Gaming

Marginal makeover of Dark Souls

Dark Souls is one of the most influential video games of the last 10 years.

It is notorious for its punishing difficulty. Hours of progress can be undone at a stroke with a poorly timed parry or dodge. And yet many players persevere because the game itself is fair. It simply takes time (and perhaps a game guide or two) to figure out how to tackle a certain area or enemy boss.

The game also requires players to decipher hidden cryptic clues. Frankly, I had little idea what was happening during my first playthrough in 2012 on the PC. Thank goodness for YouTube.

However, Dark Souls for the PC was so badly ported from the 2011 console version (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) that I, like many others, resorted to using unofficial patches to fix the performance issues. The keyboard and mouse controls were unusable, forcing me to scrounge up a controller.

The Remastered version (above) of this original classic, which came out last month, fixes these performance issues. It also now mostly runs at a smooth 60 frames per second at 1080p resolution for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The beefier PS4 Pro and Xbox One X consoles run the game at a higher 1800p resolution.

Gone are the choppy frame rates of the infamous Blighttown area in the game, which became a nightmare for many because the stuttery performance, coupled with the area's high ledges, was a major cause of death. Of course, my character still ended up doing a few swan dives off the rickety and narrow bridges. But this time, I had no one to blame but myself.

Visually, the remastered version offers some minor upgrades. The lighting and shadows look better while the armour appears slightly more realistic. The gameplay remains unchanged and is as brilliant as I remember it to be. Some boss fights feel much easier, though that is after playing the Dark Souls sequels.

But I still get that sense of unease while attempting a more tricky level of the game. It is aided by art direction that makes the ruined world of Lordran so beautifully sad and by the level design which teases players with a door or stairway that is tantalisingly out of reach until later.

  • 8/10

  • RATING

    PRICE: $54.90 (PS4, version tested, Xbox One), $49.90 (PC), TBC (Switch)

    GENRE: Role-playing game

There are also some improvements to the game interface. For instance, you can now select and use multiple items, such as consumable souls, all at once, instead of one at a time. Players can switch between covenants at bonfires, which serve as checkpoints in the game. Previously, you had to travel back to where the covenant non-playing characters are located to change faction.

The online experience has also been tweaked. Six players can now be in the same map, up from four. The remastered version offers password matchmaking, a feature introduced in Dark Souls 3 that makes it easier to play with friends.

In addition to the Windows, PlayStation and Xbox versions, Dark Souls Remastered will also be available for the Nintendo Switch in summer, though no release date has been announced.

• Verdict: Dark Souls Remastered does not offer enough reasons for veteran players to return, unless it is to spar online with new players. For first-time players though, this is the definitive version.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2018, with the headline 'Marginal makeover of Dark Souls'. Print Edition | Subscribe