Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
Although the PS3 exclusive, Demon’s Souls, technically kicked off the Souls series’ meteoric rise to one of the most critically acclaimed series around, it was the multi-platform Dark Souls that really wrecked the floodgates. Building on Demon’s Souls, but improving on practically every aspect, Dark Souls was the first time many gamers had the chance to get to grips with the notoriously challenging action RPG.
Dark Souls was critically acclaimed, and was a bigger and better game than Demon’s Souls, with excellent, and well balanced difficulty, a long and varied story with a myriad of tough bosses, and it all took place in a wonderfully crafted, interconnected world. The design of the game was just great, and the trademark storytelling, which leaves a huge amount to interpretation, created a truly unique title. Simply put, it was excellent, and easily became one of the best games of the year in 2011.
Since its initial arrival, we’ve had two more Dark Souls installments, along with Bloodborne, and many clones. The second Souls game was a bit of a disappointment, sure, but even the worst Dark Souls is better than most other games. Dark Souls III was a return to form that didn’t quite top the first, but was nonetheless a great game. All the time playing these, though, there was one thought I couldn’t shake – why can’t we have a re-release of the original Dark Souls? After all, Dark Souls II quickly got a remaster, so why not my favourite? Why couldn’t I finally play through the first game in smooth 60fps, even in Blighttown?
Well, the time has come.
This version of the game comes with higher resolution visuals, new lighting effects, shorter loading times, and, of course, a big boost to the frame rate, which was one of the only faults of the original game. Here we have a fluid 60fps. There are also a couple of very important improvements to the multiplayer. The player count per instance has been upped from four to six, and these sessions are no longer Peer-to-Peer, but instead make use of dedicated servers. Finally, the game also includes the Artorias of the Abyss DLC.
The question is, does Dark Souls stand the test of time? The answer is a rock solid yes. Although it’s visually a little dated, even in this remaster, the strengths of Dark Souls still stand above its sequels and other games. The difficulty curve is excellent. It starts off difficult, and the challenge grows and grows as you progress, with some unforgettable encounters, such as the notorious battle with Ornstein and Smough, and this all takes place in one of the most well designed game worlds you’ll ever see.
Lordran is every bit the impressive and wondrous world it was back in 2011, with green forests, ruined cities, subterranean tombs, grand, Gothic fortresses, and lava filled caverns. The sense of fear and amazement you experienced the first time around still holds true, and even if you know what’s coming, having played the original, you’ll still relish each and every boss encounter and hard fought victory.
The interconnected world is just so well laid out and organic. You can explore new routes and locations, only to find them connected to areas you’ve previously been to, and it presents a very real labyrinth to explore, one that’s full of unique areas and themes. There are secret areas, optional bosses, shortcuts, and all manner of surprises to find. It has a huge range of enemies, both rank and file foes and huge bosses, and its undoubtedly the best story of the Souls series.
So, as a fully paid up Souls fan already, and one who holds the first Dark Souls in such high regard, I was more than happy to play through the game again with improved visuals and frame rate. Adding the DLC, and the improvements it has, this is the best Souls game out there, pure and simple.
However, I do have to say, for a remaster, some will find the game lacking. Unlike the Dark Souls II remaster, which came with three large DLC packs, Dark Souls has only one DLC (which is very good, mind you), and as extra features go, there really isn’t a great deal. The tweaked online support is good, and for PvP fans, this alone will make for a solid reason to buy the remaster. But for most, it’s hardly a major reason to buy the game again. Also, the game has one of my ultimate pet peeves, and that’s a horrible online connection implementation which means that if you lose connection to the servers (which happened all to often for me), you be unceremoniously dumped to the title screen. Instead of simply notifying you, and letting you play on, BOOM! You’re back to the title screen, which is annoying.
There’s also the matter of combat and controls. Now, personally I have no problems at all with these, as I always liked the feel of the game, but I understand some critics would have liked to see the refined and improved combat mechanics of the second and third game implemented in this remaster. This isn’t the case, and the actual mechanics of the game have remained untouched. Again, I found this to be no problem, but if you’re hoping for any changes here, you’ll be disappointed.
There are some other new changes I’ve not mentioned yet, though, such as the ability to change covenants at bonfires, and the inclusion of 3v3 in the DLC arena, but for the most part, it’s Dark Souls as it was. Thankfully, and although some may disagree with me, the fast travel of the sequels has remained absent (at least until later on in the game, as in the original). This forces you to explore the world and uncover shortcuts, something I feel the sequels greatly lacked. With a world as good as this, this is only a benefit.
At the end of the day, Dark Souls Remastered is all I really wanted, and that’s to play one of my all time favourite games in fluid 60fps, and with minimal loading times. In this regard, and with the improved visuals and some fine lighting effects not seen in the original, it’s a triumph.