More than a decade after Demon’s Souls was released on PlayStation 3, where it delighted, perplexed, and infuriated players, a new take on the game is coming to PlayStation 5. Developer Bluepoint Games, which created 2017’s Shadow of the Colossus remake, is rebuilding Demon’s Souls from the ground up. It’s a glossier, more refined version of the PS3 classic, but one that stays true to the original’s gameplay and level of difficulty.
Polygon recently spoke with the game’s creative director, Gavin Moore, who is overseeing the project at Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios. Moore said that the PS5 remake of Demon’s Souls will retain what players love about the PS3 version, while improving aspects of the original — and making a few small, but surprising changes along the way.
“We’ve been thinking about doing a remake of Demon’s Souls for years,” Moore said during a video call. “It’s one of the most beloved games in the PlayStation catalog. It’s the most requested title for a remake that we’ve ever had. But I was always a little afraid of tackling it because it’s so beloved. It wasn’t until we redefined what a remake was with Shadow of the Colossus on PlayStation 4 that we felt that we could take on the challenge of Demon’s Souls and do it justice.
“Our approach to this is we try and keep the core of the game untouched. With Demon’s Souls, that’s the gameplay, the logic, and the AI, and then everything else is stripped away. And then utilizing the incredible power of the PlayStation 5 and how much we could really go wild on this title, we started to build everything back.”
Moore said that the developers are taking their Demon’s Souls duties seriously, and that “nothing goes into this game without being scrutinized in detail.” And while original developer FromSoftware was not involved in the creation of the remake, it nevertheless gave Sony and Bluepoint its blessing, Moore told me.
“As long as the core remains, and we’re true to the original vision, then we feel comfortable adding stuff into the game,” Moore said. “That’s how we approach it. That’s our ethos.”
“Everything that was in the original PlayStation 3 version is in the standard edition of the game,” Moore said, when asked about new items and equipment coming to Demon’s Souls as part of the game’s digital deluxe edition. “So nobody’s missing out on anything. There’s a lot of new content that we’ve added to the game and for fans to find and enjoy. And there are lots of things that I think fans are going to go, ‘Oh, that’s amazing. Great. You know, I didn’t know they put that in the game.’ I’m not going to tell you any more than that, because [I don’t want] to spoil anything.”
We know that the remake will have new weapons, armor, and rings, and that the digital deluxe edition will give players an early boost, with brand-new items like Grains. Demon’s Souls new Grains, Moore explained, will offer temporary resistance to effects like poison, fire, and bleeding, giving players new loadout options when they set off on adventure. (Unlike the more popular Dark Souls games, how much stuff your character can carry at once is a major consideration in Demon’s Souls.)
One change that will affect players’ encumbrance — aka how much stuff their character can carry — is how much healing grass they can hold. In the original Demon’s Souls, players could carry hundreds of healing grasses with them and suffer no real penalty. In the remake, players will have a more limited supply, and more powerful grasses (like Full Moon Grass) will weigh more than less effective grasses. Those changes should help balance the game’s difficulty and improve player-versus-player battles, where fans could quickly consume vast amounts of healing items, dragging out multiplayer brawls.
Moore pointed to other improvements that are inherent to the PlayStation 5, including fast loading times from the system’s SSD — “You no longer have to wait three minutes for the game to load after you’ve died,” he said. “That’s where a lot of the frustration came from [in the original].” — and haptic feedback from Sony’s new DualSense controller.
“I would say you should play the game with haptics because it can really make a big difference — [it’s] made the combat grittier and darker,” Moore said. “You really feel metal striking metal through your controller. It’s a triumvirate: audio, visual, and tactile all working together at the same time, and it makes a big difference to the gameplay. So when you do a parry, you feel it in your hands before you kind of visually see it, and it’s that split-second reaction time, it gives you that little edge that you need, that can actually make the game slightly easier than people think. Because you’re feeling the game world.”
Demon’s Souls will also have a vast number of visual improvements. The game’s kingdom of Boletaria is far more detailed than it was on PlayStation 3, and the game will feature two graphical settings.
Moore explained: “We did two different modes in the game: cinematic mode which is a native 4K, which looks stunning, at 30 frames per second; and performance mode, so you can play a dynamic 4K at 60 frames per second. That is going to give you smoother animation is going to give you a little of that edge [in combat].”
As it did with Shadow of the Colossus, Sony and Bluepoint will include a now-standard photo mode in Demon’s Souls. And similar to Ghost of Tsushima, and that game’s “Kurosawa mode,” Demon’s Souls will let players enjoy the whole of the game using visual filters.
“If you like the starkness and the despair of the original PlayStation 3 version, then we have a bunch of filters that you can choose from and play the game [that way],” Moore said. “So if you want to play the game in what we call the classic filter, which harkens back to the days of the PlayStation 3 and the look at that title, then put that filter on. If you want to play in black and white, play in the noir filter. It’s all there in the options. If you don’t want to play with our camera, you want to play with the original camera, turn the original camera back on. […] I would say with the filters though, if the fans could just play the game the way that we made it so you can see how we take advantage of the power of the PlayStation 5, then I would ask that they would do that. I’d be very grateful. Though after that, play the game how you like to play it, please.”
