We return to Lordran with a remaster that fixes FromSoftware’s most serious gameplay issues; improving performance (to 60fps), increasing resolution, and adding minor visual improvements.
To speak of Dark Souls is to speak of one of the most influential games of the last decade. It’s high difficulty is popularly cited as a determining factor on it’s way to success. Any challenging game (or thing) is now associated with Dark Souls. It was a hard game (above average) but that wasn’t the only thing that elevated FromSoftware’s work to the Olympus of video games. And it was not the key either.
To begin with, the Lordran Kingdom remains, nine years after the original release Xbox 360, an example in level design. It’s a succession of zones that twist on themselves to connect with each other, through intelligent shortcuts and without loading times. It generated a greater sense of expansion than most open world games.
Dark Souls is also the main culprit that today the Anglo-Saxon term lore is on everyone’s lips. The atypical way in which it’s universe is unfolding before us, through descriptions of objects and environmental narrative. The statues that decorate a cathedral, the specific place where we find a ring, managed to make a background already out of yes interesting acquire mythological connotations. Even today, the events that took place before, during and after the Fire Age are debated, interpreted and theorized. (Ornstein and Smough, illusion or reality?).
I could continue to praise everything that makes Dark Souls great, and I wouldn’t tire. But, the game directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki wasn’t perfect, which is why today we find ourselves before Dark Souls Remastered. This remastering, corrects what was undoubtedly the most serious problem of the original the performance and adds several improvements.
The Souls-like Genre
I must say that at first I was intrigued when I saw the fame of Dark Souls, since I did not play it at launch, but a year later. But when I did… Oh, when I did! I fully understood the passion that unleashes the FromSoftware saga.
Going into Dark Souls is like re-experiencing what you experience with an RPG for the first time. But one that insists on screwing us over and over again and to whom we forgive everything; since we get to enjoy it more and more with each stone that puts us on the road. Because it’s fame precedes it, without a doubt.
We can not consult any map and we are given few clues about the next destination. Enemies can kill us with few blows, the character parameters rise one by one and laughably for each level and other players can invade us…
You have to try the game for a few hours to understand everything that it means to enter this universe. With one of the most complex and enriching lores in this industry and where we’ll live moments that will burn in our memory, especially as ambiance and bosses, with attack patterns that will take us back to the last century due to their extreme difficulty, having to measure each dodge closely and with enough patience to avoid being greedy. It isn’t worth smashing the buttons, the character gets tired and the message of YOU DIED will be within reach.
We are facing a remastering in the strict sense of the word. Don’t expect a treatment like the one Crash Bandicoot received on his N. Sane Trilogy or the ones in others remasters. This is the same game at higher resolution: 1080p on Xbox One and 4K re-scaling on Xbox One X.
The Visuals Of Lordran
This doesn’t mean it looks bad, quite the contrary: the level of detail of the textures of weapons and armor was amazing in 2011, and now we can finally appreciate it in all its glory. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for those that make up the scenarios. If in some cases we find high-quality examples, you can also see “blurred” surfaces.
In general, the visual identity has been respected; slight improvements in lighting, the feeling is that the artistic style has not changed (again, that’s good). But it’s curious that the ethereal flames of the bonfires have been replaced by plain looking fire; It was clearly an artistic decision that gave these important points a magical touch, so the change is incomprehensible.
Where most people have no complaints whatsoever is performance-wise, and I can safely say that Dark Souls Remastered moves at 60fps at all times. Cases such as the area attack by the crystal golems or the fur of Sif, the great gray wolf, seriously affected the frame rate per second, causing it to plummet. I’ve tested all these situations and have not detected any frame rate issues. And what better proof than the most infamous area of all Dark Souls: Blighttown.
The Pros of the Remaster
Invasions have undergone several changes to resemble what was seen in Dark Souls 3; the maximum number of players has been increased from four to six, and the location of the Dried Finger has been changed these massive combats) to the undead burg to have earlier access to this option (previously it was in the Painted World of Ariamis). The use of healing items has been limited and password matchmaking option has been added (as in Dark Souls 3).
But the most remarkable thing is, without a doubt, that Dark Souls Remastered has dedicated servers instead of P2P. Together with the other improvements ensures a better online experience. At least in terms of stability, because in the playability it remains exactly the same, so prepare to see how your character’s back becomes a magnet for the backstab.
The rest of the changes in Dark Souls Remastered are small, but are aimed at improving the quality of life. It is now possible to use multiple consumable items at the same time, instead of one at a time. A new bonfire has been added in the depths, next to the blacksmith Vamos, which facilitates access to his services. All changes are welcome, although some are somewhat strange, such as being able to change the pact at the bonfires.
The Teachings of Dark Souls
Nine years have passed since Dark Souls went on sale, creating a school that has no sign of ending. In all this time, many have tried to replicate the formula, some with more success than others. And while it has endured surprisingly well the passage of time, it is evident that along the way it has been overcome, both by its sequels and by its cousin, Bloodborne.
If we analyze it under the current prism, aspects such as the combat system have nothing special; fixation on the enemy, a fast attack button and another strong one, dodge, defense… Games like Sekiro have shown that it is possible do it infinitely better in that regard.
As I said at the beginning, the secret of Dark Souls is not the difficulty, and neither is it’s combat system. The secret is how all the elements combine to make sense of that system. Energy management, which recovers at a slower speed if we have the shield up; the weight of the equipment, and how it affects the speed at which the character moves and rolls; the movements associated with each type of weapon, the way to hold it (one or two hands), the jumping attacks, the parrys. It is incredible to see how all the pieces fit before us, cleanly, forcing us to be very aware of each of them in real time. That is Dark Souls.
Even though it is a remastered version, we are facing the definitive version of one of the best and most influential games of the last ten years. If you have never played it, don’t think about it for a second, this is the perfect opportunity to discover why we can’t stop talking about Dark Souls.
You can pick up Dark Souls from the Microsoft store for $39.99. Be sure to stay tuned to Generation Xbox for coverage from everything in the world of Xbox. And check out more from the Retro Rewind series here.