Announced back on the 11th of January for the Xbox One, PS4, PC and Nintendo Switch (and their respective upgrades), Dark Souls Remastered is set to bring the original game in the hard-as-nails trilogy to a current-gen audience in the form of a polished, 60fps upgrade.
And we got the chance to play it, thanks to the folks at Bandai Namco.
For the tiny portion of the gaming world who somehow don’t know what Dark Souls is, let me quickly fill you in: released back in 2012, the spiritual successor to the underground hit Demon’s Souls arrived in the form of Dark Souls; a punishing 3rd-person hack-and-slash RPG that challenged players with seemingly insurmountable enemies in the deep, twisting, enthralling world of Lordran.
You play as an ‘undead’: a cursed being with no clear goal, except to somehow save the decaying land. From your initial awakening, you’ll stumble through a plethora of locales and defeat hundreds of nightmarish monsters – each time getting that little bit better at not dying.
But don’t worry if you do die, because this brand-new remaster is the smoothest way to play the game, yet. Back in the dark ages of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Dark Souls ran pretty poorly; fans will know that areas like the dreaded Blighttown could sometimes dip into criminally low fps, making the game even harder – and more frustrating – than it already can be.
Well fear not, because despite the difficulty being as brutal as ever, everything now runs at a consistently excellent 60fps. Not only this, but an increase to 1080p (or upscaled / native 4K, if your set-up allows) means every detail of Lordran’s intricately designed world is more beautiful than before. And for a game that prides itself on being an interwoven labyrinth of despair, gorgeous visuals definitely aren’t something to scoff at.
Just a side note: Dark Souls Remastered runs at 60fps on PC, Xbox One, and PS4, but the Switch version remains at 30. I imagine this isn’t unbearable, and Nintendo fans also have the benefit of being able to see ‘YOU DIED’ time and time again on their daily commute – fun stuff.
As somebody who has invested a decent chunk of time into the original release, I’ll say that it looks precisely as you remember it – which means much better than it actually was. We have a tendency to recall old games in HD, even if they were a hulking mess of polygons at the time. For newcomers to the series, this means that Dark Souls is more approachable than ever – from a technical viewpoint, at least. Everything looks crisp and defined, and rolling through barrels or furniture produces satisfying destruction physics that are even more so in their smoother frame rate.
What this means, though, is that if you’ve put hundreds of hours into the original version of Dark Souls and want something new; this might not be your answer. The beautiful graphics are noticeable, but their allure becomes commonplace after an hour or so of play, when you stop noticing the visuals and instead see the world as health bars and despair. There’s some stunning moments like the first time the Wyvern flies overhead in Undead Burg, but hardcore Souls fans would have seen this enough times for it to become routine.
What could attract hardcore fans is the increase of the multiplayer player count. Six knights (or pyromancers, or whoever) can now team-up instead of the previous four, making for more hectic fights and PvP encounters. This is all hosted on dedicated servers instead of the original P2P, which should result in more stability and the ability to have password matchmaking with friends. Unfortunately I couldn’t experience the new multiplayer at the hands-on event, but I anticipate it will be hugely popular among newcomers and veterans alike.
There’s also some minor bonuses that justify purchasing this iconic RPG one more time. I noticed that load times between deaths rarely went above seven seconds, and menus overall seemed much quicker than previously. This is no doubt due to the upgraded hardware since the PlayStation 3 days, and it leads to a much quicker game that feels justified in its punishing nature; if you die, you won’t be waiting forever to try again.
I’m guessing that the main crowd Bandai Namco are looking to attract with this remaster are newcomers to the series – particularly with the Switch release. However, I also imagine this will appeal to gamers whose first Souls experience was with the excellent Bloodborne; a PS4 exclusive that (in my opinion) perfected everything that makes Dark Souls great. Whether you fall into either of those camps, or are a hardcore sadist who wants to feel alive one last time, then you owe it to yourself to try this excellent masterpiece with a new coat of paint.
Dark Souls Remastered is available May 25th for Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.