There are, generally speaking, two routes to take when it comes to remastering a beloved older game. One is to try and improve on it, add in new levels or challenges, fresh areas, additional weapons. This is risky, as every new element incorporated into a game risks upsetting the delicate balance that won players’ affections originally. The other is to retain a ‘pure text’, enhancing only the visuals and audio, tweaking controls for modern controllers where appropriate, and otherwise leaving the classic work as-is.
It’s that latter path that Dark Souls Remastered takes, and much like other recent remasters such as Shadow of the Colossus, it’s better for it. QLOC, the studio behind the upgrade of FromSoftware’s gothic masterpiece, delivers the original game, unadulterated, with all of its character classes, weapons, and notorious difficulty level intact. It just looks a whole lot better now, with 4K support and a relatively stable 60fps experience. Textures and lighting are massively enhanced too, making the grim castles, fetid dungeons, and wasted landscapes of this world even more darkly beautiful.
Staying true to the original experience also means that, for better or worse, there are no concessions given to improve accessibility for newcomers. The minimal story remains deliberately vague, leaving much of the world and its mysteries up to the player to define, while the mechanics of precise combat against ghouls and the meticulous strategy needed to dispatch the towering boss monsters ensure this is still one of the toughest action RPGs around.
This is still one of the toughest action RPGs around.
There is a wrinkle in Dark Souls‘ remastering compared to Shadow of the Colossus‘ though, and it’s down to their point of origin. Colossus, being a PS2 game to begin with, was a whole, singular product. Dark Souls, coming on PS3 and PC, saw the Artorias of the Abyss expansion released as DLC. The Remastered edition includes that bonus content, which is incorporated into the main game’s progress.
There are a few technical improvements to enjoy though. Dark Souls now enjoys dedicated multiplayer servers – allowing you to summon assistance or invade other players’ worlds – and the multiplayer cap has been raised from four to six people. Perhaps most importantly though, the Blighttown area, once notorious for punishingly low frame rates that made an already intensely difficult section of the game even tougher, now runs at a smooth 60fps.
For returning players, there aren’t really any surprises to be found in Dark Souls Remastered, and for newcomers it’s no more welcoming. Yet with the digital lick of paint it’s received and for being a complete package in terms of content, this is the definitive edition of the game.