“Prepare for tough challenges.”
From Software was listed as one of the supporting third-party developers for the Switch last year, and fans were naturally excited about the possibility of the Dark Souls games coming to the console. Well, it’s finally happened. Dark Souls Remastered has been announced for the Switch, and it’s coming in May. But we’re not exactly thrilled with the announcement.
Souls fans were excited about the prospect of the game coming to Switch for one primary reason: the ability to play it on the go. Yes, the portability is a huge factor to take into consideration now that more games are being released across multiple platforms, but when you stop to think about it, is Dark Souls really the kind of game that suits handheld play? While it would be nice to have the game in your back pocket wherever you go, that doesn’t feel like something that’s absolutely necessary for a game like this.
For starters, Dark Souls and the other games in the Soulsborne series aren’t exactly meant to be played in short bursts. On the contrary, From Software’s games are more suited for longer sessions where you’re able to give them your full concentration. Unlike Skyrim or Breath of the Wild, Dark Souls isn’t really a game where you can quickly clear a level during a 10-minute train ride. Unless you’re a speedrunner or an experienced veteran, of course. But for most players and series newcomers, it’ll sure as hell take a lot more than just a short play session to get through the better part of the Undead Burg or even the Undead Asylum tutorial area. Let’s not forget that this is also a game that demands that you pay attention to it, lest you be struck down by a hollow and end up losing all your souls. Dark Souls isn’t a ridiculously difficult game, but it’s challenging enough with a steep learning curve that you’ll need time to get used to.
The online community is also a huge part of what makes Souls so special. We all know that the player messages can sometimes save your life, or lead you to a trollish death, but it sure wouldn’t be the same without those online servers. Playing the game on the go without a solid connection will completely remove that feature, and I shudder to think of the possibilities of having dropped connections if you put the Switch to sleep for a short period of time. Having the game disconnect from the server each time you sleep the Switch would be a major pain in the ass. And let’s not forget the fact that you have to save and quit to the main menu each time you want to reconnect in a Souls game. It’s the little things like these that make the Switch version of Dark Souls feel less appealing.
But all of this wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t for the other major announcement that Dark Souls Remastered is set to release on the PS4 and Xbox One as well. These superior versions pack significant upgrades, such as 60fps and 4K resolution options. Souls fans are all too familiar with the subpar PC version of the game, and the horrendous frame rate drops when trudging through Blighttown on consoles. The boost to the frame rate and resolution on current gen consoles is a major leap forward for Dark Souls, and it just feels silly to settle for a lesser version that only runs at 1080p (720p in handheld mode) and 30fps on the Switch.
Because Dark Souls is generally meant to be enjoyed as a home console experience, all of these factors contribute to painting a less than ideal picture of the Switch port. Not to mention the fact that the frame rate disparity pretty much confirms that there won’t be any cross-platform play for PVP fans. The Switch and the Xbox One have been cross-platform buddies for a year now, but with the difference in frame rate, it’d simply be unfair to have that kind of support for players on either platform. As far as PVP is concerned, it looks like the PS4 version is still going to be the best place for that with its larger install base.
I can think of a couple other reasons why the game would be great on the Switch, but those reasons will only apply to the most hardcore fans or players who are determined to experience as much of the game as possible. For instance, being able to take the game with you would be great if you were working on a new PVP build before you start engaging in online fights. We all know how much effort goes into making a solid PVP build, and that usually involves beating most of the game and then hunting down your ideal weapons and armor before getting to the meta level.
Players who just want to work on creating new character builds or play through the game multiple times for lore and exploration purposes could also benefit a lot from having the game in handheld fashion, but the fact of the matter is that not everyone is going to dive that deep into it. While Nintendo has done a great job of providing a complete control scheme with the Joy-Cons, playing it in handheld mode just isn’t going to be ideal for a demanding action game like Dark Souls. If the remastered version was exclusive to the Switch, we’d certainly be a lot more excited about it. But for now, it’s difficult to see why new players would choose the Switch port over the greatly superior PS4 and Xbox One versions instead. Ultimately, you’d have to really want to play Dark Souls on the go, and it remains to be seen how well the game even translates to that setup.