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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It's that time again - time for pre-orders for another hotly anticipated amiibo to be set live and then inevitably sell out. Get your clicking fingers ready, because this time it's everyone's buddy Solaire from Dark Souls.
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.