The Bluepoint remake of Demon’s Souls was exactly what I wanted. It addressed most if not all the complaints that I had 11 years ago. Die hard fans may have qualms with things here and there, but I had zero complaints. As far as I’m concerned, Bluepoint took From Software’s effort and refined into a more palatable game while still retaining most of what I remembered.
The game runs a smooth 60 FPS (except during this one session that required me to restart the PS5). This kind of performance elevated the game to the point of enjoyable. It was playable on the PlayStation 3, but it got in the way of the gameplay. The level of performance was so smooth that I was even willing to start parrying. I wasn’t that proficient at it, but the fact that it was even a worthwhile option was revelatory to me.
Super fast load times meant I was zipping from archstone to archstone within a handful of seconds and dying was rendered a minor inconvenience rather than the 30 second timeout that it once was. I was right back into the thick of things and ready to seek revenge or run right into a reckless death.
I recalled bits and pieces of Demon’s Souls, so the entire game wasn’t a complete mystery to me. Even through the foggy memory, I still recognized the quality of life improvements that Bluepoint included. Not having to haul myself between storage and the blacksmith was once such convenience that got rid of something annoying. Also the ability to send loot and materials back to storage was welcomed as well. Some may say that these things added to the unforgiving premise of Demon’s Souls, but not me. They didn’t do anything, but elongate the game unnecessarily.
With many of the rough edges polished, I was just breezing my way through the game. Much of the original release’s annoyances and frustrations made way for satisfying progress. It didn’t take long before I realized I was at the last boss and seeing credits.
From Demon’s Souls to Bloodborne, I’ve always felt From Software’s ideas were bigger than what they could pull off. The idea behind Demon’s Souls was very sound, but the technical issues kept me from truly enjoying it. Bluepoint removed the ambiguity and friction between myself and the game; when I died, I knew it was wholly my fault. It wasn’t because there were input delays or unresponsive controls. Bloodborne was my favorite game of theirs primarily due to the fact that the framerate was relatively stable. Now, I think Demon’s Souls may be my favorite to play for similar reasons.
Astro Bot’s Rescue Mission was an excellent demonstration of the possibilities of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR. A couple of years later, here comes Astro’s Playroom, an excellent demonstration of the PlayStation 5 and its DualSense controller. I wasn’t expecting an innovation in platforming mechanics or ideas; that’s now what these games are about. I played through familiar ideas with a few interesting sensations.
Astro’s Playroom is a wonderful stroll through PlayStations’ history. I ran into classic PlayStation hardware, PlayStation themed callbacks, and just a deluge of all things PlayStation. It was cute, nostalgic, and done so well for a freebie title.
Each of the four worlds highlighted one of the four PlayStations that passed us by, but that’s just window dressing to the real attraction which were the different ways they utilized the DualSense haptics, adaptive triggers, and other features that many probably forgot existed on the DualShock 4. Remember motion controls?
I consumed Astro’s Playroom in its in entirety. It was the perfect length and left me wanting just a bit more. It was a brilliant introduction to the DualSense controller and the PlayStation 5 hardware and software capabilities. Every PlayStation 5 owner owns it, it’s just a matter of whether they will find time for it and I firmly believe people should. It’s that good.
E3 2020 would have been over for weeks by now. I imagine we would have had clearer pictures of what both consoles were offering on the hardware side. We would have seen first party lineups and timed third party exclusives. We may even had pricing info confirmed by now.
But this is 2020 and COVID-19 dashed many plans including E3. Information on new console launches were divided into articles, interviews, and pre-recorded shows. Some fared better than others, but the bottom line is that both Sony and Microsoft’s plans for their upcoming console are far from complete.
There’s still lots to announce and clarify including showing off user interfaces and the all important price. However, that will not stop me from putting down some thoughts on what we know so far.
Microsoft Xbox Series X
Despite potential for customer confusion with the Xbox One X, I warmed up to the Xbox Series X name. It sounds like the end game for their long journey with weird console names. I hope this name gives them the flexibility to expand their Xbox consoles in a logical fashion. The often rumored Xbox Series S aka Lockhart makes a whole lot of sense in this lineup. But what about the mid-generation upgrade offering? Will they simply tack on the year? An Xbox Series X (2024) perhaps?
I like the simple rectangular box shape of the Series X. I was a fan of the Xbox One S and Xbox One X designs as well, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. Microsoft laid out the design and logic behind it on their website and through Digital Foundry. I found everything they laid out was sensible and sound.
Microsoft largely “perfected” their controller when it comes to aesthetics and comfort. So it’s no surprise that they decided to focus on the technology and reducing latency.
My initial impressions ranged from “overly designed”, to “Alienware-esque”, to “this could work…”, and finally “it’s so weird, that I like it”. I like white electronics. Not only that I find them sleek, they also hide dust better than dark consoles. What I like more than white electronics are ones that have well designed contrasting colors like the PS5.
The reveal of the Digital Edition was almost as surprising as the console’s appearance itself. I personally don’t see why I would pick up the Digital Edition unless there’s a $100 price difference. I still have a need for Ultra HD Blu-ray drives. I use my Xbox One S and Xbox One X for their Ultra HD Blu-ray drives for movies. And if I wanted to take advantage of cheaper retail sales and backwards compatibility with PlayStation 4 titles, I will need that drive.
The DualSense controller resembles a DualShock 4 but it continues Sony’s evolution towards the Xbox-esque controller. It’s still distinctly PlayStation with its stick placement, but the shape continues to slowly creep towards Microsoft’s design. I guess the giant trackpad is becoming a part of the Sony identity; it’s a giant button for most games, but there are a few who use it in interesting ways. I’m very curious what the haptics and adaptive triggers bring to the immersion front.
Sony’s software showcase was very good. Indies, first party exclusives, and third party timed console exclusives gave plenty of reasons to choose PlayStation 5. Not only did Sony highlight visuals that were only that were only possible on next generation hardware, they also demonstrated impressive gameplay that leveraged the speedy storage.
What about the user interface? Or the ability to quick resume? Or how about backwards compatibility? It sounds like most if not all PlayStation 4 games will work. No word on Sony’s older consoles and I am not holding my breath. Sony may have the games, but the rest of the console’s features and capabilities are still shrouded in mystery for now.
The Power Difference?
The PlayStation 5 may not be as powerful as the Xbox Series X when it comes to horsepower, but it does deliver data from storage to memory at a faster rate than Microsoft’s. How will these discrepancies manifest themselves in third party games is difficult to predict. Third party developers will do what they need to do to get their games looking and running great on both platforms.
$399 CAD for a PlayStation 4 was an amazing price. I don’t believe the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X will come close to that price. The Canadian dollar has fallen dramatically since then and these new consoles feature impressive hardware.
I think the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will launch for $499 USD or $699 CAD. I want to be wrong and for them to come in at lower price points but I’m bracing for that price.
Both Consoles Welcomed
I owned every console since I began working full time and there’s no reason to deviate. In fact, I may be doubling down on these consoles over the PC until we get a clearer picture on the kind of PC hardware that I need to run these upcoming console games.
Xbox Game Pass is making it very easy to stick with Microsoft’s console and Sony’s strong first party games continue to attract me towards theirs. Both companies have blanks to fill out but I’m liking what I’m seeing so far.