Dark Souls, a game where its compiled version is called “Prepare To Die”, a series known for being “hard” and for non-casuals. Regardless of your opinion on the series and its difficulty you will have to accept the popularity of these action role-playing games. So much so is its popularity that it warranted a remastering of the first Dark Souls game from back in 2011 for newer consoles. For a game that is barely 7 years old, some may see this as too early for a remastering, while others are saddened by the lack of effort placed into it, but let’s have a talk about what DS: Remastered brings to gamers.
The story of the original Dark Souls is just as dreary and downtrodden as the rest, with the world being on the brink of insanity and chaos. With an introduction cutscene, we know we are in the age of fire after a long war against the dragons. However, this fire is not eternal and is flickering out, with the 4 lords reigning over the lands. It is foretold that a chosen undead will traverse the lands, ring the bells of awakening and either link the flame to prolong the Age of Fire or let it die to start the Age of Dark.
With 21 areas to explore, 6 in the included DLC, Dark Souls can feel like a massive game. While not all these locations are necessary, 3 of which are creatively hidden, you will get a good amount of playtime out of DS. Sitting in at around 50-60 hours depending on skill level as well as your own experience with the souls series. If you’ve played the original, or are going for another run, it can take around 10-20 hours, with speedruns bringing this down to 4. With the achievement list you may also need to do several playthroughs, allowing you to try out several class types.
The remaster didn’t change the story at all, leaving the original intact in this regard. What the remaster did change was the resolution, bumping it up to 1080p and 60fps on consoles and PC, with 30fps on the switch. Multiplayer has increased from 4 to 6, alongside the password matchmaking of DS 3 being ported over to this game, allowing friends to join at any level. You can select how much of 1 item to use at a time, rather than 1 by 1, covenants can be changed at bonfires, online servers are now dedicated instead of peer-to-peer. A nice quality of life option is the new bonfire near Vamos the blacksmith, which I loved as he is in an annoying spot… darn Bonewheels.
Dark Souls is an action game at heart, with a heavy focus on RPG when it comes to stats and armour. You have a light and heavy attack, with differing combos across all the weapon types, alongside acrobatic moves with lighter arms and jumping plunges or wide swings with heavier ones. You can have 5 – 20 Estus Flasks, which are your potions in this game, that respawn on bonfire sitting, you increase from 5 by sacrificing humanity to the bonfire you sit at (you need an item to go above 10). Alongside conventional weapons you also have the option of using Pyromancy, Sorcery and Faith, the 3 spell types. Pyro focuses mainly on fire based attacks, resistances and the like, while sorcery deals in straight up magic and weapon imbuement, finally Miracles come with heals and more buffs. Each spell type requires you to attune 1 spell, with separate charges and slot requirements, you can gain more spells through buying or finding them, and gain more slots by levelling up your attunement.
As you defeat enemies you will gain souls, the universal currency of DS. These are used to level up your stats, with increased cost, or buy items from merchants. Besides levelling up yourself you can also upgrade your gear, improving defence of armour or damage of weapons. When you get a non-unique weapon to +5 you have the option, if you have the ember, to ascend them to one of several elements or types. These weapons will help against enemies with weaknesses to an element, or can only die to divine weaponry.
Again, the remaster hasn’t changed much in the side of gameplay, when plenty of clunky areas could really do with a polish. You need to stand still to drink, rolling has very few invincibility frames, and the whole overall feel is sluggish and delayed. If you are returning from the newer SoulsBorne games you will feel a heavy showing of age on DS from how slow it feels in comparison.
As usual for a SoulsBorne game, DS has an amazing soundtrack, one of the reasons why it was heralded as the best game of all time around its initial release. Epic choirs, orchestral tunes and action-packed tracks follow you around, from the undead cities to the deep woods. Large bosses bring with them awesome awe-inspiring music, with bosses that contain darker backstories being accompanied by sombre tracks.
DS: Remastered still contains many of the glitches, bugs and AI mishaps of the original game. From being able to kill enemies outside of their aggro area, enemies disappearing altogether or falling through the world, to the undead dragon’s lower half staying on the bridge in the painted world (fixed with a jumping power attack). Thankfully, with the move to a more powerful system and the slight upgrade to graphics, Blighttown is no longer 8frametown, with similar areas or occurrences of FPS issues seemingly being smoothed out.
If you have never played the original Dark Souls game, we’re not talking about Demon Souls here, then this remastered version is probably the best one for you to try out. FPS issues are gone with the graphics seeing a slight upgrade due to upscaling. Several quality of life options are now available, whilst still keeping the core game as close to the original as possible. If you already own the game then you may want to pass, as the remaster doesn’t do anything too drastic. But at a starting price of $40 (£27.99) it can be well worth the money, you can even snag it at half price if you own the Prepare to Die edition on steam.
Overall, Dark Souls Remastered gets a 9/10, it revives the 7-year-old game from its undead status back into the limelight, even if it didn’t go far from it. The quality of life additions are welcome with no change feeling out of place or unwanted. FPS improvements make the whole experience more enjoyable, with less to blame your death on. DS still contains the plethora of tourist and newbie traps that the series is known for, which veterans will know all too well at this point, that may detract some newer audiences. If you are wanting a faithful remaster, with no major change to the core of the game, Dark Souls Remastered is for you. If however, you want one that looks much more gorgeous, you’re out of luck, as the graphical improvements are very minor, from the more prominent item soul to a generally higher use of colour or light. The most prominent graphical improvement you’ll notice is probably the armour you wear. Got to dress fancy for the end of the world.