Our Dark Souls Remastered Review, exploring the question: Should you buy DKS Remastered? We played it all, made a bunch of videos, updated the wiki and are now ready to tell you what we think about this recent release. You may be surprised to find that our initial impressions were a bit off the mark… (video coming soon!)
Developed by: QOLC / From Software
Published by: Bandai Namco / From Software (Japan)
Release date: May 25th 2018
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed on PS4 Pro)
Launch Price: 39.99 USD
Dark Souls Remastered Features
- Experience the original Dark Souls title with increased resolution (up to 4k) and 60FPS
- Engage in a revamped multiplayer experience of up to 6 online players.
- Obtain the Artorias expansion bundled with the game
Story & Setting
The game has made no changes regarding story and setting from the original release. This is, at its core, a graphic and “cleanup” update to the game that enables newcomers to the series to experience the original offering, while modernizing it in the most minimalistic way possible.
For those who have never played Dark Souls before, the story sets the stage for the trilogy: a cyclic world that is slowly progressing towards ultimate darkness from whence it came. You and others struggle, perhaps pointlessly, to bring about another dawn. But you may find that not all that is told to your character is as it seems, and will have opportunities to make choices accordingly.
Summarizing Dark Souls Lore in one paragraph
The world of Dark Souls is a world of cycles. Kingdoms rise and fall, ages come and go, and even time can end and restart as the flame fades and is renewed. These cycles are linked to the First Flame, a mysterious manifestation of life that divides and defines separate states such as heat and cold, or life and death. As the First Flame fades, these differences also begin to fade, such as life and death having little distinction, and humans becoming Undead. The onset of an Age of Dark, the time when the First Flame has fully died, is marked by endless nights, rampant undeath, time, space, and reality breaking down, lands collapsing and converging on one another, people mutating into monsters, darkness covering the world, and the Gods losing their power. To avoid this and prolong the Age of Fire, the bearer of a powerful soul must “link” themselves to the First Flame, becoming the fuel for another age. If this is not done, the First Flame will eventually die, and an Age of Dark will begin.
The truly unique experience of souls is that the story is not told by exposition but rather available only to those searching for it and willing to spend the time and effort mapping item descriptions and discerning truths from lies in every NPC dialogue available. If you let the promise of a glorious knighthood for a Sun Princess distract you, the unsavory truth of Gwyndolin’s reality may pass you by. If you fail to explore areas thoroughly, you may never meet Priscilla or learn of her world.
Dark Souls Remastered successfully delivers the original story, and stays true to its setting – except that souls are now a shiny hue of blue. Lore enthusiasts will surely have a field day with this one!
Design, Visual & Audio
The project had some back-and-forths in development and some features were ultimately dismissed including HDR but this remaster is, in the end, mostly about the graphics. And here is where the opinions of players will radically differ and the most controversy will lie. An important thing to note before going into this is that there are two really distinct camps for this game: Console players vs PC players. As I played on console, my opinion will be from a console player’s point of view.
The world of Dark Souls is fantastically designed, and that has not changed, but now we can see it in much sharper resolution in our larger screens. I have actually enjoyed looking at the higher resolution icons for items and discerning things that were not quite visible before, but the place where the remastered shined the most for me was on the enemies. Better textures and better animations meant that the bosses and enemies, with their details and qualities, acquired an enlarged “Presence“. I was honestly surprised to find a renewed interest in even the Frog-Ray. and I increasingly noticed details on each Boss encounter that I had not quite seen in the thousands of hours I spent with the original.
You will not be blown away by the graphics, and areas with small corridors or the distant objects in the Forest may feel rather underwhelming. This is because seeing a higher resolution render of a low pixel design simply sharpens the fact that the base design is simplistic. You will, however, notice an overall improvement to the general atmosphere as lighting has been reworked to deliver more impactful scenes and make your own character better-defined.
You will absolutely notice the FPS difference and the performance. Blighttown is no longer a lagfest, and the many rolls in the toxic swamp can be precise and calculated. All animations being smoother also means you may notice some more enemy detail, such as the Taurus Demon’s hairs move – eerie!
