Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin PS4 review

Continuing the recent trend of remasters, From Software has re-released Dark Souls II for the current generation...

Love them, or hate them, remasters are seemingly here to stay, with some worthy re-releases gracing new hardware, and others that barely earn their second run to store shelves. With Bloodborne doing very well for itself on PS4, From Software is the next developer trying its hand at squeezing every drop out of an older release, bringing Dark Souls II to the current generation of consoles. Is it more than a cash-grab, or does this remaster warrant another look? Let’s see.

Dangerously detailed

Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin is a full remaster of the original game, and it’s got the expected higher resolution, faster frame rate, and retouched textures and lighting effects. Basically, it looks a lot better than the last gen outing, much more in line with the high-end PC version. The game runs very smoothly too, doing away with Souls‘ niggling slow downs for the most part, and the smoother frame rate really does improve the whole experience, even if the visuals are already looking a little dated, despite the remaster touch up. Put this next to Bloodborne, and the difference is like night and day. That said, DSII is still a good-looking title, with some gorgeous locations, and the added lightning effects and higher-resolution textures help make these stand out even more.

Of course, we’ve come to expect visual touch ups on remaster/re-releases, so what does this release do differently? Well, the major bonus here, especially for those yet to try it, is the inclusion of all three DLC expansions. The Crown of the Sunken King, Crown of the Old Iron King, and Crown Of The Ivory King are all present here, already part of the game. Many consider this DLC to be some of the best Souls content available, and it’s also pretty damn tricky too, extending the game’s lifetime by quite a margin. Each DLC title has its own unique setting and challenges, and there’s a host of new, powerful bosses to dominate.

Souls remix

The improved visuals and added DLC content is probably enough of a reason for most to warrant another purchase, especially if you’ve yet to play the game and/or the DLC, but if you’re a veteran Souls player, there’s another feature that’ll possibly be more appealing, and that’s the new enemy and item placement.

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From Software has spent time going back through the game, and has reworked many areas, moving enemies around, adding new selections of foes to some areas, and even moving items. The result is a game that’ll throw many, as they can no longer use the same approach to many areas. Think you know where you can get the Ring of Binding early on? Think again. Wonder what’s happened to that useful Heide Knight sword you grabbed right at the start? You’ll have to play on without it for a bit longer.

Many areas now host totally new selections of foes, with some important and essential items no longer in the same place, meaning you’ll have a whole new challenge ahead of you. Some of these changes are relatively minor, whilst others totally change whole areas. Heide’s Tower of Flame, for example, is a much more challenging area now, with a new enemy in particular that mixes things up a bit, and foes that instantly aggro after a certain point. It adds plenty of new challenge, and in some areas, it’s like playing the game for the first time, so unsure are you of what’s going to attack you next.

Along with the altered enemy layout and item positions, there’s also the Forlorn Invader, a new dark phantom invader that stalks you, and offers quite a fight. Yes, increased enemy difficulty, harder starting areas, and item shuffling just wasn’t enough, apparently.

These changes mean you’ll no longer know what’s coming, and so keeps the game fresh, even if you’ve played it to death on last gen consoles. Some of the new placements are interesting, whilst others are just downright mean (get used to mob ambushes), even making some of the game’s previously easy opening sections a far tougher challenge. Later on in the game, some changes don’t have the same effect, however, actually making some later areas easier than before, but on the whole, the remixed difficulty is arguably the highlight of the remaster, so much so I’d recommend owners of the last-gen game buy this. The only thing missing in my opinion is the option to play the game with its original enemy and item layout, but that’s not a deal breaker.

Return to Drangleic

On the face of it, Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin isn’t all that impressive when compared to other remasters. Visually, it’s a step up, but it’s not a current gen eye-melter, and if you’ve played the DLC already, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s little reason to get this. However, the improved visuals, much smoother frame rate, all the DLC, and the remixed enemies and items make for a great, if subtle remaster, and if you’re a hardened Souls fan, or you’ve yet to play the game, this is essential.

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4 out of 5