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Dark Souls: Remastered

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: From Software
Release Date: May 25, 2018

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PS4 Review - 'Dark Souls Remastered'

by Michael Keener on Sept. 26, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Dark Souls: Remastered allows players to explore the twisted ancient land of Lordran in the first title of the action role-playing series like never before.

Buy Dark Souls Remastered

Few games can claim to be innovators, but Dark Souls is one of them. There's an argument to be made that the first title in the series is actually Demon Souls, but it's more like a rough draft for the Dark Souls series. They're not related, but both are action-RPG titles with a very tactical-based combat system. Health always feels low, and enemies have varying attack styles in every encounter. Fear of death always lingers, but partially it's because of the world. Players can now experience the remaster of the first title in the series, Dark Souls Remastered, on all major platforms.

The introductory cinematic features an epic tale that rivals the scale of "Lord of the Rings." The world was initially covered in fog and ruled by dragons. The Age of Fire began and brought with it great contrasts: hot and cold, light and dark, and life and death. Three forces rose up: a witch and her daughters, a giant undead creature comprised of deceased bodies, and a great ruler who throws fire bolts. The three entities, along with an army powered by the Souls of Lords, went to war with the dragons. Suffice it to say the dragons were defeated, but not before great plagues were cast on the young human race. Players take the role of an undead soldier in a dark prison and begin their voyage in the Age of Fire as the metaphorical flames are slowly dying out.

The gameplay feels pretty hardcore. Those who have already experienced it before — or those who experienced the sequels and/or Bloodborne — will feel right at home. For those who are trying this sub-genre for the first time, you'll feel vulnerable. As you make your way out of the dark prison, the slightest sound or eye-catching movement of a skeleton soldier sends chills up the spine. The learning curve aside, the character has very little equipment to help them feel safe. Realistically, though, there is never a time in the game when you feel safe. Enemies are mildly difficult at first and consist of fodder-like undead troops. The foes with bows and arrows are a pain, but the melee-swinging ones are pretty easy to destroy. In future encounters, you'll battle beings that are 10 times as large and swing weapons that can kill you in a couple of hits — although they can withstand more than a dozen of your hits.

As the pilgrimage takes players through castles, caverns, swamps, villages, and more, creatures such as the Gargoyles and Taurus make impactful appearances. There are over a dozen locations, and each one has a set of distinct enemies. Imagine the fear of fighting two large, winged gargoyles on the weathered shingles of a castle's roof; it's an atmospheric and visually stimulating fight that remains with you long after the game is completed. Later on, creatures such as demons, dragons, undead dogs, wraiths, and various oversized bugs test the player's skills. Enemies can also jump at you from key ambush positions. Fortunately, due to a slightly brighter exposure to the visuals, it's easier to see them coming — but there are still plenty of heart-stopping scares.

Brighter exposure is not the only thing to change in Dark Souls Remastered, but the changes are far from numerous. The biggest change is that it now plays at 60 frames per second. For a game with an emphasis on precise combat actions, the jump in frame rate cannot be appreciated enough. It feels easier to react to surprise attacks, and it's easier to time predictable attacks from opponents. The graphics have been upgraded but not overhauled. The sense of classic PS3 visuals is still present, but kudos should be given for the visual clarity in the remastered title.

The biggest controversy surrounding the game's initial release has also seen a barrage of fixes; Blighttown, a location that once saw severe screen tear and frame rate drops, now runs just as smooth as the rest of the game. Beyond some graphical changes and overall performance upgrades, the game has largely stayed intact. Part of the remastered package is the addition of the DLC. Artorias of the Abyss DLC adds new locations and the toughest boss, who is unlocked by killing another boss and carrying out a subsequent quest. The difficulty of this DLC is high, so taking the time to get to it is both understandable and suggested.

Online play is an available gameplay option, and it's been increased from the original four-player limit to a six-player limit. It works as both PvP and PvE — also known as co-op. It isn't forced upon players, but it's always nice to have the option. Confusion might arise when attempting to set it up, as a few steps are needed to initiate it, such as requiring players to use items in order to join. If you're familiar with the developers, you'll already know the system, but newcomers will probably look for a guide. Additionally, you can set the online joining to the public for random encounters or set a password for friends only.

Dark Souls Remastered doesn't make any dramatic changes to its original release several years ago. The struggle to progress is constant, but just as every moment could be another death, it could also be a moment of great triumph and self-accomplishment. Playing at 60fps makes me wonder how I ever managed to play at half of that rate several years ago. It's a beautiful remaster, even if it isn't a complete overhaul. It's a great entry for newcomers or a great walk down memory lane for fans of its original release.

Score: 8.5/10

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