Dark Souls 2 PC Review: Smooth & Silky
The moment thousands of gamers have been waiting for has come, and a day early. Today was supposed to be the official release date for Dark Souls 2 on the PC, but the game unlocked at 6PM EST last night, giving players the ability to start their arduous journey through the land of Drangleic ahead of schedule.
If you were able to withhold on buying Dark Souls 2 until now, I commend you for your patience. I can tell you that the PC version was worth waiting for. If you happened to check out my Preview of the PC build from a few weeks ago, then you already know that the framerate is better, the screentearing is gone and the resolution goes as far as your monitor can handle. Outside of better performance, you're still getting the same exact Dark Souls 2 experience that console players have been enjoying since March 11th. If you want to know more about the game and its story in general, check out our official review of the console version here.
Let's recap on what makes the PC version of Dark Souls 2 the definitive version. First and foremost, as I mentioned, the game not only looks much better, thanks to full HD resolution, but also runs at a solid 60 frames per second. For a Souls game, every frame matters, whether it's dodging at the last second or executing a satisfying parry. Having an increased framerate is an amazing bonus to already satisfying gameplay. Unfortunately, if you're looking for footage of this, YouTube can't show this since it scales all gameplay videos to 30fps. Trust me, there's a clear difference.
The console version was plagued by horrendous loading times, especially the PS3 version. This was made even worse considering the game required the player to constantly teleport between their current location and Majula in order to level up. These loading screens could sometimes take 30 seconds or more. Even NPC conversations suffered from bad loading, since it would sometimes take the game a few extra seconds just to load up the next line. It was infuriating to say the least. The PC version has none of this. Loading takes just a few seconds between each area and I'm able to skip conversations now without any sort of delay.
I'd also argue that the online play is far improved, but this might be on a case by case basis. For instance, I had no trouble at all connecting to other players and tackling a boss. On the console version, there were times where the game would notify me that another player was being summoned only for the game to tell me it failed 15 seconds later. Sometimes, it even booted me off of online mode altogether. So far every one of my summons in the PC version has worked, with the exception of the ones that I'm too late to summon because someone else has already done so.
Other players were in my game within a matter of seconds. No tedious waiting, just instant satisfaction. With that said, my colleague Andrew's online experience wasn't as great. Apparently summoning didn't go as smoothly, and sometimes it took him up to a minute to be summoned into another players world after receiving the message that it was happening. Whether this had anything to do with the game or the internet is inconclusive at this point.
Since Dark Souls 2 doesn't use Games for Windows Live anymore, your actual character name is used when being summoned by other players. That's pretty awesome.
An interesting omission is that the Steam version doesn't support cloud saving. For someone like me who migrates from PC to PC thanks to my job, I would have appreciated being able to pick up where I left off from my main computer. Maybe this is a feature that's still coming, but as of right now, it's not supported.
Apart from catering to PC visuals, FROM Software also made sure that if players want to play with a mouse and keyboard, they have the option. The controls are now fully customizable. With that said, I'm still an advocate for playing with a gamepad, especially a game like Dark Souls 2. There are just too many things to worry about, and the gamepad puts all of these controls in a familiar spot. If you have a gamepad, I highly recommend using it for Dark Souls 2. If you don't have one, I highly recommend you change that.
Even though the game just released, it's already benefitting from one of saviors of Dark Souls on the PC, Durante. There is already a mod which he built that makes the already pretty game much prettier, and this is just the beginning. Dark Souls 2 will only benefit from the modding community in the future, so if you're left unimpressed with the unfortunate downgrade of the lighting, there might be future mods that might fix that.
While I still believe the first Dark Souls is superior, Dark Souls 2 is still a fantastic follow-up full of tough encounters, and the PC version is easily the definitive way to play it.