Dark Souls Remastered Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
A good remaster takes an old game and updates it with a more modern look and maybe some small quality of life improvements - something that Dark Souls Remastered does with aplomb. Everything about the original is preserved and enhanced here, with the various updates all providing a cleaner feeling experience than before. The game is the same but it looks substantially better than before, with everything glimmering or oozing with a new layer of shine that helps you forget that the original is nearly seven years old.
In case you are unfamiliar with Dark Souls, it is an action RPG that has a very deliberate combat system and is filled with hidden lore and gloriously worked out environmental story telling. You are the Chosen Undead, left to fade into insanity in a world that struggles to deal with the dead changing their minds. You are cursed to go on after death, wearing down each time until there is nothing left of you but your body. However, while locked away in an Asylum, a wandering knight drops the key to you cell down to you and your perilous journey begins.
During your adventure you will meet characters who will offer you the smallest of hints, and even less hope. The despair is evident in every aspect of the game, the people you meet have none, the enemies you fight do so because their body wills them to, as they have no mind. Those that are still themselves are cursed or in constant agony, this is not a story of success, this is a story of constant failure and the inevitable end that awaits you.
The most important thing in your arsenal when it comes to fighting the various denizens of this land is patience. Every enemy can be bested by choosing the right moment, this goes from the lowest of hollows to the largest of dragons. Expect to be slaughtered again and again. It is rarely unfair, if you die it is because you made a mistake, maybe you rushed in when you shouldn't have, maybe you failed to notice the enemy in the shadows behind you, or perhaps you simply aren't ready for this area yet. This is Dark Souls and if you give it time, it will grow on you as you slowly get used to the pacing, and get addicted to the thrill of success, transient as it may be.
For those that have played before, things have changed slightly since you were last in Lordran. The multiplayer is notably more accessible now, with the password system of Dark Souls 3 present and an allowance of more players in each session. These are small but significant changes which will alter your experience, you no longer have to pray to connect to your friends, you can now set it up yourselves. Of course you can have more allies, but also more foes, ready to strike you down when you least want it.
Graphically the game is considerably better, the textures are much cleaner now, and the most striking graphical change is evident in the lighting. If you thought seeing Anor Londo was good the first time round, just wait until you get there this time. The particle effects no longer cause the frame rate to drop into single digits and are aesthetically boosted as well. The intricate pathways in Crystal Cave are much easier to navigate thanks to the improvement here, you can step safely forward as long as you are paying close attention.
Perhaps the biggest, and most impactful, improvement for veterans here, is that Blighttown runs well. At no point was there a hint of chug, stutter, or cough. The smoothness was maintained and the only thing to curse at was the area itself, which is still horrible, but at least it runs well now. Lost Izalith is still a big orange mess, but it is easier to see than it used to be, with the lighting effects making lava less of a hazard for the eyes at the very least.
With all of the small tweaks Dark Souls has never felt so good, of course how the multiplayer functions fully won't be seen until it releases, but given that the more recent games have all worked there is little reason to doubt it at this point. The only thing that may niggle at you, is the fact that this is very much an earlier entry int the series. If you haven't played this yet, but have played any of the other Soulsborne games, then you will find some of the little eccentricities to be fairly jarring. For example, the free rolling present in the later games, here in its infancy, is restricted to forwards, backwards, left, and right. This might not seem like a huge issue, but the restriction really changes how you play the game.
When reflecting on playing this years ago, it feels like the combat isn't that much faster in 3, Bloodborne was the more hectic one to be sure, but it is easy to forget that the pacing has changed a lot since the first one. Dark Souls 3 took a lot from the Cthulu side adventure and as a result was a lot faster and reactive than the almost lumbering feel of the original. The combat here is slow and thoughtful, you wait for the opening that comes in the long wind up or recovery of an attack from the monsters. It is a very different beast entirely, which is worth keeping in mind if you either haven't played this one, or haven't played it in a while.
This is a remaster that brings what is quite simply a classic onto the newer console generation. Dark Souls Remastered is still an incredibly well put together game, the game world itself is one of the best built in any game ever, with the areas interlocking and winding around in a way that hasn't been replicated since. The progression is incredible, the story is deep but hidden and the combat is still some of the most satisfying around. While many games get compared to it, in truth nothing holds a candle to Dark Souls that isn't brought into the world by From Software, hell even the sequels struggle in the gloriously incandescent light emitted by it. This is a fantastic chance to dive into a truly exceptional game, and be prepared to die once again.