I reviewed Dark Souls when it came out on the PlayStation 3 back in 2011. It was at once ragged and starkly beautiful, which made it easy to ignore issues like awful ragdolls and plunging framerates.
Fast-forward seven years and Dark Souls Remastered, which is coming to the PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC next month, still has some of the quirks of the original. The animation still has a bit of that familiar stiffness, and enemies corpses will still get caught in your feet. But there's no denying how much better it looks on modern consoles.
I got to play the opening areas of Dark Souls Remastered last week, working through the familiar opening moments all the way up to the first encounter with Solaire. You can see my run in the 30 minute gameplay video I've posted below.
Forgive me for actually having the audacity to die a few times in the run-up to the Taurus Demon battle. While I finished the original Dark Souls, and managed to get quite far in Dark Souls 3, my skills have atrophied. Monster Hunter: World has completely rewired my brain, which was one reason I kept accidentally drinking estus by mistake.
It was good to be back, though. Dark Souls' initial areas have become iconic over the years, and it was interesting to contrast my feelings the first time I saw them with how I feel now. It's definitely lost some of its mystery and menace since I reviewed it—seven years of guides, commentaries, and players beating it with DK Bongo Drums will do that—but I'd be lying if I said I didn't smile the first time I appeared in the Firelink Shrine and saw those familiar stairs leading upward. There's nothing like remembering how stressed I was as I wondered just what the heck I was supposed to do while on a deadline.
Funnily enough, I felt a little like Dark Souls Remastered was gently holding my hand as I played through the opening areas. It has a nice little tutorial area where you can get acclimated, an easy first boss battle, and some chances to earn some souls. Once you arrive in the Firelink Shrine, there's a guy who will tell you exactly where you need to go (assuming you don't kill him). We remember Dark Souls as this uncompromising avatar of difficult, but its surprisingly friendly in the early going.
From a graphical standpoint, Dark Souls still shows its age compared to its successors. This isn't a Bluepoint-style makeover—the textures still look a bit last-gen, and it can't help feeling stiff compared to Dark Souls 3. Mostly, it's worth playing for the framerate increase on console. Anyone who braved Blighttown on PS3 will appreciate a smooth ride through that nightmare.
Dark Souls remains lodged collective memory, and it still boasts a massive fanbase, but we've also moved past it in a way. Its hardcore fans have beaten it so many times that they've come to view it as downright easy. Even the Twitch Plays mob has beaten it now. All that's left are the stragglers who have been holding out for a better release on current-gen consoles and PC, and the few stubborn holdouts who just don't like Souls games at all.
But given how the original has aged on console, we definitely needed this release for posterity, especially with a new generation of gamers coming up. And from what I've seen, From Software has thus far done an excellent job of remastering one of the best action games ever made. It'll be out on all consoles and the PC on May 25.