From Software’s Souls series is rightfully recognized for its higher-than-average difficulty level and the first game, Demon’s Souls, was no different. The game was definitely noticed and lauded for its often crushing difficulty and devious boss battles. Someone going in for a first playthrough with a melee build was likely to hit some serious walls throughout the game. However, Demon’s Souls had another surprise; it was severely unbalanced.
I still remember my first playthrough of the game. I played it after Dark Souls and found it notably easier in most spots, but there were some serious roadblocks. The biggest of these was the boss named Flamelurker, a fire-based enemy that you fought in a huge room. I simply couldn’t beat him via normal methods, despite my best attempts. There were ways around that, though.
Unlike From Software’s later games, sans Bloodborne, Demon’s Souls didn’t strictly limit the amount of healing items you could bring with you. It was pretty simple to just grind certain enemies until I had a massive stack of healing items that I could spam in order to survive my fight with the Flamelurker. The fight just didn’t seem to work for me with a melee build, so I’m glad the game had such an easy fallback, lame as it might have been.
There are other parts of the game where I just felt I was smacked down way too hard due to focusing on melee, such as the poison swamp. Truthfully, the game doesn’t even really feel like it was designed with pure melee in mind. Because of that, after beating the game, I didn’t move onto the New Game Plus. Instead, I decided to try a magic build.
One of the many interesting things that Demon’s Souls does is the way it handles damage bonuses. Certain weapons will cause your damage to increase dramatically if you have points invested in certain stats. The most curious result of this is that you can end up doing more damage with magic weapons if you have points in your magic stat than you would probably be able to do with straight damage.
A magic build also comes with the more obvious bonus of spells. Now, remember when I said the game doesn’t seem built for melee-only? Well, it also clearly isn’t built for spamming spells, because they allow you to trivialize most encounters. And unlike Dark Souls the game has a magic meter that allows you to use a great many spells instead of limiting you to a handful of uses. That was an extreme band-aid fix to keep the player from relying on spells for any situation.
So, spells already make a magic build playthrough much, much easier than melee, but it doesn’t stop there. As I mentioned previously, you can have magic weapons which not only give you a bunch of over-powered magic spells but additionally, the right weapon will allow you to basically be a better melee fighter with a magic build than with a melee build. If there were a magic weapon such as this early on in the game, why, it could basically break the entire experience and take it from a nail-bitingly tough action game to a cakewalk. Good thing there isn’t such a weapon.
I’m kidding, you know where I’m going with this. You gain access to level 4-1 pretty early on. Attempting to fight most of the enemies with your early equipment is a death sentence, as you’d likely expect, but as any seasoned gamer knows, oftentimes you can just run right past your enemies. Running away from everything you encounter here can lead you to an extremely dangerous dual katana-wielding skeleton that you will certainly be no match for. But you can lure him away and grab the treasure he was guarding; a crescent falchion +1.
Once you die horribly and respawn back at the hub, you’ll still have it, so those sorts of suicide runs are very useful in this series. With this powerful weapon and all of your early points pumped into magic, you’ll basically be unstoppable. Enemies that gave me a world of trouble with my earlier build fell in just a few hits. Distant foes were then picked off with magic missiles. Oh, and the Flamelurker, the boss who gave me such trouble in my first playthrough? A cakewalk with magic missiles. Completely unbalanced game.
Demon’s Souls is definitely a game I wouldn’t recommend cheesing your first time through, but there are definitely some very easy ways to do so. It’s a great game, to be sure, but it’s clear that From Software definitely learned a lot about fine-tuning the series from how unbalanced Demon’s Souls is. The game is coming up on its tenth anniversary, so it might be a good time to see what it’s like to play on easy mode for people who are used to the game beating them into the dirt. Cheap or not, it’s hard to deny how entertaining it is to take something brutal and take massive advantage of its oversights.