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.
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.