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Malik (3/23/09)

After way too much time, on Saturday my copy of Demon's Souls arrived. Let me put that a different way; it's here!!!

Unfortunately, I didn't get all that much time to play the game, but I could form a few initial thoughts. Mainly dealing with character creation and the first couple of dungeons.

First of all, it's sad that the Asian version, with it's full English support, has a Chinese instruction manual. This means you don't know shit going into the game, except for what is found online. Well, there is a small insert (equivalent to four pages) in English, but this only really covers the basic controls. This means you are still lacking in 55 pages worth of information. You don't know what the classes means, how to perform more advanced techniques (like weapon upgrades and repairs), and much of anything else. You also miss the info on what the status ailments are and how to recognize them on your character.

As for starting the game, the English is definitely easy enough to understand. It may suffer a few "Engrish" moments, but since I've been playing the Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (in English), it's not that bad. I mean SUGC has more English games with "Engrish" than the Asian Demon's Souls will suffer from...and those were games with little in the way of text on most of them. I mean just play some Golden Axe 1-3 and you'll find more examples than in the Asian Demon's Souls.

The character creation is very similar to Oblivion. That is to say you pick a class (however, with no customizing of skills and attributes at start), sex, and you make your facial design. Just like any game with facial design (like Oblivion or any recent Tony Hawk), you can make a large variety of faces that all look pretty bad, and one or two faces that look decent. Still, there are enough sliders to allow one to kill time in the hope of making a cool looking avatar. You'll fail in the end, but you can try.

At this point, I had picked a male noble as my gender and class. I knew that the noble started with a MP regenerating item and an easier time to level up at the start (due to being the lowest starting level of the classes), since each upgrade costs more as your class level increases. Thus a thief or barbarian ("barbarous fellows" in the Chinese instructions), who are level nine to start, are hardest to level since they cost the most to advance.

Now my first impression of the game, beyond wishing that my TV supported 720p (no 1080i support in the game, yet), was that this game looks amazing even in SD. I mean this is a damned pretty a ruined kingdom on the verge of hell way. I mean the opening movie alone was breath-taking (you can find it on youtube...if you look).

My second impression, after I started to move my character around some, was a very simple word; f#@$! That was when I met my first enemy. The very first fight, in the tutorial level, will show you quickly how much you need to think in this game. Button mashers need not apply, and button mashers will hate this game with a passion. After clearing the tutorial, which includes the first boss destroying you (you can beat this "must lose" boss, but then the game will kill you flat out immediately after), you start the real game. That means you can now buy equipment and repair equipment. You still have no access to leveling up your stats, since this comes after the second level (first real level).

Well, you will wish you could level up early on, since the first level will kill you...many times. In fact, I have not cleared it yet. I have found many ways to die, but most come down to me being a little impatient. If you have trouble with Splinter Cell style games since you like to rush through the stealthy stuff, then you will need to retrain your way of thinking. I know I had to change how I played this game right away.

To show you how brutal this game is, you're constantly in a weird form of online. In it, until you advance some, you can interact with other players only by leaving messages (mainly warnings or begging for health...if someone rates a message as good, then the author gets a health boost for leaving a useful message) and you leave a blood stain when you die. If someone clicks on your blood stain, they will see your last few seconds of life. Usually this is a funny montage of your body being pummeled by all sides or of your body falling down a pit while thrusting your blade. Good humor, but also a good warning. A warning of both how you died so it could be avoided and a warning of how damned hard this game will be.

Despite my sucking at this game, I still have to say I love it. I love a game that is hard, but only as hard as you make it. If you think and don't just react blindly, you will not have too bad of a time. If you try to act like Rambo, then you will see what would have really happened if one person took on an army (of demons in this case); that one person would die. This is not a game for the feint of heart, but it's also a game that can be quite accessible to gamers who are willing to give it the chance it deserves...and willing to pay some import costs.

My one real doubt on this game is that it would ever see a North American release. This game is too hard to be considered a candidate for success in America. It's not something that would see too well, but then again, with an Asian release in English (and supposedly the Korean version has English as well...supposedly...not a guarantee from myself), you don't need it to come to the States. A few clicks on the net, and you're ready to go. Hell, the game was cheaper for me to import than it would be to buy from a local store if it did come to the US (after taxes, even with shipping costs being negated).


