Dark Souls: Remastered is an attempt at making one of the most critically acclaimed action role-playing games ever even better. The Dark Souls series has been around since 2011 - well, 2009, if you count its PS3-only predecessor Demon’s Souls - and it has spawned two sequels, inspired PS4-exclusive Bloodborne, and created an entire sub-genre of games known as soulslike. Despite garnering accolades for its gameplay, Dark Souls was far from perfect.
Both PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Dark Souls were ruined by crippling frame rates that would drop to single digits in the busier moments. The PC version fared slightly better, but wasn’t exactly a competent port, requiring a fan patch to allow changes to resolution and a better frame rate. Dark Souls: Remastered promises to change this with 60fps gameplay at 4K on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, and 60fps 1080p on the regular PS4 and Xbox One. Does it make for a better game? Or does it join the ranks of needless remasters this generation? Read on to find out.
Firing up Dark Souls: Remastered for the first time you’re treated to a character creation screen that’s similar to the original. Too familiar, we’d say, as even your character model looks low-res here. Not a good first impression. Thankfully, in-game elements fare better.
From the opening Asylum area to the picturesque Anor Londo, the environments of Dark Souls: Remastered are a treat to look at. Gone are jagged edges that plagued the initial release. Textures and lighting have been amped up as well, making for a more immersive experience.
It’s not just the visuals that have got an overhaul. While playing the original Dark Souls, you often felt at odds with the control scheme itself, as movement and combat was hampered by a subpar frame rate, especially when traversing through locales like Blighttown that was notorious for its frame rate drops. In Dark Souls: Remastered, these problems have been rectified - at least on the PS4 and PS4 Pro versions we played - and thanks to the improved frame rate, the controls feel a lot more responsive than the original release.
What this means is you can parry, dodge, and attack fluidly, making combat more responsive than its ever been. Each sword strike and shield block feels immediate thanks to this. You truly feel in control of your character and this makes enemy encounters more impactful. Mind you, it doesn’t make the game easier - rather it highlights how Dark Souls: Remastered improves on the original’s gameplay thanks to the added horsepower of current generation consoles.
While Dark Souls: Remastered’s greatest upgrade is in its combat, it’s newfound fluidity also highlights how poorly some aspects of the game have aged, most notably, the user interface. It remains unchanged with menus being as cumbersome to go through as they’ve been in the past. It lacks the simplified, streamlined approach of Dark Souls 2 and 3.
However, you’ll find yourself perusing through them nonetheless, thanks to item descriptions that fill in the game’s minimal plot. You are an undead traveling the land of Lordran to fulfil an ancient prophecy and you must do this while dealing with bosses sewn together by skeletons such as the Gravelord Nito as as well as giants of fire and iron. It might not have a plethora of cut-scenes that most modern games are known for, but the sparse story-telling that leaves room for interpretation works well with its morbid, decaying high fantasy aesthetic.
As for Dark Souls: Remastered’s online mode, upto six players are now supported instead of the previous maximum of four, allowing you and your friends to take on the game’s many challenges together or grief each other as the case may be. With dedicated servers instead of the P2P set up of the last game, it appears to work well with gameplay being smooth online. How it holds up post-release will be interesting to see.
All said and done, Dark Souls: Remastered’s combat alone makes for an experience that’s near transformational. Combine that with great looking visuals and it’s a huge enough upgrade that makes up for the lacklustre UI and the absence of bonus content like, say, a photo mode. Dark Souls: Remastered is not the definitive version of the game, but it's close enough. Throw in a welcome price tag of Rs. 2,499 in India and $40 in the US, and this is one remaster worth checking out.
Rating (out of 10): 8
Gadgets 360 played a review copy of Dark Souls: Remastered on the PS4 and PS4 Pro. Dark Souls: Remastered release date is May 25 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC for Rs. 2,499 in India and $40 in the US. A Nintendo Switch version is in the works with no release date announced so far.
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