Sunday, 26 August 2018

Dark Souls: Remastered ★★★★★

Dark Souls isn’t hard.

Contentious, I know, but then this is a review of Dark Souls, so anything I say is no doubt contentious. I stand by it, though. Through all the smug nonsense that surrounds this series, I don’t believe that Dark Souls is hard. Anymore.

I first played it on release in 2011 with the difficulty as the draw. “Prepare to Die” was the tagline, after all. Six hours in, if that, and I gave up. I gave up because I found it too difficult, because it was too difficult, surely? It’s interesting to look back on that experience whilst replaying Dark Souls now. It’s not difficult anymore because I understand it now, and I think that that is where the experience will make or break you.

The reason I’m explaining this is because the point of a remaster is to introduce a game to those who missed it upon its initial release. It’s safe to assume, then, that this will be the first time for many, and it is to them that I must explain (shout, scream, justify?):
No, Dark Souls isn’t hard, not in the way that you’ve been led to believe. Rather, the initial few hours are obtuse. 
That might not be the exact word I’m looking for, but I can think of no other description more suited. To give an example: Estus flasks. They are your (primary) source of healing, recharging to the default five every time you die, or sit at a bonfire. More are available to you, of course (of course!), but how..?
Oh, it’s very simple. Go into your inventory, and consume a Humanity. Now, sit at the bonfire and reverse your hollowing. You’re now human. Now consume another Humanity (yes, another, obviously). Sit back down at the bonfire. Now kindle the bonfire, and you’re done.

That whole process is far, far from intuitive, and it’s mechanics like this that makes Dark Souls initially difficult. Doubling your method of healing alleviates a good portion of the challenge, but the process of discovering that you can, followed by how is the hard part.

I realise that this review of a game hasn’t touched on the gameplay; Dark Souls as a series has become so ubiquitous in online discussions that it would feel somewhat (very) redundant. I wanted, instead, to take the time to explain to first-time players exactly why this game can be difficult when you start. It’s a short hurdle, though, because once you understand its strange quirks, Dark Souls feels and plays like no other. And I include the later Souls games in that.

What of the ‘Remastered’ part of the title then? Mixed feelings, if you’re trying to find a general consensus. Me? I’m on the positive side. PC is my platform of choice meaning I’ve become a sucker for framerate. Dark Souls: Remastered I played on PlayStation 4 (the audacity) and was happy to see a stable 60fps. This is on the original PS4, I might add. That alone didn’t justify the purchase, but for a game with such focused, methodical gameplay, the framerate made a remarkable difference. Then there is the increase to 1080p (4K, if your console supports it), new lighting effects, and ambient occlusion. Don’t be fooled, it looks and plays like a game from 2011 that has been polished up. That is enough for me, but I can still understand anyone who might be underwhelmed. If this is your first time, however, don’t hesitate. Praise the framerate!

Lewis Hill

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