Dark Souls Remastered is Dark Souls but it runs at a smooth frame-rate now on consoles. There you go – that’s your review. And honestly, that should be enough to know for most people. 2011’s Dark Souls was one of the standout titles from the last generation, and what many still consider to be From Software’s magnum opus. Dark Souls Remastered brings the original game, along with its DLC Artorias of the Abyss, onto current gen systems PS4 and Xbox One, along with a new PC release, and rejigs it all to run buttery smooth.
If you’re unfamiliar with Dark Souls, it popularised the formula From Software began with Demon’s Souls – a brutally difficult Medieval-styled Action-RPG, but rarely unfairly so. It’s beyond a meme at this point to say that you’ll die a lot in Dark Souls, but the important thing is that you learn from every death. There are plenty of moments where the designers are clearly trolling the player, with traps and surprise enemy attacks that could enrage you on your first try, but the point of Dark Souls is to let go of temporary setbacks and focus on the bigger picture. By improving your knowledge of the path ahead, enemy weaknesses and never allowing yourself to get too greedy with your attacks, Dark Souls can harden even the most casual player into a veteran thanks to its outstanding design.
Of course, beyond that is the interconnected world which is filled with secrets and implicit detail that fills out an expansive lore, which you can choose to delve into or not… An array of character classes, weapon types and a huge number of possible equipment set-ups makes replaying Dark Souls a must, and Dark Souls Remastered offers the perfect opportunity, if you’ve been getting nostalgic for the heights of Anor Londo, or the depths of Blighttown.
The major pro and con of Dark Souls Remastered is that it’s the exact game you remember, down to every trap, enemy placement and exploit. Virtually nothing has been changed, and nothing extra has been included outside of the original DLC packaged in. I say ‘virtually nothing’ – there are in fact extremely minor alterations to bring the game in line with more recent entries, such as being able to use multiple consumables in one go, or changing your covenant without having to re-find characters. However, now that Dark Souls is running on better hardware, the framerate issues which plagued it in the past are now completely gone, even in infamously prone areas like Blighttown. Playing on Xbox One X, the game hit a smooth 60fps at 1080p (scaled up to 4K if you have a 4K display) that never dropped, which makes for the smooth experience the gameplay always deserved.
The rest of the visuals haven’t really received the same treatment. While the detailed armour still looks fantastic, as do the boss designs and the general atmosphere of the world, the game is starting to show its age, and the bump in resolution hasn’t been kind to many of its elements. Flat, low-res textures rear their ugly head more often than not, unchanged from Dark Souls but now sticking out like a sore thumb. I don’t remember the trees in Darkroot Garden looking quite so terrible, but perhaps the intricately detailed Dark Souls III has replaced some of my memories of the original. Looking down from a high vantage point at the expansive world around you also feels less impressive somehow, now you can see its low-detail models from a distance with flat shading. However, some lighting effects seem to have been improved in Dark Souls Remastered, which is mostly noticeable in the all-important bonfire, the game’s most important element which has received a little bump in its special effects.
The other half to the Dark Souls experience is its multiplayer, where you can call on other adventurers to aid you in tough sections, leave messages to help (or hinder) the community, or engage in arena battles. It’s nice that this Remastered edition means the servers for Dark Souls will remain online for the foreseeable future, given that Demon’s Souls servers were turned off earlier this year, after nearly a decade up. Those who have put hundreds of hours into Dark Souls will know just how dumb, infuriating, but hilarious and genuinely fun the online community can be, and I’m glad to have a reason to get absorbed back into it with this release. One minor change that Dark Souls Remastered brings is increasing the previous four-player arena cap to six-players, with private servers.
The developers have taken an, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach with Dark Souls Remastered, opting outside of a performance upgrade to make only minor quality-of-life changes which are really only meant for the devoted Dark Souls community. However, they’re absolutely right. Dark Souls is one of the best and most influential games of the last decade, and it still holds up today, even if Dark Souls Remastered makes some of its rough edges a little easier to see. For those of us who’ve plowed countless hours into the original game, the AU $59 pricetag may be a little tough to swallow as it really just comes down to how much you need to revisit the game, or get it running on current hardware. If you’ve never played a Souls game before, then it’s an absolute no-brainer – stop what you’re doing and buy Dark Souls Remastered immediately. You’ll thank me later.
-One of the best games of the last decade, running as well as it ever has, especially on consoles -Includes the great Astoria of the Abyss DLC -Minor enhancements longtime players will appreciate
-Essentially very little added to the base game to incentivise veteran players to purchase