If you haven’t picked up Demon’s Souls yet, you should take the opportunity now because it is a vastly superior game to Dark Souls. That’s not to suggest that Dark Souls is a poor game, of course, it’s just that Demon’s Souls has a greater purity of vision. In other words, Demon’s Souls is darker (ironic, given the names of both games), crueler, and ultimately more rewarding.
Perhaps the most stand-out feature for me that elevates Demon’s Souls above its sequel is that Demon’s Souls actively discourages grinding. Dark Souls places convenient campfires throughout its world – often in places with plenty of respawnable enemies to kill over and over to power up for the tougher fights further on. Demon’s Souls forces players to backtrack significantly to the game’s “Nexus” to do the same thing, creating a lot of dull downtime every time a player wants to preserve the work they have done and recover from the enemies they have faced.
This backtracking would be seen by some as a game design weakness compared to Dark Soul’s campfire system that keeps players in the heat of the action at all times. I disagree. Demon’s Souls subtly drives players forward (after all, who wants to dully backtrack?), and the tension of the game is higher because it encourages risky behaviour. Backtrack for ten minutes to cash in the souls you have collected, or risk taking on a boss under-levelled because you know if you beat him a portal to the game’s Nexus will be sitting there ready to be activated with no backtracking necessary? There’s a risk/ reward dynamic to Demon’s Souls that is far more prevalent than the relative safety of the campfire system of the Dark Souls games.
But Demon’s Souls is the more “pure” vision. It’s a game that makes no compromises and no apologies for what it is. As such, it’s a rare kind of game in the modern industry that even its successor has to defer to. Demon’s Souls might just be the greatest example of a visionary work to come from this generation of consoles.