Think of your favourite game of all time. How good is it? Is it as good as it was the day it was released?
When you eat pizza, what part of the pizza eating process do you remember most fondly? The first bite, that explosion of individual flavours? Or the subtle, umami aftertaste of the ingredients that lingers in your mouth for hours? Sorry, I haven't had lunch yet as I write this. Wait a minute how does this relate to video games?
There are a lot of factors (besides the game itself) which determine how a video game is recieved at launch; the subtext often reflects on the current events at the time, development cycle and controversies, and most importantly I feel; Hype.
Hype is weird. A positive aura and commotion surrounding a product that hasn't even released yet, sounds like it would only be a good thing. But the past few years have shown us time and time again that hype is ONLY a bad thing, and can only lead to dissapointment - and to an extent I agree. However, being a part of that hype is something magical. It really makes the gaming scene feel like a community - a real gosh darn sense of unity in a world full of people jagging eachother with pointy sticks, and wasps! It's easy to see how the hype trap is one so easily tripped by so many.
The thought was sparked by Elden Ring, and the Souls series as a whole - one of the few games to have ever lived up to "The Hype". Elden Ring would have sold the exact same amount of copies day 1 regardless of if it were good or not. Some say the game is "bloated" with positive reviews, and the famous perfect score on metacritic is unjustified. The way I see it, exaggeration is a byproduct of passion - the explosive and immediate love for elden ring by fans. Think of it like opening a can of soda; when you first open the can, you can't fit it all into a cup, but when you wait for the bubbles to dissipate, it fits snugly into your Sonic the Hedgehog disembodied head mug.
The question I want to ask in this article is - when your soda is bubble free - is it still tasty? (Why do I keep using food metaphors?) I think to help us answer that question we should use Demon's Souls as an example, it came out 13 years ago!
Yes! Maybe? Like 90%?
If you are unaware, Demon's Souls' online features are no longer avaliable after the servers were taken offline in 2018, 8 years after the game's release. For other online games, this is a literal death sentence - Demon's Souls, however, can still be played from start to finish, even 100%-ed. You just can't summon help anymore, and if you are a fan of the Souls series, you'll know that every game in the franchise largely has the same multiplayer experience. A singleplayer game with an omnipresent multiplayer - there to help you, or hinder you. Does Demon's hold up without its multiplayer? Absolutely. Is it as good? No.
So in the year 2022 how should Demon's Souls be judged? In a review? Or a retrospective?
It is easy to see Elden Ring in the shoes of Demon's in the years to come, although, I'm confident these shoes won't make it start fat-rolling.