Dark Souls Remastered

Key events

FeatureAn ode to video game doors

Walking you through the doors of Doom, Dark Souls and more.

It's easy to underestimate the humble door. You open it, you go through. Sometimes, you must find the key first, and for many games, that's the whole extent of the player's interactions with doors. They're something to get past, something that cordons off one bit from the next bit. A simple structural element, of special interest to level designers, but not the ones who turn the knobs.

Dark Souls on Switch is a current-gen port with last-gen visuals

Digital FoundryDark Souls on Switch is a current-gen port with last-gen visuals

But smoother performance, improved resolution and portable play set it apart.

This isn't quite what we expected! Strictly speaking, Dark Souls for Switch actually has more in common with From Software's last-gen original as opposed to the remastered versions released a few month ago. The new release misses all of the visual refinements found in the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions of the game and at its core, this is the Dark Souls you originally played back in 2011. There are key improvements though - like a smoother frame-rate and a higher rendering resolution - and there's a bonus increase to six concurrent players online too. The Switch game still manages to impress on its own terms then and of course, it's fully portable. This is a desirable feature that makes this version unique, and where it shines brightest.

The idea that the Switch game is based on the last-gen release was first raised as a possibility when checking out the file size of the game. Dark Souls on Nintendo's hybrid weighs in at only 3.9GB, compared to 7.5GB when installed on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. It's the same size as the original PS3 or Xbox 360 editions, a profile that also helps to squeeze it onto one of Nintendo's lower capacity cartridges. Virtuos has also opted to keep the original textures, shaders and effects from the original version too, which no doubt aids in keeping the install size in the same ballpark. Side-by-side with the Xbox 360 version, it's clear there's very little between them in terms of the core visual feature-set. If it's the authentic Dark Souls experience you want, as it was presented back in the day, this is the version for you.

As a modern console experience, the Switch port pushes the boat out in resolution, delivering a full-blooded 1920x1080 while docked. Unlike the Xbox 360 original - which rendered the game natively at 1024x720 - the resolution metrics make Switch more competitive with the PS4 and Xbox One's standard 1080p. There is a catch here, however. Most of the Undead Burg section runs at this top pixel count with no issue, but for any of the later, more taxing areas, the Switch version dynamically adjusts its resolution. The lowest I've found is in the Darkroot Basin - a foggy woodland area that forces the game to run at a near-constant 1600x900. Put simply, there are two resolutions while docked - 900p and 1080p, with pixel counts shifting, depending on the scene. It's unlike the PS4 or Xbox One releases in this way - and image quality does take a hit. If you look close you can faintly see the change-over.

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Seven years after it first came out, what is there left to say about Dark Souls? You know that it's harsh but fair; that it's enigmatic yet enriched by the deepest lore; that its combat is weighty and well-balanced, and that it's the most fastidiously dissected, widely praised video game of this generation or the last.

Ask a young adult today what a floppy disk is and you'll likely earn puzzled silence. To them, they are ancient artefacts. Demonstrate an "old" game (say, from around 2000) to a kid today, and they might look at it with disbelieving curiosity. Did games really look like that, once upon a time, in the unfathomable recesses of antiquity? Similarly, to me, 30 years old, games of the early 90s (and the machines that run them) already exude a certain alien primitivity. Revisiting them several decades after their prime with a historian's curiosity is as fascinating as it is frustrating: it's easy to bounce off old games and their archaic workings.

You can play Dark Souls: Remastered on Nintendo Switch this weekend

Dark Souls: Remastered is finally getting its Nintendo Switch network test this weekend, which means you can try the game for free over the next few evenings.

Servers will be live between 6-10pm UK time on Friday 21st, Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd.

As detailed on the Nintendo Switch eShop, the test will allow you to explore the area of Undead Parish - both in single-player and with multiplayer features.

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See how Dark Souls Remastered and Diablo 3 run in Switch's mobile mode

Nintendo's Gamescom line-up confirms once again that Switch is a superb handheld games machine with a growing range of impressive titles. During the show, Digital Foundry got the chance to go hands-on with both the Diablo 3 Eternal Collection and Dark Souls Remastered running in handheld mode - and there's off-screen footage on this page showing how well these games are shaping up.

