The original Dark Souls is a fantastic yet punishing experience – a game that rightly won the adoration of console gamers across the world. When an eager PC fan base finally got to play the game they too had a punishing experience, except in their case it was due to a shoddy bare-bones port. Indeed, the only positive thing that could be said about From Software’s first PC port attempt was that it worked…mostly.
From Software promised to atone for its sins with the PC release of Dark Souls II, but after being so badly burned by their previous effort, more than a few doubts were held by an eager yet wary fan base. Well, the verdict is finally in.
It’s good. In fact, it’s very good.
Free of the archaic 1024x720 resolution of its predecessor, Dark Souls II runs natively at any resolution your PC can throw at it. But it’s not just the resolution options that see an upgrade for the PC version of this amazing game.
Anti-aliasing, ambient occlusion, and depth of field options are welcome additions, as are multiple options for textures, shadows, water and effects quality. In fact, the options in here are everything a PC gamer would expect to see, and unsurprisingly make its visuals noticeably better than those on either of the console versions.
The frame rate lock has also been increased. No longer do PC gamers have to deal with 30 or even 15 frames per second that they were locked to in Dark Souls – now a full 60 frames a second is the ceiling, and while a completely unlocked FPS would be preferred, it’s still a massive leap forward.
In fact, Dark Souls II at 60FPS is a revelation, with smooth animations and lighting-quick responsiveness alone making the PC port the definitive version of the game. Death in Dark Souls II is a constant companion, but on PC it will never be the result of sludgy controls or control lag. That makes the frame rate easily the biggest advantage the PC has over consoles. Thankfully, it does not require a bank-busting ÜberRig to achieve either: any mid-range gaming PC will run the game at a solid clip, with most of the visual bells and whistles still in place.
Keyboard and mouse controls in the first Dark Souls were completely broken, and made the game utterly unplayable. From Software has made huge strides in this pairing a viable control method for the sequel, and while it is still inferior to a controller in almost every respect, at least this time those with a strong aversion to controllers will not be forced to wrangle with a dual-sticked thumb-cramper. Keyboard and mouse make the game an even more challenging experience, but hey – some people are sadomasochists anyway.
The final improvement here over the previous title is the exclusion of the now-dead Games for Windows Live multiplayer implementation. Free of this much-maligned system, Dark Souls II multiplayer actually works as intended, and the experience is the same regardless of platform.
From Software has successfully corrected its past mistakes with the PC port of Dark Souls II, and given PC gamers a port they deserve. If you had any hesitation about picking the game up based on the broken nature of its predecessor, hesitate no more. Dark Souls 2 on PC is fantastic, and by far the best version available.
Note: this review is only focussed on the technical aspects of From Software's Dark Souls II PC port. For more about the game's story and gameplay, you can read our full review of the PlayStation 3 version here.