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Demon's Souls - title

Rumors of a Demon's Souls remaster or remake have been floating around for a while now (as have rumors of a sequel). I have mixed feeling on the idea of a remake/remaster. On the one hand, Demon's Souls is one of my favorite games ever and may represent the peak of the series. Naturally, I want more people to play it and recognize its brilliance.

On the other hand, my fondness for the game means that I am hesitant to allow anyone to modify the game at all. After suffering through the abysmal Silent Hill HD Collection, I have strong reservations about any game remastering. Even the announced remake of Shadow of the Colossus has me on edge.

Matthewmatosis has posted an excellent retrospective look at how the subsequent
Souls games failed to live up to Demon's Souls' brilliance and originality.

Sadly, a remaster would probably mean that the servers for the original game would finally get shut down. But I guess having a replacement would be better than having no Demon's Souls at all...?

So with Dark Souls having come to its end with its Ringed City DLC, I've been thinking a lot lately about what I might want to see in any potential Demon's Souls remake or remaster -- if it were to happen.

Table of Contents

Things to keep

I'm going to start by defending some of the mechanics and systems that I fear might get changed. These are mechanics that may be unpopular with players, but which I think are essential to setting the game's harsh tone.

Maintain the uniqueness of each boss

Since Dark Souls, the series' bosses have become very homogenized. By the time of Dark Souls III, every boss fight takes place in a large, open arena, and all bosses have two phases. Most fights are won by simply attacking, dodging the boss' attacks (usually after waiting for their half-second feint), then going in for another couple attacks. There are exceptions, but gimmick fights like Micolash and the Curserotted Greatwood are few and far between. Demon's Souls and Dark Souls had a much wider variety of boss types. Some worked very well (Tower Knight, Maiden Astraea, Moonlight Butterfly, Sif); others not-so-well (Dragon God, Bed of Chaos).

Do not cater to fans who think bosses like Phalanx and Old Hero are "too easy" because of their gimmicks.

In general, the boss designs of Demon's Souls worked well. Any remaster or remake needs to retain the uniqueness and gimmick of each of the bosses in Demon's Souls. While I don't mind the devs cleaning up some obvious exploits (like being able to kill a Maneater with arrows before entering the fog gate), I want each boss to maintain their various quirks and tactical strategies. I don't want the gimmicks of bosses like Phalanx, Fool's Idol, Armor Spider, Old Hero, Leechmonger, or Maiden Astraea to be changed because they're "too easy" once you know the trick -- especially don't change the anti-climax of Maiden Astraea! First time players still have to figure those tricks out!

I could maybe see changing some of those fights up a bit for New Game + so that they are a bit more intense and challenging for repeat playthroughs, but that's about it.

And don't you dare screw up the Old Monk PvP boss in the way the Spears of Filianore boss fight was messed up! Don't throw in NPCs that clutter up the arena and serve as a distraction. This should remain a one-on-one duel. Further, the mechanic for summoning the Old Monk phantom needs to be retained! Don't turn the Old Monk into some kind of "covenant" kind of mechanic that gives the player control over whether they get summoned.

Demon's Souls - Old Monk
Do not shove NPCs into the Old Monk boss fight like was done with the Spears of Filianore.

Keep the Item burden

Dark Souls had a decent excuse for removing the item burden: Lordran being a fully-connected world with no warp capability means that the player couldn't return to a central hub to drop off or pick up supplies. There still could have been an item burden (which would have made the Bottomless Box actually useful), but the fact that you effectively take the Bottomless Box with you kind of defeats the purpose.

Later games, however, allowed warping from the start (as Demon's Souls did), and so they could have re-introduced the item burden, and I wish they had. I liked the item burden of Demon's Souls and the way that it forced the player to have to actually plan and prepare for a particular area before you enter it. You read the description on the archstone of the Valley of Defilement, and so you should probably decide to load up your character with Royal Lotus and other status cures, as well as maybe some high poison-resist armor -- possibly at the expense of a backup weapon or a supply of throwing knives and firebombs. Bloodborne tried to limit the number of items you could take into a level in order to prevent players who farm from having overwhelming advantages, but each item had a separate capacity, and so taking one set of supplies never stopped you from taking another set.

