A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dark Souls Remastered is an updated rerelease of a violent and challenging role-playing game originally released in 2011 for the PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Windows PCs. Players assume the role of a customizable warrior armed with swords and sorcery who engages in bloody battle with fantastical creatures such as skeletons and demons. The obscure story provides little in the way of character background or motivation, leaving the player to develop the hero's personality through his or her actions -- helping or hindering other players online, and assisting, ignoring, or attacking non-player characters. Some of the game's female characters are scantily clad, with exaggerated bosoms hidden only by dangling strands of hair. Parents should be aware that this is an extraordinarily challenging game that demands practice, patience, and a willingness to fail multiple times before succeeding.
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What's it about?
DARK SOULS REMASTERED is a visually upgraded version of From Software's original Dark Souls, a fantasy role-playing game famous for its gritty and challenging combat, labyrinthine world design, and abundance of secrets. It tells the story of a warrior in a world of undead who must fight his or her way through fantastical foes in an effort to somehow end a plague of endless human resurrection. The adventure takes place in a series of intricately interconnected locations, most of which are now home to demons and lords. Players are provided precious little instruction or direction, and are instead encouraged to explore and experiment on their own -- sometimes calling on other players for help, sometimes fighting off invading players from other worlds -- to discover how to survive the perilous world of Londor. This new edition includes the original game's lone DLC pack, Artorias of the Abyss, which offers additional areas to explore, more weapons and armor to collect, and a player-versus-player Arena, but doesn't add any original content. Instead, it lightly upgrades the graphics and makes a handful of so-called "quality of life" improvements, such as allowing players to use multiple items at once rather than one at a time and the ability to switch allegiances to covenants at bonfires rather than seeking out their leaders. It also expands online play, allowing up to six players to face off against each other and supports password matchmaking, making it easier for friends to play together.
Is it any good?
It's pricey for a remastered game from a previous generation -- even if it includes a few hours of DLC that once cost extra -- but this is clearly the definitive version of this classic action RPG. While no match for modern graphical masterpieces, Dark Souls Remastered looks noticeably better than the original thanks to its higher resolution and steadier frame rate. Although no new content's been added, its collection of small improvements -- such as an extra bonfire and earlier access to the Dried Finger item (for people who want to focus on player-versus-player action) -- helps smooth over some of the original game's rougher edges. And what made the original game so memorable stands the test of time. Its challenging combat system -- which penalizes death by respawning all enemies and robbing you of souls collected (essentially experience points) -- remains tough but fair, encouraging caution, strategy, and play style experimentation. The beautiful and complexly designed world is still satisfying to explore, with secrets around nearly every corner. And untangling the game's dense knot of mysterious items and elaborate mechanics is as deeply rewarding as ever. If it doesn't feel quite as fresh as it did when it originally launched, that's only because so many other developers have taken pages from this game's book since its release.
All of this said, there's some missed opportunities for improving the Dark Souls experience even further. Many known glitches and cheats remain. The occasionally finicky camera is still problematic in some areas, especially in tight corridors or when locked onto enemies on narrow precipices. Plus, the continuing inability to pause when playing offline remains perplexing, and is bound to cause friction for players whose family members don't understand that they can't simply stop playing on command without potentially losing a lot of their hard-earned progress. It's frustrating, too, that finishing the game automatically starts a New Game + file, overwriting your current save and prohibiting access to all of the areas you've unlocked until you've played through the entire game again. Still, it's a treat to be able to revisit this classic and influential role-playing game on current generation hardware. If you fancy a serious test of your gaming skills (and patience), Dark Souls Remastered won't disappoint.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Does violence in games like Dark Souls Remastered ever make you uneasy? Can ultra-realistic games prove unsettling? Do you feel any different after spending an extended period of time playing a violent game?
How do you feel when you experience failure in a game like Dark Souls Remastered? Does it make you want to try again and apply what you've learned, or quit playing out of frustration?
Why do you play games? Simply to have fun? To experience a story? To challenge yourself? If a game is too hard, does it cease to be entertaining? Or do you feel a greater sense of satisfaction once you’ve achieved your goal?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $39.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Bandai Namco
- Release date: May 29, 2018
- Genre: Role Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Violence
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