Despite From Software’s punishing behemoth finding a new home on PC, nothing critical at all has changed since our Dark Souls II console review. Death, death, death, success, death, death, annoyance, deep breath, death, success. Dark Souls II PC is the exact game that Mick slapped a big fat 10/10 on back in March, so if you want to find out what the core experience of Dark Souls II is like then by all means go and check out the console review – that in-depth analysis still stands. Only now, the grass moves quicker.
And by that I mean that Dark Souls II PC is the same game. After the post-release furore over Dark Souls II’s lighting engine – comparing the reveal footage to the final game shows a drastic reduction in the importance of the new torch mechanic in exploration – many people hoped that the PC version of Dark Souls II might capture the fidelity of that early footage. Sadly, however, it does not restore those ambitious light and shadow concepts. Dark Souls II PC is the same game.
This isn’t to say that Dark Souls II PC isn’t without improvements in the visuals department. Unlike its predecessor, it does not require the help of a fan to have it run at a reasonable resolution and framerate; Dark Souls II offers a host of resolution options and visual customisation off the bat, alongside customisable PC controls. From the get-go Dark Souls II feels like a far superior PC port than Dark Souls I, showing that From Software are clearly more informed of the expectations of the platform. Well, they had to throw out a quick pre-release patch that added the ability to scroll menus with the mouse wheel, but still…
Actually, while we’re talking controls and whatnot, it’s worth noting that you can only customise them to an extent. Some commands let you can choose the exact button you want to have activate the action, but others force a list of potential inputs upon you, often button combos requiring some minor finger acrobatics, so they’re not absolutely tweak-able. Honestly, though, you’ll probably want to whack in a controller anyway. The game features Xbox 360 button prompts regardless of whether you play with pad or keys, and this can cause numerous memory jogging trips to your control options as you start out if you’re unwilling to wrap your hands round a controller.
Anyway, visuals. There’re the obvious improvements that come from greater resolutions, with Dark Souls II PC offering a far clearer image than its console counterpart. Likewise, the framerate is both silky and smooth, noticeably outclassing the 360 and PS3 versions and organically making the simple act of playing the game even more enjoyable.
Then there are the minor, but noticeable, tweaks. Wander around Majula for a bit and you’ll spot far more small particles flittering around, dust and bits of debris, as well as more moving objects on the ground. Small elements, admittedly, but small elements that all feed into the choking atmosphere that is so crucial to Dark Souls II. Nose into the houses and you can admire the higher detail on the character models. Sit by the bonfire and you can’t help but be absorbed by its finely flickering flame. Dark Souls II on PC may not restore the original visual pitch, but it’s certainly a noticeable improvement regardless.
Speaking of that argument, the lighting is improved. Well, shadows are anyway. On PC you’ll notice full character shadows, both from your torch and from general light sources in the world, and this is a change that will likely make you want to use your torch – fighting with full, dynamic shadows bending and stretching around the stone walls gives a genuinely superior sense of ambiance.
And loading is much, much, much quicker. You’d expect this on PC, but in a game like Dark Souls II, where you have to go through a pair of loading screens every time you want to level up thanks to a needless change to the last game’s established mechanic, saving around 5-10 seconds on every individual load will add up to a considerable amount of time by the end of the game.
VERDICT: If you had issues with Dark Souls II on console then Dark Souls II PC will not fix them. If you were hoping that this would be the gorgeous next-gen Souls experience we were shown in that first video then, well, it isn’t. But if you were holding out to find out just how the PC version of Dark Souls II performs then know, with full confidence, that it is far and away the superior version, and that’s without the need to download any sort of fan-made patch. The cycle of death and success has never felt this good.
INCREDIBLE. This is the pinnacle of our scoring spectrum, reserved for games that truly affect us, that capture our imagination so completely that they affect the standard by which we measure future games. 10/10 is not a declaration of perfection, but an assurance that the game in question is of amazingly high quality and has exceeded our expectations.
Review code provided by publisher.