Malik (3/24/09)

I got in more time with Demon's Souls yesterday and realized that the game really needed a fresh perspective from myself. After taking a day off from the game and coming back, it all makes much more sense.

The challenge is still there, but it's also more manageable when you realize how to take your time. For example, I'm playing as a noble/royal/aristocrat (seems to be a dozen translations for each term in this game based on your region), so I need to rely on that all so awesome magic I started with. It's not just a tool to ease me into certain's a way of life. Or maybe it's more of a way to stay alive.

It also helps when you find some of the important key items for this game. By key items, I mean the cling ring (75% HP in soul form instead of 50%) and the thieves' ring (smaller radius to draw agro). Without these items, a player can quickly be overwhelmed. With them, the game becomes slightly forgiving.

I think the coolest part of this game, as I've seen so far, is just the grand scope of how much this game does. Between the true feeling of danger that you always face and the massive bosses that confront you, this game is made to keep you on your toes and visually stimulated to no end. Plus, there is nothing like the pure sense of danger you feel when you get the notice that a black phantom (a player killer) has entered your game and now may be on his/her way to claiming your physical body for themselves. At this point, you not only have the constant fear of death all around you, but you know that death has you in it's crosshairs.

Anyway, I'm a little on the sick side of things, so I'm not too sure if this rambling post makes sense or not. I'm only certain of two things right now. One being that I feel like crap. The other being that I don't want to feel like crap. A cold or the flu...the gift that keeps giving to all of your acquaintances.


Malik (3/25/09)

Despite what I may have said about Pearl Jam, I still went ahead and bought the entire Ten album for Rock Band DLC. I'm not sure why. Actually, it's probably because Alive had a hell of a fun guitar chart, so I figured I'd at least get some good fun. For the most part, I was right.

The charts for expert guitar range a lot like the Nirvana almost-Nevermind album pack did. You have fast, you have slow, and you have unusual. Most of all, you have fast songs that will take great pleasure in kicking your ass if you're not ready for them. In particular, if you play the album in order, you'll start with Once, which is fast and frantic. In fact, as you go through the album, the challenge level on guitar slowly diminishes, but the charts do remain on a constant level of fun.

If you're a Pearl Jam fan, this is a DLC album for you, obviously. If you're not a fan, but you enjoyed Alive, then you're in for good times. If you just didn't did the hammer-on style of Alive, then you're best off choosing carefully since most of the songs do enter this range, but some songs (like Black) will offer something different. Most of all, if you're a fan of solos, then these songs will offer quite a few of those.

I'm still playing Demon's Souls when I get the time, but I'm taking it slowly. In particular, I'm trying to play with a little bit of a grind feel right now. It's not that the game is too hard, but I currently have my physical body and don't want to die on a boss. In your body, you have more HP and you have the fun of being able to summon other players to join your game. In soul form, which happens between dying and beating another boss (or beating someone else's boss if they summon you to their game), you have 50% or 75% (with a ring equipped) of you HP, and that just adds a lot of stress to an already difficult situation.

I'm also determined to kill the red dragon in area 1-2, and that requires a good deal of grinding just to obtain the souls (experience/money) you need for enough arrows to slay this thing. Luckily, I think tonight I should finally have the strength and equipment to kill this flying flame thrower and continue on with my quest with a clean conscience.


Malik (3/26/09)

After countless passes through 1-1 to grind, I finally laid the dragon in 1-2 to rest in Demon's Souls. Unfortunately, I wasted too much time on the grinding for arrows without realizing the real amount I needed. To put it another way, I finished with around 250 arrows to spare. Considering, however, that the game auto-saves and that running out of arrows midway through the fight would have resulted in a need for more grinding to make a second attempt, I guess it wasn't a bad thing. Better safe with some wasted time than sorry with even more wasted time.

