Dark Souls 2 PC Preview: An upgrade of the downgrade
PC gamers have been waiting a long time to find out exactly how much better the PC version of Dark Souls 2 will look. PC master race jokes aside, the TL;DR version of this preview is that the game, while receiving no actual graphical update, runs smoother, and looks better thanks to its higher resolution.
Many fans who anticipated the very dark version of Dark Souls 2, which looked like it would make players rely heavily on torches (one of DS2's new underused gameplay mechanics) were left disappointed once the game came out. The end result looked vastly different from what we'd seen in previews. The lighting was changed drastically, to a point where torches were basically useless and various textures lost some fidelity. Unfortunately, the PC version of Dark Souls 2 doesn't fix this. While this shouldn't come as a surprise, those hoping for a drastically different looking game will be sorely disappointed.
Graphically speaking, Dark Souls 2 looks phenomenal. You'll no longer need to rely on Durante and his dsfix to make your Dark Souls graphics shinier. Everything is fully detailed, right down to the smallest notches in armor. The way cloth sways with your armor looks even better here. Oh, and just wait until you see some of the gorgeous vistas. Looking out into the ocean from Majula, or even looking back at Majula as it's soaked in the orange of the setting sun, is breathtaking.
That view... (Click to enlarge to full resolution)
Here's a screenshot I took from Heide's Tower of Flame. Honestly, it doesn't do the game justice, as you can't see here the rolling waves and the particles from the bonfire flying by, but trust me, the game is gorgeous. Of course, all of this is made even better by the fact that the game runs at a solid 60fps. This will undoubtedly depend on your individual PC specs, but I haven't suffered any slowdown on any of the bosses I've faced thus far.
The framerate was actually the biggest issue for PS3 users, while 360 users suffered some bad screen tearing. None of these two issues are present in the PC version of the game, which is great news for those that held out.
The battlefield of men and Giants... (Click to enlarge to full resolution)
Here's another screenshot from the Forest of the Fallen Giants, right outside the bonfire with the merchant hag. You can see that for the most part, it 'looks' the same as it does on consoles, just crisper and sharper. Also you can see the particles a little better on this screenshot on the top right.
The other topic related to the PC are the controls. When Dark Souls originally came out on the PC, it didn't support the mouse and keyboard, no matter how hard you tried to make it work. That game 100% required the use of a gamepad. FROM has stated that they would work on the PC controls to make the game just as playable with a mouse and keyboard, as with a gamepad. To put it as delicately as I can, that's a load of crap. Sure, the game is 'playable' with a mouse and keyboard, but it's still inexplicably complicated. When Shift and left click makes you use your currently held consumable, you know something's weird.
However, FROM did make it possible to completely remap the mouse and keyboard controls to your liking, just in case you truly plan on murdering yourself and playing the game that way. Seriously, the game is meant to be played with a gamepad, and given that there are so many choices in PC gamepads, not to mention the tried and true Xbox 360 controller, there isn't an excuse anymore.
Lastly, personally coming from the PS3 version, I suffered through some terrible loading times. I could overlook the longer load times between bonfire teleports, but when the game struggled to load conversation dialogue, that was both jarring and annoying. Thenkfully, the PC boasts incredibly short load times.
We'll be getting a deeper hands-on with Dark Souls 2 later this week at a Namco event, so we'll be sure to update our story accordingly. However, as of right now, the PC version is without a doubt the superior version (as if there was ever any doubt). With a solid and completely smooth framerate with no screen tearing issues and a much higher and crisper resolution, this is how Dark Souls 2 is meant to be experienced.