Dark Souls Remastered official artwork and logo

Dark Souls is without a single doubt my favorite game of all time, and one that I've played through more than a dozen times by this point. It may have inspired many sequels and similar games, but it's level design, characters and combat style remain as unique and refreshing as they were when it first launched.

All of this applies to Dark Souls Remastered as well, though it also comes with the added benefit of greatly improved performance, consistent 60 FPS, better online connectivity, and a variety of minor quality of life changes. While I'm saddened that some of Dark Souls' least interesting locations have not been enhanced, locations like Lost Izalith or the Valley of Drakes, Dark Souls Remastered still manages to stand proudly as a more polished and stable version of the original.

So if you're curious about what exactly has changed and whether the Remastered version brings enough to the table to be worth the asking price, allow me to share my thoughts now I've explored everything it has to offer. Oh, and if you've never played Dark Souls and you're wondering what all of the fuss is about, I'll do my best to answer that question after the Remastered edition review.

The Remastered edition - More than just a patch?

Out of all the changes Dark Souls Remastered has brought in, it is the framerate increase that I consider the most significant. Dark Souls is a game that prides itself on having an extremely tight and precise combat system, so the increase from 30 to 60 FPS is instantly apparent and most certainly welcome. Those among you that played the original PC version with DSfix enabled will also be glad to hear that there are no glitches or animation issues that stem from the framerate increase. 

Instead, Dark Souls Remastered runs perfectly smooth regardless of region or amount of enemies on screen. Even in the horrid depths of Blighttown, an area that has become notorious for performance issues on the console versions of the original, I have not encountered any chugging or ever dropped below 60 FPS. As such, I'm happy to announce that the age of falling off Blighttown elevators due to sudden FPS drops has now finally come to an end!

Dark Souls Remastered screenshot of Anor Londo from afar

I've also had zero issues with Anor Londo, an area that used to frequently stutter for me

Besides a much smoother framerate, Dark Souls Remastered has also enhanced the lighting engine in order to bring out a bit more detail in Dark Souls' visuals. This has also resulted in a slight redesign of the bonfires, fog doors have been made much more vibrant and luminescent, while the souls you leave behind after death have become noticeably brighter as well. I've played the original for so long that I didn't really like these changes at first, but I have to admit they ended up growing on me once I realized just how much the gameplay is better with them around.

The one area that made me reconsider my stance the most was Lost Izalith, a place populated almost exclusively by dragon butts and tons upon tons of lava. In the original the lava effects were so obnoxious that I got a headache trying to navigate my way through that blurry, orange haze. In Dark Souls Remastered, however, the lava effects have been redesigned so that they not only look better, but that you can actually see where you're going as well! A minor improvement in the grand scheme of things, absolutely, but it's one that has made my experience a whole lot more pleasant.

Dark Souls Remastered screenshot of a boss fight against Quelaag

All of Quelaag's effects have been made much less blinding as well

Speaking of minor improvements, it's also worth mentioning that the Remastered edition has brought in some much-needed quality of life changes from Dark Souls 3. You can now consume more than one soul at a time, though unfortunately you still get kicked out of the menu while doing so, and you can also turn in covenant items in similarly giant stacks. Perhaps most importantly, you can now change covenants without walking half-way across the world, which in my case has resulted in a much more diverse PvP experience.

Another factor working in online play's favor is the presence of dedicated servers and private matchmaking. Not only does this ensure you can co-op or PvP with your friends at pretty much any point, but even if you decide to take on random players online you will be able to do so in a significantly less laggy environment than before. I've still encountered the occasional player that could backstab me while standing a meter in front of me, but thankfully those examples were few and far between when compared to the original.

The only problem with all of this are the new matchmaking restrictions. Instead of taking your Soul Level into account, the new matchmaking seems to pair people up based on their weapon strength and upgrades. A seemingly fair system, but one that quickly breaks down when you consider how many powerful weapons you can receive early on in the game.

I acquired the Black Knight Sword during the first 20 minutes of my playthrough, which has then resulted in me being unable to connect to anyone for at least the next 6-7 hours. I could hear the church bells ring constantly next to the Gargoyles boss fight, an indicator that other players are beating them, but I simply couldn't get anyone to click on my summon sign or trigger an invasion. So until this gets fixed, I would highly suggest not looting powerful weapons early in the game unless you're okay with being truly alone.

Dark Souls Remastered screenshot of the new and improved UI

You can now do in seconds what previously took minutes!

While my experience with Dark Souls Remastered has been a truly delightful one, I can't help but lament the wasted potential here. The improved visuals and performance will keep Dark Souls relevant for many years to come, but a Remastered version was also the perfect time to flesh out Dark Souls' endgame, rebalance some of its weaker or overpowered weapons, as well as fix many of the bugs that have been present since the original release.

I've mentioned it many times already, but Lost Izalith is the perfect example once again. It is my least favorite zone in the entire game as it's visually interesting but filled with only recycled enemies and annoying boss fights, with both the Bed of Chaos and Centipede Demon being an exercise in pure frustration due to problems with the camera. Places like these could've and should've been improved in the Remastered edition, but sadly they were left as they were. At the end of the day it's not too big of a deal since Dark Souls was and still is an excellent game, but it really could've been so much more!

