My experience with Atlus' lineup at E3 2009 started with From Software's Demon's Souls, coming to the PS3 later this year and probably their biggest title at the show. They were expecting another WorthPlaying writer because they had gone through the character creation and made a very good likeness of her. Passing me the controller, they started to show off the basics of the gameplay.
At its core, Demon's Souls is a moderate-paced, typical action-RPG, with a solid level of graphical polish and just enough detail in the combat to be quite fun. Diablo fans will find a fair bit to like. Where the game really gets interesting, however, is in its PlayStation Network integration and death mechanics.
When you die, you need to collect souls from defeated monsters or other sources to come back. This part has been done before, but it certainly looked nice and pretty. Interestingly, death is part of the game's online functions. Any time you die, you will leave behind a blood pool, which lets you recover lost souls. Other players might come across your body, though, and if they do, they can see how you died. It's not only entertaining, but educational, as it can show them what not to do in the hazards just ahead.
Furthermore, while you are walking around, you can see other players' ghosts as they play in the same areas. You can choose to ignore them and keep playing on your own, or you can join their mirror of the world for PvE co-op or PvP battling. All of this, by the way, occurs in real time. You can even leave hint markers for other players, albeit being limited to a predefined dictionary. The closest match to this kind of offline-online integration I've seen is Burnout Paradise, and even that only shows other players when you explicitly join, instead of it being there passively, as with this title.
Demon's Souls is looking very, very awesome. I didn't get to check out the character creation very much, but what I saw of actual gameplay leaves me as interested as can be. Atlus may have quite a hit on their hands.
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