chase for familiarity and faithful work, Bluepoint hired many of the original actors for their characters. An appreciated touch, even for someone like myself who hasn’t played the original.

But that would’ve meant nothing if those performances were bad, outside of nostalgia anyway. Thankfully that’s not the case at all, and I’d struggle to name any character that’s performed below par. 

Not every character gets the same level of attention, but every line, even from low-key characters, is believable. This is a credit to the actors, and also to Bluepoint for being able to leave their mark on a beloved game like Demon’s Souls.

Writing? 7/10 – What writing there is is great, it’s just that there isn’t a whole lot. Unfortunately.

Sadly the writing isn’t quite all there. Suffering from the deliberate ambiguity, important characters don’t say anywhere near enough. 

Take the Maiden in Black. Outside of the intro sequence and the outro sequence, she says barely a word to you for the entire game. It’s especially stark after playing Sekiro quite recently, where characters had plenty of optional dialogue, and interesting dialogue at that.

Most of the characters in Demon’s Souls run out of things to say after a few interactions, regardless of how potentially interesting they are. 

What IS there is pretty good. It’s your standard FromSoftware quality, where everything that’s said adds something to the world. It could be something small or large, but every character, item, and interaction unfurls the world of Demon’s Souls into something tangible. 

It’s just a shame that there’s not more to enjoy.

Performance? 10/10 – With not a single gripe or issue, Demon’s Souls is the absolute peak of next-gen performance at the moment.

Flawless. I tried both graphics modes, Quality and Performance, and to be honest Performance is the best option. Demon’s Souls feels excellent at 60fps and I didn’t notice any drops at all. Quality no doubt looks fantastic, but the drop to 30fps just isn’t worth the tradeoff for native 4k. 

Bluepoint have managed to nail a rare thing where hitting the coveted 60fps hasn’t resulted in any noticeable quality dips in the graphical quality. Sure, you sacrifice the native 4k, but at ordinary viewing distances you won’t even notice.

As for bugs, strange AI shenanigans aside, I experienced none. No lockups, crashes, audio cuts, or visual bugs. It’s honestly remarkable how consistent Demon’s Souls performs throughout. 

Plaudits need to go to Bluepoint, as their talents have never been shown better than in Demon’s Souls. 

Fun Factor? 8/10 – Trademark difficulty, and obtuse mechanics and story, don’t take too much away from the overall enjoyment. Assuming you’re willing to even try, which a lot of people won’t be.

It’s a Souls game. You know what you’re getting into. It’s hard, occasionally grindy, and frustratingly hard to decipher at times.

I recently heard The Blind Gamer (otherwise known as Steve Saylor) describe the gameplay of Demon’s Souls as a language. His description was in direct relation to accessibility, but it matters here as well.

As with all languages, Souls games require dedication, time investment, and no little amount of skill. Whether or not you enjoy it will depend on what you want (or even can) put into the experience. 

I mentioned that I’d answer whether Demon’s Souls is a good entry point for the inexperienced. The answer to that is yes, but also no. The gameplay is simpler than more recent titles, bosses more forgiving, and the AI isn’t very intelligent. 

But then world tendency is extremely ambiguous, progression isn’t very friendly, and it’s hard. Really hard. 

I can’t tell you for sure whether Demon’s Souls is for you, but IF you give it a chance there’s a real likelihood you’ll get hopelessly hooked. Just like I did.

Value? 8/10 – At £69.99 this is a steep price for a 2007 remake. Fortunately, being a technical showcase in most areas, the price is justified. If you aren’t sure, definitely wait.

It’s £69.99. I know, these PS5 games reviews get a bit repetitive here. But still, it’s £69.99.

It offers similar replayability to Dark Souls and Bloodborne, perhaps more given the viability of both magic and faith. But it’s also markedly shorter. If I hadn’t gotten mildly addicted to soul grinding and optimising my DPS, I probably would have cleared Demon’s Souls in 12 hours or less. 

More’s the point, it’s a remake of a game from 2007. The work Bluepoint has done is truly jaw dropping at times, in many ways competing for best-in-class. But it’s still a remake, and it’s £69.99.

I don’t regret my purchase in the slightest, but that doesn’t mean it’s not expensive.

How Much Did The Reviewer Enjoy It? 9/10 – This reviewer got hopelessly addicted to Demon’s Souls, and I’m glad to say I don’t regret it. This is a masterful remake where the only blight is the consistently poor AI.

I adored the Demon’s Souls Remake. I think it’s better than Dark Souls 3, and on par with Bloodborne and Sekiro in many many areas. It has its problems, but they’re problems that are systemic from the original game. To erase them would be to erase the very history that made FromSoftware the studio they are today.

To further nail home my point, Demon’s Souls is definitely the best remake I’ve played. The swathe of new animations, the addition of new gear, the stunning visual upgrades, the host of quality of life modifications, and more. It’s all enough to push Demon’s Souls into GOTY competition for me.

It’s just a shame that the enemy AI is regularly quite poor, otherwise dragging down the extremely high quality found everywhere else. 

Thanks for reading my Demon’s Souls review! If you enjoyed it, feel free to check out our other reviews here!

Until next time, have a fantastic week!

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