Review by Bkstunt_31
Well... no time like the present to give this game a try!
I'll start out this review with a confession: I've, um... never played the original Dark Souls. I know a lot of people consider that a crime (this fan-base is passionate!), but hey, at least I played Demon Souls when it came out and I've totally platinumed Dark Souls II and Bloodborne!
So when Dark Souls remastered came out, I was definitely ready to give it a try (after all... I didn't really want to go back to my PS3 to play it). So after playing through it 2 1/2 times with my partner (thanks Tony!) and notching another "Souls" platinum trophy, let's go over what you can expect out of Dark Souls Remastered!
Weaving a tale from your surroundings...
One thing the Souls series has always been famous for is its lack of story. Sure, there's a story behind these games, but they don't exactly tell it to you like most games do... instead, the souls series has always just given you the briefest of story summaries at the beginning and left the rest for you to figure out, and Dark Souls is no exception.
At the start of the game, you'll be told about how Lord Gwyn found the first flame and used its power to defeat the dragons that ruled the world, starting the Age of Fire. That wasn't to last however, as the fire started to fade, ushering in the Age of Dark (and man's rule). Lord Gwyn wouldn't accept this though and sacrificed himself to prolong the Age of Fire, which caused the "undead curse" upon men. This made those affected by it continuously resurrect.
You start the game as one of those affected by this curse, and after a tutorial level you are soon given leave to explore the world affected by Lord Gwyn (and his allies) action as the Age of Fire is on its last breath. As mentioned above, the story from here will all be told through NPC interactions, item descriptions and the environment itself.
Overall, with this kind of "story-telling", you're either going to dig it or wonder what's going on the whole time. In the end, Dark Souls is really a story of "what happened" more-so than a tale you're involved in. Sure, you are controlling a character, but that character has no growth or personality. I often like to tell people that Dark Souls has a poor story, but a fantastic world and great lore, and I'll stick by that for this review.
It's undeniable that you're undertaking a fantastic journey in this game (even if your character has the personality of cardboard), but what Dark Souls may lack in that regard it more than makes up for in world-building and lore... if you're willing to look for it, of course.
I'll die however I like!
One big thing about Dark Souls that really appealed to me was how open it was, and how much freedom you have to really play your own way. Nothing showcases that off like the game play!
As you start the game, you'll make a character and can choose a "class" to play as. You know, Knight, Thief, Sorcerer, Cleric... that type of thing. However, you have to remember that this is still very low-level character choices. As you play through the game, you will kill enemies and acquire "souls" that you can use to level up, which you can use to influence your build. You'll also find dozens of weapons, spells and items that each require minimum stats to use correctly, so how you set up your build is entirely up to you regardless of what class you pick up at the beginning (which just goes to show that there's a lot of freedom in choosing how you want to play).
The sheer volume of weapons (and spells, really) you can choose from is quite impressive. I ended up playing a Sorcerer with a curved sword (Scimitar) and switched to a boss weapon later on (with a spear as backup).
Other than the impressive selection of weapons and ways to actually play through Dark Souls, the biggest draw (game play wise) is the exploration. And I've got to say, after playing a few hours and exploring 4-5 areas in this game, I can see why everyone loved this game back in the day. The areas you'll explore in Dark Souls are just fantastic. Hidden items and paths everywhere. Nefarious enemy placement (seriously, check every corner!). The fantastic panoramic views... chances are good that if you can see a huge castle in the distance that you'll soon be there personally exploring it (but I'll go more into that in the graphics section).
All in all, Dark Souls is all about game play freedom. This is a 3rd-person camera view action game where you'll manage your stamina meter in combat in order to take out your enemy, but there's generous amounts of RPG-influenced game play here as well as you'll level up your stats in order to handle better weapons and armor and get increased pools of HP and Stamina to deal with combat. Dark Souls also has the famous game play function of you losing all of your souls when you die, which I should be crucified if I didn't mention. When you die, you'll lose all your souls wherever you died at, but if you can get there again you can pick them up again (thankfully). However, if you die AGAIN... well, hours of progress can indeed be lost. Life can be rough sometimes!
Speaking of life being rough, I should also note that Dark Souls does have a reputation of being a "hard" game, difficulty wise. I came into this game as a Souls veteran, but I can easily see a new player having a hard time. Dark Souls enemies are unforgiving and the game consistently challenges you from beginning to end. You have to really commit to learning the game's systems and be smart about leveling up to make progress, but once you get the hang of things there is a lot of satisfaction to be had by conquering this game's challenges.
