Remasters seem to have become the norm over the past few years. Some, while great games on their own, don’t quite offer a substantial enough upgrade over their last-gen counterparts. A boost in resolution and frame rate may not be enough of an incentive to convince everyone to dish out money for an enhanced port of a game that they’ve already played on an earlier platform. Thankfully, From Software’s take on remasters is a lot more refreshing, with Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin going a step beyond the expected visual improvements and shaking things up, adding plenty of neat refinements for those who’ve already played the original.
Scholar of the First Sin is like the remix to your favorite song that adds more weight to the original composition. The first thing returning players will notice is the altered enemy and item placement. Experienced veterans familiar with encounters in the original will have some nasty surprises headed their way. Tougher foes will be thrown at you earlier on in the game, with appearances from certain enemies that you only encountered in the original’s New Game Plus. If this is your first time playing Dark Souls 2, chances are that you’re already dead. Though, it’s very generous when it comes to handing out souls, the game’s in-game currency. Beat a boss or two, and you should be able to level up enough to pack a decent punch to the enemies in the first few areas. And if you aren’t satisfied with that, there are plenty of easy-to-find farming spots littered throughout the world of Drangleic.
It’s also worth mentioning that Scholar of the First Sin comes packed with all of the DLC released for the vanilla version of Dark Souls 2. If you’ve played the original, but somehow missed its DLC, this re-release is a great way to catch up on it. Even if you only take the DLC into account, there are a significant number of areas and dungeons to explore and conquer.
By far, Scholar of the First Sin’s most significant improvement comes in the realm of online multiplayer. This includes a large number of matchmaking and online refinements and additions. The bonfire warp selection screen will now highlight the three most active areas. In addition, players who are on their first playthrough will be able to match with players who are on their second or subsequent run through the game. This may seem like a minor change, but it connects the previously segmented user base, paving the way for a more active PvE and PvP environment.
Technically speaking, the most noteworthy enhancement in Scholar of the First Sin is the move to 60 frames per second. The combat feels more responsive than ever, and parries are now easier to land. Meanwhile, the boost in resolution and anisotropic filtering does make everything look cleaner, but at the same time it also serves to highlight the bland texture work found in many areas of the game.
Unfortunately, the most disappointing aspect of Dark Souls 2 remains intact in the newer iteration. Most of the boss encounters are rather generic and don’t require much strategy in order to overcome. It’s possible to run circles around them simply by rolling towards their side or into their attacks. The encounters that are a little on the challenging side are artificially made difficult through gimmicky design, such as throwing multiple enemies at you at once in a single boss fight. Such bosses go against the fundamental design philosophy of the series. The combat in the Souls game is more methodical and hasn’t really been designed to simultaneously tackle a crowd of strong enemies. Thankfully, you can usually invite NPCs or other players to aid you in such circumstances. On a positive note, some of the DLC bosses are quite memorable, and there’s even a brand new secret boss added for good measure.
Another annoyance that seems to have creeped into the remaster is a glitch where the decrease in weapon durability is directly tied to the frame rate. The issue, which was also present in the original game on PC, has now reared its ugly head in the remixed version on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It can lead to some frustrating instances where you’re likely to break your weapon if you aren’t extra careful. Thankfully, the bug has been acknowledged by From Software and a fix is scheduled to arrive sometime soon.
Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin Review (PS4)
It’s hard not to recommend Scholar of the First Sin to newcomers and veterans alike. For newcomers, this latest version provides hours and hours of fantastic content for a great price. Meanwhile, the remixed encounters and items, the ramped up challenge, and the much-needed improvements to the multiplayer ensure that veterans also have plenty of reasons to pick this up.