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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Game review: Dark Souls: Remastered is as close to perfection as you can get

Hype surrounding Dark Souls is not an accident, and Remastered is about reminding players just how unique and special this game is

‘Dark Souls: Remastered’ brings its uncompromising and striking play to a new community of gamers. Courtesy Namco Bandai
‘Dark Souls: Remastered’ brings its uncompromising and striking play to a new community of gamers. Courtesy Namco Bandai

Not long after From Software’s magnum opus became an unexpected hit, games journalists got into the annoying habit of describing any game that was perceived to be more difficult than your average Call of Duty as “the Dark Souls of [insert genre here]”.

Very rarely was that an apt description. Fans of the series will be quick to point out that Dark Souls really isn’t all that difficult (but that depends on what exactly you mean by “difficult”), and that there’s so much more to what makes it unique and special than how often you end up dying.

No, Dark Souls is special because of the lack of hand-holding, the incredibly interlocking, creative map design, the minimalist storytelling, the haunting, unforgettable atmosphere… and so much more.

Now, it’s possible to experience all of that first-hand again, thanks to the release of Dark Souls Remastered – the, well, Dark Souls of remasters, I guess.

There have been some grumbles from PC gamers who feel the remaster doesn’t offer anything that player-made mods don’t already make possible. And while that is certainly true when it comes to the graphical side of things, those who complain the DS:R is some sort of unnecessary cash-grab are, in my humble opinion, missing the point.

While PC gamers who like to fiddle under the bonnet of their games can certainly get the original 2011 release to look a lot prettier than it did back in the day, this remaster should be welcomed by just about everyone else, especially console gamers. Playstation 4 owners have no way to play the original, and it only joined the Xbox One’s list of backward compatible games in April 2016.

Click below to watch the game trailer:

The technical upgrades in DS:R are a real treat. Gone is the 30 frames per second targeted (and often not achieved) by the original Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions, replaced by a rock-solid 60fps on all three current platforms (the forthcoming Nintendo Switch release will run at 30fps).

This is a game where split seconds can mean the difference between life and death, so the increased frame rate not only makes everything look smoother, but also has a positive effect on gameplay.

Resolution has been increased from 720p to 1080p on PS4 and Xbox One, upscaled 4K on the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro and native 4K on PC.

The goal here was to deliver a gameplay experience as close as possible to the original, so most of the other changes are small, quality-of-life improvements, such as the use of dedicated servers for online play instead of peer-to-peer networking, HUD scaling and the ability to configure buttons.

This is a game where split seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Courtesy Namco Bandai
This is a game where split seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Courtesy Namco Bandai

And while some have criticised the decision not to make more sweeping changes or mix things up by, for example, changing enemy and item placement, doing so would have been a mistake – Dark Souls is as close to perfection as you can get, a once-in-a-generation release that spawned one of the most devoted fandoms in all of gaming and had a huge impact on the industry far outweighing its sales numbers.

DS:R makes it possible to experience this masterpiece again (or for the first time) conveniently on modern hardware, and that alone justifies its existence.

As I carefully made my way through the Undead Burg, one of the early sections of the game, I again realised just how singular an experience it is – especially coming back to it after having played other games in the Souls series. Not even other Dark Souls games are Dark Souls, really – they are all excellent in different ways, but there’s just something about the first one that is utterly unique and special.

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Yes, it’s difficult, especially when compared to most mainstream blockbusters. But approach it in the way it’s intended – accepting that you will die often, and there’s nothing wrong with that – and you realise your ingrained habits form a big part of said difficulty.

There’s so much more that can be said about Dark Souls, and most of it already has over the past seven years.

But all you need to know is that the hype surrounding it exists for very good reasons, ones that become apparent once you play it. If you haven’t had a chance to do so yet, this is the perfect opportunity.

As for those who have already experienced the terror and elation dreamed up by series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki, here’s your excuse to do so again, not that you really need any.

Dark Souls: Remastered
Developer: From Software (remaster by QLOC)
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Price: Dh199