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Demon’s Souls Melee vs. Magic: Which is Better?

Demon's Souls

The recently released Demon’s Souls remake has a new generation of Souls fans debating a question that series veterans have asked for years: “Melee or magic?”

While you can’t build a balanced Demon’s Souls character, most players will end up focusing on either melee or magic at some point in the game. So far as that goes, it’s important to know the fundamental differences as well as the unique experiences that each offers.

So if you’re trying to decide between melee and magic and just can’t quite make a choice, here’s what you need to know about the pros and cons of each build type.

Magic Build – Pros and Cons

Magic characters in Demon’s Souls have been referred to as the game’s “Easy Mode.” While that’s a stretch, it’s also not too far removed from the truth of the matter.

The biggest advantage afforded to magic users in Demon’s Souls is protection. Many of Demon’s Souls fiercest enemies (especially non-boss foes) rely on melee and other closer range attacks. Some of them even utilize those melee attacks in close-quarter areas where it can be difficult to properly defend yourself via close-range weapons.

Magic users’ ability to attack from range means that your ability to defend yourself is often tied to how much MP you have. Because it’s easy enough to keep your MP bar up (especially if you’re not in a hurry) that means that you can negate so many of the game’s most notable threats. That’s why some fans believe that heavy magic specs are the equivalent of playing on “Easy Mode.”

More importantly, magic users have access to an array of abilities that offer so much more than ranged attacks. From teleportation spells to powerful heals, magic users are able to find creative solutions to complicated problems or otherwise generate an out for themselves where none would otherwise be available.

So what’s the downside of playing as a magic-user in Demon’s Souls? Well, the biggest cons are largely situational. There are just some sections and bosses in the game that are easier to deal with if you’re a melee character. They may be fewer and further between, but they are there.

As a magic-user in Demon’s Souls, you’ll also have to balance a wider array of stats and equipment. Melee players can get by with just a few spells and a primary equipment set, but magic users will need to juggle various spells and a variety of items for the times when they’ll need to get in close.

Finally, there’s the late game equipment element. This is certainly somewhat subjective, but many players agree that late-game equipment and upgrades for magic users just aren’t as exciting as they are for melee players. That may not matter to you that much, but it’s important to keep in mind.

Melee Build – Pros and Cons

Despite popular perception, it’s actually difficult to say “melee” and call it a day, as there are a variety of Demon’s Souls builds which rely on closer combat.

That’s the exciting thing about melee builds. While magic users will ultimately come to rely on a pretty similar set of spells, there are several viable melee builds that can carry you to the late game. Would you like to slap on some plate armor and one-hand a two-handed weapon? You can do that. Are you interested in fast strikes complemented by lots of dodges? That’s fine too.

It’s not that there’s not a “wrong” way to build a Demon’s Souls melee character, but the idea is that you can choose your preference in one of several areas and simply optimize that build to the best of your abilities. Many believe that makes the growth of a melee character over the course of a game more satisfying.

Many find melee combat to also be more satisfying as it requires the use of more Demon’s Souls mechanics such as parries, dodges, heavy/light strikes, and pattern recognition. By the time you get to the late-game, you’re going to marvel at how you bounce between foe-to-foe in a customized set of armor with an epic weapon by your side. It’s a lot of fun.

It’s also quite difficult. The fact of the matter is that needing to deal most of your damage at close range means that you’re also much more susceptible to a variety of attacks. There are some battles (notably, early game bosses like Flamelurker) which are significantly more difficult for melee users. Some have gone so far as to suggest that aspects of Demon’s Souls were designed with magic users in mind.

There’s nothing in Demon’s Souls you can’t overcome with some perseverance, but that Souls-like trope of banging your head against the wall until you break on through to the other side is exemplified in melee gameplay.

Matthew Byrd

Matthew Byrd covers the gaming industry including indies, consoles, PCs, iOS and Android apps, as well as topics related to entertainment and technology.