Games: Dark Souls Remastered offers up sword and sorcery of the highest order

Dark Souls Remastered – how fantasy should be done
Neil McGreevy

Dark Souls Remastered (PS4/Xbox)

By: Bandai Namco

HARD as holy hell, Dark Souls marked the moment adventure fans hitched up their kecks and became grown-ups. How fantasy should be done, FromSoftware's medieval roustabout was genuinely fantastic, avoiding all the sword and sorcery clichés, and with a black, mean streak running through its bones.

And now the tallest order in geekdom lets the current console crop come a cropper, complete with a fresh loogie of spit and polish.

Considered one of the best games ever made, Dark Souls bullied its way on to the PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2011, where its heady blend of masochism and machismo (masochismo?) won over a cult following of armchair adventurers who enjoyed getting their alabaster rumps spanked.

Dark Souls gets straight to the hurt. Dumping players into an undead land with no guidance and bargain-bin togs for protection, you'll soon be pootling around dungeons, getting into medieval scraps and dying with alarming frequency.

Handling risk and reward better than any other game, its combat system is fathomless as players teach themselves how to fight and learn quickly from enemies to stay alive.

A third-person demon-slayer where you'll acquire and upgrade different weapons, shields and armour to muscle your way through hordes of ancient horrors, careful observation of enemy patterns yields a winning strategy.

Bonfires serve as checkpoints for each level. And if they die, players can carry on in hollow form until their humanity is restored – in the meantime, invading other players' games as a ghoulish degenerate. It was a game-changing gimmick that's yet to be bettered. Better still, soapstones allow players to leave notes for others, offering helpful advice or otherwise.

Modern games, with their tender hand-holding and endless continues, have rendered us impotent in the face of Dark Souls' one-wrong-move retribution. No punch is pulled in this hardcore grind that encourages players to learn from their mistakes. The Game of Thrown Controllers, Dark Souls made me feel even more inadequate – and that's no mean feat. Persevere, though, and there's an unbridled sense of achievement when you finally overcome the wretched beast that's been dominating you for weeks.

Drinking deep from the latest hardware, its developers have gone the soul nine yards with this remaster. On PS3 and Xbox, the original game was hobbled by frame rates that would drop to single-digits during busier moments.

With rock-solid 60fps gameplay at 1080p (or in 4K on Pro and One X), players can now parry, doge and attack with silky bravado. The textures and lighting have been boosted immeasurably while the jagged edges are given some thorough digital sanding for a glory soul of technical bravado. Best of all, up to six players are now supported at once online.

The revered and rightly feared Dark Souls offers up sword and sorcery of the highest order. And its merciless medieval goings-on are also destined for Nintendo's Switch this summer for some portable pain. Welcome to hell.

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