Reviewed On: Standard PS4
What I've Played
- Created a character at SL 92 and one at SL 50
- Went through NG+
- Helped poor souls beat bosses they should have done by themselves
- Experienced multiple invasions, and died from each of them
The Best Batch of Content from the Franchise Thus Far
At this point, we are all too familiar with what to expect from a ‘Remastered’ title: a quality-enhanced version of a previous game brought to modern platforms. Dark Souls: Remastered doesn’t break the cycle, but thanks to recent titles from From Software such as Dark Souls 3 and even Bloodborne, my revisit reminded me that the first Dark Souls is the perfect showcase for why this franchise blew up into a huge success some years ago - it has the best overall batch of content we’ve seen yet from the series.
Don't take that the wrong way - Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne are fantastic games, but Dark Souls' level design and mechanics were defining factors that secured the popularity of this particular type of action-RPG. As the franchise went forward, upcoming titles adjusted the gameplay and design to meet the growing community, and the Souls series morphed into a chimeric blueprint of other action-RPGs released in the same generation.
Playing Dark Souls again reminded me of its strengths - the ingenious level design and tight combat that rewards patience and proper execution with progress. There’s not a single enemy you can take lightly. Even the starting enemies can pose a threat if they somehow band together and start flailing their arms like crazy people. The environments can kill you, and Blighttown is such a memorable area thanks to its vertical design and painful use of two different types of poisons. Though Dark Souls is the second game in this vein by From Software, this was the first time the series went open-world. You only see loading screens when you die or trigger a cutscene. So you will be reloading a lot.
It’s Punishing - Just How I Remembered It
The weapons and spells available provide so much variety, encouraging multiple playthroughs in order to experience different builds, as well as making for a vast range of possibilities with regards to PVP combat. Since weapons have unique movesets, players often choose weapon types not just based on effectiveness, but for the comfortability, coolness, or challenge of said weapon’s play-style. Armor sets bear weight and affect movement. The depth and planning involved in choosing one’s loadout is probably my favorite of the series’ ever-present elements.
Dark Souls’ world is both huge and compact. How you tackle the content is up to you, and backtracking is easily done thanks to proper shortcuts connecting certain areas together. It was a treat exploring every nook and cranny again, breaking hidden walls, and testing intimidating creatures that act like mini-bosses, patiently waiting for you to engage them.
The bosses in this game still hold up as some of From Software’s toughest creations. Ornstein and his heavyset companion are still a bitch to deal with, and the path you’re forced to retake in order to reach any boss again after you die tests your eagerness to get back into the fight. Though I died countless times, the frustration didn't push me to throw in the towel, but to push on. I saw my progress clearly - pattern recognition, dwindling a little more of the boss’ life each time, and, after hours-long gauntlets, celebrate - yes, each boss kill still feels as rewarding as it did back in 2011.
Duel with Honor
Lordran is a horrible place to live in. It oozes dread and despair through its orchestral score, writing, and vocal performances. Dark Souls doesn't cross the horror line in an attempt to scare you. Its setting simply complements the difficulties you, the player, will face. The story was never a selling point for the game, but its mysteries keep you guessing, and it will be a treat for first-time players.
Multiplayer is where you'll feel most of the changes in Dark Souls: Remastered. The maximum amount of players that can join a single session was increased from 4 to 6, and Dark Souls 3's Password feature allows players to find each other faster. I always considered the Souls community to be very active even months after the hype has died down, and the same seems to be apparent for Dark Souls: Remastered after a month of the modern re-release. Arenas (3v3 and 6-player deathmatch) and PVP spots are present for those looking for duels, and they’ve divided the player base with tiers based on Soul Level. On the co-op side of things, players willing to lend a hand to beat a boss will leave their sign by the boss door in order to be summoned, and during my time with the game, there was always someone waiting to be picked up. There are a few other minor but welcome changes, such as the ability to switch Covenants at Bonfires and configure your buttons.
If you've grown a sudden fondness for the Souls series thanks to recent games and have yet to play Dark Souls, you are severely missing out. Dark Souls: Remastered will test the player in every respect, just like it did when it was first released. This is a genuine classic that deserves to be revisited every few years. This is the title that put From Software back on the map and saw the franchise going multiplatform for the first time. If a player new to the series were to ask me whether they should play this first, I would say no - leave the best for last.
- A great action-RPG that holds up well for modern platforms
- Aside from the 60 FPS, the new features are mostly limited to multiplayer sessions
- One of the best titles from From Software, hands down
- Ornstein and Smough can still make players cry
[This review is based on a review code provided by Bandai Namco.]