Reviews PlayStation

Dark Souls Remastered Review – Brutal, Unforgiving and Glorious

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When Dark Souls released all the way back in 2011, From Software changed the way I saw RPGs and, in my opinion, set a new standard in combat, an interconnected world and a challenge like few before it. I will forever remember the original Dark Souls and how it shaped my outlook on gaming.

What makes the Dark Souls Remastered so special is that now, everyone on current-gen consoles and PC can experience a better looking, smooth trip to Lordran. A new generation of gamers can experience From Software’s masterpiece, starting as a lowly Souls virgin to a veteran where you will one day tell another generation of your harrowing journey at a bonfire.

To that, I say one thing: “Praise the sun!”

Check out over 30 minutes of Dark Souls Remastered gameplay as I get wrecked, succumb to some very silly mistakes and show just how smooth the game runs on the PS4 Pro. Please note: The rest of the review is below the video when you finally stop laughing at my deaths.

Dark Souls Remastered is nothing if not a faithful remaster of the original, even though I loathe that From Software kept one of the game’s terrible areas, the Demon Ruins, just as it was in the original. Sen’s Fortress’ traps will still wreck your face, the Capra Demon will be the end of many newcomers, the infamous Ornstein and Smough fight is still as challenging as ever and even the extremely frustrating boss later on (I don’t want to spoil too much) that relies on luck (or should I say chaos?) and can destroy even the most seasoned of players does remain the same.

So, you are basically playing the same game as you did back in 2011, why then would I recommend Dark Souls Remastered? Well, there are some improvements that range from “oh pretty!” to completely game-changing. Graphically, the game ran at 4K resolution on my PS4 Pro and does the same on a capable PC or Xbox One X. The game’s lighting has been updated and shadows also looked better for me.

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There are a number of small graphical improvements, but I did find that some textures looked much less sharp than others, with Demon Ruins and some walls Undead Burg getting the worst of it. There are some quality-of-life improvements which Dark Souls veterans will love. You can now consume multiple items of the same type, which helps a lot when you consume a tonne of souls or covenant items of the same type.

However, the inventory menu does close when you consume souls, which means you have to go into the inventory again to consume a different type. Thankfully, the inventory interface is smoother than it used to be, so it wasn’t that much of an issue as I progressed through the game.

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The Dried Finger location, which is needed for 6-player multiplayer (increased from 4), has been moved to a much earlier portion of the game, in fact, you can get hold of it within the first hour depending on how well you play. Speaking of multiplayer, it is better than ever due to dedicated servers instead of a peer-to-peer connection and when in a game or even when I got invaded (or invaded others) it was a smooth experience.

However, I did notice some issues when summoning another player, as I had to summon a few times, getting a Summon Failed error until the player appeared.

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Further, you can now change Covenants at any bonfire. That’s a massive change as you no longer have to go and seek out the Covenant NPC, something which could become really frustrating in the original game. All these improvements I’ve mentioned are decent, but not really something to get super-excited about.

The one thing that stands head and shoulders above the rest and makes Dark Souls Remastered a must-buy for any Dark Souls fan or newcomer is that the game runs at 60FPS on the PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One and Xbox One X. Yes, even in the infamous Blighttown area, the game holds a solid 60FPS.

Some gamers might feel as if 60 FPS doesn’t make that much of a difference, but it does and in a game like Dark Souls, it makes the world of difference. Due to the smooth and solid frame rate, parrying is now easier, but still requires fast reaction times of course.

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Dodging, parrying, blocking, all the combat mechanics that are so extremely important to survive in Dark Souls Remastered feels fluid, fast and responsive. I don’t care if the game was running in 8K or 1080p, that doesn’t matter to me. All that matters is that smooth 60 FPS that takes the already awesome gameplay of Dark Souls to a completely new level.

That feeling you get when you kill a boss for the first time is amplified when you pull off some last-millisecond dodges or parries and now, every death in the game can only be blamed on your lack of skill and the need to “Git Gud”.

There are some minor bugs, from a few graphical errors as enemy animations looked weird and in one instance, a dog-type enemy got stuck in a pile of rubble while I was on my way to the Capra demon, at which point I had to run all the way back to the nearest bonfire to reset and continue onward.

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These little bugs where very few and far between though, with less than a dozen in an entire 45-hour playthrough. It is my hope that Dark Souls Remastered will teach a new generation of gamers what a difficult game should feel like, as every death is a learning experience and every inch of progression you make will feel wonderful.

I refrained from playing with others for most of my first playthrough and I would recommend this approach for newcomers as well. You see, killing a boss with a few others might be fun, but it doesn’t hold that same satisfaction, as it is 100 times easier to kill any boss when you have a few other players with you.

The challenge and that glorious sense of euphoria when you finally kill a boss that has been wrecking you for 20 attempts is something that few games can match and even fewer can deliver time after time again. Dark Souls Remastered is a faithful recreation of the original and although that does include some flaws, the improvements outweigh the negatives by a very big margin. It is the definitive Dark Souls experience without a doubt.

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New players should also know that there is a story, quite an intricate one at that, but you have to find it for yourself and let the environment and the various characters you find (sometimes by change) tell the story and listen closely, look at everything the environment has to offer and simply let the game teach you its ways. You will be surprised just how detailed and complicated this interconnected world is.

If there was one thing I could tell all new players who will be playing Dark Souls Remastered as their first Soulsborne experience, then it would be to never give up and learn from each death, because in the end, it will all be worth it.

The Verdict

I’m going to do this section of the review a bit differently than I would normally do and rather, ask a question for two types of gamers.

Dark Souls veterans who don’t own the remaster yet: Why haven’t you ran to a local shop, picked up a physical edition and when asked if you would be paying cash or card, simply screamed: “Praise the sun!” over and over?

Dark Souls virgins: Do you want to “git gud” and play one of the most challenging and magnificent RPGs ever created? If yes, then Dark Souls Remastered is the perfect start for newcomers and you should get the game as soon as possible.

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The improvements in Dark Souls Remastered is good enough to appease fans of the original and most importantly, playing the game at 60 FPS feels simply incredible. Newcomers to the Souls franchise should start at Dark Souls Remastered and go into the experience that they will die over and over again, yet at the same time learn from their mistakes.

The biggest mistake that you can make, in my opinion, is giving this game a skip.

This review was based on a review copy sent to us by Bandai Namco

Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 25 May 2018 | RRP: R629

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"Dark Souls Remastered feels fluid, fast and responsive"

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