It’s time to talk about Dark Souls Remastered (On PC)

All right, first let me apologize for the lack of content in forever. I’ve started and given up on three books, two of which were sequels from first books that I loved. We’re still flat broke, so aside from a few indie games that I’m not ready to review yet, I’ve only been playing old games over and over. But as you can probably guess from the title, one of those old games is technically new again.

When Dark Souls Remastered was announced, I restarted the Prepare to Die edition because I was certain a lot of older players would be dusting off their copies to get back in for some practice. I totally called that, for the first time being able to play with a world full of invasions and summon signs. I also got to see once again the WORST parts of the PC port, even with DSFix installed. For me, the single biggest problem was the game hanging in certain places like Quelaag’s Domain. There, I might have the screen freeze for up to five seconds. But the absolute worst place for hanging is the Firesage Demon boss fight, where if I don’t move to the far end of the arena, the game will hang for five to six seconds at a time every ten seconds or so. There are other examples I could give, but these were the most extreme.

I want to address the controversy around the price versus what you get in the remaster, and I want to start by saying that with me already owning the PC port, I got the remaster for half price. To me, all the new version had to do was fix those extreme moments of hang ups and it would be worth twenty euros. Part of this is because I got the PtD version on sale for ten euros. So with the two versions combined, I’m still not up to the forty euro asking price for newcomers or folks converting from a console version. But if you’re among the folks who looked at the new features and fixes and said “This is just DSFix and some minor graphics upgrades for an insane asking price,” I want to say…you’re not wrong. In fact I’ll go so far as to say your anger is justified. This is a lazy, lazy port, so lazy that FromSoftware couldn’t be bothered to do it themselves.

I’m not mad about the price, with some caveats, and that’s why I want to talk about the game. You shouldn’t consider this a full review, more like me adding my own thoughts to an ongoing discussion. I want to put this in some perspective for y’all. I have logged 448 hours into the Prepare to Die PC edition, with maybe 250 hours being played in the month leading up to the release of the remaster. Since then, I’ve logged 278 hours into Dark Souls Remastered. That includes playing through with most classes, and even, shockingly, a SL1 run that only got derailed by Lord Gwyn himself. (A feat I’ve repeatedly said would be impossible because I’m not good enough. Guess I don’t know my own limits.) What I’m saying is, my thoughts are coming from a place of high experience, not just a brief glimpse of one class-specific run. (Oh, and I played all the DLC content a few times, too.)

Side Note: What priest bad touched every employee of FromSoftware so traumatically that they would fuck over the clerics in Every. Single. Game? Yeah, they get Wrath of the Gods, but you only get three uses of that bad boy. Aside from that, the lightning spear is shit, and if you’re soloing a cleric, you can get owned by even the dumbest human invaders. It’s the worst class in the whole series, in my opinion. Give me a thief wielding that tiny ass starting dagger, and I still have better odds of surviving compared to my cleric runs.

So, first of all, yes, the remaster does fix the hang ups, so that’s the one thing I’m so, so grateful for. But while lots of pro reviewers were crowing “They fixed Blighttown!” they tended not to notice that there is still lag unless you crank down the graphics settings to pathetic levels. Even after cranking down my resolution down to 1600 by 1024 and shutting off most of the fancy graphics options, I was seeing lag against Sif, Moonlight Butterfly, Gaping Dragon, the Four Kings…no, I can’t think to list them all. The point is, while most of the game runs smoother with lowered settings, there’s still several bosses that can chug down to around 15 frames a second. Keep in mind I’m on a new rig running the game on an SSD with 16 GB of RAM and a GT1080 with 4 GB of RAM. This rig should be perfect to get a buttery smooth 60 FPS, and while much of the game does run that rate, way too many boss fights drop to a crawl. Before I changed my settings, the sewer “waterfalls” in the depths were killing my frame rate, and just killing two slimes at the same time could reduce my FPS to around 10. This is hardly “fixed,” and I’m annoyed at how many early reviews didn’t address this.

The other quality of life improvements are kind of half-assed. Take for example the ability to use multiple items or turn in multiple covenant items. Yes, it’s great that I can now turn in 30 humanity to Quelaana’s Chaos Covenant without having to offer them one at a time. But if I want to feed Frampt titanite chunks to break down into smaller shards, I still have to do those one at a time. And for that matter, why didn’t anyone look at trading with the crow and think “We should fix that to match the way it works in Dark Souls 3“? Nope, you still have to drop items, quit and restart to get the trade to work. If you’re like me and you save up all those trades for one trip, that’s half a fucking hour of drop, quit, reload. It’s bullshit.

The network code, touted to be so vastly improved, is atrocious. I’ve lost count of the number of times someone took a swing at me from ten to fifteen feet away from my character and I still took damage, or I’ve gone from looking at someone five feet in front of me straight into a backstab animation. I can’t even chance a 3V3 duel, not after seeing YouTube videos of other players skating and skipping all over the place. I’ve heard Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice won’t have PVP or Co-Op, and I’m looking forward to that because From Software frankly sucks at delivering a smooth online experience. When that’s one of the biggest selling points to your franchise and you’ve fucked it up in every single version, it’s best if you give up and move on.

On a similar note, FromSoftware insists on posting a warning about playing with cheats every time I start the game, but the sheer number of cheaters I’ve seen online has me convinced that they don’t know how to implement an anti-cheat system. They needed to fix this shit for the remaster, and they didn’t even bother.

And it’s not like we don’t have an example of a better remaster from From. They put out the Scholar of the First Sin edition of Dark Souls II with all kinds of improvements to the game, plus new bosses. They’ve shown they can work out the kinks if they want to. But with Dark Souls Remastered, they handed the port off to a third party, and they signed off on this knowing it still didn’t address a long list of problems. So again, if you’re among the gamers pissed off at being asked to pay 40 bucks for this rush job, I feel you, and I don’t think you’re wrong.

Additionally, I was getting into this for the resurgent population of gamers, and that lasted maybe three weeks. Now it’s back to Prepare to Die levels of activity before the remaster announcement. I got one character leveled up to become a Sun-Bro, and I can set down my symbol to be summoned and wait upwards of twenty minutes before anyone taps me in to play. And yeah, once I get tapped, I can wreck a boss and help pay forward the help I got in so many of my own fights. But shit, y’all, TWENTY MINUTES doing nothing is not fun.

So, to conclude, would I recommend you get Dark Souls Remastered? I’d have to say it’s a personal judgment call. If forty (or twenty) euros for a few minor fixes and graphics tweaks sounds too expensive for you, then go with your gut and avoid this. If you do get this, keep in mind the population is already dropping off faster than a bar crowd after last call. So if you get this, you’re getting it strictly to experience the game with slightly improved performance. For me, it was worth the money, but your mileage may vary.