Initially, we made a beeline for Dark Souls Remastered, principally because so little of the project has been revealed to date. In fact, in terms of assets, we've had a few snatches of direct feed capture several months back and little more. The game is present and playable at Gamescom, but it remains something of a mystery - Nintendo limited access to the title by restricting visitors to the very first tutorial level, cutting demos short after vanquishing the Asylum Demon boss.

With that in mind, our impressions are obviously limited. The presentation when playing in handheld mode is certainly crisp, and in line with the publisher's website, which states that users should expect a native 720p pixel-count for mobile play, rising to 1080p when docked. It's also confirmed that Dark Souls Remastered opts for the original release's 30fps, as opposed to the double frame-rate seen in the other remastered editions. We noted a touch of slowdown during alpha-heavy scenes in the boss battle, but overall, while the sample of gameplay we had was limited to say the least, Dark Souls Remastered is looking good.

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At last, Dark Souls Remastered has a Nintendo Switch release date

Dark Souls Remastered launches for Nintendo Switch on 19th October, publisher Bandai Namco has announced.

The Solaire of Astora amiibo comes out alongside the game on the same date.

It's been a bit of a wait - we were expecting the Switch version alongside the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One editions back in May, until it was pushed back to "summer". October isn't really summer anywhere, but at least now we know for certain when it'll arrive.

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FeatureThe road to video game hell

Sightseeing in the abyss.

If the games we play are anything to go by, the depths of hell are one of humankind's favourite destinations when it comes to travels of the mind. Few fantasy RPGs or horror games could be considered complete without at least a quick excursion into the domain of demons and sinners. And what better place to conclude your game than hell itself? What better villains to fight than the citizens of Pandemonium? Hell has found a steady home in many kinds of games, and its popularity shows no sign of abating.

Dark Souls Remastered tested on all consoles - and only one locks to 60fps

With release code in hand, we finally have a complete picture of how Dark Souls Remastered runs on consoles and PC - and while the notorious Blighttown was our first port of call for performance testing, it turns out that there are much better ways to push developer QLOC's refined version of the Dark Souls engine. The title's CPU issues are by and large resolved in the final product, but it turns out that it's the GPU that is now our primary bottleneck. All versions of the game target 60fps, though only one console gives us an absolute lock, while the PC release rights many wrongs - but is a remarkably unambitious effort overall.

Let's kick off by re-confirming the basics we established in our network test coverage. The standard Xbox One and PlayStation 4 each target 1080p, while their enhanced counterparts both strive for the same experience at a higher 1800p pixel count. For perspective, that's a 2.7x increase over both regular machines - with temporal anti-aliasing smoothing off the image and allowing for a graceful upscale for ultra HD displays. And of course, most of the HUD and text elements are a true 4K too, which duly helps with the presentation.

On the surface, it's frustrating that Xbox One X delivers the same resolution as PS4 Pro, bearing in mind the big increases in GPU compute, memory bandwidth and available RAM. Potentially, a push to a native 4K would be in-step with that leap in power - as we've seen in games like Resident Evil 7 - but 1800p is where it's fixed. In theory, a dynamic resolution could have been a much better fit here, optimising the resolution of each frame based on whether 60fps is sustainable. As it stands though, there is a performance overhead on both machines - especially Xbox One X - that isn't tapped into at points, which is a shame.

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Dark Souls Remastered has launched a day early on Steam

Dark Souls Remastered, the spruced-up version of From Software's methodical action classic, is now available on Steam - a full day ahead of its originally announced May 25th release date. No such luck for console players though.

The newly remastered version of Dark Souls (which includes the excellent Artorias of the Abyss DLC) features a number of changes, mostly of the graphical variety; there's enhanced lighting and texture work, for instance, and the game runs at 60fps, rather than the 30fps seen in the original edition. Elsewhere, Dark Souls' multiplayer now supports up to six participants.

Those new to the series can pick up Dark Souls Remastered on Steam for £34.99. Anyone that purchased the original (and now de-listed) Prepare to Die Edition on Valve's platform, meanwhile, will receive a 50% discount, putting it at £17.99.

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Dark Souls Remastered's network test puts the spotlight on Xbox One X

Digital FoundryDark Souls Remastered's network test puts the spotlight on Xbox One X

And the leap over PS4 Pro isn't quite what we thought it would be.

