Dark Souls: Remastered Review (Switch)on October 18, 2018 by Reuben Mount
Here we go again, and for the last time. Dark Souls has been an integral part of the gaming hive mind for a few years now, becoming a go-to comparison for many games of a similar genre going forwards. Now, Dark Souls: Remastered has come to Nintendo Switch, and I’ve found myself once more walking through the ruined land of Lordran.
The story follows the Chosen Undead, controlled by the player, on their quest to fulfil their destiny and learn the fate of the undead. What transpires is your typical dark fantasy narrative complete with massive beasts, ancient demons, forbidden magic, and fallen knights. However, and as I said before in my review of this title for PS4, a lot of this tale is told through item descriptions, disparate dialogue, and architectural detail.
This means that the player can be as involved with the narrative of Dark Souls as they wish to be. It does mean that players that don’t engage with it can miss some of the grandeur of certain boss encounters who can be built up by the mythos that surrounds them. It takes a lot of work and research to uncover everything that the world of Lordran wishes to tell, with some of the most tremendously esoteric side quests in gaming, but the story is arguably worth the effort.
Lordran itself is the true star of this game. The player is thrown into a huge sprawling, interconnected world, with little direction or signposting. The only clues you have to the direction of progress have to be gleaned from dialogue or by simply exploring. Amongst the winding climbing through gothic buildings and wading through poisonous swamps, the player can find shortcuts to ease subsequent forays and bonfires, the bastions of the game.
The reasons why the bonfires are so important is because they are the only reprieve you will get in a game that prides itself on relentless difficulty, even if that difficulty is sometimes based on janky controls. The game will see you dying a lot, and will return you to the last bonfire that you rested at, giving wonderful moments of tension in which you have long since moved away from a bonfire and are holding onto a terrifying amount of Souls you do not wish to lose.
Souls are your currency, tools for upgrades, and also the substance that you use for levelling up, so it would make sense as to why you wouldn’t want to lose them. They are dropped by enemies or found in consumable chunks, and will be lost if you do not manage to collect them after a death. This makes each run a tense experience as you try to avoid the copious amounts of ways you can die on your way to recollecting the Souls you dropped.
While on your quest, you’ll take on a bevy of your typical Dungeons and Dragons menagerie of enemies; from living skeletons, to huge axe-wielding demons, and the shambling undead. The combat of Dark Souls is well known by now; a methodical dance of guarding, rolling and attacking. More so than most games, there is a definitely purposeful air to the combat, with a slow and considered approach needed to take down all foes, but especially the bosses.
These form one of the most recognisable aspects of the game, are where a lot of the greatest moments of Dark Souls occur. Mammoth challenges to overcome, and regularly larger than the player and much more intimidating, these form the true test of your skills with the game. However, with careful play and either tight defence or dodging (or both, I guess), you can defeat these terrible beasts.
This all sounds wonderful, but Dark Souls: Remastered is a clunky game, and that is utterly indisputable at this point. The drop in framerate for the Switch version of the remaster versus the other versions is actually painfully noticeable. Furthermore, the Joy-Cons are not the best control method for this game, resulting in a lot more mistakes on my part that I haven’t made on previous playthroughs. This last point is a personal gripe, sure, but if a seasoned player has issues playing, there’s little else that can be a reason for it.
Furthermore, this port sadly shows in full how poor this remaster actually is from an aesthetic standpoint. Some of this can be put down to it being on the Switch, as we already knew that there was going to be a drop in graphical fidelity and framerate from its counterparts. However, what this has done is show how little effort was put into this remaster. The excessive increase to the bloom effect has simply shone a light on how shoddy some of the areas look, and how insignificant the visual refinements actually were.
Musically, I stand by what I said during my previous review, this game is phenomenal. The marked separation between the silence of exploration and the epic sweeping orchestral scores that support the bosses is sublime. However, in this version of the game, I experienced a lot of audio desynchronisation, which I don’t recall in other versions. This doesn’t sound like much, but in a game that relies on audiovisual feedback during combat, this is incredibly distracting at best or fatal for the player at worst.
It’s somewhat sad that the last version we have got of the original Dark Souls is by far the worst version of the game. All of the smaller refinements and the portability of this version pale before the fact that this one edition exposes just how clunky and shoddy this ‘upgrade’ is, even to the point of somewhat retroactively diminishing my view of the (admittedly far superior) PS4 version. It still looks and feels great at points, but this just doesn’t look or feel as good as it could.
I understand and admit that this level of criticism would not be exacted upon the game if it weren’t for two playthroughs of Lordran being this year, but this just means that I’ve played a far superior version to this one. If you have never played Dark Souls before, this version is completely worthwhile, but I could not recommend more that veterans of the game steer very clear of this as it is barely a step above the original game and in some ways is far worse.
Dark Souls: Remastered is out for Nintendo Switch on October 19th, and is already available on Playstation 4, XBox One and PC. Do you think you will pick up this version of the game? Will this be your first foray into the Souls franchise? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter, and check back for more coverage of From Software titles and other Japanese games.