Demon’s Souls: Phalanx, Give Me My Soul Back!

By Spencer . September 22, 2009 . 12:31am


Prepare to die. In Demon’s Souls you can die hundreds of ways, even in the tutorial level. Scratch that. You will die in the tutorial level once you Vanguard smashes you with its giant axe. Later in the game, you’ll get a chance to avenge your death.


So, what makes Demon’s Souls so difficult? Demon’s Souls is a precise game. You have to be tactful in combat since your character has a stamina meter. Attacking, parrying, blocking with a shield, even dodge rolling depletes it. Running out of stamina leaves you open to attacks and, well, death. Since your moves are limited you have to be cautious. Keeping your shield up at all times mixed with well timed shield bashes that deflect attacks and stun enemies are more effective strategies than mashing attack hoping to hack through an army of fire breathing lizards.


Demon’s Souls also has 8-bit game design. You warp back to the beginning of an area if you die. There aren’t any mid-level checkpoints or save points between the boss and the start of a level. You rise from each death a little bit wiser, a little bit better, and if you’re conservative you’ll have a few more healing herbs. Maybe a nice new sword too. But, you won’t be able to over level your way through Demon’s Souls by repeating stages. Stat points cost souls, the game’s general currency used to purchase everything from spells to spears. Let’s say you spend 1,000 souls to increase your strength. After the boost the price for all stat points goes up, which prevents players from getting too strong too fast.


And, Demon’s Souls gets harder after you die. When you awake in the Nexus, with a splitting headache from Vanguard’s axe, you revive with about half your life. In soul form your character is weaker and you can’t summon human allies, represented as Blue Phantoms, to help you face bosses.




Life is lonely in the Nexus. The only way to get your soul back, in the beginning of the game, is to beat the boss in Boletarian Palace. Time to get started.


Touching the archstone moved my thief, one of the base character classes, out of the Nexus and into the ruined palace. I dabbled with a few classes before sticking with a thief. Thieves are more agile and seem to get more item drops than the other classes at the beginning of the game. Having more healing herbs is always a plus. Since you can customize your character’s stats, the class is just a starting point. You can turn a barbarian into a master healer if you put the time into it. The only class in Demon’s Souls that’s rather unique is the Royal. This group starts out with the lowest stats, but gets a spell and the fantastic equipment including a MP regenerating ring.


I cut my way through demented slaves hiding behind makeshift walls to the top of the stairs. Enemy placement is constant so monsters leap from the same spots. There’s little light inside the castle, which gives plenty of chances for slaves to surprise you from dark corners. In fact, a berserk slave will do that in the first ten minutes of the game, but I didn’t need to play through that part to know that would happen. A helpful player (fellow journalist?) left a glowing note, made from bits of pre-assigned text, warning a foe was lurking. Other players rated it positively, so I knew something was up and vigilantly raised my shield. It’s a good tactic to always keep your guard up, but I had to die at least two more times before I got in the habit of holding L1 while running. I left helpful tips in return, hinting when enemies were about to launch fire attacks and where treasure was.


Players can also inadvertently alert others to danger by dying. When you die you leave a bloodspot behind that shows the last seconds of your life. Clusters of bloodspots mean trouble is close. Perhaps, a powerful enemy or a deadly trap. One area had a group of bloodspots that all did the same thing when reanimated. All of the players ran down a narrow path before perishing. What they ran into was a set of explosive barrels, set off by an archer behind a wall. I didn’t know that when I approached the corridor, but all of the bloodstains were a clue that something ahead was dangerous so I fired an arrow, in attempt to lure enemies out. Inadvertently, I triggered the trap and avoided death.




After exchanging blows with a defensive knight that kept restoring its health with herbs and wandering around the castle to open the main gate, I met Phalanx and his posse. Dozens of black blobs shielded Phalanx from damage while throwing spears in all directions. Great. The blobs are protected from head on attacks too, which made Phalanx pretty safe… except from fire. A tip left by another player informed me of its weakness so I applied turpentine to my blade to ignite it and finished Phalanx off. Good thing this was an honest tip!


With Phalanx slain my character revived, his life bar was restored, and I felt a small sense of accomplishment. Then, in the next hour, I died again. Which meant it was time to persist through a new level and take down another boss.

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  • mooncalf

    Don’t be too scared people – this game sounds alot more hardcore on paper than it is in reality.
    For starters, the game is pretty much designed to played in “dead” mode – that is, with only half of your base health. You get an item *very* early on to help you with the health penalty, and when you are dead there is no possibility to get disturbed by invading players.
    It’s true you get booted back to the beginning of a level when you die, but most levels have shortcuts you can open to bypass large chunks of a level after you’ve opened a door or powered an elevator.
    Loosing souls isn’t such a drama either, think of playing the game in two modes, exploration and grind. When you are exploring a level, don’t stress about your souls, if you die and can get back to your bloodstain all well and good, but your main aim is learning the layout and enemy tactics. Grind is….well grinding souls. There are a few obvious areas with easy to kill enemies close to the entrance to quickly grind souls.
    So please don’t pass this game up cause is sounds too harsh, it’s a great game that rewards thoughtful gameplay.

    • malek86

      Yeah, it’s not that hard. Once you get used to it, it’s actually quite easy, and only the bosses will give you some trouble (mind you, not even all of them). A lot of people are scared by the tutorial boss, but he’s supposed to kill you for story purposes (if you do manage to kill it, you’ll die in the next cutscene anyway). Like that producer said, it’s hard, but not that hard.

      I hope Atlus won’t be pushing the difficulty advertising too much. If they exaggerate, it might turn against them.

  • dork

    I died IMMEDIATELY after the Phalanx. I think it was cause A) I summoned a bad soul or B) a Black Phantom invaded my game.