Dark Souls Remastered's network test was conducted last weekend, giving our firs look at how the game operates across all consoles. We've already had a sizeable chunk of PS4 Pro preview footage to look at, of course. Running at a native 1800p and with something very close to a locked 60fps, first impressions are of a conservative, but satisfying remaster. What the network test finally gives us is a sense of perspective: how does the more powerful Xbox One X compare to the PS4 Pro? And equally, where does that leave the two base consoles?

Well, first things first - the code offered to users really is an early and unique build, put together just to test the PvP invasions and using a restricted segment of Lordran. Even though the client weighs in at 3GB - almost the size of the full game on last-gen systems - we were blocked off from a lot of the best bits. So there was no opportunity for a trip to wyvern on the bridge, or to explore Sen's Fortress, for example. All those were hidden by impassable fog doors, or untouchable levers.

Instead, the network test build honed purely on the Undead Parish area, leading up to two Bell Gargoyles on the rooftop. Short as it is, there is enough here to prove that the new netcode is generally holding up; I struggled to summon Solaire a couple of times, but in terms of the online invasion mechanic it doesn't seem like there's much to complain about. It clicks together, and for the online play at least, it's in a good place.

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FeatureThe allure of medieval weaponry

The sword cuts many ways.

Glaives, pikes, bardiches, halberds, partisans, spears, picks and lances. Javelins, arbalests, crossbows, longbows, claymores, zweihänder, broadswords and falchions. Flails, clubs, morning stars, maces, war hammers, battle axes and, of course, longswords. If you ever played a fantasy RPG or one of many historically-themed action or strategy games, you'll already be familiar with an impressive array of medieval weaponry. The medieval arsenal has had an enormous impact on games since their early days, and their ubiquity makes them seem like a natural, fundamental part of many virtual worlds.

Can Dark Souls Remastered improve on the modded PC original?

Dark Souls Remastered is fast approaching its May 25th launch and based on our recent look at work-in-progress PS4 Pro code, there's the sense that we're looking at a refined, optimised port rather than a fuller, top-to-bottom refresh of the whole game. So where does that leave the original 'Prepare to Die' PC version, already improved significantly via some heaving community modding? Namco Bandai is actually withdrawing that version of the game to new buyers and offering a 50 per cent discount to coax existing users into purchasing the remaster, but with mods like DSFix and SweetFX already enhancing the game significantly, the official game has a lot to match.

Disregarding the game's mods for a moment, the Prepare to Die edition is clearly not fit for purpose in the modern era. Notoriously, it lets you change the output resolution, while natively it's still only running at 1024x720 - the same as on the last-gen consoles. Add in the fact that it's capped at 30fps with poorly implemented mouse and keyboard support, and the dismay back in 2012 is understandable. Compared to Dark Souls 3, where From Software's proficiency in PC conversions has grown hugely, the first outing was a massive disappointment for fans.

Coming to the rescue, Durante's DSFix smartly worked around its limits to let you play at any resolution, while also liberating the game from its 30fps limit. Eventually, this injector mod added options for anti-aliasing, depth of field, anisotropic filtering and screen-space ambient occlusion. Factor in the numerous fan-made texture mods for Dark Souls on PC since, and it's a transformed experience to the one the developer originally intended. The catch is that not everything is perfectly optimised with these mods: to this day the game still struggles to run at a smooth 1080p at 60fps, even on the most powerful hardware.

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Bandai Namco details Dark Souls Remastered network tests for Xbox One and PS4

Bandai Namco has detailed its previously announced Dark Souls Remastered network tests, which are now scheduled to run from May 11th to May 12th on Xbox One and PS4.

The network test will, according to Bandai Namco, be limited to Dark Souls' Undead Parish area - hopefully its memorable Bell Gargoyle boss fight will feature - and will enable participants to summon co-op partners and invade other players' worlds.

The network test will unfold in two six hour sessions, one on Friday, May 11th, and the other on Saturday, May 12th. Time slots are region-specific, with each session beginning at 5pm and ending at 10:59pm in the UK. In the US, sessions start at 6:00pm PDT and finish at 11:59pm.

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PC players can get Dark Souls Remastered half-price if they own the original

Bandai Namco has confirmed that owners of the original Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition on PC can get 50% off Dark Souls Remastered when it launches on May 25th.

