Dark souls has been released and in case you didn't know, FromSoftware had another masterpiece before it. With the servers of this game likely to go down in a few months, most people are missing their chance to fully experience this game.
Demon's souls is a third person action RPG set in a fantasy world called Boletaria. At the beginning of the game you create your character (choose your starting class and customise their looks) and then there is a nice little tutorial that helps you work out the controls and introduces you to the game's fighting mechanics. R1 and R2 control your sword and L1 and L2 control your shield. Simple, right? You click R3 to lock on to enemies and tap circle to roll. These are your basic combat techniques. By the end of the tutorial, the player will be feeling rather confident about themselves. This is a fleeting feeling, though as they encounter their first boss, the vanguard who is more than likely to one hit kill the player. This intentional because it introduces the player to the harsh difficulty of the game as well as showing them to a new area called the nexus.
The nexus is a sort of hub world where you can warp to all the different levels in the game. Some levels will be locked out when you start: not to worry, they'll all open up eventually. Also, in the nexus, you can interact with NPC characters who can look after your excess items, repair your weapons, upgrade your stats, teach you spells/miracles and sell you things etc. This is your safe haven to return to, if you like.
Now, I mentioned earlier about the difficulty. Here's the thing: the game isn't really hard, it's just if you make a mistake, you die. During the game you can either be in human form or soul form. In soul form, you lose half of your health, but are slightly stronger. If you die in human form, you revert to soul form and there are 2 ways to return to human form. 1 is to defeat a boss, and the other is to use an item called the stone of ephemeral eyes, which can be found lying around sometimes and there's another special way, but I'll get on to that later.
Throughout the game, if you defeat an enemy, you get a number of souls. Souls are the game's currency and are used to do more or less everything. From upgrading and repairing your weapons, to increasing your own stats. On top of that, if you defeat a boss, you can get a demon's soul which can be used to create unique weapons or spells or be consumed to get a large number of souls. Best to keep these for later, it isn't worth using them for souls.
Now, back to dying, now that I've explained the souls thing, I can give you some bad news... When you die, you lose all the souls you've earned. Now there is a way to get them back. You have to run through the level to the spot where you died and touch the bloodstain you left when you died. This returns your souls, but doesn't bring you back to human form, unfortunately. This is a feature which makes the game even more difficult.
Let me go in to even more depth with the difficulty, here. A weak enemy can kill you in 3 or 4 hits at the beginning of the game if you don't make good use of your shield. This causes you to learn the game's combat system or die. You will find that if you spend some time training your reflexes, you will get much better at blocking and knowing when you can attack.
The options for fighting are unreal. There is a tremendous choice of weapons ranging from spears and daggers to giant poles and longbows. Everything's fantastical though, so no guns, sorry. Now, the weapon upgrade system is excellent. What you do is you bring your weapon to a blacksmith, give him some souls and some stone (which can be collected all over the place) and he'll strengthen your weapon, allowing you to do more damage, great, right? Well there's more. Depending on what stone you give to him, he can strengthen certain properties of the weapon. For example, if you give him a bladestone to upgrade your shortsword, he'll turn it into a sharp shortsword. Now, this gives it new statistical properties. The damage this weapon does will scale with you character's dexterity stat. This can be done for a variety of stats so you can make your weapon strong, no matter which stats you want to specialise in. For example, even if you're a magic user, you can upgrade a sword with moonlightstone so that it's power scales with your magic stat. The options are endless.
Now, I'm wary I may be prattling on, but I haven't even spoken about the online features, yet. So, once you reach a certain point in the game (very early in the game) you can begin to summon other players (up to 2) into your world to help you complete the level. If they do succeed in helping you beat the boss, they are revived to their human body again because they beat a boss. You can only summon players into your game if you are in human form and can only summon players who are in soul form. If you are in soul form, you can also use an item which lets you 'invade' someone else's game and fight with them to the death. If you succeed in killing them, you get revived and return to your human body and get all their souls. If they kill you, they get all your souls.
So, I've gone into as much detail as I feel is physically possible for this game. As I said, the online servers for this game are likely to go down soon and I cannot recommend getting it enough. If you like action games, action RPGs, hack and slash games or are even remotely interested in this game, don't think, just get it. The game isn't too difficult, if you're okay at games, you shouldn't have any trouble. Just remember that you're supposed to die a lot. The reward in defeating the boss is well worth it.