In Demon's Souls, you had to commit to a particular build and supply set, and so the levels felt more like self-contained little adventures. Allowing you to carry all your supplies with you and switch out to any loadout at any time took some of the fear and trepidation out of Dark Souls' levels. You were never truly unprepared for a level in Dark Souls in the way you might be for Demon's Souls, and so I never really felt hesitant to push forward into an area that I didn't know about.

Demon's Souls - can't be summoned in human form
Players can only be summoned
while in soul form.

Maintain the Online Elegance

In Demon's Souls, the rules for summoning and invading were a bit stricter than in the follow-up games. Just like in the later games, in order to summon help or be invaded, you need to be in human form. Unlike in the later games, in order to be summoned or to invade, you have to be in soul form. Succeeding in killing a boss or defeating the host in PvP awards you with your human form (and full health bar). This system is elegant and should be retained. You should not be able to be summoned or invade while you are in human form!

One change that I would accept would be for defeating a boss or killing a host could provide a consumable item that restores your human form, rather than simply having it happen automatically. Perhaps an "Ephemeral Soul" could be the reward for defeating a boss or for killing an invader, and that item restores human form. It would be similar to the existing Stone of Ephemeral Eyes. Though, I guess there's no reason why we would need a new item if we already have the Soul of Ephemeral Eyes. However, these new items should maybe require that you go to the Nexus (or specifically to the Maiden in Black or Monumental) in order to use the item and revive. This would limit the ability to revive at a boss gate, and would force players to go through a level in human form, thus opening themselves up to invasion.

Finite Crystal Lizard respawns

Another mechanic that was very restrictive in Demon's Souls, but which was made more forgiving in the follow-ups is the crystal lizard spawning rules. In Dark Souls, crystal lizards would respawn whenever you reload an area, until you finally kill it. In Demon's Souls, however, each lizard only respawned once for each time that a boss is killed in a respective world. This means that in a world that has three bosses, you only have a maximum of four chances to kill any of the lizards in that world.

Demon's Souls - chasing Stonefeng lizards
Finite crystal lizard spawns force players to look and listen to surroundings -- and act fast on your feet.

This mechanic forced the player to explore a level very deliberately and carefully. You have to be very observant in order to make sure that you don't accidentally scare away a lizard that you weren't prepared to pursue and kill. And since lizards are often hidden from immediate sight, your first hint at their presence is the dull audio chime that they make. You have to not only look closely at your surroundings, but you also have to listen carefully. Having to engage multiple sense so intensely really helps to heighten the immersion of the game.

Back to Contents

Things to fix

So what problems actually do exist within the game that might be worth addressing in any sort of remake or remaster? Well, Dark Souls and Bloodborne definitely made some objectively good refinements to the series. A good start would be to port some of those successful systems into Demon's Souls where relevant. There are also features of Demon's Souls that feel very under-developed, and which could maybe use some expansion.

Grass farming

Grass farming is probably the most severe balance issue that plagued Demon's Souls -- both online and offline. Instead of having a limited-use Estus, the player is free to farm consumable healing grasses in varying sizes and efficacy. Invaders could, therefore, farm and stockpile massive quantities of grass prior to invading a host. The quick nature of the grass-eating animation meant that such invaders frequently had access to a pool of seemingly-unlimited HP with almost no risk for trying to use it.

Demon's Souls - healing after fight
Healing could be completely retuned to make HP more precious and to not be dependent on grass-farming.

Being able to farm healing grasses also made taking damage less consequential overall, which does hurt the single player game as well. Players don't need to be as cautious as they explore a level, or go too far out of their way to learn proper dodge techniques if they can always just pop another one of their 99 grasses. Estus was probably the single most brilliant mechanic that Dark Souls introduced to the series, as it ensured that a player always has access to a finite health pool for any given run through a level. Each point of health is, therefore, important, and you can't just whilly-nilly tank your way through battles or traps and then heal up after the encounter. Dark Souls III even added the Ashen Estus flask that allowed for MP restoration, and players had to balance their Estus quantity with their Ashen Estus quantity, which added an extra layer of strategy to creating a given character build and deciding how you want to allocate your resources.

