Review: Dark Souls Remastered

Lordran beckons once more. Dark Souls Remastered has players reclaim their role as the Chosen Undead who must journey through a land of gods and fire to relink the First Flame and delay the ever-approaching Age of Darkness. Once again will players go through trials and tribulations to master the notoriously difficult game if they haven’t already. Remastered by QLOC/Virtuous and published by Bandai Namco, this remaster aims to bring the seven year-old cult classic developed by From Software to modern consoles and a “this time for realsies” edition for PC gamers.

Gameplay for Dark Souls Remastered has remained, for better or worse, mostly the same except for very small changes here and there. Players can now consume multiples of items like souls as opposed to constantly fighting the menu to consume souls one at a time. However, the menu’s user interface was never given a modern update so trying to navigate it still feels like yet another boss fight. Blacksmith Vamos had a bonfire added to his location in the catacombs to make travelling to him easier as well as preventing any unnecessary travelling through the catacombs on the way to the Tomb of the Giants. The Gravelord Servant covenant now functions properly with the network so invading gravelord servants in the area are now possible. Combat still remains entirely the same allowing for infamous builds to propagate in invasions like GiantDad and Havel the Rock.

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Where the remaster differed greatly is the visuals and performance. The resolution in all versions have been scaled up to at least 1080p for Xbox One and PS4, and 4K for the Xbox One X, PS4 Pro, and PC respectively. Textures have been updated to a minor degree including small details like more foliage in Firelink Shrine, leaves blowing in the breeze, and sharp font for dialogue and user interface text. For every currently released version of the game, it is locked to 60 FPS which is better than the original’s 30 FPS but those on PC with high refresh rate monitors may find their experience a bit choppy. Luckily, either through age or good optimization on QLOC’s part, even modest hardware seems to be able to handle Dark Souls Remastered and retain a good framerate. Blighttown, widely known for being a framerate killer in the original, seems to be fixed as well. However, until the Nintendo Switch version is released later in 2018, it is uncertain if Virtuous will be able to handle optimization as well as QLOC did.

Where Dark Souls Remastered ultimately failed or succeeded depending on who you ask is how much it was willing to change core elements of the game. While Blighttown may be free of its framerate issues, it still suffers from poor level design decisions. The Demon Ruins and Lost Izalith are still the same linear boss rush area that has copy-pasted former-bosses-turned-mobs scattered around the place. The Bed of Chaos boss fight still serves more as a practical game of luck than a challenge to overcome. On one hand, this can be seen as ensuring the original game is properly and faithfully recreated. Dark Souls became iconic despite these problems so it’s understandable that changing too much might be removing the “purity” of what it once was. On the other hand, the original Dark Souls game was riddled with problems at a much more fundamental level than optimization and texture tweaking. It seems unfair to a Dark Souls fan that these issues remain as they were given just how much From Software has refined their formula in later titles.

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PROS

  • The consistent 60 FPS makes the difficult title much easier to manage
  • Small quality of life changes grinds out some rough edges in the game

CONS

  • The game still suffers from the same design flaws as the original

 

Final Thoughts

I will admit I have a love-hate relationship with the Dark Souls series. I love that I have clocked in a considerable amount of time into every part in the series because of the challenge. There’s no rush a game has ever given me quite like beating a boss in Dark Souls that I have been stuck on for some time. I do hate a lot of what makes a quintessential Dark Souls game and seeing a lot of what made me hate the original Dark Souls remain in the remaster left a sour taste in my mouth. Unless you have never dipped your toe into the series before, there just isn’t anything for the veterans of the series to sink their teeth into other than a revitalized multiplayer. Dark Souls Remastered is on Xbox One, PS4, and Steam for $39.99 or your regional equivalent, unfortunately I have to give it the Final Verdict: Pass. While a faithful recreation, it is hilariously uninspired.

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