It's telling that the reveal trailer for 'Demon's Souls' - amidst all the glorious graphics, swirling operatic music, and high fantasy architecture - featured the most commonplace event in the game.
Namely, the player dying a horrible death and respawning back at the start.
Gaming today is so focused on forwarding momentum that we forget it began with the idea of repetition. You died, you go back to the start, you fight your way back to where you died, you either die again or you learn. Fans of FromSoftware's catalogue of games live and die by one maxim - get good, or git gud as it's often stylised.
This is central to enjoying 'Demon's Souls', and something that takes time to learn again. Role-playing games today often purposefully push you off certain paths, wanting to keep you in the game longer and providing you with the necessary tools and skill paths until you're ready to move forward. In some cases, whole sections of the game's map are walled off to you.
While 'Demon's Souls' features all these aspects and its trademark messaging / community system, there's only so much all that can help you. The game really does press itself down on you, and you either give up in frustration or you simply git gud. So often is the case that game developers try to mollycoddle players, yet 'Demon's Souls' has no such compunctions.
The gameplay throughout is tough, yes, but you'll eventually crack it and then it becomes not only addictive but rewarding. The challenge becomes ever greater with each arena, but when you realise that death is simply baked into the experience, it becomes far less gruelling. The graphics, updated now for the PS5, just pour out of the screen in a truly breathtaking way. The animations are crisp and clear, the sense of scale is overpowering, the colours and the shadows all the more gorgeous.
It's not just the graphics update that makes 'Demon's Souls' so impressive. The updates from the original game are done with taste and consideration. Yes, you have some more options to design and personalise your character, but the gameplay doesn't shift itself so clearly to accommodate. Likewise, the community system remains and is unobtrusive as ever; you can either ignore the messages or you can use them - nothing changes with either choice. The music is powerful, booming, and completely in keeping with the outrageous design.
Be under no illusion - there's a good chance 50% of the people reading this who end up buying 'Demon's Souls' will absolutely hate it. A game this difficult, this requiring of time and concentration, will never be all things to all players. Some people just can't hack that level of frustration, and instead prefer a storytelling experience than a challenging one. 'Demon's Souls' is very much that.
The story is stripped back and requires no real adherence to it, nor does it need anything from the player to enjoy themselves. It's almost an accoutrement, there if you need it to motivate you, but often is surplus to requirements. Instead, the thrill of beating that ridiculously large boss at the end of the level is enough. That's where 'Demon's Souls' lives and reigns, in those moments of teeth-grinding frustration and - rarely, too rarely - joyous victory.
If you can bear it, 'Demon's Souls' is fantastic gameplay. Just know that you're going to die horribly.