Some names in gaming are iconic, and merely mentioning them is enough to recall a specific meaning that doesn’t require any further explanation. Games like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and StarCraft are some examples of these timeless classics. No name, however, has resonated more in the last decade than From Software’s 2011 masterpiece Dark Souls. Countless games released since then have borrowed elements from and used Dark Souls as an inspiration, and it goes without saying that this game, regardless of how quickly its visuals may have aged, it’s unquestionably a classic.
And to attempt to fix that regard to the game, as well as some issues that plagued the initial releases of it, we’re now getting it as the newest remaster to grace PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, aptly named Dark Souls Remastered. From the viewpoint of someone that initially played (and 1000ed) Dark Souls on the Xbox 360 and moved on to the PC port, the heavily flawed Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition, this remaster is by far the definitive way to play Dark Souls.
I could go on and on about how great the core game is, and honestly, Callum and I already did on many occasions, when we talked about its sequels and spiritual successors like Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne, so I’ll spare this review of my fanboy raving. As a user of the previous PC version of Dark Souls, Remastered is an obligatory upgrade due to the fact that it runs perfectly right out of the box, which is something that Prepare to Die Edition utterly failed at. It was capped at a low resolution at 30 fps, and was later patched via a user mod, a simple fix called DSfix that allowed the game to run at higher resolutions and at 60 frames per second. Outside of that, PTDE ran well (even though it was quite a system hog when it was released) and areas in Dark Souls that suffered from performance issues on the previous generation consoles, namely Blighttown — comically nicknamed Lagtown by the game’s online community due to how badly the game ran when you got to it — and The Depths, ran silky smooth, and multiplayer connection issues that also plagued the console ports were mostly fixed.
Dark Souls Remastered’s content should come as no surprise to veterans of Dark Souls. It doesn’t change any of the maps, characters, enemies or their encounters, so if you’ve come to memorize Lordran, you’ll feel right at home in Remastered. That is to say the main “story” mode remains unchanged, but some other gameplay functionalities of the game did, for the best. Improvements such as the ability to change covenants — Dark Souls’ way of calling factions — at the bonfire instead of having to repeatedly track down specific NPCs (mind the progression penalties for repeatedly doing so!), and the scaling of the inventory interface in order for less of the screen to be obscured while changing equipment, as well as allowing multiple items to be used at once, just like the sequels. It’s also worth mentioning that a few extra language options were added to the game, including Brazilian Portuguese, which adds another wrinkle in for me personally. I really want to see how badly some of the area names have been, erm… “improved upon” in the localization!
Along those gameplay changes, there are some pretty cool enhancements to the original game’s online features. The switch to dedicated servers now allows for the creation of private matches, something that was sorely missing in the original versions but was added to the sequels. The maximum number of players in PvP lobbies is now increased from 4 to 6. A sort of matchmaking balance was also implemented that should make getting ganked — that is, being invaded and trounced by a much higher-leveled enemy player — less likely to occur while playing with the online functionality turned on, and restorative items with the exception of the Estus Flask have been taken away from invading players, which should make encounters quicker and less annoying to deal with.
This remaster also includes, as did Prepare to Die Edition, the Artorias of the Abyss DLC that was released for Dark Souls, which is arguably the best piece of extra content ever released by From Software. It features some of the most memorable boss fights in the franchise, like the one-handed abominable sword fighter Knight Artorias, who lends his name to the expansion.
At the time of this review, the Switch version of Dark Souls Remastered has yet to be released after a number of delays, so there’s no way to tell how that port is going to turn out. It’s reported that it’ll run at 30 fps, 1080p in docked mode and at 720p while handheld. I hope to have a chance to try it out once that’s out, and if that happens, I’ll be sure to report back so keep an eye for that.
While it’s still rather amusing to notice a few blemishes here and there when it comes to the reworked textures that in my memory looked quite fine in Prepare to Die Edition, it’s no stretch to claim that Dark Souls Remastered is the version of the game that fans have been waiting for, running at full resolution (scalable to 4K) and at 60 fps. And if you have somehow managed to survive as someone who enjoys videogames up until now without having played Dark Souls, there’s absolutely no better time than now to jump in and try it for yourself. The series’ online community, one of the biggest and most active around the web, is in always in a fervor to bring in new players, helping and joining games for jolly cooperation (shoutouts to my boy Solaire!), so the game should be brimming with summon signs for quite a while.