A decent remaster.
Dark Souls Remastered launched just a few days ago, and undoubtedly, millions of people have been glued to their screens playing this modern classic since then. This is one of those occasions where the extent to which a remaster improves upon the original is at best a secondary thought for anyone who plays it- Dark Souls is unequivocally one of the best games to have ever been made, and the very fact that it is now playable on current gen systems is enough to get people excited.
Which is all well and good, but just how good is the remaster, really? Well, that’s a question with many answers. The first and truest answer, of course, is that Dark Souls Remastered is pretty good- when compared to the original game’s release, the remaster is a significant leap forward in several areas, the most significant of these being the frame rate. Dark Souls, when it first launched back in 2011, wasn’t really a technical marvel, per se, but it wasn’t really a bad looking game either. The one aspect of it that did let a lot of people down, however, were its egregious performance issues. The game ran on 30 frames-per-second, but all too often, it would dip to the low-20s, while in some occasions, such as in the Blighttown area, the frame rate would even drop to the single digits. You don’t need us to tell you that that’s horrible.
Dark Souls Remastered fixes those issues emphatically. On the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X, the game runs on a solid, consistent frame rate of 60 frames-per-second. Notably enough, Blighttown is now buttery smooth, with no performance issues, and the game rarely ever drops its consistency in terms of frame-rate.
The resolution has also received a boost, obviously. As opposed to the original game’s 720p, Dark Souls Remastered is rendered at 1080p on the PS4 and Xbox One, while on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X the game is outputted at 3200 X 1800p. And while at first glance the game may not look all that better from your memory of what Dark Souls looked like back in 2011, comparing the remaster with the original side by side shows just how much of an improvement it really is. Textures are much more detailed and much sharper, character models look so much better and the general ambience is improved with better volumetric effects. Lighting and particle effects are visibly improved, most clearly apparent in things such as the fires and the smoke. All in all, while the original Dark Souls had a bit of a hazy, murky look, the remaster is a lot crisper, sharper, and a lot more detailed.
So yes, as long as the comparison is between the original and the newer version, Dark Souls Remastered is pretty great. It’s when it comes to the PS4 Pro and, to a greater extent, the Xbox One X, that it starts coming across as a bit of a disappointment. Because the game just doesn’t leverage the two systems’ added capabilities as well as it could and should have. No, it’s still not a bad remaster on that count- but it’s serviceable at best, and for a seven year old game, we expected more than just serviceable.
For instance, the fact that Dark Souls Remastered can’t run at a 4K resolution, especially on the Xbox One X, is a bitter disappointment. In fact, the Xbox One X version itself in isolation is a bit of a disappointment as well, because it is, more or less, identical to the PS4 Pro version.
Dark Souls Remastered is very much worth a purchase, if only for the reason that it allows you to play a true classic on modern consoles. As compared to the original, it looks sharper and more detailed, and the improvements are readily apparent, especially when viewing the two side-by-side. However, the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X versions of the game are a little disappointing in terms of their ambition (the latter especially). That’s not to say they’re bad. They’re serviceable, in that they do what they were supposed to- but that is all they do, no more and no less.