If there was a game that had a major impact on the design for modern games, it is arguably going to be Dark Souls. Souls series started with the relatively low profile Demon’s Souls, which ended up being a complete surprise hit. Bandai Namco was smart enough to understand their popularity and started to work on a collaboration with From Software for Dark Souls. This was the first Souls game that was multiplatform and it ended up being one of the most successful and critically praised games in the series.
This generation, we have seen so many remasters that it can be overwhelming at times. When it comes to Dark Souls, I always felt that the original release of the game never did it justice. It launched on PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2011 and was plagued with technical issues related to its performance. The frame rate in particular was so bad in Blight Town that it required a herculean effort just to get through that area. Dark Souls ended up being the center of jokes and memes due to its terrible frame rate and this persisted until the PC release.
This brings us to the PC version which was one of the first Souls game to be published by Bandai Namco. It was released at a time when Japanese developers were ignoring the PC market, and even if they did release a game on PC, the quality of the port was terrible without support for most of the basic PC features. Dark Souls on PC was one such port which was a PC version in all but name. It locked to 30 FPS and was restricted to just 720p resolution, which is around the same as the Xbox 360 version. Thankfully modders were able to fix the PC version letting users unlock the resolution and frame rate for Dark Souls thus unleashing its full potential.
After all this troubled history for the game, it makes sense that a remaster was essential for those who wanted to experience this masterpiece. This brings us to the release of Dark Souls Remastered which is now the definitive version of the game surpassing the PC version with mods. It feels like Bandai Namco has taken the feedback and complaints of fans to heart and this remaster was developed to satisfy them. It is a full HD remaster with high resolution support of up to 4K and it runs at solid 60 FPS on all platforms. This is a huge upgrade from the original game but does it carry any other improvements that make it essential to buy for those who have already played through the whole game?
First of all, if you have never played a Souls game, this game is still a good entry point for newcomers. If you do get it, be prepared to die a lot since Dark Souls is still one of the hardest games on market. I always felt like it was harder than its sequels but maybe it was because my first experience with the series was with Dark Souls. One of the areas where it is hard to argue that the game is infinitely better is the design for the world. Lordran is one of the most gorgeous and cleverly designed area in the whole series.
My disappointment with the remaster is that the visuals don’t appear to be touched in a significant way. It still looks like a last generation game with a resolution boost and small upgrade to the lighting. The upgraded lighting gives it a slightly different look with a focus on the specular highlights. Post-process effects are improved and this is immediately seen in the fire effects of the Bonfire. Ambient occlusion and parallax mapping is implemented on some surface textures that gives more depth to the environment.
The biggest improvement here is the performance and it can’t be stressed enough. Dark Souls Remastered runs at a locked 60 FPS on the Xbox One X. Aside from the resolution boost to 4K, the solid 60 FPS helps a lot in making the experience far more enjoyable. As an action RPG, controller response is important to have here and the increased performance now makes it easy to parry and riposte enemies to your heart’s content. As a result, the game ends up feeling easier if you are already a Souls veteran and if you finished the game on last generation consoles, there is big jump in visuals and performance heading into this remaster.
Another improvement that has been made is the shift to dedicated servers and the increase in the number of players online. Dark Souls Remastered is an online game by default which requires you to keep a connection to the server. It is possible to play the game offline but honestly it will make you lose most of the fun that is in seeing the deaths of other players or seeing the messages that they have left behind. You can summon others to help and can also ask a friend privately by generating a password so others are not able to invade your world. The experience now is smoother with not much lag to disrupt the flow of action, and the frame rate hardly drops on the Xbox One X even if there are multiple players on screen.
Souls series is known for its boss fights and Dark Souls has one of the hardest hitting bosses in the whole series. The remaster also comes with the post launch expansion called ‘Artorias of the Abyss’ that included a whole new location to explore. The main game is already chock full of content but if you somehow missed out on the DLC, it is available to play in the remaster. Be prepared to go through a tough challenge since it is not going to be an easy endeavor.
Dark Souls Remastered Review (Xbox One)
Game Reviewed on: Xbox One
Game description: Then, there was fire. Re-experience the critically acclaimed, genre-defining game that started it all. Beautifully remastered, return to Lordran in stunning high-definition detail running at 60fps.
Dark Souls Remastered brings the much needed 60 FPS experience back to the series. This is an essential remaster that was long needed and it manages to tick all the right boxes.