Dark Souls: Remastered Review (Switch)
Few, if any, titles have reshaped the landscape of RPGs in the past 10 years like From Software’s now-legendary Dark Souls. Ever since it arrived in 2011 as the spiritual successor to the so-hard-you-may-break-your-controller-in-rage cult hit, Demon’s Souls (2009), Dark Souls has proved as enigmatic as it is divisive among RPG fans. This has not changed with the remastered version released on Nintendo Switch in 2018. The third-person melee combat with a focus on timing, positioning, and stamina management that has found its way into dozens of action-RPGs over the past decade is intact. The meticulously constructed world map is available to explore. The lore that has inspired hundreds of hours of YouTube videos is buried here and waiting to be discovered…but only by those with the patience to find it.
The land of Lordran has fallen under a dark curse that traps all humans in a cycle of life and undeath. There is no true escape, there is only the slow process of losing one’s humanity from death after death. This process is known as hollowing. In this land, there is a legend that one day a chosen undead will journey to the land of the Gods and ring two bells to begin a quest to break this curse.This is all the game tells you as it drops you into a prison cell at the end of the world, thus beginning your journey, should you decide to attempt it, to Lordran, the land of the Gods, to undo the curse.
The story is told atop incredibly deep world-building and lore presented primarily through brief descriptions of items meant to be understood within the context of where they are discovered. This leaves much open for debate and has spawned one of the more passionate lore communities in all of video games. Particularly nice about the Nintendo Switch version of Dark Souls Remastered is that the original DLC is included. This means some of the series most memorable additions to lore and the fan-favorite, Knight Artorias, are all here to experience.
As you may have heard, the third-person melee combat in Dark Souls emphasizes timing, positioning, and stamina management. And yes – you die, a lot, especially if it is your first Souls game. Not only are players tasked with learning an unforgiving battle system, but they must also overcome aggressive foes who can kill them in a few hits, and somehow navigate and fight in an environment that seemingly delights in deadliness. At times, I truly wondered whether the enemies or the level design were more challenging.
You cannot hope to talk about Dark Souls Remastered gameplay without discussing boss fights. The bosses here are larger-than-life dragons, knights, demons, kings, and other variations of creatures familiar to fans of Western RPGs and mythology. Though there are a few exceptions, most fights are thrilling and bring a unique challenge to the formula that requires you to learn and adapt to complete the challenge at hand. For example, in one fight you must lure an out-of-reach boss to attack, dodge, and then attack its exposed limbs. Another boss, however, disappears and you must track their footprints in the snow to avoid a surprise attack. These battles are the highlights of the game, requiring dedication and skill, but also delivering an incredible feeling of accomplishment hard to find elsewhere in gaming when you finally deliver the killing blow.
Lastly, the co-op play that made the game so initially popular is completely intact on the Nintendo Switch, but I cannot recommend it in handheld mode as it drains the battery incredibly fast. That being said, summoning in a friend to beat tough boss, or to solve an environmental puzzle is great and the community is filled with long-term players who want nothing more than to introduce new players to this game they are so passionate about. Not only can other players join you (or invade you for PvP) while playing online, but you’ll also encounter messages which can be hints or attempts to trick you left by other players. If you are a first time Dark Souls player, I highly recommend playing the game in docked mode or while plugged in so you can get the full community experience.
Dark Souls Remastered on Nintendo Switch was the last of the Dark Souls Remastered titles to come out in 2018. Its release was delayed and when it finally did come out, the graphics just did not look near as good as on any other version of Remastered. However, this is the only portable version, and its performance is dramatically improved over the original PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. For example, when I went through Blighttown, I experienced none of the lag of the original. Additionally, the single added bonfire is actually helpful.
Graphically, in comparison to other action RPGs on Switch, it is pretty clear Dark Souls is an older title. But even when it came out, it had a certain old school ugliness that has become part of its appeal. So do not come expecting polished graphics, but that was never the reason to play Dark Souls (though this may be changing with From Software’s newer games).
If you have ever wanted to experience Dark Souls, or if you have been dying to take it on the road with you, the Nintendo Switch version of Dark Souls Remastered is a great choice. If you are not sure if it is for you, but you know you love action-RPGs with an old school challenge, deep lore, environmental puzzles, deadly combat, and the ability to choose any class you want, you will find a lot to love here. If you are looking for a tough co-op challenge, this is also a great choice.
The formula has been proven over and again by clones and sequels that offer their take on the original. Make no mistake – Dark Souls Remastered is a brilliant, yet challenging game set in a deadly world that will go out of its way to test you. It is deep, offering hundreds of hours of gameplay with extremely high replayability. You can do one play through as a paladin, the next as an assassin, and a third as a powerful mage. In the end, Dark Souls Remastered remains one of the most well-respected RPGs released on console, handheld, or PC in the past decade. That reason alone makes it a worthy candidate for your next Switch RPG.