Dark Souls Remastered Review – The Sweet Sound of Suffering

Dark Souls Remastered Review

Dark Souls is a franchise with a lot of influence over the way games have developed this past decade. The Souls games have inspired a whole swath of imitators, both good and bad, thanks to their revolutionary design. I’ve also never really played them before now. I was under the impression that Bloodborne fell under that same umbrella, at least until I picked up Dark Souls Remastered for the first time. This quickly dashed any hopes I had about coming in with an edge. Instead, my time with Dark Souls was characterized by flailing, failing, swearing and more failing. I still came away loving the game though, at least a little bit.

First things first: my lack of experience with the original version of this game means that any cosmetic improvements are mostly lost on me. I will say that the frame-rate was quite pleasing, the graphics were pretty sharp and the game ran butter smooth on my PC. I’ve heard complaints about detrimental changes to the lighting but this was mostly lost on me. All I noticed was that the game looked and ran beautifully.

Precise Yet Imperfect Controls

It seems like my Bloodborne experience is more of a negative than a positive. I immediately felt sluggish, like my character’s whole body was packed with cement. Every move, from the dodge roll to the strong swing, initially felt like it was happening in slow motion. Another thing that got me killed multiple times was blocking. You definitely don’t do that in Bloodborne. In fact, the whole combat rhythm is a fundamental shift from one game to the other. I do recognize that Dark Souls is the far earlier entry in the franchise, thereby cutting the legs out from several of my complaints. Indeed, it’s hard to levy these things as legitimate grievances given how precisely and purposefully the whole game is designed. Maybe it’s just the devoted fan culture that surrounds this series, but I’m much more inclined to give the controls a pass in terms of their precision. On top of that, I’ve since seen a slew of videos showing off just how surgical your movements can get in this game if you know what you’re doing. Let’s make one thing clear, though: I surely don’t have the required skills at this point.

Dark Souls Remastered

Perhaps one day, hopefully soon, I’ll be able to boast of my success in Dark Souls Remastered. That day is not today. My time in Lordran is all careful steps, quivering shields, and constant swearing. I didn’t make it much further than the first real boss during the week or so I’ve spent with the game. While there are times I can grasp that sense of slow progress, more often than not it feels distinctly futile. I get the sensation that this too is a deliberate design decision. Hope is in very short supply in this world. I also get the impression that you can’t take any time off from this quest. Maybe my experience is atypical, but I found that my fledgling skills need constant sharpening in order to maintain them. Any pauses in my playing are equivalent to backward progress.

Slow And Steady Progress Forward

Yet the rewards are tangible if you persist. This is a complex, beautiful world, one that demands careful exploration and undivided attention. You might be constantly under the threat of annihilation, but this level of tension means that any victory is especially sweet. Even at the early stages that I’m currently floundering in, I can already see what it is that draws people to this game. Unfortunately, my green perspective means that many of the contested details that have hardcore players so disillusioned are utterly lost on me. I have seen some passionate diatribes on all the ways the remastered version fails to impress, and each one leaves no mark on my enjoyment of the game. Although it’s arguable that the cycle of suffering and relief I’m putting myself through isn’t exactly enjoyment in the traditional sense of the word.

To that end, this isn’t a traditional review either. Whatever score I tack onto the end of this will struggle to capture the proper essence of what must be the purest Souls experience you can find on modern consoles. Bloodborne feels fundamentally different, while Dark Souls III carries all the improvements and changes that have been made to the franchise up to this point. Dark Souls Remastered is a shined-up version of the series, in essence, a pure delivery of exquisite suffering and sublime reward with a stable frame-rate and functional lighting. From a technical perspective, I can’t recommend this game enough. The controls, the level design, and the lore all feel like precise expressions of the developers’ complete vision. Yet I must attach that age-old caveat: this game will remorselessly kick your ass, leaving you hardly a heartbeat before the boot comes whistling your way again. If my delirious ravings awash in the haze of ceaseless suffering appeal to you, know that this is a must-buy title. On the other hand, if you’re intimidated or worse, if you’re a dab hand at this Souls business, you might be left wanting.

***A Steam key was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Stable frame-rate
  • Laser-precise level design
  • Clean, shiny graphics

The Bad

  • Still terribly hard
  • Hardcore fans will find some drawbacks
  • Causes constant howling of despair