From the outside it looks much like any other RPG, it’s got the traditional character types, traditional stats, skills, weapons, armour and it has a fairly standard levelling system. You fight the traditional monsters through the traditional dungeons. All of which has been carried out to a high standard that should leave both hardcore RPG players and casual gamers equally satisfied. But there are two or three innovations in Demons Souls that makes it play unlike most other RPG games I have experienced. Firstly you do not have a large open world to explore. Early in the game you will die (get used to it you’ll spend plenty of time dying) and be transported to the Nexus. The Nexus represents the hub of all the worlds you will explore and cleanse of demons, you come here to heal, trade & spend your souls to gain experience. Initially only 1 area is open but once you clear this stage another half a dozen areas open up and no direction is given as to where you should head next. After levelling up I tentatively headed into a new area (chosen because it was the shortest physical distance up the stairs from the first zone) and… Actually I did ok. I stayed alive fully 10 minutes before dying! I even managed to fight my way back to all my lost souls before legging it back to relative safety as my baby had awoken and gaming was over for the day. Which brings up one of the annoying but necessary features of the game (no not being interrupted by a baby) when you die you lose all your souls. They are left in a pulsating puddle of blood at the feet of what ever big bad has killed you. Fortunately you don’t lose all your items but even so this will frequently cause a great deal of annoyance. If you embrace the perverse then you can think of it like a bet – double or nothing?! Get back to your blood pool before you die or they are gone for good! So this is an RPG, with very little RP about it just numerous worlds to explore filled with monsters to kill and there is only 1 way to play this game, kill them all! Fortunately the killing in this game is a delight. It has a very simple combination of commands (quick attack, strong attack, block, fend, dodge) which provides a reasonably easy to pick up combat system. The pleasure comes in both the interplay of those moves, working out how you deal with each enemy and balancing that against your quickly depleting stamina. If you run out of stamina you will be unable to complete any action so either you need to quickly dispatch your enemy or move around them dodging and weaving. The good old RPG 3 step! Step In – Strike – Step Out – Step In – Strike – Step Out… But for some reason in Demon’s Souls it feels a more natural part of the game, probably because it’s essential for survival. Add in ranged weapons, magic, miracles & consumables like fire bombs or throwing knives and you’ve got a wonderful variety of death dealing options! Another interesting feature of this game is a unique online enhancement to the single player campaign. It’s a system where fellow players can leave messages that appear on the floor in your world. These messages may be helpful or may not; they might help you see an ambush early or maybe put you off trying that leap of faith. Other players also appear in your world as ghosts from time to time and occasionally their deaths will appear as a blood puddle you can click on to see how they died. . Overall this is a novel feature that doesn’t make or break the game but it certainly does add a little something extra to the experience. And it is this overall experience where Demon’s Souls comes together. Visually it is good, dark & brooding, it will keep you on the edge of your seat as you try to see what is ahead. You will feel frustration, elation & fear (OH NO! PLEASE DON’T DIE!). The online connectivity gives you some hints and amusing moments. Sure it’s hard but it is that very difficulty that keeps you so closely engaged in the game. You can’t save every 2 minutes so you really do care what is around the corner, what price you’ll pay if you challenge that suspicious looking man with the big pike & red eyes? (Death, if you ever wonder what the price will be it’ll be death!) Demon’s Souls is a great game that has, in a way, chosen artistic honesty over commercial success. The game will struggle to be hugely popular as it is too hard for your average gamer but the inclusion of a difficulty slider would have seen it compromised, it is that challenge that makes it the engrossing experience that it is. Tense and engrossing, excellent combat, high difficulty with an equally high sense of accomplishment. But really only a game for the hardcore gamer.