Game Title: Dark Souls Remastered
Company: Bandai Namco
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital
Battery Life: 3 – 3.5 hours
Download: 4 GB

For many years, new gamers have been known to be more catered to easy, hand-holding games that require almost no skill and have very little difficulty to them. Mirroring the majority, though, is a set of games and its unique fanbase that instead prefers very difficulty learning-curve games filled with absurdly-hard boss fights, or so the reputation goes: The “Souls” franchise.

Souls have been all over consoles and PC, but the only Soul-esque games on handhelds have been games like Salt & Sanctuary. In other words, handhelds haven’t been able to handle the full 3D games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. That is, until now.

The remake/remaster of the original Dark Souls game that started this huge Souls Frenzy in the gaming world is on the Switch and available to the handheld world. Here is my review of Dark Souls: Remastered for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

ds2 - story

In the world of Dark Souls, there was once a great war between Dragons, the original inhabitants of the world, and the Lords that weilded God-like power. After all the Dragons had been eradicated, the flame that fueled the world slowly began to wane in power and the world fell into chaos.

In Dark Souls, you play as an Undead, one of countless dead beings cursed to forever be animated until the end times. Unlike the others, you are chosen and sent on a quest to travel to the ancient Land of the Lords to claim power and rekindle the world anew before everything is swallowed by the darkness as “The Flame” is quickly dying out.

The thing about Dark Souls is that it’s a lore-heavy game. You have the main story that is told to you here and there, but there’s a literal mountain of backstory around the Undead and a ton of the different boss characters about the world and how it and they came to be where they are now. From load times to dialogue to item descriptions, it’s one of those games where there’s a never-ending supply of lore to learn, even in just the first game of the series.

Gameplay

ds3 - solair

Dark Souls is a 3D Action RPG with lots of exploration and crafting elements thrown into the mix. As you play through the game, you’ll be exploring a huge map of interconnected dungeons in Metroidvania fashion while being in constant real-time fights with enemies and bosses.

The way Dark Souls works is like a huge metroidvania game. You are on a giant map with interconnected areas that act as dungeons. Your goal is to traverse each area, fighting off enemies, and activating Bonfires/Checkpoints as you go along, working your way towards the boss of that area so you can access the next area.

This is pretty RPG 101, but the sheer amount of exploration is what makes this game so vast and interesting. You have a bunch of areas you need to go, but just as many, if not more areas you -can- go but don’t need to. Dark Souls has a ton of dungeons that are completely optional and lots of areas you can visit in any order you want, whether you’re leveled and equipped enough for those areas or not. You have a lot of freedom with exploration.

ds6 - bosses

But let’s get onto the real meat of Dark Souls: Combat, Dying, and Difficulty. The combat in Dark Souls is pretty simple. You can equip weapons, shields, and spells and can use them freely in battle, though every action you do uses stamina to keep you on your toes. It feels very hack n slash in nature and you can freely swap out weapons in mid-combat if you’re better against certain enemies with weapon types you’re not currently using. You have a lot of options to choose from.

And you need all of those options. Dark Souls is notorious for being a very tricky, difficult game. The difficulty is very high for the game and it constantly climbs to new heights as you progress. After playing through it as my first “Souls” game, I view it like old NES games. Every area is tricky and every boss has attacks that are brutal and unforgiving at times. However, it’s built in a way that it gives you constant difficulty walls for you to learn and remember. As you learn and remember them, the uber-difficult boss fights become cakewalk fights.

The big difference here between Dark Souls and other difficult RPGs is that most RPGs have difficult boss fights, but doable dungeons or vice-versa. This has both. Every dungeon is a wall for you to climb and once you climb it and reach the boss, you’re given an even higher wall to climb. It’s a constant test of patience, endurance, and learning capacity.

ds4 - co op

Of course, if you still have problems with some bosses (and you will, as some of them are clearly designed not to be taken down solo), all of the online co-op features really help. When you have online enabled, you have nifty co-op features like the ability to summon ‘phantoms’ of other players to help you with areas and bosses, and it makes a world of difference when you’re ripping your hair out trying to solo a boss and try again with 2 allies and suddenly it’s the easiest thing in the world. You can also leave messages for other players to find, helping each other find secret areas.

Now, not everything is great in the game. This game is gigantic and you don’t get the ability to fast-travel until you’re really far into the game. As such, every time you need to grind certain items for upgrades or just backtrack for new story developments, you’re going to be running back and forth and back and forth and back and forth through areas you’ve already been in. Even with all the unlockable shortcuts between areas, it feels like a massive hassle when you want to go back somewhere and going back there involves a good 10-20 minutes of backtracking and fighting and then doing it again to get back.

ds5 - dungeons

Before closing this section off, let’s also talk about the wonderful and terrible nature of how insanely-glitchy this game is. For a Remastered game, this game has a lot of instances of glitching and this works both in your favor and in the enemy’s favor. In some areas, you can trick bosses into falling off ledges, instantly killing them. Meanwhile, in other areas, the game can easily get you stuck to a wall, making you almost instantly lose to whatever you’re fighting at the time.

Now, let’s get into content, because this is really varied. Dark Souls has a ton of content for sure, but how long it takes you will depend on how many optional dungeons you visit and your skill level. A seasoned Souls player could probably clear the game in a good 20-30 hours. Or, if you’re like me and are new to the genre, it’ll likely take you upwards of 60-80 hours to do so. Either way, there’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Controls

Controlling the game isn’t too hard. If you’ve played this game on PlayStation, it’s basically got the same control scheme, though it is customizeable from the menu if you don’t like it the way it is.

The Left Stick is used to move around while the Right Analog Stick is used to move the camera. You can also click the Right Stick to lock onto nearby enemies. The four triggers are used for using weapons and shields with L and R for light attacks and ZL/ZR for heavy attacks.

With the action buttons, A is used for running and dodge-rolling while B is used for interacting with NPCs, Bonfires, and other objects. Y is used for using items and the D-Pad is used for cycling through weapons, items, and spells.

Presentation

ds7 - presy

Graphically, I can’t complain too much. Nothing really looks grainy or washed out or anything. All of the models are smooth and it looks pretty much on-par with the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Remastered.

Couple mishaps here, though. A well-known audio glitch does plague the game from time to time. Sound effects will randomly be extremely quiet or be muted altogether. It’s not a massive problem, but it is pretty strange when you suddenly don’t hear your sword striking the enemy when it clearly is doing so.

As far as performance is concerned, the game stays at a steady 30 fps in docked and handheld mode. The only problem I’ve found with performance is the fact that the game has frozen and crashed on me a few times. Thankfully, these all happened when I’d auto-saved recently, but it’s still troubling to think that you’re wandering around, making progress and could lose that progress at any given time.

Battery Life

I wasn’t expecting much here. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 50 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 54 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 16 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 19 minutes

All in all, this is actually a bit more than I was expecting.

In conclusion, Dark Souls: Remastered marks the first time the series has come to the handheld world. It’s certainly not perfect with this version having audio and freezing issues, along with the base game’s extreme amount of backtracking for its first few dozen hours. If you’re into ARPGs that push your limits, though, there’s a ton of depth, exploration, and RPG here to enjoy.

Final Score: 7.5/10