The cult hit Demon’s Souls may have been the game that first drew our attention to the brutal and sadistic designs of From Software and Hidetaka Miyazaki, but it was 2011’s spiritual successor Dark Souls that firmly burrowed the gothic RPG series into the gaming consciousness.
The Sisyphean slog of succumbing to the same club-wielding bull-demon the size of a small building or giant sword slinging wolf monster, only to eventually break the damned cycle on the umpteenth try, encouraged the kind of resolute following that only obtuse and bastard-hard video games can. People loved it. Despite the countless bloodstains left as reminders of failed attempts and stacks of souls forever lost to the ether, that feeling of accomplishing something that once seemed so unachievable was the ultimate reward.
It’s not just the mechanics but the lore, too, that has encouraged so much discussion. You start as a clueless husk in Lordran and the game barely explains anything to you definitively from them on. Instead, the secrets, mysteries and backstories of this otherworld are yours to piece together if you have the patience.
Where the tone and opacity may repel, even the biggest Dark Souls cynic can just about grasp that search for the euphoric high of a well-earned victory, even if the thought of putting themselves through the game’s repeated deaths and nasty tricks inspires nothing but rage. And, oh boy, is that all still here.
You’ll remember five-minutes in being chucked into a room with a multi-storey monstrosity with nothing but a shortsword and your decaying corpse to fight it. There’s that cheeky enemy who kicks the boulder down the stairs at you – and despite knowing it’s coming you still somehow fail to dodge it. The Taurus Demon is there too, and he’s still one wayward fling from sending you catapulting off the side of the Undead Burg ramparts. Thank you, Dark Souls.
So, that brings us to Dark Souls Remastered. What exactly do you get if you’re ready for another round? Well, fundamentally, it’s exactly the same game, though with a push to bring it up to more modern standards. What that means is that the PS4 and Xbox One versions have been bumped up to run at 60fps in 1080p, which is upscaled to 4k on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. And for the debut on Nintendo Switch, the game supports 720p in handheld mode and 1080p in TV mode, but both are locked at 30fps.
If you hadn’t told us that, though, we’d be somewhat clueless to the changes. The graphical improvements seem minimal at best, with the standout refinements to be found in the game’s lighting and reflections. That’s especially clear in the game’s dark and dank tunnels, where torchlight burns with more intensity and the walls glisten with moisture.
Most everything else – the textures, cutscenes, character models and so on – is perfectly acceptable though nowhere near as impactful. Without the chance to poke around some of the areas plagued by performance issues in the original release too, it’s hard to say how far the improvements truly go.
But, it looks fine and it plays fine. If anything, the serviceable-looking PS4 and Xbox One remaster at least makes the Switch version all the more intriguing if you need a new big RPG for on the go. This is the Dark Souls that you remember: whether you loved or hated it.
Dark Souls Remastered is released on May 25th for PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC.