Developed by FromSoftware Inc., DARK SOULS: REMASTERED allows players to explore the twisted ancient land of Lordran in the first title of the critically acclaimed action role-playing series like never before. Experience the rich world of DARK SOULS in upscaled 4K resolution with 60FPS when playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro system, Xbox One X, and PC. Also, 1080p resolution with 30FPS is available when playing the game on Nintendo Switch with its TV mode. From their first timid steps to absolute mastery, players will build their characters by strategically adapting to daunting foes, exploring haunting locations, and amassing a large collection of weapons, armour and magic spells to utilise for a truly unique playstyle.
DARK SOULS: REMASTERED marks the DARK SOULS series debut on a Nintendo platform, and for the first time ever can be played on the go with the unique capabilities of the Nintendo Switch console.
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Dark Souls is a game so iconic and thoroughly digested that it needs no introduction. It’s truly incredible, if you think about it, how a game released just 10 years ago has basically become a legend and a specter haunting the whole gaming community. Since then, Dark Souls has basically invented a whole genre all on it’s own, but I think it’s worth pointing out that no game since DS1 has managed to copy it’s formula like you would expect with another genre-game. When it comes to souls-likes, again, no one really even tried copying Dark Souls 1 or Demon Souls in quite the same way. Not even the subsequent FromSoft soulsborns! In that sense, the original Dark Souls is still the most unique of the souls series, and maybe of the genre in general, so it has been incredibly interesting to finally see what it has to offer.
And you probably know what it has, at least when it comes to gameplay. The exploration is super laissez-faire, letting you tackle areas and tasks in whatever order you like. And the metroidvania nature of the world does a lot of heavy-lifting in making you feel like an adventurer, going into the unknown and growing stronger at your own pace. The developers were very deliberate in their desire to not jerk you around, but guiding you carefully towards the most optimal way forward. Most players won’t go to the more difficult areas first, and Dark Souls does all that it can to point you towards the most optimal way forward, without spelling it out or revealing it’s secrets.
The combat is also a great refresher, making great use of physics and environment to create tension and force you to adapt your playstyle. I always kept a longsword or a halberd on to kill enemies in tight spaces, and used a slash-based weapon to deal with foes that crowd around in more open areas. In some areas, and against certain bosses, you would benefit from carrying a weapon with a vertical hit arc, or using magic, bows and crossbows for long-range battle. And the clunky and deliberate nature of combat provides you with, at the same time, senses of power, control, vulnerability and insecurity. You can be a final boss away from completing the game, and yet even the dingy hollows near Firelink Shrine could kill you if you’re not careful. To the same extent, you can realistically slay any boss you have access to, considering you play it safe and don’t rush things. Even before I got leveled out, I could spend a total of 5-10 tries on a boss battle that would be over in a minute.
Another thing that builds the atmosphere and boosts the challenge of Dark Souls is the bonfire system. Now, I actually really liked it in regular exploration, as, while going into the depths (no, I don’t mean The Depths) the threat of losing all your souls is always hanging over your head, and you can either play it safe, go back and reinvest them into levels or items, or chose to go further in hopes that there would be a safe zone or a shortcut ahead. But it’s with bonfires that my issues with this game start, and it has specifically to do with how exploration leads up to boss encounters.
Here I have to say that I love difficult bosses just as much the next guy, but you have to be careful with them, as there is a lot of things that can go wrong - not even with the battle itself, but with what leads up to it. Let me tell you about one of my favourite bosses of all time - Jetstream Sam.
Now, Sam is a major asshole, testing all the skill you have and demanding you to be both at your most cautious, and most ruthlessly aggressive. And even as I was trying to take him down, I noted that I had a lot of resolve to do it, because:
a) The lead-up to him was fantastic, with him taunting and pissing you off for most of the game prior to the actual battle;
b) He was perfectly balanced in terms of moveset and damage, never feeling cheap or overpowered;
c) His battle was short and was a whole level all on it’s own, and I could re-try it instantly after defeat, with the sheer hype of beating this asshole to his theme never fading.
