It’s the only PS5 game you need to play next
Welcome! This column is part of a regular series where we share what Tom’s Guide staff members are playing and enjoying right now, with the aim of helping you find great games you may have missed. Be sure to check out our recent entry, where we talk about The Last of Us Part II.
Earlier this year, like many gamers, I became completely obsessed with Elden Ring. I spent a glorious month playing literally nothing else, savoring every hard-fought victory and being energized by every atrocious defeat.
In the past, Souls games generally failed to catch me and I usually bounced back after just a few hours, but Elden Ring was different. It hooked me pretty much from the start. And after a few particularly grueling boss battles – the strong words I have for the Fire Giant can’t be printed here – I did. I conquered Elden Ring and my Terni dutifully took his place as the newly crowned Elden Lord with honor. As the credits roll, I almost wanted to give the game a standing ovation.
The problem is that after dozens and dozens of hours spent exploring the Lands Between, no other game could compete. I replayed God of War (2018), and while I enjoyed revisiting Kratos and Aretus, it didn’t quite scratch the itch. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands lost my interest after only a few hours of play, and a return to Grand Theft Auto IV was scrapped before I even unlocked the second island on the map.
I slowly nibbled at LEGO Harry Potter on the Nintendo Switch, but it’s really just a load of time until Hogwart’s Legacy finally arrives. So, three months after beating Elden Ring, there was no denying that I was a bit into the funk of the game. I was really struggling to find something to properly engage again.
Faced with the near impossible task of finding something that could compare to a game that is already touted as one of the best games ever made, I looked to the past and decided to give Demon’s Souls a shot. on PS5.
After all, Demon’s Souls is essentially a precursor to Elden Ring. The original game was created by the same developer, FromSoftware, before being remade for Sony’s next-gen console by Bluepoint Games in 2020. And I’m happy to report that Demon’s Souls has erased my gaming funk with all the force of a massive sword swing from its iconic Tower Knight boss.
Demon’s Souls shares a lot of DNA with Elden Ring
Going from Elden Ring to Demon’s Souls makes for a pretty smooth transition because structurally, those games are extremely similar. They’re both action RPGs that demand a lot from the player, not to mention they’re filled with cryptic mechanics and game systems that aren’t always fully explained – I’m still not entirely convinced I understand what is actually World Tendency.
Much like Elden Ring, Demon’s Souls gripped me because overcoming the many obstacles it places in your path is immensely satisfying. The game’s most famous boss, Tower Knight, wiped out my clock for almost 45 minutes, but when I finally took down the gigantic enemy, I was literally pumping my living room. That’s the power of a Souls game in a nutshell.
Even though Demon’s Souls is technically the very first Souls game, originally released in February 2009 for the PS3, I was pleased to discover that it offers one of my favorite aspects of Elden Ring: the flexibility in how you progress in the world.
Now granted, Elden Ring takes place in a gigantic open world while Demon’s Souls is made up of five self-contained levels (which are themselves broken up into more manageable chunks). But you have the option of tackling these levels in any order you like after completing a short introductory sequence.
Like all Souls games, Demon’s Souls can be extremely punishing, but since you can jump between levels as you please, it never gets too frustrating. For example, one of the infamously difficult levels in the game, the Prison of Hope, was giving me grief at first, so I hopped into another section, scored some new items and XP, and I was able to come back to try much harder again – and this time I came out on top.
I’ve also been very impressed with the collection of demons I’ve fought against in my 10 hours of gameplay so far. The aforementioned Tower Knight is a boss battle that will stick with me for a long time purely due to its daunting scale, but I also enjoyed the Fool’s Idol battle for forcing me to change my approach and think in a more strategic.
Even though Demon’s Souls feels a bit smaller compared to Elden Ring’s expansive opener, it’s hard to see anyone liking one but not the other. And Demon’s Souls also serves as a brilliant showcase for the power of the PS5. The game runs at 60fps consistently and looks downright stunning in almost every way. The lightning-fast load times are also a boon, especially after enduring Elden Ring Relatively Long Charges on Xbox series X.
Demon’s Souls is showing its age
While Bluepoint Games has done a truly phenomenal job of making Demon’s Souls modern – it actually looks and works even better than Elden Ring – the developer decided not to change the core gameplay or structure. overall. That means he’s still playing like he did in 2009.
This decision probably pleased purists and is quite understandable, after all Bluepoint was not the original developer and therefore perhaps felt it was not their place to make drastic changes. But Demon’s Souls on PS5 being such a faithful remake means that in some areas the game feels like a step back from the Souls titles that followed.
The lack of mid-level bonfires, essentially checkpoints in the Dark Souls series, leads to frustrating moments where you have to go through almost an entire level after death. But it’s the way the game handles healing items that gave me the most irritation. Instead of a flask that replenishes on death like in Dark Souls/Elden Ring, in Demon’s Souls health is recovered through grass, a consumable item.
This means that if you get stuck on a tough section, you can quickly use up your entire supply of healing herb. Your choices then are either to stand in solidarity with the even worse odds against you, or to pause what you’re doing and go grind early-game enemies to refill your inventory. Grinding for items by killing the same basic enemies dozens of times is rarely, if ever, fun.
But even if Demon’s Souls lacks some of the streamlined improvements that would follow in the likes of Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Elden Ring, the heart of the game is still that heady mix of unapologetically challenging yet highly rewarding gameplay that makes the Souls series so well- like. If I find myself struggling for something to play after conquering Demon’s Souls, I definitely know which series I’m going to turn to to rekindle that spark.
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