I finished Dark Souls Remastered yesterday, and I have many thoughts about my return to Lordran. One, I maintain my belief that this is the best Soulsborne game out of the ones I’ve played* because it was so fresh and innovative for the time. Things we take for granted now (interconnected levels, elaborate level design, hard-as-nails bosses, unforgiving death system, summoning, and the list goes on and on) were on display in this game. Yes, I know many of them were in Demon’s Souls as well, but they are much more polished in this game.
One thing I loved about this playthrough was comparing it to how the first playthrough went at the same points in time. First of all, even though I did a shit-ton of grinding in this playthrough, I still finished the whole game (plus the DLC) in roughly forty-two hours–which is less than a third of the time it took for my first playthrough. Or so Steam says. I’d say 5-10 hours of this playthrough was me grinding for levels, upgrade materials, and humanity, so the actual gameplay time was closer to thirty-two hours. Now, I’m on NG+ through the Capra Demon in roughly an hour and a half, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
I romped through the Northern Undead Asylum and the Undead Burg with nothing but my trusty Hand Axe and Fireballs. Yes, I was a pyro again because it’s all I ever want to be in these games. It felt like coming home to swing the Hand Axe or hurl off a fireball. It also was amazing how easily I could recall every minute detail of the map and enemy placement. I’ve mentioned before that I have spatial awareness difficulties, but for some reason, I was able to overcome it with this game. I think it’s partly because I had to play areas over and over in my first playthrough until they were seared in my brain. Now, I can go to, say, the Undead Burg and be like, “OK. Up the stairs, pause for the hellkite drake, then there are three Hollows waiting. There’s a fourth further up who is an archer. There are two Hollow Soldiers to the right guarding a hidden staircase down to the Undead Merchant (Male). There’s a door that leads to the Wooden Shield. Up the stairs to the left is the bonfire.” It’s a bit scary how much of this game is embedded in my, ahem, soul. I haven’t played the original in over a year, and it was as if I had never left.
There’s a mod for DS II that mixes up enemy placement, and while it sounds intriguing, it also sounds like my worst nightmare. One of the strengths in a Souls game is how scary a new area is, and how, by the end of it, it becomes, if not comfortable, then at least very familiar. The element of surprise is used to great effect by FromSoft to make you terrified every time you enter a new area. Once that’s taken away, everything becomes much more manageable. For example, the Asylum Demon. First time I fought him for realsies, I thought I would never beat him. Now, four or five fireballs to dat ass, and he was toast. Literally.
I also am much better at knowing what I want to do and in which order. Once I hit Firelink Shrine, I went into the graveyard specifically to grab the Zwei** and managed to run by all the skellies. I was going to be a strength/pyro which has been my jam since I tried it out in DS III. I went into New Londo Ruins to get the Fire Keeper Soul to strengthen my Estus Flask. Then, I proceeded down the ‘right’ path and decimated everyone who dared cross me.
Let’s talk stats. In my first playthrough, I did what most people do–put the levels in at random, thinking to keep things fairly even. This is a sensible approach that doesn’t work the best in Souls games. I feel the games are made in a way that encourages true builds, which means pumping two or three stats rather than spreading out the levels evenly. This time, I focused on Strength and Endurance so I could handle the big girl’s weapons. YES I MEAN THE ZWEI WHICH I USED THROUGHOUT THE GAME AFTER MAXING IT OUT AT +15. I’ll get to that in a minute as well. I put enough points into Attunement so I have five spell slots, and I have two rings that give me an extra slot each.