By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong
THERE CAN be no denying that FromSoftware’s Dark Souls is brutal and difficult, often bordering on the sadistic in terms of its capacity to challenge players. That said, it’s beatable, and while its gameplay borders on the unforgiving, it succeeds in its objective. You get a massive sense of achievement in persevering through it and conquering the even-tougher-than-tough parts. It’s an acquired taste, a pain to get into, really. It’s also harder to put down once you’re hooked.
In no small measure, the near-Sisyphean context in which Dark Souls presents itself is why it has held up well over time. Originally released on the PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 in 2011, it was later ported to the PC under the title Dark Souls: Prepare To Die a year later, featuring hitherto-unseen extra content. Fast forward to 2018, during which time the series’ continuing popularity has prompted the release of a remastered version of the founding title on the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Featuring enhanced graphics, better framerate and resolution, quality-of-life fixes, and all downloadable content off the shelf, Dark Souls Remastered positions itself as the definitive edition of Dark Souls. It has you taking control of an undead spirit in Lordran. Darkness has consumed the Kingdom, and all sorts of creatures now lie in wait throughout its ruins. Controlling the game’s silent protagonist, you must take up the sword and unearth the cause of the darkness, slaying monsters and delving deeper into the shadows from whence they came en route.
The premise is simple, to be sure, and one that Dark Souls Remastered is able to convey in visual splendor. On the PS4, it looks stunning, with better-resolution textures and graphics all across the board vis-a-vis its source material. The framerate is at the highest possible, and, more importantly, a constant, representing a massive improvement that provides a better overall experience. It just feels and handles better from the get-go.
Which is a decided plus, because, needless to say, Dark Souls Remastered makes no pretensions on the level of commitment it requires of you. Compared to its elder sibling, it does very little to change the gameplay, and aside from much-welcome QoL adjustments, it’s the exact same romp through Lordran, with a distinct emphasis on exploration, combat, and skill improvement. The mechanics are unchanged; the focus is still on dodging traps and striking enemies and bosses (a whopping 26 all told), necessitating countless hours’ worth of investment.
Parenthetically, the scope of familiarity is both good and bad. Dark Souls Remastered manages to keep intact the experience of going through and beating the game. At the same time, the problem isn’t in what it has done, but in what it has failed to do. Because the core gameplay experience is the same, it doesn’t offer anything new. It’s an updated version of Dark Souls, optimized to play well under current-gen technology, but little else.
In sum, Dark Souls Remastered isn’t for everyone, and especially not at $39.99. Even for previous owners of the original and of the Prepare To Die Edition on the PC, the price point may be a big ask. On the flip side, it delivers on its promise; it’s a severe — if beautifully rendered — test of skill that pushes the boundaries of the action-role-playing genre in a way that no other game in the market can.