Having spent over a thousand hours playing Dark Souls on the PC - and dozens of hours on the original console versions - it would be fair to say I have a special relationship to the game. Dark Souls is my Mario and Zelda all rolled into one, a transformative experience that at this point in my life has become more ritual than entertainment, a series of moments and tasks that produce a Zen-like state of mind. I have learned genuine life lessons about patience, generosity and persistence from playing Dark Souls and its brethren games.
I'm not alone. Souls players tend to be like me, fanatics about the games, their mysterious lore, exploits and moments of despair and triumph. The internet being what it is, the Souls community is particularly demanding, harsh and detail oriented, so the announcement of Dark Souls Remastered was met with equal amounts of anticipation and cynical skepticism. Optimists dreamed of the Dark Souls experience remade to Dark Souls 3 graphical standards and speed, while less generous fans feared the Remastered version would simply be a cash grab to keep From Software's income stream flowing.
While it's hard to be disappointed by Dark Souls - and the potential introduction of the game to legions of new console and PC players is real reason to celebrate - the new release has no new content. The majority of improvements are framerate and minor texture upgrades and a host of "quality of life" tweaks, like the ability to use multiple items at once or create multiplayer encounters with six players. Although there are a number of new lighting and particle effects, those hoping for a real transformation will be disappointed. PC fans have been using the dsfix mod for years to improve framerate and sharpness of detail, but at a cost. Remastered brings a stable 60fps to consoles and PC alike and while some ugly or unfinished textures remain as ugly or unfinished as ever, overall Remastered looks better.
Everything else - the placement of items and enemies, the bosses and missions and inscrutable, allegorical story told through minimalist dialog and item descriptions - is exactly the same as in the "Prepare to Die" edition. There are no new surprise areas or NPCs. Fighting through Blightown doesn't mean fighting the framerate anymore but it's is just as replete with frustrations and the endgame areas still feel rushed and incomplete.
I guess, when it comes down to it, I was one of those optimists that was hoping for a real transformation that would make Dark Souls feel truly new again. Remaster doesn't do that, but from the vast number of players that are putting down their summons signs, a lot of new players are diving into this incredible game or maybe like me, easing back into that familiar rhythm. Dark Souls Remastered doesn't do anything but give us the best version of one of the best games ever made.