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‘Dark Souls II’ on PC corrects past mistakes to become the definitive edition

Dark Souls II
Dark Souls II
Photo courtesy of Namco Bandai, used with permission

Dark Souls II (PC)

Rating:
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After launching first on Xbox 360 and PS3 last month, Dark Souls II has now finally released on PC. While it’s no secret that the PC port of the last Dark Souls game was marred by a number of flaws, From Software has shown that they are capable of learning from their past mistakes as the PC edition of the newest installment of the hardcore role-playing franchise delivers the most impressive way to play the series yet.

Dark Souls II
Photo courtesy of Namco Bandai, used with permission

The PC version of the first Dark Souls title was simply an afterthought to the game’s console release. From Software admitted, at the time, that the game was initially designed only for home consoles which caused the team to encountered problems when trying to move the title to PC due to player demand. As such, the PC edition of the game launched without many modern conveniences that have come to be expected including HD textures and other advanced graphics settings.

Wanting to make amends to PC players for the faults of the first game, From Software set out to create a truly superior experience while playing Dark Souls II on PC. After playing the game on Xbox 360 at launch, upgrading to the PC version points out the obvious differences between the two versions of the game.

For starters, the PC edition of Dark Souls II is the only way that fans can enjoy the game in full HD resolutions. While the game features a native 1024x720 resolution on Xbox 360 and PS3, the PC version supports up to 4k resolution. This upgrade alone makes the game look undeniably better on PC. The developer didn’t just stop at improved resolutions however. Dark Souls II on PC also provides players with a wide selection of graphical options which further enhance the game’s visuals on hardware that can handle the advanced specifications.

The first set of offered settings alters everything about the way the game looks. Gamers can choose to change the quality of shadows, effects, and even the textures themselves. All of these categories can be independently set to either low, medium, or high. Shadows can even be turned completely off for better performance on low-end machines.

Dark Souls II PC players also have a variety of additional options that are fairly standard graphical tweaks such as antialising, anisotropic filtering, and motion blur toggles. While these settings may not be as grand as the other options, they are nonetheless staples that are expected to be found in PC games today.

Rounding out the optional visual improvements to the game, fans can also change the water surface quality in addition to having options for both model quality as well as the level of detail present in the title’s character models. Players may even choose to apply the improved rendering options to the player model alone so that only their character will benefit from the enhanced visuals. This allows for a better looking player model while keeping all other characters at low renders for improved performance.

Other settings include more traditional user settings that are fairly straight forward such as control setups and key mapping. Interestingly enough, players can also decide whether or not to restrict cross-regional online play which dictates whether the game’s multiplayer will pool from other countries or not.

All of these various in-game options for the PC edition of Dark Souls II can’t be found within the title’s console versions. This allows the game to run in much higher visual quality on PC. In fact, many of the graphical differences are so vast that it seems odd that From Software didn’t also release the game on Xbox One and PS4 considering the developer had to create high resolution textures and improved renders for the PC version so the assets would already exist for new-gen consoles.

Visual improvements aren’t the only advances that From Software has introduced to the franchise since the release of the first Dark Souls game. A number of game design improvements really help give players a more enjoyable time. The new feature that provides the biggest impact to the game is the added ability to instantly travel from one bonfire to any other bonfire that the player has also previously discovered. This helps greatly in cutting down the amount of time that gamers will spend backtracking the game world.

Another new feature is that enemies will stop spawning in an area after they have been defeated around a dozen times. This helps keep heavily trafficked areas clear from monsters after gamers have already cleared the area several times. However, this brings about its own set of issues. A finite number of monster spawns within Dark Souls II also makes it harder to acquire the precious souls need to level and purchase new equipment.

Overall, these design changes only make certain aspects of the game more convenient and don’t actually make it any less difficult. Anyone worried that the challenges of the franchise have been toned down can rest assured that Dark Souls II is just as relentless as its predecessor.

Furthermore, PC players who are cautious about picking up the game based upon their experiences from the first Dark Souls PC release should know that From Software has made huge advances on their PC development this time around. In fact, the PC edition of Dark Souls II does more than simply stay on par with the title’s console editions. From Software’s PC release of the game manages to deliver the best version of the unforgiving RPG that fans can experience.

Positives

  • HD textures and higher resolutions offer better visuals than any other version of the game.
  • Retains the series well-known difficulty, resulting in rewarding personal accomplishment

Negatives

  • Combat and animations still feel clunky
  • Can become overly repetitive

A copy of Dark Souls II was provided on PC for the purposes of this review.