Recent remasters like Dragon’s Dogma, Skyrim and Shadows of the Colossus have set the bar extremely high, and even if the Dark Souls Remaster doesn’t quite reach that level of quality, it is good enough to captivate the player. You often don’t notice anything is amiss when playing, which I think speaks volumes by itself, because you are playing a PS3 game on PS4 after all. While the environments themselves will most likely not stand out to the would be hollow re-experiencing Lordran again, they will surely notice the difference in enemies and Bosses, which have been given a lot of tender love and care.
It’s easy to see the negatives in Dark Souls Remastered, mostly because we have been spoiled with games like Assassin’s Creed: Origins, God of War, and we no longer see things objectively. We’ve become so accustomed to insane graphics that we cannot tolerate anything less than perfection, and Dark Souls Remastered is not perfect. However, you may have forgotten how it looked before compared to now, so we’ve left a little reminder for you below:
- Some advise for those on PC who may feel this is not a “real” improvement over the freely available unofficial mod “DS Fix”: The issues that DS Fix introduced are, reportedly, nowhere to be seen in the official upgrade. Alongside this, other improvements to the remaster related to gameplay are likely to have more weight in your experience than the graphics could, so give everything due consideration.
Dark Souls is indeed all about the gameplay, and in this regard there’s little that Namco could have done to improve the original game that they haven’t done by releasing Dark Souls 2 and Dark Souls 3.
It is entirely possible that many veterans will find it shocking just how “slow” everything is for this title, and perhaps gain a wholly new appreciation of the quality of life upgrades that time has brought us. Specifically, rolling in more than 4 directions in later Souls games would have been a nice addition here.
That said, and even though the majority of the pillars of gameplay remain unchanged, there ARE differences to how combat plays out. First of all, the framerate makes a HUGE difference when playing – as you are no longer guessing your swings but can see them precisely. This is a very important element of combat for me, and one that feels like a new experience.
Besides the several quality of life improvements (including some such as Covenant swapping at bonfires that I’m not entirely thrilled about), there are several fixes for known exploits that have been deployed, although we will not list them here as those exploits are still present on the original game.
[This might be addressed with a patch, but as it was not fixed as of publishing]. One glaring issue we would like to note in this section is that there seems to be some problem with input and delay. Occasionally you will press a button like attack or roll and nothing happens, but then 2-5 seconds later you pull off the animation, without having pressed anything else. I’m specifically referencing offline gameplay here, not online where lag might be a factor. It happens often enough that it can be frustrating, and I have also verified that it is happening to other players. Hopefully this gets fixed soon, or I foresee many unhappy players.
Last but not least, the most noticeable gameplay changes relate to Multiplayer. Being able to rejoin the frey of “launch day souls” for one of my favorite titles with even more participants is a blast. I had no troubles summoning other players and could get constant and fast action offering my services for hire. I also took full advantage of the new password system to aid fellow reviewers that needed my help or wanted to test some trade mechanics.
The enhanced experience made Dark Souls feel fresh and engaging, and the more I played the more I wanted to keep playing, just like the old times!
Should you buy Dark Soul Remastered?
Remasters, Remakes and Reboots are a divisive proposition at the best of times. I am personally not opposed to them, and only interested if I get something out of it such as a modernized experience. For me, Dark Souls Remastered is worth the price based chiefly on the opportunity to re-experience Dark Souls but in 4k from a new platform, with a revitalized multiplayer. PC players who believe the graphics upgrade is lackluster can consider the accommodation that their price is only 20USD and arrive at a conclusion on the worthiness of the purchase based on their online play.
Dark Souls Remastered may not be perfect, and I must admit I went into it with some degree of worry, but the magic of the game is too strong and you will feel the nostalgia wash over you. Bandai Namco has successfully pulled off this remaster, somehow, someway, and I don’t think you will truly understand until you play yourself. I cannot wait for May 25th to see what you all think!
For those who started with Dark Souls 2, Bloodborne, Dark Souls 3 or have never played souls: the Remaster is an unmissable experience that they should not pass up on. The original Dark Souls will open your eyes to how this all started, and hopefully fill the gap until we get some other title to scratch that souls itch.
If you are looking for more Souls content, you might want to check out our Dark Souls 3 Review, or focus on what is new with Dark Souls Remastered and some details on DKS Remaster Development. Keep up to date on everything Dark Souls Remastered with upcoming Video Walkthroughs, Boss and Build Guides, and more!
This post is also available in: Français