In October 2011, I was innocently minding my own business playing some Deus Ex on my Xbox 360 when I saw an advertisement for a new game I had never heard of called Dark Souls. The next day I stopped at my local video-game store and blindly set myself on a path that has lasted to this day: the never-ending quest to “git gud.” After a handful of sequels, spin-offs, DLC, and copycats, the original Dark Souls has come back with a remastered edition which launched in May of 2018.
As I mentioned above, I have been involved with Dark Souls—and each subsequent SoulsBorne release—for the last seven years. During that time, FromSoftware has sent us on one high-difficulty, controller-breaking, invasion-riddled, aggravating-yet-supremely rewarding experience after another with Dark Souls II and III, as well as Bloodborne. But now we get to return to where it all started—for most of us anyway—to see how the original holds up to its successors. And the short answer is pretty well.
I will offer a brief disclaimer: I have little to no knowledge of—or experience in—the meta game PvP aspects of Dark Souls. I tend to veer closer to finding weapons and armor that match my fighting style, as well as some obsessing over fashion souls, more than I worry about good weapon counters or invasion-proof builds.
One big difference I noticed immediately once I returned to the world of Lordran was the game speed. Unlike the fast and visceral pace that Bloodborne had set, which was based more on quick attacks and movement, Dark Souls is much more of a slow and methodical affair, even when compared to its sequels. Maybe it was my fault for replaying Bloodborne so soon before starting the remaster, but the slower pace took a few hours to reacclimate to. But once I did I was dodge-rolling and backstabbing again with relative ease.
One of the biggest “disappointments” I had with Dark Souls Remastered was just how much like Dark Souls it was. That may sound weird, but for $40 I essentially paid to play a seven-year-old game with some slightly better tech under the hood. Without a side-by-side graphic or FPS comparison, it was almost impossible to think that this was a new game at all. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since without this remaster who knows if or when I would have gotten a chance to play this classic again. But the only real things that have changed between playing this and the original was getting a new generation of Xbox and a bigger television.
All of that being said, I was in no way deterred from dropping 30-plus hours into Dark Sous Remastered without a second thought. My quest to scour each nook and cranny of this game for valuable weapons and armor was not going to be hampered by the fact that I had done it before—the game is simply too good to shrug off once it has sunk its claws in. This time though I had an ace up my sleeve: I had done this all before. No more would I be caught off guard by the traps of Sen’s Fortress or the hidden enemies within the Tomb of Giants. This time I knew they were coming, but that didn’t mean I was any more prepared for them this time around.
One aspect of each SoulsBorne game that has seemingly eluded my understanding is how to properly build a character. I usually end up rolling the same type (DEX with enough INT and STR to wield a variety of offensive options) but I always seem vastly underpowered compared to friends or foes. This is not necessarily a slight against the game or its creators, just simply a glimpse into just how in-depth this game can be when given the time and energy.
As with each SoulsBorne release, multiplayer plays a very big role in how easy—or difficult—the game can be. And thankfully, with the release of the remaster comes a renewed player base, which for you means more opportunities to summon friends to help you against the unforgiving residents of Lordran. After relying on the kindness of strangers had failed me more times than I remember, I was able to set up a private network password and engage in sword-waggingly jolly cooperation with my brother, who was more than happy to act as my Dark Souls guide and bodyguard.
Let’s talk about lore for a minute. As dark, mysterious, and immersive as the lore of Dark Souls is, it relies on players to piece together events, motivations, and timelines through item descriptions and NPC dialogue. I really wish there was a place to hear and see and read what conclusively and definitively happened in this world; the setting, characters, and world itself are too interesting to leave me to figure it all out myself. I had a friend reach out to S.D. Perry, who novelized the Resident Evil franchise, on Twitter to see if she was up to the task, but have gotten no word back yet.
With a wide release on a number of consoles, as well as a plethora of sequels and spin-offs to try after you are done, Dark Souls Remastered is as good a time as any to catch the SoulsBorne train again if it left you at the station the first time around. Unfortunately, if you had little to no interest in this series at any point in the past, there is nothing the remaster will offer that will change your mind. Except maybe a Solaire amiibo, if that’s your thing.
Dark Souls Remastered is currently available for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.