Welcome to Any Button Gamings First Times, a new series that takes the latest games to come of age for their very first spin around the block, and smash the absolute granny out of them. We’ll go balls deep, plunging into gameplay, story, and performance and return with all the sordid details.
This week we’re looking at Demon Skin, the latest in a raft of Soulslikes to flaunt precariously with plagiarism, touting themselves as the latest take on From Soft’s rock hard series. Does it hit the spot, or limp off half mast, a flaccid pretender to the rarely penetrated throne? All will be revealed.
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What’s in a Name
So Mortal Skin, wait no Demon Shell, no wait Hollow Skin? You know what, cut the track. Let’s address the bloated elephant in the room. Can developers stop doing this please? Why is it that almost every decent souls like keeps churning out the same tired formula when it comes to naming their games? Of course we have the inaugural Demon Souls, then Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Code-vein, Hellpoint, Hollow Knight, Mortal Shell, Nioh – not you, Shovel Knight, Elden Ring, Dead Cells, DarkMaous….the list seems never ending.
I mean, I understand why they do it. The familiar two or three hard syllables immediately lets the player know what’s in store. Death and bonfires. It’s the same reason as if I were to say “Bendy Leaf Bumble Snatch” you would immediately know which actor I was talking about. It’s strange, but it’s no…enigma.
Demon Skin presents a number of biomes, each with a host of new enemies and challenges
But still, these games already strip every possible mechanic from the various From Soft titles available, the least they could do is come up with an original name? Funnily enough, this game was originally called “The Forging Destiny”, and later “About Saviour Hunter”, but these were later dropped, which irritates me more than it probably should. Anyway, I digress…
Demon Skin is a soulslike, naturally. And I have to say, it’s not a bad one at that. There are some quite significant deviations from the core gameplay which we will get to, but overall the impression made is a good one. It’s challenging without overwhelming the player. Encounters are tough but surmountable. Its combat is smooth and carries weight, and with it consequence. It even nails the janky Dark Souls platforming in places but perhaps that’s unintentional.
A Story only Demon Skin Deep…
But what of Demon Skin? In a nutshell, you play as a legendary member of the Orden of Wanderers, a hero of innumerable conquests and a legacy older then time itself. According to the developer Ludus Future, these are mighty heroes indeed, capable even of scaring Death himself, each living countless aeons fighting evil across the multiverse. And what fine name could be bestowed on such an inimitable champion? Well, he’s called “Roy”.
But what’s in a name? The story is pretty standard fair, village under attack, sucked into a portal, need to retrieve an artefact and…well you get the picture. Where this game excels is in its combat, enemy encounters and the general weight and feel of the protagonist you guide along this less than ground-breaking narrative.
It’s a side scrolling 2.5D affair, limiting directional combat to one of three positions; high, mid, and low, corresponding with one of three controller buttons. Where it gets interesting, is that you can defend each of these positions too using the right analogue stick. It takes some getting used to, but adds a welcome level of complexity that demands attention and rewards mastery. There’s a stamina bar to consider too, which puts a nice barrier in-front of button spamming your way to victory.
Demon Skin starts on a harrowing mountain climb in the biting cold…a taste of the challenges ahead
Arsenal upgrades come in the form of dropped weapons from felled foes. You can carry up to three weapons at a time, each class coming with a variety of combos and attacks which add welcome depth and playstyle variation. Each weapon class too unlocks a special “god” move utilised for devastating effect. There’s room too for the adventurous, with a smattering of hidden rooms harbouring some of the better weapons and a slew of Estus, err, we mean potions to keep you fighting fit.
You won’t find any bonfires either. Instead, Demon Skin presents a series of check-points that save progress automatically. This is handy, as you will die often, as expected. For the most part this death is fair, and reloads instant. That said, some platforming sections are utterly unbearable and will induce rage quitting anger that adds nothing to the experience. Remember the jump mechanic in Dark Souls? That. [Shudders]
Boss encounters certainly provide a challenge, and there are some very cool environmental interactions that certainly add a surprising element to help keep things fresh, but we won’t spoil anything there for now. Enemies are relatively varied for so short a game – expect around 5 hours of gameplay max. Biomes too are very distinguishable, and overall the look and feel is polished and interesting. Top marks here.
Was it good for you?
Overall I enjoyed my first time with Demon Skin, and I look forward to completing the full game ready for my review proper. Whilst I may bemoan the lack of innovation countless developers have invested in surpassing tried and tested naming conventions within the Soulsborne genre, Demon Skin does do things a little differently when it comes to the core gameplay mechanics. The attack and defence placement mechanic adds an almost For Honour twist on combat, whilst retaining rolling around and the i-frames they of course bestow.
The check-points too give the game a certain momentum, akin more to Super Meat Boy, and this avoids the god awful drudgery that bonfires, and elevated souls-like, like Hollow Knight can force on the player. One critism here is that the game does not simply auto-restarting at the last check point on death, rather than presenting the choice of continuing or exiting to your operating system of choice.
Demon Skin offers plenty of weapon and upgrade variety to kleep your playstyle fresh
It is a solid game overall, and in my opinion does enough to differentiate itself from Dark Souls as to be less a souls-like, and more a souls-unlike. And in the crowed space of this now hallowed genre, that’s no bad thing.
But this was just my first time, and represents my opinions. What do you think? Are you a fan of souls-like sand does this game do the genre justice? Either Demon Skin is out now on Steam, priced £11.39.
Until next time, I’ve been Olly_S for Any Button Gaming. Check out the site for more great video content, inidie reveals and tune in to our weekly twitch streams each Monday and Wednesday where we try out all the new games sent our way.
“Video games are great. I should know, I’ve played some.”
Olly S, July 2020