You'll also be glad for the chance to get those souls back. Souls are the game's currency, and you'll use them to buy items, repair armor, upgrade your weapons, and even level up. Upping your stats is simply a matter of buying points, which you can do as soon as you have enough souls. The price for a stat point goes up every time you buy one, but you can use them however you like. Vitality, Luck, Magic, Faith - you can mold your character however you like, so long as you have the souls to spend. It's an interesting technique, especially when combined with the diverse assortment of starting characters the game provides. Given the freedom with which you can upgrade your stats, I'm not sure there's any such thing as a "good" or "bad" character, but you will certainly need an assortment of skills to survive, so choose wisely.
Demon's Souls's multiplayer mode adds to the game's unique flavor. You can join with other players in the hopes of evening out the insane difficulty curve, or, if you're feeling a bit more antagonistic, you can invade another player's game and try to kill him. If you manage to put him to the sword, you get your body back, but if you don't, you drop a soul level and lose a point off your highest stat. It sounds like an invitation for obnoxious players to invade other games just for the sake of killing people, but only players who are alive can be invaded, and if you can hang on to your body for more than a few minutes, you are either very lucky or very, very skilled. In either case, you should be able to dispatch any would-be invaders. It's worth noting that the game has no Friend or Chat system, so whether you're buddying up or on the attack, you'll almost assuredly be doing it with strangers.
Playing online also lets you see the messages that other players have left around the world, which are usually hints or warnings about what you're about to encounter. Don't worry - you create a message by choosing words and phrases from a robust template system that while providing plenty of freedom to describe a player's impending doom is virtually useless when it comes to describing their mom. Messages not only provide hints about strategy, they also make you feel like part of a team - The Players vs. Demon's Souls. In the midst of such a brutal beatdown, it's nice to feel like someone - even an anonymous stranger - has your back.
Bottom Line: Demon's Souls is equal parts aggravating, cruel, and punishing, but it's also extremely satisfying and rewarding. Yes, you'll cry bitter tears after dying for the umpteenth time, but when you finally do make it past the whatever-it-is that's been pummeling you for hours, you feel positively godlike.
Recommendation: In case I haven't made it clear yet, do not play this game if you're not ready to embrace failure. If you can stand the challenge, however, you'll find a true treasure of an experience awaits you.
Susan Arendt can't decide which she prefers putting on her halberd: turpentine or sticky white stuff.