‘Dark Souls Remastered’ Review: A Classic That Never Goes Hollow

Jeremy Ray
Game Reviews Games
Game Reviews Games Nintendo Xbox PC Gaming
of 5
Review Essentials
  • Core game is largely unchanged
  • Upscaled textures are inconsistent, but 60 FPS is fantastic
  • Quality of life changes like UI upgrades are welcome
  • Base game is still an ARPG masterpiece
Reviewed on PS4

A fading fire. An undead curse. Deceptive gods clinging to their rule. A convoluted space and time as reality itself falters.

Dark Souls has had an immeasurable influence on modern gaming. Whether its outright triple-A copies, indies that have studied From Software’s template and injected their own style, or simply games that have just borrowed from one piece of the formula — Dark Souls’ impact can be felt in digital worlds everywhere.

Its hitbox combat system, based on a stamina bar, and invincibility frames on your roll, is now one of the main schools of thought in modern combat systems. Even the biggest games have adopted its reactive style, and pay tribute — the most recent being God of War.

Gold-Hemmed Black Set robe
In the Depths, upgraded textures and lighting look great.

Now, it’s been remastered.

A Blueprint for Combat Design

The lazy meme is to call Dark Souls a brutally hard game. Those who know it, call it “fair.”

In Dark Souls Remastered’s combat, you commit to attacks. There’s a slower pace. Your gear and build decide how easily you’re staggered, and you’ll theorycraft to squeeze as much juice out of your weapon as you can so you’re killing in one shot instead of two.

Weapons are nowhere near balanced in Dark Souls Remastered, but the combat system is perfect. And while nothing about it has changed, there is one element that vastly improves it — and that is a smooth 60 frames per second.

Solaire hollow
But I'd feel naked without my shield!

Of course PC gamers have had this for a while, and if you ask them, they’ll say once you go 60 frames, you don’t go back. Xbox, PS4, and PC will enjoy this. The later Switch version will be on 30 frames.

For those who don’t know, under its surface Dark Souls contains arguably one of the best stories in modern gaming. There are few words here, and fewer cutscenes. This is an understated narrative, told through item descriptions, level design, and your fleeting interactions with NPCs.

It’s a lonely world with lots of weight and meaning, leaving the player’s imagination to do much of the heavy lifting. That’s why what snippets of dialogue we do get – “Praise the Sun” – become so quotable and memorable.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Polish It

As a game, Dark Souls Remastered offers very little changes from the original. It’s warts and all — and the experimental nature of the first Dark Souls meant there were more than a few warts. For many, part of the game’s charm was in how breakable it was with clever theorycrafting.

So yes, the Bed of Chaos – regarded as Dark Souls’ biggest blunder – is still wonky as hell. And enemies will still stick to you when they ragdoll. Intentional quirks are also the same.

Most of the changes are quality of life changes. You can consume multiple items at once. The UI is scaleable. Things like that.

Capra Demon boss fight
At 60 frames per second, your crucial evasion roll feels very responsive

Unsuprisingly, the most noticable change here comes with the new visual sheen. Textures in Dark Souls Remastered are more high res, and the new and improved lighting effects make the world of Lordran feel more amtopsheric than ever. Yet, frustatingly, the new and improved graphical sheen is far from consistnet. In some areas you really notice the improvement, and this remaster makes this aging classic feel like a thoroughly modern game.

But bafflingly, only some textures have been updated, and it’s incredibly jarring when you see shiny new textures sitting side by side with the old. It often feels like Dark Souls Remastered is a face lift applied to only half the face.

Undead Burg hollows torches Black Knight Sword
The wide swipes of two-handers are great against swarms

While this half-hearted graphical overhaul is a bit disappointing, the vastly improved framerate is a welcome addition. Playing Dark Souls with such a smooth camera and responsive rolling feels grin-inducingly great. And yes, the infamous Blighttown, which destroyed framerates of yesteryear, has now finally been fixed. We tested this on both PS4 and PC. We couldn’t get enough of that smooooth, baby’s bottom Blighttown.

It’s almost enough to make you like the poisonous swamp. Almost.

Laurentius of the Great Swamp pyromancy flame
Learn what you can from Laurentius to start with

The Incandescent With the Gross

Dark Souls is considered a classic for a reason, and making few changes to the actual game was the right move. When the broken and the brilliant are so intertwined, it would be arrogant to start pulling at the threads of this classic. Though if you’re playing on PC, changing the game is a challenge the modding community has already taken up.

This remaster may not be perfect, but it was more than enough to make us fall in love again. But most importantly, this remaster offers new players the ideal way to play a classic.

The infamous Ornstein & Smough.

Dark Souls is unique even among the Souls games in its level design. Not only will levels loop around on themselves and reveal clever shortcuts back to the bonfire, the entire world will loop around on itself. You’re free to wander, and after a while, you’ll say, oh! I’m here!

Is Dark Souls Remastered Good?

Much like going back to play Ocarina of Time, you’re witnessing the foundations of many modern games here. And some pieces of magic that no other game – even a Souls game – have managed to replicate since.

That’s probably because it was the last of From Software’s experimental games, before people started expecting things from the franchise. There were hits, and there were misses. But its brilliant brand of experimentation was enough to inspire the next generation of games.

As a game, it’ll be no surprise this is one of the best games of the last decade. As a remaster, it could be better. The 60 frames per second is a huge improvement, and the rest is okay. Mostly on the strength of the base game, this is a great excuse to fall in love again — and if you haven’t yet tried, you owe it to yourself to step into the fog.

Jeremy Ray
Managing Editor at FANDOM. Decade-long games critic and esports aficionado. Started in competitive Counter-Strike, then moved into broadcast, online, print and interpretative pantomime. You merely adopted the lag. I was born in it.