60 minutes with Dark Souls : Remastered
We immersed ourselves in From Software's great classic.
At the time, when From Software released its revealing RPG action in 2011, I loved it, and played it over and over again. NG, NG+, NG++, DLC, NG++. For six months, this game dominated my thoughts during the day and invaded my nightmares at night.
But that was eight years ago. Things have changed. There were sequels. There was the PS4. There was Bloodborne. And with Dark Souls: Remastered, I was curious to see how one of my favorite games had stood up to the ravages of time.
Looking for answers, I was then delighted to accept Bandai Namco's offer to spend some time alone with his masterpiece, soon to be back.
Here's everything I learned during my first 60-minute foray into Lordran...
1. Muscle memory: intact
You probably know the expression "Sneaking up on your toes into Lordran hidden behind a shield is like riding a bike"? Nothing could be truer. It's been six years since I last launched Dark Souls, and finding my way back to my feet was child's play.
The first time I found that Dark Souls' menus might have been a bit lacking in intuitiveness. I must admit, it wasn't until after more than 30 hours of play that I realized that I'd only gone up my vitality stats. It was an interesting... interesting build.
This time I put on equipment, studied the stats of the objects, adjusted my build and sent projectiles around me from the beginning like a champion. Come here a little, undead.
2. Pity the poor inhabitants of the Undead village.
Where at one time I used to walk through the village in a state of permanent paranoid stress, this time I walked through the streets swaggering, getting rid of its residents with a nonchalant bang of the stick, accompanied by a small, clear and concise commentary. In 2011, their traps and ambushes were causing me fear, admiration and sweaty hands. Not today they didn't.
3. It's lonely out there.
After the hectic world of Dark Souls 3 and the torch-lit hordes of Bloodborne, the ominous silence of the Undead village was a surprising - and welcome - reminder of the mastery of the From Software classic in creating an atmosphere and sense of place.
With an almost non-existent soundtrack, Dark Souls' soundtrack is almost entirely composed of your interactions with the environment. With a helmet on your head and a 4K TV a few centimeters away from your eyes, you find yourself in a surprisingly solemn and solitary world.
4. It's good to be back at the Fire League Sanctuary.
Is there a safer, quieter refuge in any video game than the Dark Souls Fire League Sanctuary? I doubt it. That sweet orchestral theme, that crackling fire, those encouraging words of the Discombobulated Warrior ("You won't find salvation here. You should have stayed and rot in the Sanctuary of the Undead.") - Yep, that's where I find my happiness.
5. It's so cool to be back with your buddies.
Speaking of friendly faces, I could hardly resist putting my arms through the TV to kiss good old Petrus de Thorolun when I passed him hanging around the Fire League ruins.
This time, however, the feeling didn't seem to be mutual. "You're doing business with us? If not, I'd rather keep my distance." <3
6. Dark Souls is good...
You can't beat the release of dopamine after defeating a boss, or that feeling of accomplishment when you've just discovered a shortcut to a campfire. On the second place very close? Succeeding in his first shot behind the back of a poor undead man. It's those little moments in Dark Souls that make it truly unique.
7. ...or not
What's the opposite of dopamine? I don't know - but whatever it is, it's guaranteed to send two things into my neural system: Black Knights and being poisoned by a giant rat.
The first time I saw the first one, standing motionless like a stone at the end of a corridor, it sent a familiar shiver of fear down my spine. The second, on the other hand, caused my first Dark Souls-inspired outburst of all kinds of rudeness since my last fight with Gwen, the Lord of Light all those years ago.
8. Prepare not to die
Without showing false modesty, I timed my first death at 53 minutes. I defeated the Refuge Demon with ease, and the Bull Demon bowed faster than you can scream "DEATH COMES FROM THE HEIGHTS!!"
Then yes, I can hear you. There are few bands online more tenacious than "Actually Dark Souls is super easy". That being said, when you know what you're doing, progress can be fast and satisfying. Still, it's a great feeling to finish an area in ten minutes that may have taken you days of torment before.
9. Pride comes before the fall
But with Dark Souls, it's exactly that kind of complacency that will get you in trouble. There are few video games where disaster can strike with such unexpected speed - even when you know every inch of the terrain. My murderer? Those damn rats guarding the entrance to the Undead Parish.
10. And after the fall? Calamity.
Annoyed that what I thought was a bubble of invincibility had been pierced so easily, I decided to charge across the battlefield headlong to the nearest campfire to retrieve my lost souls.
And, as expected, with the pressure and loss of concentration, I was shot down before reaching my objective. Farewell, all my beautiful, hard-earned souls. Never forget, Dark Souls takes malicious pleasure in punishing greed or pride. On May 25, remember to be humble!
*All right, all right, all right - I've been totally fooled by the old 'burning barrel pushed down the stairs'. *(ツ)_/¯