Dark Souls Remaster Review – The Final Embers
Dark Souls. The legendary name that practically everyone knows, a series known for unrelenting challenge and an ambiguous story. It’s a series that has spawned a new sub-genre, one that has no proper name, as well as countless YouTube lore channels and memes. Dark Souls took the industry by storm, with its tough gameplay, amazing boss fights, haunting world, and deep story. Dark Souls arrived at a time when games were becoming toothless, giving gamers a new sense of challenge to test their skills. Each boss fight felt like a true fight against insurmountable odds and when players finally broke through the wall the sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. Jump forward 7 years and Dark Souls has been given a new lease on life with the release of Dark Souls Remastered. But does this remaster live up to the original release? Or do the small quality of life improvements tarnish the legacy that this lauded title has built? Well let’s find out.
For those of you that don’t know, Dark Souls lore is presented mostly out of sight, whether that is cryptic NPC dialogue, item descriptions, or the state of the environment itself. This leads to an incredibly immersive experience as the story of the world is organically presented to you, it feels like some of the world has been lost to time and you are the first person to step in these forgotten places. The game’s story is the tale of the Chosen Undead, who is tasked with relighting the First Flame and continue the Age of Fire. Along the way you will meet other Undead on their journey to find meaning. Solaire, looking for his sun, trying to be as grossly incandescent. Siegmeyer, an adventurer looking for one last thrill. Lautrec, the mysterious knight locked in a cell. These characters all have their own goals and motivations, so even though they may stop at Fire Link, they will head out again to find their objective. This makes the world feel real, they aren’t waiting around for you, they are actively trying to get to their goals, even if that comes in conflict with yours. In terms of story it has remained untouched for this re-release, the only new addition for some will be the inclusion of the DLC, which was also bundled with the Prepare to Die Edition. This DLC sees the player transported back in time to Oolacile, a land that was swallowed by the Abyss. Legend told that the great knight Artorias saved the land and banished the Abyss. But on the players journey through this land they learn the horrible truth about a past shrouded in mystery. Dark Souls Remastered is the complete package of the first game and is a great deal for those who have never played or never experienced the DLC.
The gameplay has seen some minor changes but still feels faithful to the original release. Some of the minor changes include; being able to take multiple drinks from the Estus flask, multi-item use, and fixed the issue of auto equipping items. The combat is practically the same, with four directional rolling, heavy swings, and emphasis on parrying. With the upgrade to 60 frames a second standard the game is much smoother and parries are no longer an exercise in frustration. Within minutes I was parrying practically every enemy I came across. The only downside to the ability to more easily pull off parries is that Gwyn is even more of a joke. While he was never exceptionally hard this fight is trivial now because his attacks are so easy to read. But on the plus, the notorious Blighttown is stable and never drops the framerate. Playing through it for the first time in the remaster I wondered why it was so bad on last gen to begin with. The area isn’t the most power intense, the design isn’t the most complex, it just astounds me why this was such a problem area. Though with the new improvement there’s small things that also crop up. Unlike DS II or III you cannot use souls items with your menus present, if you try this the game will force you out of the menu screen and make you watch the crush animation. This can be slightly frustrating if you have several soul items that you want to use. Another downside is that unfinished areas like Lost Izalith, Demon Ruins, and the Painted World bridge are still unfinished with enemies just lazily copy-pasted into the environment. Also the Bed of Chaos is the same fight, cheap and frustrating as it is. While I’m fully aware this is a remaster and not a remake I feel these areas could have used some polishing to take the frustrations out of it. So just be warned, like the original experience, the game’s quality sees a little drop off after the Lordvessel is obtained. But even these sections aren’t awful, just a little lazy. Overall this keeps most of the original title intact, for better or worse. So purists can rejoice, The game is still the flawed masterpiece it’s come to be known for.
Lastly there are improvements to the PvP. This puts better connection in the system, allows for up to six people to be in your world, and more quality of life improvements. But ultimately Dark Souls PvP is still the same, along with the all the exploits and cheap builds that entails. The game still has an issue with min-maxing and smurfing. This leads to most invasions coming down to the invader being suped up for damage with high mobility. This can be especially frustrating when trying to get to a boss or make it to the bonfire while human. For those looking for a more structured PvP experience there is a match making arena that is accessible during the Artorias of the Abyss DLC. But otherwise PvP can be either a ton of fun if a decent invader comes in or you’ll get repeatedly fucked by some min-maxing ass that keeps plastering you to a wall. Summoning is still great and you have plenty of options, whether you want to summon a player or NPC. All of these tie back into covenants which are better explained and makes the rewards worthwhile.
Dark Souls Remaster is a great experience that brings the legendary title to modern era. With much-needed improvements this stands as the definitive Dark Souls experience. For those who haven’t played and for those that want to experience it all over again, I highly recommend it. Warts and all Dark Souls remains one of the finest experiences in gaming. So Chosen Undead go forth, claim inheritance of the First Flame, and decide the fate of humanity.
Editors Note: While the game is available on all major platforms the Switch version is not currently available at the time of this review. Thank you.