I would definitely be open to the idea of completely replacing Demon's Souls' grass healing system with something akin to Dark Souls' Estus, or even Bloodborne's Blood Vial system. Just as long as the solution doesn't conflict with the item burden mechanic.

Heavy armor and poise

After the Estus flask, the next best refinement in Dark Souls was probably the poise mechanic. This allowed heavily-armored characters to withstand the stagger of most weapons and gave much more value to heavy armor. Because of the item burden in Demon's Souls, heavy armor is particularly bad because it doesn't provide a significant enough boost in defense, and it weighs you down and may prevent you from carrying all your hard-earned loot out of a level. I happen to like the item burden as a mechanic, so instead of removing that, I'd rather see heavy armors become more valuable. Poise would probably be the best way to accomplish that.

Demon's Souls - heavy armor
With a poise stat, heavy armor might become worth its encumbrance burden.

If heavy armor allowed me to poise and/or hyper armor through enemy attacks, then I might be more likely to consider wearing it. Sorry Stockpile Thomas, but I'm going to be needing that fluted armor back...

Defenseless snipers

Besides poor pathfinding, perhaps the dumbest flaw in the enemy A.I. of Demon's Souls was the fact that archer enemies did not have any way to defend themselves in melee. If you get too close to them, they'll just stand there and let you beat on them. They won't pull a dagger on you, won't try to pistol-whip you with the stock of their crossbow, and won't even try to punch or kick you. This was fixed in Dark Souls, and I would hope it would be fixed in any re-release of Demon's Souls.

Ranged enemies should also be improved with faster reload times, and maybe for multiple snipers to be scripted to stagger their shots to leave the player with fewer openings.

Colliders and hitboxes

Demon's Souls - projectile collision box
Arrows routinely get stuck in mid-air.

Colliders (particularly when it comes to weapon and projectile clipping) has been a major technical issue with this series from day one, and it still is an issue even in the later games. The player's weapons will often bounce off walls, while enemy weapons routinely clip right through walls. Projectiles also have an annoying habit of getting stuck in mid-air because some nearby piece of geometry has an oversized collider box. Sniping an enemy from cover is almost always a crap shoot. Faulty environmental colliders and hitboxes also lead to some problems with platforming and tightroping, and can lead to some cheap deaths. If these things could be fixed in a remake, then I'd probably be pretty happy. But since the problem still persists in Dark Souls III, I doubt it will be fixed.

Obstacles and general camera instability

The camera is another consistent technical problem with the Souls-Borne games, going back to Demon's Souls. The Valley of Defilement (along with Blighttown in Dark Souls) are known for environmental obstacles consistently obstructing the player's view, sometimes completely obscuring the action on screen. Dark Souls II added obstacle transparency for when some objects in the environment would get in between the camera and the player character. I don't know why this feature wasn't brought forward into DSIII or Bloodborne, but I wouldn't mind seeing it implemented in a Demon's Souls remaster.

Character and world tendency

I'm not sure what the point of this mechanic was, but having your world and character tendencies adjusted each time you boot up the game based on the server average was an incredibly annoying feature. Especially considering how difficult the world and character tendency indicators are to read! Trying to max out your white or black tendency in order to unlock different areas of the game, only to have the server arbitrarily normalize your tendency is not something that I think improves the game in any way. I would say that server normalization of world tendency should just be dropped.

