Demon's Souls Preview
Now that we have a few RPGs this generation to pave the way for more, fans of the genre feel a little more cheered at future prospects. For those who like the Eastern style of RPGs mixed with a Western hack ‘n slash gameplay format, we suggest you pay attention to From Software’s Demon’s Souls, which is scheduled to release on February 5 in Japan but doesn’t yet have a North American or European release. Considered to be the spiritual successor to King’s Field, this action/RPG holds a “dark fantasy” theme and allows the player to create their own character and set off on an adventure in the kingdom of Voletaria. The realm is in upheaval due to the emergence of beasts and demons that have steadily annihilated the race of human warriors, which means you’re gonna have your hands full. But you’ll be able to utilize a variety of weaponry – each weapon type should significantly change the experience – and your quest could be epic in overall size and scope.
According to a recent Famitsu interview, SCE Japan producer Takeshi Kajii spoke about the team’s partnership with From Software, and how they can break through walls and boundaries by working together. He said- “If this was a new King's Field game, there would be areas we wouldn't be able to touch since they're part of the series; working together like this, we can try to make something really new.” Now, if you’re thinking this is going to be similar to Dynasty Warriors just because we said “hack ‘n slash” above, you’re dead flat wrong; this gameplay style is more of a blend of old Forgotten Realms real-time RPG combat and Elder Scrolls-style openness. As Kajii said to reinforce the free exploration concept- “You get only the barest minimum of a goal, and there's nothing forcing you to do anything in the game. People say to you ‘Save the world,’ but you can ignore them and keep going if you like.” Going to do what, exactly, is a bit of a mystery, but that’s not the point, right?
As you progress, apparently doing whatever you like, you will face countless enemies hell-bent on turning you into a light snack. Thankfully, you will have numerous pieces of equipment to aid you in your quest, including shields, various types of armor, and many different weapons. You’ll be able to attack, block, and even dodge roll when the situation calls for evasive maneuvers. We’ve also heard of magically-enhanced weapons that infuse your blade with a special additional/elemental power, which reminds us of upgrading our weapons in the Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance titles. But this will be a far more dynamic experience overall, as early trailers and demos show off massive environments, complete with huge castles, windswept plains loaded with lots and lots of death, and impressive pitched battles between humans and demons. Environmental destruction will amplify the realism and authenticity as well, although we’re not sure if we’ll be able to utilize items in the background settings to our advantage. We just know we’ll have the option of busting ‘em up, and as far as we’re concerned, that’s a bonus. Let that “dark fantasy” background shine through!
Your foes might make good use of the destructible stuff, though, as we’ve seen giant lumbering beasts smash through carts and carriages, turning them into little more than kindling. We’re wondering about the character advancement system, too; we’re aware of the role-playing focus, of course, but will we have that familiar skill/ability tree? Or will From Software and SCE institute something entirely different, a mechanic that reflects this open-world action/RPG format? Obviously, we are expecting some of the more standard aspects of the genre, including farming items from fallen bodies, separate gauges for health and magic, and – although it hasn’t been confirmed – different character classes. If you’re a fan of the King’s Field games on the original PlayStation, the bottom line is that you shouldn’t anticipate a similar experience; everything about this “spiritual successor” appears to be bigger and hopefully better. We presume the key will lie in the gameplay and whether or not the freedom and open-endedness adds a new level of interest and immersion.
As we close in on the Japanese release, we’d like to think that SCE will release a U.S. date for Demon’s Souls. When that happens, we’ll update you with the information, but in the meantime, we’ll definitely keep a close eye on this one.
12/2/2008 Ben Dutka