Back in May, I took a look at Dark Souls Remastered on Xbox One X, where I had one main takeaway. Dark Souls Remastered is Dark Souls but it runs at a smooth frame-rate now on consoles. There you go – that’s your review. I admit I was a little reductive but for a lot of people, that’s all you really need to know – Dark Souls’ reputation precedes itself to the degree that there’s very little to say about it that hasn’t already been said. With the original Dark Souls FromSoftware established their own unique legacy built on challenge and reward, which was so successful that it’s still being iterated on today, through Dark Souls sequels or successors like Bloodborne and Sekiro. However, for many their first and best love will remain that first Dark Souls game, which was why it was welcome to see it running well on modern consoles. Now, a port for the Nintendo Switch has joined the pack of re-releases as Dark Souls Remastered brings the series portable for the first time – and it’s surprising how much that actually adds to the experience.
Playing Dark Souls Remastered in handheld mode on Switch feels surprisingly natural. While I’m used to the beefier triggers on the PlayStation and Xbox controllers for controlling Dark Souls‘ vital attacks, blocks and parries, the adjustment period to the Joy Con’s slimmer design wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Not only does Dark Souls play perfectly fine with the Switch’s controls, the gameplay feels oddly suited to it as well. Everyone knows the gameplay loop of Dark Souls is one of trial-and-error, where you progress, die, then try again, each time getting a little further until you get far enough to reach the next bonfire (checkpoint). Those little loops of progress are actually perfect for commutes or breaks at work, and it actually made me enjoy Dark Souls in a new way I hadn’t really been able to up until this Switch release. Of course, there’s also something to be said about the coolness factor of being able to play Dark Souls – proper, fully intact Dark Souls – in your hands.
The online community on Switch is already thriving as well, although you’ll need to make sure you have a subscription to Nintendo’s new online service. Just as in previous editions, you’re able to see messages from other players and leave your own, either helping or trolling as you see fit, or actively take part in others’ game sessions, either as an invader looking to murder them or as a helping hand for someone trying to take down some of the harder enemies. The netcode for all of this worked pretty great, and I was able to get some pretty satisfying online play sessions done both at work and home. The one irritating thing is an old issue with Dark Souls where idling for a while in an online play session in the home menu, and then returning to play will boot you back into the main menu. When you’re on the go, you’re likely to be doing this pretty often, which hurts when all you want to do is jump back into the game.
It all looks just like you remember Dark Souls as well. In handheld mode, the game runs at the Switch’s standard 720P, which is perfectly fine, but docked mode bumps that up to 1080p. Both run at a stable framerate of 30fps – not quite the silky smoothness of the 60fps of the other editions, but perfectly fine to enjoy Dark Souls, and more stable than the original in any case. The Switch version has received few of the graphical improvements the other Remastered versions had, if any. To my eyes, it looks exactly like the old PS3/360 version except running more stable, which is no bad thing necessarily but it might be worth keeping in mind and tempering your expectations with that ‘Remastered’ moniker hanging around in the title.
However, this does include all of the major and minor additions that all Dark Souls Remastered editions have included, such as being able to change covenants at bonfires, and the inclusion of the Artorias of the Abyss DLC. The inclusion of Artorias of the Abyss may seem obvious but it really is a pretty cool bit of extra content, fleshing out some of the backstory and lore of the world, adding four new bosses, and also providing some nice fan-service moments, like being able to briefly ally with one of the dopest wolves in video games, the sword-wielding Sif.
Out of the new Dark Souls Remastered editions out right now, I have to say that despite its technical inferiority to the others, I kind of enjoyed the Switch version the most. While it plays fine at home, Dark Souls Remastered really shines on the go, and being able to tuck into it whenever you get a spare minute is its own little joy, so much so I reckon it’ll remain in my game rotation on Switch for a long time to come.
- Still a huge, interconnected, challenging and satisfying RPG - Looks better than the original, if not as good as the other Remastered editions - Stable online gameplay is just as fun as it always is - Includes Artorias of the Abyss DLC - I'm not sure it can be overstated how cool having a portable Dark Souls really is
- As a portable game, being booted out into the main menu for pausing play sessions is irritating if online - As with its brothers on other consoles, adds little to the original game beyond small quality-of-life changes