For those who want to stop this giant flame thrower from torching their path and putting extra hassle on the player, it's a simple process to kill this dragon. You find a bow of sorts (which you should find in 1-1, 1-2, or 2-1) and a lot of ammunition. The easiest way is to find the crossbow in 1-1 (fall off the area directly across from the first blue eyed knight you find in 1-1), but the short composite bow is a better option. Sadly, the location of that one escapes my memory. Then you grind for a lot of souls (quickest may be to just run through 1-1, killing everything as you go, a few times) to get enough arrows. Adding in some upgrades to the bow is not a bad idea, either.

Once you have a bow you like and enough ammunition (~200 arrows will do nicely), just go to 1-2. Run through the fire dragon attack zone, avoiding the fire. Once you reach the tower, go up to the roof and kill the enemies along the way. Now stand where the archers were. The one on the right (facing the start of the level) is best to copy, since you can get two hits per pass. Face out towards the dragon attack, aim (use L1 to aim better), and don't use lock-on aiming. Now with the short composite bow, you can get two shots off per pass of the dragon. Fire the first one right after the dragon roars (he will fly into the path of the arrow) and immediately fire again. If aimed right, you will hit twice. This will take a long time, but it's worth it with the souls you harvest from this demon being slain. You will get in the neighborhood of 7000+ souls for it, with no risk of death.

Better still, you will have less stress facing the archers and blue eyed knights at the end of the stage and you can do some looting on the bridge (where the dragon once attacked). You can even take a chance in the dragon nest on 1-1, since the red dragon will be gone, to get some better treasures.

The bad part is that this means I'm still at the same point in the game I was yesterday, but with a few more levels from the souls (experience) I got from killing the dragon. Also, it sets me up nicely to start my real playing today as I feel confident enough to take on a boss or two, which is what I have in front of me now.

Anyway, today is a short post since I don't have much of anything to talk about. I really did waste too much time on the dragon.


Malik (3/27/09)

I'm finally feeling a bit confident with Demon's Souls. I decided to finally get over my fear of dying (which exists primarily for the loss of some max HP and for the black world tendency shift) and to just get on with the game. So, I'm now one more boss down and feeling good. Unfortunately, this feeling of fear and dread is hard to overcome since the game really plays on one's fear of the unknown. Bosses are huge and imposing, dungeons are filled with very lethal traps and pits, and you cannot rely on a past save point when the game is always auto-saving your game with no backup save slot. In other words, you mess up and it will cost you...a lot.

As for my other game obsessions, Rock Band, next week has a lot of tracks for DLC. However, only two of them matter much to me. Yes, there's some SXSW related songs, which I don't know and am therefore indifferent to until I know them better.

There's also a three pack of Sponge Bob songs. I get it, already. Nickelodeon is part of the Viacom family. I understand. That doesn't mean these songs are needed in any damned form. I just don't get why the demographic for RB is adjusted, via DLC and not with on disk tracks, to a group that doesn't fit the on disk demographic or even the game's ESRB rating. The game is T, not E. Nickelodeon is more for the people not quite rocking the T yet, but we keep getting this stuff.

There's no harm to myself over these tracks, but they just don't seem right for the game. On top of that, time spent by Harmonix to chart and edit these tracks for RB is time not spent on charting some more appropriate of artists. I mean this time could be spent on more Rolling Stones (there were rumors last year), more Jet, more Weezer (Blue Album, anyone?), more ska (Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, etc.), more old school punk (London Calling album would be the ultimate DLC), real examples of The Ramones (songs that do more than fit the repeated chord concept, like Pet Cemetery, I Believe in Miracles, I Wanna Live), more Social Distortion that is not the slower stuff (Don't Drag Me Down or Mommy's Little Monster), and losts of other under-represented bands and genres.

At least next week will see two great songs for $2 each. On one hand you have the overplayed, but still awesome, Don't Stop Believing from Journey. On the other hand, you have the song I've wanted since I first learned of Rock Band DLC being a weekly thing and not seeing it on the original RB1 on disk track list; Pat Benatar's Heartbreaker! Booyah!

So, at least with two awesome classics and two possible SXSW tracks, I'd call next week a good thing for DLC...even if there's a major demographic issue with Viacom and their forcing of not-quite-right songs. At least I can, barely, respect Sponge Bob more than Naked Brothers Band and Jonas Brothers.


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