Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Demon's Souls, pt.6: Multiplayer

The multiplayer component in Demon's Souls was great -- perhaps the most novel and impressive part of the game -- and I want to describe a few moments that made me happy. There are no story spoilers per se, but you could call them gameplay spoilers if you want to experience it first hand, without me flavoring them.

Message in a Bottle
I've mentioned that players can leave messages on the ground that others can read, to get clues about traps, trouble, or treasure. One of the ways the designers incentivize using this system is by making the game nasty, making players' messages valuable. But that alone would make the exchange one-sided, where players who read messages get something, but players who leave messages get nothing. Fortunately, this is not the case. If you leave a message and someone reads it, and they flag the message to indicate that they "liked" it, then that flagging will give the person who left the message a boost of health and mana. It is a really cool thing when you are inches away from certain death, to see that someone just recommended your message, and you return to life and victory.

Battle Buddies
Once I understood how the blue phantom thing worked, where I as a dead player could help a living player, or as a living player, pick up dead players to help me, I really had a lot more fun with the game. Enough that I wish the system was much more explicit. But after awhile, death didn't seem that bad. I could just reverse in a level to just before a boss fight, solicit my services, get picked up by a player, help them kill someone I already know how to defeat, and get my body back. Then, as a living player, I could pick up some blue phantoms to show me the ropes in the level I'm on. And there really was something appealing to having random strangers in your game. There is no default microphone support, and no easy way to get your friends in the game, and the randomness of it was pretty interesting, for some reason.

Standing Ground
You would think that forced PvP (when a dead player, or "Black Phantom" invades) would be an outright downer in a game as difficult as this, but once you get used to the harshness, and the fact that you spend most of your time dead, the invasions really add something to the game. It really is intense -- your heart rate goes up -- when you see the message that your world has been invaded, and you know that they will be at a disadvantage against you since they are "dead" and have a fraction of your life. To boot, it motivates you to play with other blue phantoms, since they can see when black phantoms invade, and will help you hunt them down. It really is a blast once you get into the swing of the system.

Who's the Boss?
But my favorite, favorite, favorite moment was when I was in the game and found myself suddenly invading another player's world without intending to. A cinematic played, suggesting that I was summoned from the dead by some lich. I was in an arena of sorts, surrounded by chairs, and I could hear noises outside that sounded like game combat. All of a sudden, a player entered the room, and I started fighting to defeat him. He defeated me, and I just returned to my game where I was sitting. It was an odd experience, but later in the game, I came upon the lich king, and saw that he was guarded by another player. This lich king essentially summons other players at random to be your boss fight. It's incredibly fun to defeat another player to complete the fight, and incredibly fun to be the boss. What a great feature.

Wrapping up the review in my last post.

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