The offer, which Bandai Namco is calling a "loyalty discount", marks something of a U-turn for the publisher. In January, a discount was briefly spotted on the official Remastered pre-order page, but Bandai Namco denied its validity, telling PC Gamer that existing Dark Souls owners on PC would see no savings at launch.

The main caveat regarding Bandai Namco's newly confirmed discount appears to be that it's only available through Steam. You'll need to have the original Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition in your Steam library when you purchase Dark Souls Remastered in order to get 50% off.

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Dark Souls on Switch just got delayed

Praise the sun "this summer".

Bandai Namco has just announced that Dark Souls: Remastered is being delayed on Switch. The game will be releasing on PS4, Xbox One and PC on the 25th of May as planned, but the Switch version has been pushed back to "this summer."

Dark Souls Remastered: how much of an upgrade is it?

Digital FoundryDark Souls Remastered: how much of an upgrade is it?

Digital Foundry goes hands-on with the PS4 Pro version.

Of all the remasters coming out this generation, Dark Souls might be the most hotly anticipated. It's a chance to revisit one of the most beloved of games from the last console generation, using today's technology to improve visuals tremendously and to iron out the game's notorious performance issues. We've already had an early taster of the Switch port - based on trailer footage, at least - and initial impressions were of a conservative conversion for Nintendo's console hybrid. Now we've had the chance to play a preview build on PS4 Pro, and clearly there's a lot more to it visually.

As you might expect, Sony's super-charged console features 4K display support. We can confirm that with 4K output select, the current build of the game delivers a native 3200x1800 resolution. It's not the true 4K some may have wished for, but the pixel density is high enough that it delivers a sharp, beautiful image, even if there is upscaling involved on the final resolve to an Ultra HD screen. More surprising is how well the world design holds up at such a high resolution, seven years on from the game's initial launch. The Pro version of the remaster delivers a 7.8x increase in pixel-count over the 1024x720 of the original PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.

We'll have to see what the other consoles are doing nearer release. Especially, we're curious about the Xbox One X code, where the extra GPU horsepower could feasibly translate to a native 3840x2160 - a full 4K output. For now, the fact is Dark Souls has no trouble hitting 1800p on Pro, and better yet - doing it at with 60 frames per second as the target. Also good news is that game-level super-sampling is implemented, so 1080p screen users get extra anti-aliasing thrown into the mix - an advantage over a base PS4's native res, understood to be 1920x1080.

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What should we expect from Dark Souls Remastered on Switch?

Digital FoundryWhat should we expect from Dark Souls Remastered on Switch?

Digital Foundry assesses the first trailer footage.

The Switch market's awash with ports and remasters, but one of the most eagerly awaited must surely be the conversion of Dark Souls - the first time the series lands on a handheld. Early signs point to it being handled by Virtuos - the studio behind the daring Switch conversion of LA Noire. Little else is known about the scale of the project, or what form the remaster will take across other platforms, but last week's Nintendo Direct did deliver a short burst of gameplay that offers up a wealth of clues.

Let's deal with the basics. The remaster promises improved graphics across the board, for Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC. All will include the Artorias of the Abyss DLC right out of the box - which is great - and you get up to six players online (improving on the original's limit of four). Unique to the Switch version is the amiibo support, with the Solaire of Astora statuette unlocking an in-game emote.

A bit more digging reveals the technical ambitions of the Switch conversion. The publisher's web page lists this Switch version as targeting a 1080p presentation when connected to a TV and 720p while in portable mode. And sure enough, close scrutiny of the Nintendo Direct trailer proves the former at least: every clip of gameplay in the snippet is indeed a native 1920x1080 by our counts. That extends to the HUDs and text too, all of which amounts to a big upgrade over the original Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 editions. If you cast your minds back to Dark Souls' original 2011 release, the game ran at under 720p on Xbox 360 and PS3 - cutting horizontal resolution with native a 1024x720 output.

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Humans have gazed up at the sky and wondered about their place in the cosmos since the very beginning. Do the same in a game like, say, Breath of the Wild, and you're presented with vivid images of clouds, stars, the sun and the moon. It's an important part of this and many other games that helps to create an illusion of a continuous space that stretches beyond what we actually experience within the confines of the game. The sky implies that Hyrule, despite being a fantasy world, is a part of a cosmos very much like our own, and we accept this even though we cannot fly up and check.