The classic game that started it all has returned, this time to the next generation of consoles. It’s hard to define just what makes the Dark Souls series so damn good, but upon playing the original 7 years after it’s 2011 release, I couldn’t think of a better way to return to one of the most wildly original (and infuriating) experiences in recent memory.
From the get go, Dark Souls Remastered doesn’t seem to revolutionise the experience, instead refining it, all while respecting what made it so great in the first place. Players are left to take their custom created character, fitted with class-based attributes and a chosen ability, through an undead land, with danger at every turn. While the story remains intentionally minimalistic, you’ll find that the world itself packs it’s own subtle yet noticeable punch, through a blend of bright and neutral colours, complete with some gorgeous updated lighting effects to make it all pop.
Make no mistake, Dark Souls Remastered looks great. While I expected it to look a touch better, due to some bland textures and environments, there’s no denying it looks noticeably better than its original counterpart. Sure, it’s a remaster, but this isn’t what caught my attention. My first 5 minutes with Dark Souls Remastered was a breath of fresh air, thanks to its silky smooth performance. Originally released in a 720p resolution running at 30 frames per second, Dark Souls Remastered cranks the performance dial to 11, running at 1080p at 60 frames per second on PS4, and at native 1800p scaled to 4K, while hitting 60 frames per second on PS4 Pro. Playing on a PS4 Pro myself, I was stunned at the consistency of the frame rate, maintaining 60 frames at least 99% of the time I spent with it. Menus have also been refined so that they’re easier to navigate, while that pesky HUD and on-screen text can now be adjusted so that it doesn’t take up what seems like 70% of your screen.
In spite of all this, Dark Souls Remastered feels very much like the experience I had with it 7 years ago. Hauntingly beautiful? Check. Varied environments and weapons? Check. Stupidly difficult? Double check. The fact that most of it feels the same isn’t necessarily a bad thing however. It still controls quite well, if a little sturdy compared to more modern third person action RPG’s. While the controls themselves are tailored to this type of experience, I found myself ever so slightly disappointed by the lack of any meaningful gameplay changes. But at some point, I may just end up sounding like a spoilt kid complaining on Christmas morning, who got that bike he wanted, just not in his favourite colour.
Dark Souls Remastered returns with Artorius of the Abyss DLC, which is a nice touch for anyone who missed out the first time around. Seeing DLC included in remasters always brings a smile to my face, seeing as I always tend to miss them in the first place. However, if you’ve played all the DLC has to offer, Dark Souls Remastered shrugs its shoulders as its single player component has nothing left to give at that point.
Dark Souls’ underrated multiplayer modes return with some added extras, now allowing up to six players at once in arena battles compared to the original four. The introduction of dedicated servers allow for fairer matchmaking, allowing fights to feel somewhat evenly matched, with equipment levels also being adjusted accordingly.
Putting aside the fact that Dark Souls was a fantastic game upon its 2011, there’s no doubting that Dark Souls Remastered is the best way to experience this game. From updated graphics and lighting to the beautifully smooth and consistent performance, Dark Souls Remastered bursts on the next generation as a reminder that your nostalgia isn’t always deceiving you; sometimes games can be just as good as they were when you left them, given a slight polish.
Score: 9.0 out of 10
Highlights: Updated visuals, stunning and consistent performance.
Lowlights: Does little to redefine or shake up the Dark Souls franchise.
Developer: Virtuos, Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC
Review conducted on PlayStation 4 with retail code provided by the publisher.