Gamers have been complaining about the "dumbing down" of games for quite some time now, claiming that the success of the Nintendo Wii and increasing mainstream acceptance of videogames has resulted in games, as a whole, becoming easier. If you find yourself nodding vigorously to that last sentence, rejoice! PS3 exclusive Demon's Souls is here and it wants nothing more than to kick your ass or perhaps make you cry. If you had lunch money, it would try to take it. Demon's Souls is just that kind of game.
I sat in on a demonstration of the game earlier this week, and learned that the game not only wants you to die, it expects you to die. Repeatedly. But it's not in a "there, there, let's start the level over" kind of way, but rather a "bwaaaa ha ha hah aaaaaa, oh, it must suck to be you!" kind of way. You see, death in Demon's Souls isn't an end point, a cue to restart, try again. Instead, it's merely an extra burden to bear as you try to complete your quest to defeat the demons that are plaguing the world. If you die, your available health is cut in half (you'd think it would be cut entirely, what with you being dead and all, but roll with it) and you won't be able to fully heal until you resurrect yourself.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to do that. The most immediate is to simply kill a boss, but in your weakened state, that may be far easier said than done. You do have other options, thanks to the game's multiplayer. If you join another player's game and help them kill a boss, you get your body back, hooray! There's no friends lists or chat in Demon's Souls, though, so you won't be able to just pop into your buddy's game whenever you feel like it.
If you're not feeling particularly generous, or are just an evil bastard, you can instead invade another player's game and try to kill them. This last option is not without risk, however; if the invaded player kills you instead, you drop a soul level and lose a point off your highest stat.
Then again, simply being alive has its own risks. Only living players can have their games invaded; so long as you're dead, you're safe from PvP action. Of course, if you're dead, you're going to have a much harder time defeating enemies due to your permanently lowered health...you hear that? That's the game laughing at you.
However you decide to get your body back, Demon's Souls is also keeping track of how well you're doing, and adjusts its difficultly accordingly. Oh, I'm sorry, did you think I meant the game got easier if you're dying a lot? No, no, no, it gets harder. Demon's Souls will punish you for being bad at it, making enemies you should be able to defeat with a sneeze into unstoppable behemoths with a seemingly unending supply of hit points. There is a silver lining, though: The more difficult the game gets, the better the loot drops become. (The opposite is also true-the better you are at the game, the easier it becomes, but the crappier the swag is.) Should you screw things up so badly that the game becomes virtually unplayable, it will generate a fairly easy foe that, when defeated, resets the world to normal. If, you know, you want to take the sissy way out.
Demon's Souls won't be out Stateside for a month or so, but we have an early copy here that we'll be trying out over the long weekend. Stay tuned for our review, in which we will more than likely end up crying like very tiny babies.