Hmm, I wonder if I survive this fall...
We've touched on the graphics a bit up above by noting how open world the game is and the fact that if you can see it... chances are you can head there and explore it at some point. While that's true, there's something else that impressed me while I explored the world of Dark Souls: how interconnected everything is. Seriously, there are so many shortcuts and inter-connecting paths that you can find and open up that it's just... crazy (you really get to know the world itself really well!).
That fact goes a long ways towards showing off just how well-designed this game is. There was a lot of thought put into the environmental design (often just to blindside you with enemies, but still...). To add onto that, the locations you'll explore are wonderfully varied as well, from catacombs to destroyed cities to huge castles (and just about everything in between).
This being "Dark Souls Remastered" means the game itself has been touched up, which affects the graphics of course. Watching comparison videos online is the way to go if you want to see the difference, but the game also runs at a smooth 60FPS now as well (which has to help with combat, as my co-op partner pointed out that areas like "Blighttown" were a lag-filled mess back in the day). Overall though, the environments were all a blast to explore and looked great, with lots of (often gruesome) details thrown in.
Finally, I can't end this section without pointing out that once you kill an enemy, they will usually drop to the ground and will have rag-doll physics. I can't tell you how many times I've had a dead enemy soldier being dragged behind me as I ran ahead due to this. It's just a small detail that doesn't mean much, but it can often be hilarious.
The last thing you'll ever hear!
Much like the world's atmosphere, the game's music is very melancholic. Dark Souls has many orchestral tracks that play for each major encounter throughout the game, and all of them are fairly epic. Most of them have sweeping string accompanied by a mixed choir and vary from extremely melancholic to dramatic (often depending on what type of boss you are facing). That's just the boss music though, as for exploration the music (if there is any) is subdued atmospheric music. As I played though the game, none of the tracks really stood out to me as something I'd find myself humming later (with the exception of the final boss track which is a subdued piano piece that is very memorable), but the music was solid all around nevertheless.
As we mentioned earlier, your character doesn't have much of a personality. He (or she) doesn't even talk actually (although there are plenty of "exerting" sound effects, such as when you get hit or die). One thing that stood out to me audio-wise for Dark Souls was the NPC voice acting. Almost everyone in the game is... disturbed. You can hardly end a conversation with someone without them crackling madly. I suppose its a reflection on the world (is this a design choice!?), but its definitely noticeable! Still, all of the NPC's dialog (and voice acting) is rather well done throughout the game.
Ready to take the journey again?
Here we are again, another section that we've already kind-of touched on up above! As mentioned previously, this game has a lot of inherit re-playability, mainly due to all of the varied ways you can play. If a full strength or dexterity-based fighter isn't your style, maybe you'd like to try mastering one of the three magic schools in the game? Or perhaps become a hybrid, but what sort of weapon will you choose to use and level up? So many choices! The game also has a couple of different endings as well.
Once you do beat the game, you will be put right back to the start of the game with your levels and gear intact (although they do take away key items so you can't just skip right to the end of the game). This "New Game Plus" mode features enhanced enemies so you can continue to rise in levels as well as a few items you can only gain on multiple play-throughs (namely different boss weapons and a unique spell). If you were planning on earning every trophy in the game, you are pretty much forced to play through the game two and a half times at a minimum. Let me tell you, that second time through is a LOT faster!
I should also mention that "Dark Souls: Remastered" also includes the game's lone DLC release "Artorias of the Abyss", which is automatically activated when you start any new game on this disc. All in all, Dark Souls is not only a game with a ton of re-playability, but there's dozens of secrets (and even whole areas!) to uncover as well, leading to dozens of hours of playtime.
It's pretty easy for me to see why people love Dark Souls now that I've played through Dark Souls Remastered. Demon Souls was rather linear after all, and opening the world up so magnificently really helped propel Dark Souls into becoming so popular.
While the story may not be for everyone, there's no denying this is a huge (and beautiful) game world to explore, with plenty of variety in how you play through the game, solid audio and plenty of re-playability. Once you push past the initial "difficulty wall" and things click, Dark Souls is one heck of an adventure. If you enjoy open-world action games and aren't afraid of a challenge, you owe it to yourself to play this game! Have fun and keep playing!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Dark Souls Remastered (US, 05/25/18)
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