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Dark Souls: Remastered

Dark Souls: Remastered

From Software's punishing RPG is back, this time with several layers of polish.

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You know you've made it when your product becomes a term of reference for everything else around it, as since the release of From Software's Dark Souls back in 2011 the name has become synonymous with punishing difficulty (you may have heard the phrase "the Dark Souls of..." or "Souls-like"). It was a masterpiece of modern gaming back then, and this year From and Bandai Namco decided to remaster it, bringing the game to PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch at a later date. We've been getting back into the rhythm of things recently on PS4 to see what has changed, and the good news is that things have definitely changed for the better.

First up on the chopping block is the 720p graphics, which make way for glorious 1080p on PS4 and Xbox One, with upscaled 4K available for PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, with native 4K on PC (the textures are 2K, however). It's always the case with older games that you never remember them looking that bad, but having played the original on Xbox 360 days before we got our hands on this, we can attest that it looks a lot better, dramatically and noticeably so. Admittedly, it does show its age if you take a fine tooth comb to it, like zooming in on your character's gormless face up against a wall, but that's really nitpicking.

Another thing that will get Dark Souls fans praising the sun is the frame-rate, which ensures that you can now get your frames-per-second up into the double figures in Blighttown, where the original infamously stuttered and stumbled (meanwhile the PC master race doesn't have to deal with the measly 30 FPS offered in the original version). Now everything runs at glorious 60 FPS, although we should make clear that the Switch version will still be locked at 30, running at 720p in handheld and 1080p docked.

Both the visual and the frame-rate affect the game in a major way, and we have no problem saying that it brings it into the modern era; it's now looking like a title made for modern consoles. The animations are fluid (which is important when dodging and weaving your way around attacks) and with peak performance comes a higher chance of survival, both in combat and when you're navigating the various precarious ledges around the world.

Dark Souls: Remastered
Dark Souls: RemasteredDark Souls: RemasteredDark Souls: Remastered

But what else is new here? Well, this new edition comes with all DLC on all platforms, which includes the Artorias of the Abyss expansion. Here we travel to Oolacile to defeat Manus, Father of the Abyss - confusing, we know, but all you need to know is that here you get even more bang for your buck as part of the package. Like the majority of the game, the story is entirely optional and the main pull is the extra locations, bosses, and enemies for you to harass on your journey to greatness.

No doubt existing Dark Souls fans will be anxious as to whether any of the base game has been changed or, god forbid, made easier for the filthy casuals among us, and you'll be pleased to hear that in our hours of playing nothing looked or seemed different to what we'd seen in the hours upon hours we sunk into the first game. There may well be a few edges smoothed as part of the visual polishing, but the content is all as it should be for a remaster.

At the time of writing the servers aren't online, so we can't review the online aspect of the game, but what we can say is that while the original offered between one and four players at a time, this is increased to six for all the new versions (all four versions having dedicated servers no less), so you can have all the jolly cooperation you want... or hostility, if you're one of those sick and twisted individuals who like to invade other people's games - you know who you are. Summoning NPCs like Iron Tarkus, however, worked smoothly and as expected, so no complaints there, especially when they take on the bosses for you.

Dark Souls: Remastered
Dark Souls: RemasteredDark Souls: RemasteredDark Souls: Remastered
Dark Souls: Remastered
Dark Souls: RemasteredDark Souls: RemasteredDark Souls: Remastered

It won't just be hardcore Dark Souls fans getting on board with this remaster though, as this new package gives newbies who weren't around for the 2011 release a chance to try it for the first time, and we can conclusively say that this is now the best way to play the game as it improves on every aspect of the original, from the performance to the visuals and even the content included. While some remakes like the HD Collection for Silent Hills 2 and 3 are much worse than the original and take stuff away, this is merely a polished version of something already near-perfect.

We won't delve too deeply into what makes Dark Souls so good, but there's a reason it's had such a lasting impact on not only the games industry but also popular culture, and it extends way beyond the difficulty. The world you're thrown into is dripping with atmosphere, and at every turn you find yourself encountering the remnants of this dying world, where the Undead Curse plagues humanity and you're tasked with collecting the Lord Souls. It's minimalistic and often won't bother you at all, but that's the beauty of it; it's the world itself that brings the game to life and not the plot.

There's also a reason why a lot of games have imitated the Souls-like style of third-person action-RPG gameplay, as this is something that From Software nailed with Dark Souls, and nothing has changed in this respect. If like us you're jumping in as an existing fan, you'll find yourself parrying with ease just like you did in the good old days; ducking and blocking the hits as you work your magic. For newcomers, however, they'll have the joy of learning the intricate and deadly dance that is the combat, managing your limited stamina while working out the best time to make your attack.

There are a thousand other things that have already been complimented about From Software's magnum opus that we could spend hours describing, from the sprawling epic landscapes to the designs of the bosses themselves, but all this has been said time and time again during the last seven years. All that needs saying now is that Dark Souls has carried over not only untainted but improved from the versions of old. The leap between generations has given the game a new lease of life and hopefully that'll mean a whole bunch of new fans, which is no less than this genre classic deserves.

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09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
+
Nothing is changed from the original in terms of content, Drastic frame-rate improvement, Shiny new visuals, Complete package along with DLC.
-
Could have done with more treats and special features for long standing fans.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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