I am, however, open to other ideas for world and character tendency; though I don't have any specific suggestions. Character tendency (in particular) is a very under-developed feature in Demon's Souls that I think could maybe be re-visited and enhanced. It all depends on how drastic the changes would be, and what effects they might have on the rest of the game. Apparently, the original concept for character tendency was that a character's tendency would be the determining factor of whether he or she gets summoned for co-op or for PvP. So instead of having a Blue Eye Stone and a Black Eye Stone, the original concept may have only had a single summon stone, and your character tendency created a percentage chance of being summoned as a blue or black phantom. While this certainly would have made character tendency more relevant, I don't think this is something that should be re-adopted. This concept was, however, retained for the Old Monk boss fight, and you could maybe say that the Mound-makers covenant of Dark Souls III is the spiritual successor to this same concept.

Demon's Souls - character tendency
Character tendency is an under-developed and under-utilized mechanic.

I don't know that there's much room in the game for covenants, but I could maybe see a few interesting applications of covenant-like features with respect to tendency. Covenants could maybe temporarily force adjustments to other players' world tendencies (and temporarily lock them out of tendency-specific areas) through a covenant system similar to Dark Souls' Gravelord. I could also see co-op and PvP-themed covenants that actually reward the player for maintaining white or black character tendency (respectively), and punish the player for drifting too far away from pure white or black. The original concept for character tendency influencing co-op or PvP odds could also hypothetically be tied into a covenant. Covenants (or some equivalent) is probably more a feature for a sequel than for a remake, unless FROMSoft is considering a complete reboot of Demon's Souls.

Back-Porting Combat updates, and other Souls-borne suggestions

Some of the more advanced combat mechanics from Dark Souls could probably also be back-ported into Demon's Souls without upsetting the balance of the game too much. The leaping attack and plunging attack would actually be very useful things in Demon's Souls so long as they don't break too many encounters by making them too easy. The charged heavy attack is also a great addition to the formula that I wouldn't mind seeing back-ported, assuming that enemies are made a little bit quicker and more aggressive in order to compensate. Some of the extra mobility while using a bow would also probably be a welcome addition for players who want ranged builds. The game doesn't necessarily need these features, and there's certainly a risk that they might break or imbalance the game, but I wouldn't mind seeing them included.

The plunging attack, leaping attack, charged heavy attack, and charged backstab might be worth including.

And of course, it would be nice to be able to roll in more than just four directions when locked onto an enemy.

The more controversial addition would probably be whether or not to replace the backstab mechanic with a system similar to Bloodborne's, in which the player must first stagger the enemy with a charged heavy attack before the enemy can be backstabbed. I was surprised that feature wasn't included in Dark Souls III, as it does solve some of the fluky problems associated with backstabs in the series, especially where PvP is concerned. Would it work in Demon's Souls? I'm not entirely sure...

Back-Porting UI Improvements

Another probably obvious idea would be to back-port some of the UI improvements over to the game. Adding an interface to view your message signs (as in Dark Souls III) would be convenient. Having the "Personal Effects" bar from Bloodborne would also be a nice way to keep summon stones, guiding stones, consumable souls, and other such non-combat items accessible without having to filter through your inventory.

I could also see some people wanting a warp menu that allows any archstone to warp to any other archstone. While I probably wouldn't mind seeing such an interface, it's not a huge deal for me, as Demon's Souls is designed more around the player clearing a level in a single run, rather than warping back and forth between worlds.

I also have a list of other suggestions for the series in general. I invite you to check out that post. Relevant ides from that list would be to include a display of full weapon upgrade paths (so you can see what an upgraded weapon's full stats will be before investing the stones and souls), including more status duration indicators, and adding an item collection log to replace the obtrusive item-pick-up notification boxes.

Back to Contents

Things to add?

Obviously, a remake or remaster (or sequel) would include some graphical enhancements. Things like cloth physics, better lighting, better water and weather effects, and so forth would all almost certainly be added. I'm OK with all of these additions, as long as they don't hurt the aesthetic design or tone of any of the levels (particularly Latria). Lighting in particular is something that is important to get right, as virtually every level in the game (except maybe Boletaria Palace) uses light and dark to help set a mood and to create different environmental risks and hazards.

So aside from new graphical effects, here's some other new features that I would maybe like to see added.

