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Review

Is Dark Souls Remastered The Definitive Version Of A Modern Classic?

Even Blighttown and Crystal Cave run smoothly!

You don’t need me to tell you that Dark Souls Remastered is a great game. You already know about the intricately detailed levels, precise positioning of enemies, and the memorable boss battles. This action RPG phenomenon courtesy of FromSoftware was starting to show its age in key areas, but it’s amazing what good a little bit of spring cleaning can do.

Those looking for completely new areas, enemies, and items are going to be disappointed. Dark Souls Remastered combines the main game with the DLC areas found in the Prepare to Die edition, but it is more of a remastered port. Having said that, Dark Souls did badly need a heavy scrubbing, in part thanks to a notoriously bad PC version at launch, as well as major performance issues in console versions that preceded it. The amount of work done to spruce it up to modern standards is remarkable.

Performance is the key reason that many would want to upgrade from the last-gen versions of Dark Souls. Since these versions are optimised for newer hardware, the upgrades are well above what even an Xbox One X running the original Dark Souls with enhanced backwards compatibility can pull off. Notorious areas such as Blighttown, the Crystal Cave, and New Londo Ruins seem almost seamless in their performance, even on a base PS4 at 1080p. If the network test is anything to go by, the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X versions should also see similar improvements at higher resolutions.

There are a couple of things that don’t seem quite right though, having also played the mod for the PC version of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition. There are occasions where the lighting looks significantly worse, most notably in places like Blighttown where things get so dark I had to bump up the brightness just to be able to see anything. There’s also the animation for sliding down stairs which ripples horrifically here, though at least you never fall through the floor in the Remastered version!

Aside from the performance, the tweaks are either matters of convenience or so minor that it doesn’t affect the game in the slightest – being able to switch covenants at bonfires and use multiple copies of the same item at once rather than repeatedly using them is a godsend. One welcome change is that you can now configure your own button layouts, though at this point it’s only the newer players that will really benefit from it since the original settings are so firmly ingrained into every veteran’s subconscious.

Those who have played Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin can rest assured that the layouts have not been tampered with to a massive degree, with only one additional bonfire and a couple of items being switched around to earlier points of the game –  this is mostly to encourage PvP gameplay. In an ideal world I would have liked the physics to have been tweaked to be more reactive to hits, but I certainly understand the limitations and what’s been done already is fantastic.

Yet the biggest changes seem to be when taking the game online via PvP, eliminating some of the more restrictive elements and including increased player counts from four to six players. There’s other changes as well, such as the switch from peer-to-peer to dedicated servers, meaning that online is more likely to run smoothly. While my experience with PvP was limited and ultimately unsuccessful due to the number of players at this time, time will certainly tell if this rejuvenates Dark Souls’ PvP scene.

Beneath the surface there have been many improvements, but it’s important to note that these are improvements to what was already a great game. Dark Souls is a franchise near and dear to me, as it is to a whole community of fans. It has a steep learning curve, it will punish you, it will reward you should you persevere. Dark Souls Remastered is perhaps the best point to jump into a franchise that has defined a genre, but in at least some ways it is the most definitive version we now have, even if some details still need refining in the lighting department.

Version Tested: PlayStation 4

Also available for PC and Xbox One – coming “summer” to Nintendo Switch.

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