The message written by another player in pulsing blood red lettering on a dark cobblestone: "I want to go home now", reflects your feelings exactly. It's just one of Demon's Souls multitude of innovative features: the ability for anyone to leave a message in the game world for others to draw comfort, inspiration or knowledge from.
"Watch out for the boulders", advises one message, ensuring that you gingerly hug the castle's cold wall before inching round a tight corner. "The real Demon's Souls starts here!" exclaims another directly after a particularly gruelling boss fight, an amusing, if disheartening reminder that Demon's' Souls challenge is anything but scaling.
These messages, automatically downloaded to your game at log in, are important because they offer one of the few moments of comfort in a game that is otherwise totally bereft of it. For pampered modern gamers, Demon's Souls is not so much a challenging game as an abusive one. Most players will be left reeling and disorientated from its first few hours, wondering why their gaming skill has deserted them.
It's not that the mission is complicated or unfamiliar - this is an action RPG all right. Depending on which character class you pick, you're given a sword and shield and a throng of tatty enemies to hack and slash your way through.
Neither is it that the game is particularly unfair. You're rarely overwhelmed by sheer numbers of enemies and they rarely outclass you. In those moments when you do stumble into a dragon's lair several score levels higher than your character, you'll be suitably warned by player's messages long before you wake it. Rather, the game punishes your mistakes in the extreme, allowing no compromise for the player who stabs at the attack button or neglects to keep their shield raised at all times.
In punishing every tiny mistake, it re-acclimatises you to its challenge while warning that no one who rushes in unprepared lives to tell the tale.Occasionally you'll stumble across a 'soul sign' in the castle, a symbol that indicates a stranger in your level range that wishes to join your game. Up to three people can play online co-operatively, although you've no choice over who enters. However, the brutal difficulty ensures that any stranger is considered a friend.
Death is something all Demon's Souls players grow accustomed to. While the game has the appearance of a Lord of the Rings-style epic, with is flickering torch lights, rumbling skies and foreboding turrets, it has more in common with high score arcade games. You are expected to fail as, each time you do, you'll be deposited back at the start of an area and made to do it again, inching forward with each attempt.
The need for care is heightened by the game's unique economy. Every killed enemy drops Soul Points, which can be spent in the game's infrequent shops on new equipment or on levelling up your characters base stats. However, when you die you drop all of your unspent Soul Points to the ground where they can be recovered only if you can make it back to the same spot. Dying is doubly frustrating as it also turns you into a ghoul, a weakened state from which you can only return by defeating the next boss or using a rare and valuable potion.
The relentless setbacks are eased by the spectacle of some of gaming's most memorable boss fights. From fighting monsters in the half light to battling a 30-foot silver knight with nothing but arrows and a prayer, the game's sky-high stakes ensure its rewards are also irresistible.
Demon's Souls is a rare creation in today's market of easy, anyone-can-succeed games. It rewards mastery over mere perseverance, and, while those rewards are hard won, they are also some of gaming's most intoxicating.
Overall A startling, yet satisfying experience - if you can handle it.