Let me get this out of the way right off the bat, the game that I am reviewing today is in no way related to From Software’s infamously difficult Action RPG released on the Playstation 3 back in 2009. Instead we are here today to cover an entirely different Action RPG — brought to us by the people over at Lakoo — for use on iOS devices, which also happens to be named DemonSouls (out now, free). As with all games offered entirely for free — since developers do have to eat — the iOS DemonSouls definitely has its own share of looming IAP issues, but I will discuss those in more depth later on.
In DemonSouls we’re left in a world where long ago monsters and humans managed to coexist in harmony, that is until a war between two Gods managed to shatter a sacred mountain that left world’s balance in disarray. Thunder — a youth living in an average fishing village — is about to have his life entirely turned upside down one day when he bumps into a man named Iron, who happens to be simultaneously fighting two dragons at the same time. It is at this point that Thunder acquires an ancient mystical Demon Soul Jar, and — through its powers — learns the art of controlling and summoning the various demons of the land.
Where the plot goes from there is up to the player, for DemonSouls — in a move not normally seen from iOS RPGs — features multiple endings based on dialogue choices made along the way. I would like to commend Lakoo on not just hiring a competent translator, but also — presumably — finding someone with actual writing sense to localize all of the dialogue afterwards. Most of the time the game’s conversations contain not just grammatically correct English, but are naturally flowing as well; that said, there do exist a few isolated occasions where the in-game text massively explodes into confusing gibberish.
Unfortunately the majority of DemonSouls’ plot is almost entirely centered around fetch quests, and I don’t meant laundry lists from random villagers standing around with exclamation marks hovering over their head. The bulk of Thunder’s time adventuring will be spent tracking down ten units of whatever bauble — stone — or piece of plant life the current plot important NPC needs, only for them to probably have another such mission lined up for Thunder by the time he gets back. That said — to be sure — there will also be plenty of irrelevant random NPCs standing about as they desperately seek a hero to do their grocery shopping, but these missions are at least entirely optional.
DemonSouls is also quite pleasant to look at, with all the environments containing tons of tiny details — many of which are animated — as well as emotive portraits accompanying all of the major characters’ dialogue boxes. Also, the game’s various cinematic moments all feature actual in-engine animation — rather than just static sprites standing perfectly still — further adding to the title’s visual appeal. That said, I would like to point out right now that DemonSouls does not feature the gaggle of boobs — or girl on girl action — that the titles’ iTunes page might have lead some of you to expect. However — on the other hand — it will definitely provide you will all of the bare muscled protagonist chest you could possibly desire, whether or not you were ever demanding such a thing.
Anyways — getting to more important matters — the controls for DemonSouls include a four way directional pad on the unit’s lower left, and an array of various action buttons on the screen’s lower right. Tapping the main attack button will make Thunder smack the world’s various monstrous denizens over and over with his trusty fishing spear, while holding down the button will cause him to charge up for a mighty combo attack. The four smaller buttons encircling the main action button are all modifiable hotkeys for using demon soul abilities, thankfully all of these buttons are still very accurate despite their somewhat small stature.
Everything in the world of DemonSouls — whether it be a monster, or any of game’s equippable items — has one of the three elemental forces associated with it: fire, water, or wood. The element of fire is strong against any creatures based around the property of wood, and wood is in turn powerful against the force of water, and water is devastating against those composed of fire. Therefore, successfully smacking enemies about — not to mention damage mitigation — is entirely based around the element of your current selected gear and captured demon abilities.
On that note, whenever a low ranking demon is near death a flashing button will appear that — if pressed — causes your Demon Soul Jar to suck them up with absolute effectiveness. Or at least this can be done so long as you have the required number of Soul Stones needed to power the artifact, with DemonSouls’ more powerful enemies requiring the expenditure of larger shard quantities. There are four primary way to acquire these Soul Stones, which include: 1) two free stones being earned every day a player logs in, 2) a small handful being acquired each time a boss monster is defeated, 3) various amounts being purchased with real world money, and 4) being obtained through promotional offers from advertising partners. Therefore — although one is always free to grind up their stats via killing random things — it quickly becomes obvious that a player won’t be doing much demon capturing without paying up, and it’s here wherein the game’s biggest downer comes into play.
First of all, the direct abilities that these demons provide when junctioned to an action button — such as long range spell attacks — are utterly vital to the likelihood of Thunder’s survival. While health items can be acquired in game with the gold that defeated monsters drop, these potions are both expensive — meaning a lot of time is spent acquiring them — and they are also tend to be on the weak side. Therefore the most pragmatic way to survive battles is to rely on powerful long range attacks — of the ideal element — whenever possible, and this involves keeping your demon collection up to date.
Of course the most powerful gear and demons can’t always necessarily be captured and/or bought from NPCs vendors, and for these situations you will need to use alchemic merging to get what you require. Since demons are at the heart of every forging operation, no matter what the target end product is, you will also need to be hunting down and capturing more than one of each enemy. Of course, DemonSouls also offers the option to straight up purchase such high end creations — once you first know the recipe for something — by using the aforementioned Demon Stones directly. Furthermore, those who simply want to get powerful quickly could instead opt to purchase ultra high end gear — with no level restrictions — immediately upfront for a real world cash sum.
Now — that said — DemonsSouls is not one of those freemium games that have been rigged so that it’s entirely impossible to play without paying out massively, and many real strategies have been posted online that detail how to get the most bang from every free Demon Stone. However, the fact still remains that — if you don’t pay — the game’s experience will be slowed down considerably to the point where you’re making mere pittances of progress at a time. Couple this with the fact that the main plot is bogged down with a veritable gaggle of fetch quests at every turn, and you have a process that will quickly prove to be maddeningly plodding for most (especially if you wish to see more than one of the multiple endings).
This is perhaps a far more annoying factor in a game such as DemonSouls, where the plot is the primary impetus for playing, than in any of the other game genres that often populate the iTunes marketplace. While one could always easily wait until tomorrow to acquire a new building in Farmville, or holdout however long it takes to save up enough funds to acquire a new upgrade in some endless runner, grinding to get to the next major event in a story isn’t nearly as merciful. Still, while you could find better games in the range of absolutely free — such as the well received EpicHearts (our review) — you could just as easily do insanely far worse than DemonSouls.
DemonsSouls is a free action RPG with pleasant graphics and a plot — which is usually well translated — that contains something rarely seen on the platform, multiple endings based on dialogue choices. The main problem with the title is that while it can be beaten without dropping massive amounts of IAP cash into it, that can’t easily be done without going through the game — which is largely plot based — at a rather agonizingly slow pace. Still, it is free (despite the fact they claim it’s only a limited time sale, it’s been going on since November of last year) and therefore you could easily do insanely worse than to pick up DemonSouls.