And the main and biggest problem with Dark Souls is that, in my opinion, it’s too open for it’s own good. And bosses are a great example of that, as basically every boss, with some exceptions, is 1) A piece of shit that you won’t kill on your very first try; and 2) Is preceded by a either a gauntlet of enemies, or is a 2-3 minute walk away from the nearest bonfire. With that in mind, I never really had fun fighting the most difficult ones, as, in addition to trying to kil them over and over again, I had to journey the same path over and over and over again, which I was infuriated by at first, and then grew completely numb to by the end. And that’s how a lot of bosses in Dark Souls went for me: I was excited to fight them, then I die, then I try again, and by the time I do this like 3-4 times, I couldn’t help but turn on a podcast or something, just to stave-off the boredom of repetition of having to run past a dozen assholes along the way to the actual fight. And in some cases, notably with the final boss, I just threw it all out the window and went another way, doing some other shit. And thus, when I reached the Four Lords, I was so overpowered, that I defeated these fucking ancient gods in a couple of hits. Nito, this giant skeleton that send diseases and death upon his enemies, was so easy for me, that I was kind of insulted. How the hell do you manage to build up an image of a guy so powerful, only for me to then defeat him on my second try, ignoring most his slow and ineffective attacks?
Here I have to admit that there are bosses I liked in this game, notably from the DLC, and that’s because they were presented the right way. Syf is just a dog protecting his master’s grave, and throughout the fight you feel sad that you even have to do this. Artorias is a guy clearly stricken by illness, and someone you hate to fight, but know that that would be the best for everyone. And Orstein and Smough, god! The nature of their relationship is so clear, and you truly feel the comradery these guys feel for each other. Dark Souls is surprisingly good at emotional engagement with it’s characters, but it’s commitment to mystery and vagueness was the biggest barrier in me enjoying most thing to do with a narrative. The fucking Gwyn fight just left me empty, with no emotion when I actually killed him. And that’s because I had to endure all the bullshit in the world before I actually got to take him down, and with how open-ended the both endings are, Dark Souls left me kind of disappointed.
I feel weird when people tell me that Dark Souls is an emotional experience, because, while combat and exploration were pretty engaging, most characters are as vague as a politician's campaign slogan, and you rarely feel any closure or relief or satisfaction when conquering a challenge in this game. And ultimately, this is the game Dark Souls is, for better or worse. It’s a game where triumphs are turned into confusion, where you are put to the biggest test before the easiest challenge, where themes are explored, but are then dropped or underdeveloped moments before you feel any satisfaction, where everything is fog you have to go through and find meaning in yourself. And, I suppose, if you like this kind of thing, and I know a lot of people do, you will absolutely love this game, and I’ll be smiling. But I tried to love Dark Souls, and, in the end, it’s the kind of game that is not interested in pleasing or entertaining you, and instead wants only for you to suffer, and overcome this suffering in whatever way you choose. I can respect that, but I don’t think I particularly love that.
Even in the worst moments, Dark Souls is a unique and unforgettable experience, and this long-ass review, in my catalogue of reviews of 200 words or less, shows just how interesting this one was for me. It's one of the few games I actually wanted to think a lot about after finishing, and I don't for a moment regret beating it.
The box-art of the remaster is the best one, don't @ me
First of all, for the sake of transparency, I have to say I played this game for the first time in 2020 and after Darks Souls III.
I started playing FromSoft games with Bloodborne and loved the combat, so of course, I wanted more. And both this game and Dark Souls III didn't dissapoint at all. It's slower and require better timing but it's still amazing and satisfying nonetheless. Everything in this game feels polished and taken care of with passion form the devs.
The interconnected world is also a huge joy to explore, get lost in and find your way back to where you came from. It just fits the narrative and tone of the game perfectly.
I loved all of that, but the gotta say, this game has the weakest boss fights among all the other FromSoft games I've played (Dks, Dks3, Bb and Sekiro). There are some great ones, don't get me wrong, Artorias, Manus and, of course, Ornstein and Smoug are some of the finest of the series but the rest of the bunch are either laughably easy or gimmicky as hell, I want to have an interesting 1v1 fair fight with whatever the game throws at me but instead I have to run around trying to find a way to damage the thing.
(On a side note, there is a special place in hell for whoever decided that the Bed of Chaos was a good idea.)
Overall, it is an amazing game and experiece that everyone should play. The bosses detail, for what I've debated with other people, is kinda of a hot take, I guess it just boils down to taste.