  • Good news for Atlus, this is ranked #32 on amazon’s popularity list. Wonder if they ever scored higher but either way, this should sell a FEW MORE COPIES than The Dark Spire!

    • I’m sad I saw The Dark Spire preowned for $7.99 in a store the other day. That’s just wrong. I hope Atlus pushes their super elite “Don’t Import This Game” bundle. Haha, it actually worked on me.

  • thebanditking

    Well, I certainly hope it sells well Atlus deserve for this to do well. They are putting alot of effort into this game and despite that over the last few weeks PS3 has got quite a few RPG’s most are not out yet. The difficulty does not scare me, I have played alot of hard games, and dont mind having to work at something. That and I am just too interested in this game to pass it up because of something silly like how hard the game is, if we judge a good game by how easy it is half of the 8 and 16 bit games would never have been purchased.

    • dork

      Alot of effort into this game? Ummm…nooo?

      The game is already 100% in English. All the text is English, all the voice acting is in English. Not one sign of Japanese is in this game. The only noticable things they did was help with server creation, make instruction manual in english, make artbook, make soundtrack, and make strategy guide.

      I am sure they did other stuff but this was an EASY import since all the english was there to begin with.

      • malek86

        I’m pretty sure they had to completely redo the translation. Some lines in the original were downright weird, others were misleading (“turns the user into a soul”?), and some others were actually cut in the middle.

        From a trailer I’ve seen, it looks like the translation is almost completely different in the US version.

        • dork

          Not sure what is wrong with “Turns the User into a Soul.” It isn’t misleading, if you are are alive and in Human form and you use the item you turn into a Soul/Phantom/Soul Form.

          I guess i haven’t noticed the translation, I’ve had no issues with the talk and writing and think it’s on par with most English games already out.

          • malek86

            I’m talking about the “soul” items. Like, Old Hero’s Soul, Legendary Soldier’s Soul, etc. I don’t remember them ever turning me into a phantom, the only thing they did was giving me more souls to spend.

            They should have said “turns into souls when used”.

          • dork

            I don’t know..I never bothered using them when I was in Human form…

      • Artavasdus

        @dork: Your assumption is wrong, Atlus relocalized CrimsonGem Saga even if they had the (rather ludicrous) english translation of the Psp Asia version, and from the trailer we can assume they are doing just the same for Demon’s Souls.

  • That first screenshot just reaffirms how awesome this will be… and how excited I am. Finally, something that looks really nice AND will be genuinely difficult.

  • I heard about female-only equippable items. Is this true or rumor-mill at work? Also, to add to the question, can you even choose your gender? Just curious of any of these have effects on the game or are even included. I just haven’t seen any mention of it so I’m assuming it was just hearsay.

    • mooncalf

      It’s true, though limited. From memory the female only items are a few magic orientated items, and the male only ones are a few fighter type items. If you want to play a female sword swinger or a male pew-pewer do it.

      • Nice. At least I know there’s a difference. I may have a save file for one of each. I often like to go all out on Magic stats with one character and Physical stats with another. I know the stat’s end up that you can make any “class” do whatever in a sense but is it common? I don’t dig hybrid’s too much. I hope the classes have a SLIGHT difference even at end game :( Oh well, I’ll enjoy either way.

        Also, how often is it that someone has all stats at 99?

        • malek86

          With how much stats will cost after you hit level 80 or so, there is just no way you’re going to have 99 on everything (though you can probably see a few users like that on the leaderboards…). Mind you, there is no way you can even get your stats very high at all without some serious grinding. My level 120 character, which was enough to finish NG+ and then some, had its highest stat at 50, on Vitality. Strength and Endurance at 40 or so. Everything else was on the low 10s or even less. There was no point in wasting my levels on magic.

          You can make an hybrid chara if you want, but in this game you are probably better off choosing a path and then sticking to it. Mages might have an easier time against some bosses, while PVPers will usually be fighters. And besides, I think it’s more fun to go around meleeing bosses rather than pewing them from a distance. They’ll just… die, if you do that, and you’ll wonder why everyone says the game is difficult. On the other hand, if you attack them with a melee weapon, you can expect a fun (if hard) fight.

          • Thanks for the reply. It was a big help. Honestly, I loved that about Mass Effect how you are sort of stuck in your path. It makes me, in my sick twisted way, create a handful of characters and go through with each one. I’ll definitely pick classes I want and go with them. I’m even interested that there are weapons for Melee hand-to-hand combat (e.g. knuckles/fists?). A brawler class would seem interesting to try out in this game. My excitement increases daily for this game.

            Haha, I just made a comment towards you in the last Bayonetta post to boot.

          • malek86

            I think I saw some knuckles, but I can’t say for sure. However, there are Cat Claws.

            Personally, I was a Templar Knight. Long and heavy weapon (which is good to keep some distance from your enemies and throw them off balance), and early access to miracles – you’ll find that Evacuate will make your soul grinding easier.

          • Agnoth

            There are Knuckles called Fists of God, a lot of Black Phantoms will try to use them against you since they’re pretty darn fast hitting you constantly and not giving you a chance to do anything but maybe try to block.

          • Agnoth

            Sorry, Hands of God!

  • Code

    rar, when I noticed the word Phalanx on the front page (and ignoring everything else), I had brief hope that this would lead to news of a new Phalanx game T_T’ Oh well.

  • Agnoth

    The game is NOT difficult at all, it’s all about timing and figuring out Enemy and Boss Patterns. You will be punished if you go out swinging like Rambo. lol Also, there’s nothing wrong with summoning a couple of Blue Phantoms — that’s what they are there for, Help!

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