Dark Souls Remastered screenshot of Lost Izalith

Izalith is such an awe-inspiring place, yet there is very little to actually do once you're there

It's missed potential aside, the Remastered edition is most certainly the best version of Dark Souls currently available. It features all of the gameplay elements and level design that make the original so great, while also adding a whole assortment of improvements to create a smoother and more polished experience. So if you're a brand new player and you're looking to start your Dark Souls yourney, the Remastered edition is definitely the version you should go for.

If you already own Dark Souls on PC and you're wondering whether it's worth spending €20/$20 to upgrade, the answer is going to depend on what you're looking for. Dark Souls Remastered currently has a massive playerbase and fairly stable online play, so if PvP and co-op are your thing then you should probably go for the upgrade. On the other hand, if you don't really care for online play and you already have your DSfix set up so you get decent framerate regardless of region, then you might want to wait for a sale as the Remastered edition won't offer you much in terms of noticeable improvements.

So what is Dark Souls about anyway?

Fans often talk about Dark Souls with such reverence that it's often impossible to figure out what it actually is, let alone what makes it great. After all, hearing someone exclaim "it's the best game evarrr" or "it's so difficult I died fifty times on one boss" is useless at best, and highly off-putting at worst. As such, I would like to give you a very brief overview of just what Dark Souls is, and why I'm still in love with it after so many years.

In the most basic sense, Dark Souls is a highly varied action-RPG with an equally intricate and interconnected level design. What this means in gameplay terms is that you have hundreds of different weapons to choose from, each of which have their own unique move sets, strengths and weaknesses, as well as damage properties that make them excel at certain tasks. So regardless of what sort of gameplay style you prefer, be that a heavily armored knight, glass cannon mage or nimble ninja with a katana, Dark Souls has you covered! Perhaps most importantly, some of these weapons are so unique that switching between them makes for a completely different gameplay feel, hence why Dark Souls has such limitless replayability.

Dark Souls Remastered screenshot of a close quarters duel against a hollow soldier

Pretty much everything is viable, so just pick your favorites and show them how it's done!

The second major factor that makes Dark Souls so compelling is the level design. Unlike most RPGs you're not going to be moving through a series of disconnected levels, but rather through a world that is actually laid out in a very sensible way. So if you see a giant tower in the distance, rest assured that if you follow the road going in its direction it you will indeed reach that tower, and you will indeed get eaten by something huge that has decided to squat there! 

What initially won me over, however, is the simple fact that some areas loop around. There is no better feeling than fighting for hours and hours, unlocking a random door, and then realizing you're right back at the checkpoint where you started playing earlier that day! Not only does this sort of level design teach you how to navigate the rather complex Dark Souls 'levels' in a very fun and engaging way, but it also further enforces the idea that the world is a living and breathing entity. It has not been designed with your convenience in mind, so in order to navigate it you will need to think a bit outside of the box, and that is such a refreshing change from the standard RPG level design that even after dozens of playthroughs I still love wondering through Dark Souls' world.

Dark Souls Remastered screenshot of the dragon on top of the bridge

Sometimes you'll get eaten by a dragon, but that's just part of the learning experience

As far as the difficulty is concerned, I'm sure you've heard that Dark Souls is harder than trying to chew on diamonds while juggling three flaming chainsaws coated in baby oil. While Dark Souls is most certainly a challenging game, the tales of its difficulty have been greatly exaggerated. In reality, Dark Souls is the very definition of "challenging but fair". Every single enemy attack and trap and telegraphed well in advance, so if you're paying attention you can easily avoid taking any damage. Better yet, you can use traps and environmental hazards against your enemies, because everything from the lovely hollow zombie to the mightiest of boss is subject to the same things you are. There is even a boss you can end in a couple of well-placed hits by tossing them off a giant bridge!

That said, Dark Souls is still a punishing game that will require you to spend a bit of time in order to get accustomed to its unique combat system. There is a pretty good chance you will die repeatedly while you're still learning, but all of that pales in the comparison to the feeling you'll get when you finally learn how to play and come back to obliterate all of the enemies that once proved nearly insurmountable.

The reason this difficulty curve is so integral to the Dark Souls experience, and so often exaggerated by its fans, is because it offers you a true sense of freedom. Literally every single build or weapon you might think of is perfectly viable, even if their damage might be a bit lower than average, all because Dark Souls' mechanics allow you to overcome any challenge through skill and ingenuity. It is because of all of this that Dark Souls has never become boring to me, and it is because of all of this that I would highly recommend it to anyone that is even remotely curious about what it has to offer. 

Dark Souls Remastered screenshot of a co-op fight against the gaping dragon boss

If all else fails, just ask your friendly neighborhood 'Sunbro' for help

Closing Thoughts

If you're eager to learn more you'll find additional details in my You Should Try: Dark Souls article from a while ago, but I hope this brief overview has given you at least an idea of what Dark Souls is like and why I cherish it so deeply. It really is an extraordinary game, and one that will be remembered as the founder of an entirely new genre.

So if you have a bit of time and patience, take my advice and give Dark Souls and its Remastered edition a closer look, even if you aren't willing to grab it at full price. Who knows, you might just find the exact same magic that has captivated me so many years ago!