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Review

Is Dark Souls Remastered On Switch A Handheld Masterpiece?

The Dark Souls of portable remasters.

It seems like only a few months ago that Dark Souls Remastered came out. Wait, it was only a few months ago and the Switch version was delayed you say? Well gosh, makes you wonder what happened to that version of the game doesn’t it?

Well, in case you haven’t played Dark Souls before, or somehow not read about Dark Souls before, it’s an action adventure game. It is the first game in some time to have spawned a whole genre, or at least become a convenient shorthand for difficult games. Not difficult in the sense that it is unfair, just difficult because it is incredibly punishing if you make a mistake.

This is a remaster of the original version released, oh so many years ago, and one that has then been squished onto the Switch. Unfortunately, this has left a couple of rough edges, including some issues that just weren’t there in the other versions. The most obvious one is the graphical downgrade, with the game looking a lot more like the original version than the remaster on PS4 and Xbox One, which isn’t a great start. The lighting has taken a bit of a hit as well, which is part and parcel of the overall change in graphical fidelity, but it means that this version doesn’t have the same look at all as the more powerful console outings.

There are also a few missing frames, probably left at the old place in the move, you know how it is. While Blighttown runs smoothly most of the time, everything gets a little chuggy when there are too many enemies in the area – just before the gargoyles, for example. It isn’t game breaking, but it is kind of upsetting to see these flaws making a comeback.

Next up are the controls, which have never been an issue in any version before aside from the jumping. The Switch defaults to use the A button as select, but Dark Souls preserves its own button layout across platforms and so has the B button as select. It is enough to slowly drive you into the arms of an overly friendly hollow as you try and navigate the menus.

The good news is that this version brings with it something that the series has never had before. Providing you are in offline mode, you can now pause the game – sort of. Hitting start or going back the home screen won’t do it but putting the console into sleep mode sure does. I’ve no idea if this works in online mode because I haven’t tried it, but it is kind of interesting that it exists at all.

The sound design of the game is still fantastic of course, the musical cues throughout still resonate in a way that few games can ever dream of. The voice acting sounds great as always; everyone is hopeless or incredibly unnerving, or both. The sound effects are good with everything clanging or clinging as it should.

The combat is also as great as it always has been, though compared to the more recent games in the series it feels downright sluggish, even if the deliberate nature of each motion gives every movement meaning. Backstabbing still feels rather off, but it always has in this one. In essence, the game is as good as it has ever been in terms of design, of course the lows are still there – Izalith, I’m looking at you!

It still feels a bit like everything up until, and including, Ornstein and Smough is absolutely stellar, while the latter half of the game is much more hit-and-miss. This isn’t the fault of the Switch port though, just the game itself.

What’s Good:

  • Still Dark Souls
  • Portable
  • Can be paused (kind of)

What’s Bad:

  • Where did those frames even go?
  • Which button is confirm?
  • I have killed Sif so many times it’s beginning to affect everyday life

The Switch version of Dark Souls simply lacks the polish that the remaster brought with it, and even added in a few issues that aren’t present anywhere else. The ability to play the game on the go isn’t something that you can get anywhere else, and it is hard to quantify just how much that makes up for the issues. Souls Remastered is still a very worthwhile game, but it is hard to justify this version over any other given the weaknesses that are unique to it.

One Comment
  1. Eldave0
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Expected really and, much like DOOM and Wolfenstein2 before it, this seems like one of those “just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should” situations.
    Fair play to the devs for getting a game like this running on a portable device, but it just doesn’t seem like the sort of game that fits the “on the go” style the Switch is known for.
    I suspect it will sell OK (despite the delay, Nintendo have done a good job at keeping people interested in this upcoming version) but I can’t see many people who also own a PS4/X1/PC opting for this version – especially given the higher price tag.

    Comment posted on 19/10/2018 at 13:06.

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