Cross-platform multiplayer and activity levels

I believe that Sony still holds the rights to the name Demon's Souls, so I would imagine that any potential remake would be a PlayStation exclusive. However, if the game were to go multi-platform (even if the only other platform is PC), I would definitely like to see support for cross-platform multiplayer. One of my consistent frustrations with the Dark Souls games was that I owned them all on PlayStation consoles, but most of my friends owned them on PC or XBox, so we could never play together or duel in PvP. Minecraft is hopefully setting a new industry standard for cross-platform play, and I expect [or at least hope] all online multiplayer games to start following suit, assuming that Sony pulls its head out of its ass and hops on board.

In addition, the game should have some indication of how active each area of the game is. Some kind of indicator on the archstones' warp menu or on the character tendency screen could be used to communicate how many co-op or PvP-eligible players there are in each area. It would also be nice if the profile-select screen also indicated how active the servers are in the given characters' range. That way, if I want to play mulitplayer, I know which character is most likely to see some action.

If we end up with a straight up remaster of Demon's Souls (without any mechanic or content changes), then it would also be nice to have cross-platform with the original PS3 version. This probably isn't technically viable and is extraordinarily unlikely, but I'm gonna throw it out there anyway. This way, owners of the original game would have some extra life added to it as well.

Demon's Souls - broken archstone
We've been wanting in since the game released!

Finish the incomplete sixth archstone

Having new content for the game would certainly be a fantastic selling-point for fans of the original. If the remake could include the ability to access the broken sixth archstone (the Northern Land of the Giants), that would be pretty cool. This could maybe even be something that is only accessible in New Game +, so that first-time players can get an experience more akin to the original game for their first playthrough. This would also give returning players a reason to power through the game in order to gain access to NG+ and the sixth archstone, which would hopefully increase the player base.

When I first reviewed Bloodborne, I wasn't terribly impressed by the chalice dungeons. They seemed too samey and kind of dull and lifeless. Those complaints are still absolutely true, but I have found that I'm enjoying going back into the game and exploring more of the chalices. I've cleared the game practically twice, so there's very little content in Yharnam that I haven't seen or experienced.

Bloodborne - chalice dungeon
Maybe the sixth archstone could lead to
a set of procedural dungeons?

So it's always fun to explore an area of the game that I haven't been -- or at least, an area which is slightly different and rearranged each time. Every time I play, there's always the ability to play new content. I wouldn't mind having the pleasure of a never-ending stream of new (or at least varied) Demon's Souls content to keep me coming back to that game. In fact, instead of finishing the Land of the Giants as it was originally intended, perhaps the sixth archstone could act as an access point to a set of procedural dungeons for Demon's Souls!

Or, if the remake is given enough dev time, perhaps we could have both?

Left-handed characters

I've asked for it before. The game controls seem pretty symmetrical to me, so I don't see any reason why a character couldn't be left-handed and have the ability to equip a primary weapon in the left hand and have access to that weapon's primary moveset. It seems like it would be a pretty simple thing to implement.

Demon's Souls - lefty
The controls are symmetrical, so a left-handed character seems simple to implement.

Sure, the game currently allows players to equip a weapon in the left hand, but doing so causes that weapon to use its off-hand moveset. In the case of many daggers and rapiers (for example), this replaces the heavy attack (L2) with a parry. Shields are even less functional if equipped in the right hand, as both R1 and R2 perform a shield punch or shield bash instead of a block or parry. It seems like it would be simple enough to set a flag in character creation that switches the off-hand animations with the dominant-hand animations. I'm honestly surprised that this hasn't been implemented in the Souls series yet.

Import PS3 save file!

One last little favor that any remake / remaster could afford to us long-time players: the ability to import our hard-earned PS3 progress. The game saves a record of our own victories in the Pantheon at the top of the Nexus, and it would be nice if this could be preserved. It would also be nice to be able to jump right into New Game + with our existing characters, rather than having to start over from scratch. I've already lost my Demon's Souls save progress once, I'd prefer not to have to start all over again. Of course, I could always play from the beginning with a new character if I want to.

Demon's Souls - Uniter of the World
I don't want to lose my Uniters of the World

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