Dark Souls Remastered is one of those things where, for all the excitement, there's a deep undercurrent of trepidation. All of these feelings can be summarised thus: what if they fuck it up?
See, here's the thing. Dark Souls is the daddy. Alongside Demon's Souls and Bloodborne, it is one of Hidetaka Miyazaki and Fromsoft's masterpieces, a genre-defining experience that through word-of-mouth grew to smash hit status. This has not worked out too well for Dark Souls in some respects, with the marketing focus on the game's difficulty affecting later entries negatively. But it has made it worth remastering.
There are reasons to be wary, as well as cheerful. The biggest is simply that Fromsoft isn't remastering the game, but a Polish studio called QLOC (and the Switch version is being developed in China). QLOC at least has a good track record, and much of the 'remaster' seems to be incorporating effects developed by Fromsoft for later entries in the series.
Then again, there's also definite room for improvement in some technical areas, and a few aspects of the game that would benefit from a slight massage. Here's what I reckon the Dark Souls Remaster should be focusing on.
The Blighttown and New Londo framerates
I think there are a few other spots in the game where Dark Souls chugs a little, but by far the biggest offenders are a ladder in New Londo and the whole upper section of Blighttown. The New Londo one is incredibly annoying because the ladder in question is a shortcut, so basically every time you have to run back and fight the Four Kings you have to go through the eye strain of climbing at about 10 FPS.
And Blighttown. Oh man alive, Blighttown. Who could forget the first time they took tentative steps forwards into this dirty, ramshackle shantytown suspended in space – and was set upon by an absolutely savage framerate. As the pig men and warped residents launch their assault, the game chugs along and upsets your internal rhythm, making what would already be a tough and nasty section of the game positively nightmarish. Making this area run acceptably has to be number one on the list.
Give the Gravelord Covenant better feedback
One of Dark Souls' few flaws is that it has some amazing ideas which aren't implemented as well as they should be. I always loved the concept of the Gravelord covenant, which lets you spawn super-tough NPCs in the worlds of other players – but also places your 'summon' sign in that world. If a player wants to get rid of the enemies they can try to hunt you down, while you're hoping the NPCs will take them out.
But Gravelording was a lonely experience and didn't give players much useful in the way of feedback. You never really knew whether the phantoms were infesting other worlds, and killing other players. You just put down your sign, hoped, and waited for a rare invasion. This covenant has the potential to be so much more, but in the original game it left something to be desired.
That Lava Bit Before Lost Izalith Man, WTF
The only bit in the whole of Dark Souls that I would describe as 'bad' is an enormous open arena filled with lava and populated by (I'm not even kidding) pairs of giant dino-legs that walk around trying to stomp you. If Miyazaki doesn't have the time to oversee a slight rejig of this, the game would be no poorer if it was minimised or somehow removed.
Add the Re-Spec Option from the Sequels
I've put thousands of hours into Dark Souls. I love it, and I will play it again. But for the love of Gwyn, please don't make me have to create a new character every time I want to try out a different build. The sequels added items that allowed endgame players to re-spec their characters, and limited them in number so it's still quite a big decision – something like that would be perfect.
And Add the 'Activity' Markers from Dark Souls III's Bonfires
When you're looking through the bonfires you can travel to in Dark Souls III, the game gives you an idea of how active the area is with little ember symbols. If there are lots, you know that's a good place to go for some co-op or to invade a few noobs. It's a minor quality-of-life change but, as someone who loves the PvP side of these things, it really makes a difference.
But Don't Retcon the Sequels In
Just keep them away from it. Don't touch the script, and especially don't dream of stuff like adding 'more' Solaire summons. The temptation to add things with hindsight that line up the later games will be almost irresistible, but the urge must be fought.
Give the PvP Arena More Information
You may not know this, but Dark Souls' Artorias of the Abyss DLC added a PvP arena. With the news that this remaster will include support for up to six players online, the time is ripe for this to actually get some use – because in the original game, it was all-too-often empty. There are several reasons for this, the most likely being a PvP hotspot existing around the nearest bonfire, but one aspect I always found frustrating is the lack of information the game gives you – sometimes I'd be stood there for a half hour, when clearly no other players were searching, and I just wish the game had some way of indicating that. Mystery is good, pointless obfuscation that wastes players' time is not.
Let Darkmoons Invade Darkwraiths More Often
I played so much Dark Souls PvP. And there are reliable covenants for invasions, obviously the Darkwraiths which can invade anyone and then the Forest Crew (my headcanon title) where you'd wear a ring and regularly get summoned in to defend some trees. But I never found the Darkmoons all that great – these lot are supposed to be the Darkwraiths' enemies, the cops to their robbers if you like. The mechanic worked, for sure, it just didn't have the hitrate of other covenants – but if it did, you'd genuinely have a blue team and red team fighting it out all over Lordran. As well as a bunch of heroic Darkmoons who, as part of the game's lore, are out there protecting the Dark Souls noobs from the nasty Darkwraiths. If the dedicated servers don't improve this side of it, that's a wasted opportunity.
Let Invaders Use Estus
OK, OK, this one's a bit selfish. But I never liked how hosts in Dark Souls can heal as standard, while invaders have to use a humanity sprite. The sequels changed this, and this is one retcon I'd begrudgingly like to see – some may argue that this should stay in on principle, and fair enough. I'd prefer a more level playing field, especially with the amount of ganking that went on first time around. Which reminds me...
Bring Back Black Phantoms!
One of the most persistent and unproven urban myths about Dark Souls is that players who got hold of the game before it was released got quite a surprise. Their worlds were filled with 'black phantom' versions of Smough, one of the game's bosses, which had crazy stats and would repeatedly one-shot the interlopers. True? Who knows.
But one thing that is clear is that Dark Souls' design at one stage made much more use of black phantoms, and the only real hangover of them is in the Gravelord covenant. The game already has these enemy types and spawns built-in, and it'd be a lovely surprise if certain NG+ rollovers could somehow bring them in as standard.
Whew! I DIED. And just to address some other points that might be raised...
I like the fact you can't warp between bonfires until you've 'achieved' something in the game. You really learn this world much more than you ever did in Dark Souls II or III.
The Bed of Chaos is a gimmick fight, but I think it works as a gimmick. Some people despise it, but I don't think it should go – the payoff in particular I always find a little creepy and sad.
General PvP connection issues, lag etcetera – with the move to dedicated servers, I'm expecting that all the online elements will work more effectively.