Since 2011, the Dark Souls franchise has garnered a massive following in the video game community. It’s full of unique enemies, beautiful locations, and brutal action. The series is most known for the relentless difficulty. With Dark Souls Remastered finally coming to Switch, how does the first journey to Lordran fare on Nintendo’s console? Let’s find out.
Dark Souls Remastered is a wonderful game that newcomers can experience for the first time, and existing fans can revisit. As someone who has played through the game a handful of times, Dark Souls Remastered was a trip of nostalgia. Before starting, you’ll have to create a character. There’s a wide variety of options on display. From a melee character like a Warrior, to a magic-based character like the Pyromancer, to the Thief who can access locked doors, different class types cater to your play style.
That’s part of the charm. Dark Souls starts in a prison cell. With hardly any instructions, players are thrust into a brutal universe where they must fend for themselves. Lordran contains lush environments full of life, but also despair. Creatures roam around, usually with the intent to kill you on sight. While there are some friendly NPCs scattered throughout, not everything is what it seems. Some chests can lead to great riches while others can bring certain death.
Dark Souls is a game that’s not for everyone. It doesn’t hold your hand. Death is imminent, and a game over screen can be found at almost any corner. Normal enemies pose a threat in groups, and boss battles usually happen against massive beasts that will likely kill you multiple times before progressing. There’s a strategy to defeat every enemy, and once you figure that out, Dark Souls becomes a more manageable experience. Unfortunately, enemies are the least of your issues.
The environments are hazards as well. From ledges you need to jump over to obstacles you need to dodge, traversal is another key to survival. I lost count of how many times my character died because of a platforming error. Death never felt like the game’s fault. In fact, every time my character died, I felt like I failed her. Every death was my fault, and I understood that.
Combat is responsive and intuitive. You can equip a weapon on your left or right hand and a shield on the other. Your attacks and defensive moves are mapped to the shoulder buttons that correspond to where your gear is located. Combat will often involve a mixture of defense and offense. Solo enemies aren’t threatening, but a horde of creatures will be relentless. Learning when to parry and when to use a light or heavy attack are things every player should iron out early on. Doing so will ensure that you’ll often prevail during battle. Swords were my weapons of choice, but players can choose axes, spears, bows, and staffs among other weapons.
Throughout my time with Dark Souls Remastered, I played in docked and handheld modes. Dark Souls runs wonderfully in docked mode. Playing with the Pro Controller felt natural, and the game ran at a crisp frame rate. There weren’t any instances of stuttering, the combat was responsive, and everything looked great. If you’re planning on getting Dark Souls Remastered, definitely play it on your TV. The handheld mode is serviceable, but the quality doesn’t hold up. It ran a little clunkier, and the brightness was an issue. When playing on my TV, everything was looking clear with brightness set to 5. When playing on handheld mode, I needed the brightness at 8 through 10 for me to see what was going on.
Another downside with playing Dark Souls on handheld mode is that the Joy-Con don’t compliment the fast-paced and strategic nature of the gameplay. I found myself having difficulty using the Joy-Con because of the smaller buttons. The size of the shoulder buttons especially made it a tougher experience. Dark Souls is not unplayable on handheld mode, but it’s a lot tougher to enjoy.
Visually, the game looks great. The vibrant graphics from the remastered improvements are noticeable. There’s a crisper look, the cutscenes look great, and when playing on TV, some of the visuals are stellar. The audio is excellent. The score during boss battles is among the best in the entire gaming industry. There isn’t much music in the game outside of the boss battles, so wandering around Lordran is a tense experience. You never know what’s around the corner, and that adds to the immersion. Dark Souls has an excellent sound design. Every little bit of audio goes a long way throughout the 15-20-hour experience.
It’s worth noting that there is online play. When you get the White Sign Soapstone, you can drop it on the ground for other players to summon you to their world. Alternatively, if you see a White Sign Soapstone on the ground, you can summon other adventurers to aid you on your quest. This item is great to utilize, especially during tough boss battles. At the time of writing this review, the servers were unavailable, so I couldn’t test out the online aspects of Dark Souls Remastered on Switch.
Dark Souls Remastered is a fantastic video game and an interesting port for Nintendo Switch. It features some of the best combat around, memorable boss battles, difficult gameplay, and wonderful set pieces. Despite all the great things about Dark Souls, the Switch port suffers in handheld mode, which is a shame. As someone who uses handheld more than docked, I found it to be the inferior style in almost every way. Switch owners looking forward to playing Dark Souls Remastered for the first time should consider playing on their TV in order to have an unforgettable experience with one of the best games in the past seven years. Lordran is such a fascinating world full of danger and intrigue. Dark Souls Remastered is a journey that all Switch owners should embark on.
A review code was provided by the publisher.