Demon’s Souls

Games are scary. And not just the horror ones. Games are scary almost by default, because it’s not just the main character that gets sacrificed when one misjudged leap sends them hurtling bottomless pit-wards – it’s us, the player. As a child I used to find moments of heart-stopping terror when avoiding flaming torches in Treasure Island Dizzy.

But games are even scarier to people who’ve never played them before. Those of us who played NES in childhood and grew up with a new controller every few years with increasingly numerous buttons have all got muscle memory spurting out of our thumbs and are immediately comfortable with standard control schemes. Consequently, we often overlook just how complicated gaming has become. That’s why most total newbies picking up something as relatively straightforward as, say, Modern Warfare 2 resemble… what’s that analogy I’ve used before? A cat trying to fly a kite?

That can get very frustrating, especially when you’ve paid full price for all of a game’s content but aren’t good enough to see past the first mission or so. It’s a common complaint I hear from relatively new gamers. So games get stuck with a fairly major dilemma right off the bat – accessibility, risking veterans feeling patronized, or challenge, alienating new players? I don’t have an answer to that one, but I do know that Demon’s Souls definitely isn’t what you’d use to get your girlfriend into the lifestyle.

I had to weather quite a spattering of fairly predictable shit in response to last week’s review, generally along the lines of WAA WAA IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HARD YOU SUCK AT GAMES EVERYONE STOP WATCHING THESE VIDEOS AND ACKNOWLEDGE MY OBVIOUS SUPERIORITY WAA. So let me just clarify that I get Demon’s Souls.

Challenge is good. I like a challenge. And there’s nothing about Demon’s Souls’ gameplay that is completely broken and unfair – with caution, and gradual understanding of the combat mechanics, you could get by. But in this day and age there is no, absolutely no fucking excuse for keeping your checkpoints half an hour of gameplay apart.

Even I Wanna Be The Guy had regular save points (unless you were playing at the very hardest difficulty, and why on earth would you do that to yourself except maybe for charity), and IWBTG was fun. It was fun because it was so hard. I’d successfully navigate a clump of trees avoiding fast-falling apples, then I’d have to jump over some floating platforms going over the same trees, whereupon I’d be killed by an apple suddenly falling upwards. And I actually laughed. It was unexpected and well comically-timed. Sudden, unexpected trouncings are in themselves more likely to provoke mirth than frustration. Mainly because I knew I’d only have to retry from the previous screen.

But the time I have for playing games for a review is limited. When I’m killed and have to start over from half an hour ago, that’s about an hour of wasted time. That’s what made me angry about Demon’s Souls. Every single time I pushed a little bit further, some new, dirty trick would be pulled and I’d have to re-play through the same dirty tricks that led up to it. And I’d get angrier and more hasty each time, increasing the likelihood of being killed by one of the earlier traps I thought I’d mastered.

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That’s why Demon’s Souls can suck my turn-ups, because at that point, it wasn’t a test of skill, but of my willingness to roll over and take it like a bitch. It was like playing a game of Simon programmed to poke me in the eye with every second note.

Whoa, actually, hold the phone, I’ve just thought of a solution to that accessibility vs. challenge dilemma mentioned earlier. What if, like, at the start of the game, you could choose your level of competence? Say you could pick one option that would make enemies weaker and the player more powerful, and there’d be another option that made the enemies stronger and more numerous. And maybe there could be another setting in between for people who aren’t sure where they fit. Man, that’s a great idea. If only someone had thought of that before Demon’s Souls came out.

“Good review by the way, although I was hoping you’d review Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.”

The PAL version isn’t out ’til February, I’m afraid. Plus it’s a Wii game, so I’d need to get past region encoding if I tried to import it. I still have my Freeloader disk I used to play Smash Bros Brawl with, but Nintendo (being evil and everything) put out an update to make it stop working. In the meantime, worst comes to the worst, an unusually large number of development ninnies missed the 2009 Christmas deadlines, so quarter 1 of 2010 has a surprisingly large number of big releases which I’m sure will keep me ticking over ’til Feb.

This is assuming Shattered Memories doesn’t get refused classification, of course. There’s actually been some movement in that area: The Australian government have released a discussion paper on whether or not to introduce the adults only rating. It’s a positive step, but I can’t help but wonder if this is just a temporary appeasement being thrown out to silence the pitchfork-wielding mob while Frankenstein’s monster remains locked up safely in the castle. My understanding was that most people (including 5 out of the 6 Australian attorney generals) already agree that the certification is necessary, and the only obstacle remaining is Michael bloody Atkinson refusing to give the 6th consent that’s needed to make it happen. Still, at least we know the issue’s getting around.

Incidentally, Atkinson went on record recently about his breathtakingly stubborn position, stating that most people don’t want the R18 rating and that the people who do are just a vocal minority. Okay, then. So I guess since we’re such a small number he’ll have absolutely no objection to me, say, posting his email address([email protected]).

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is

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