Moore described Demon’s Souls’ photo mode as “exceptionally amazing in-depth.” In addition to the classic, washed-out PS3 filter and black-and-white filter, Boletarian photographers will have a wealth of options available to them. “I think that’s really important nowadays that people want to share their experiences — the tragedies of, ‘Oh my god, I died again,’ or your trials as you succeed with your friends,” he said. “There are some other modes in there as well, that I won’t talk about, I will let the fans find out for themselves. But we definitely want to see what people create using the photo mode.”
Moore said that photo mode will pause the game, something you couldn’t really do in the original Demon’s Souls, to let photographers nail their shots. But if you’re playing the game online, and you’re invaded by another player, the game will warn you and kick you out of photo mode.
As some fans discovered via a recent leak, Demon’s Souls musical score is also getting an overhaul. Moore described the process of taking the game’s music “to the next level,” akin to the remake’s graphics upgrade.
“Unfortunately, the music that was recorded for the original version was digital only,” Moore said. “And I think the score by Shunsuke Kida is so good that to do it real justice on the PlayStation 5, we had to make sure it was recorded by a full orchestra. So we created a modern reimagining of Shunsuke Kida’s amazing score with dramatic new arrangements. We went to AIR Studios in London and we recorded that with a full orchestra [and a] full choir. We even recorded a famous pipe organ in Temple Church in London. And that runs as a theme for the music, giving it this really dark, wonderful, flowing sound. I think there are 120 of the finest musicians in the world on this score. It’s stunning. I think people are just gonna love the way the music sounds.”
Finally, for any Demon’s Souls player who remembers the laborious grind of tracking down that elusive Pure Bladestone to secure the game’s platinum trophy, Moore says players of the remake won’t suffer as much.
“You know, the grinding is part of Demon’s Souls,” he said when asked about the Pure Bladestone. “You can’t take that away. We will never do that. But yeah, we have improved drop rates. And we have added some extra items as well to make it more varied what’s dropped sometimes, and some of those items are really cool. So check them out.”
What’s staying (mostly) the same
Over the past decade (and especially since June), Demon’s Souls players have fantasized about a remake of the game, assembling wishlists of improvements. One highly requested feature that some Demon’s Souls fans were hoping for was a new region to explore. The original game featured five major areas, accessible by five archstones. But there’s a sixth (cracked) archstone in the game’s hub world, the Nexus, which is believed to have led to a canceled portion of the game called the Northern Limit or Land of the Giants. Don’t expect that cutting room floor content to be restored.
“There are only five unbroken stones in the Nexus,” Moore said. “And that’s the same now, as was in the original. So there’s no new archstone and there’s no new world.”
And despite requests from a portion of the audience for easier difficulty options (and a vocal contingent that would be upset by such a concession) there will be no difficulty setting in Demon’s Souls on PS5, Moore confirmed.
“It’s true to the original,” he said. “It’s a fair challenge, in my view. It’s all about learning enemy patterns and learning the environments, knowing in combat when to challenge yourself with that risk and reward combat system, when to go in and attack and when to pull back and defend.
“I do hear it a lot: ‘Demon’s Souls? That game’s really hard, I’m just not going to play.’ And I think you’re really missing out if you don’t play this PlayStation classic.”
Moore also confirmed that Demon’s Souls love-it-or-hate-it World Tendency system will come back as-is in the remake. In the original, the game’s World Tendency shifted from black to white, depending on your actions. World Tendency’s level of light or darkness would cause certain events to happen as the tendency changed. And when played online, the actions of all players in aggregate affect the tendency, which can make the game unpredictable. But there is one small change that veteran Demon’s Souls players will welcome.
“The only thing we change about World Tendency is that we felt that it was difficult to understand what tendency you were in in the original,” Moore said. “So we’ve tried to improve the UI, so you can see which [World Tendency] state you’re in.”
Moore also confirmed that the game’s memorable Old Monk fight, in which a player is summoned to fight as the boss in another player’s game, will be as players remember it in the remake too.
One aspect of Demon’s Souls that will be addressed is its bugginess. Players could take advantage of the game’s unpolished state to cheaply attack certain bosses through the game’s fog doors — barriers that wall off rooms where boss fights happen. Players won’t be able to exploit those bugs in the remake, Moore says, but other, far less consequential, meme-worthy bugs and game design quirks will be properly retained.
And just as the music has been recorded, so has the game’s dialogue. There’s good news on the front: “We approached the original cast and asked them to come back and take on their incredible, iconic roles,” Moore said. “And we were very lucky to get many of those [people] back. Obviously, some people, their voices changed or they moved on from acting, but we did get many of them back. And we re-recorded all the new dialogue. That was an incredible experience for us.”
All those changes, and apparently some surprises, await players in Demon’s Souls when it comes to PlayStation 5 on the console’s launch day, Nov. 12.