Dark Souls 2 PC Review
Sitting atop a rugged cliff stands a towering monument, isolated from its surroundings and unnerving in its presence – its purpose: to reveal the number of times poor fellows in the world have met their untimely demise. Isolation is a key theme in Drangleic – and so this pillar of despair’s existence is particularly apt.
20,000 deaths – so many of my journo brethren massacred in this land torn asunder – and yet they continue to venture onwards throughout the treacherous paths that lay wait for them. I believe this speaks volumes for the Dark Souls 2 experience, which is only enhanced on the PC platform – unlike its predecessor.
The game is well optimised throughout and even fairly modest systems will find no trouble achieving a stable framerate on medium settings (which still look a great deal better than their console counterparts). Dark Souls 2 only benefits from having PC as the lead platform this time around as the result is a much smoother experience, and comes with texture support for full 1080p and beyond. Dark Souls 2 PC weighs in at just over 11GB on Steam, which these days is a fairly average size and shouldn’t fill up your hard drive too much.
Mouse controls are a tizzy this time around as they are wholly functional, precise and even configurable. This is a welcome change when compared to the dreadful mouse functionality found in the first game.
Load times are a blessing in Dark Souls 2 PC, with transitions into new areas typically taking little more than two – three seconds tops on a 7,200 RPM hard drive. Users with 4.1 and 5.1 setups found Souls 1 to be a frustrating experience on PC as there were numerous problems with detecting sound devices and the likes – these issues are all resolved in the sequel.
The only real gripe I have with the technical side of Dark Souls 2 would have to be that the lighting system shown in earlier builds of the game is unfortunately noticeably absent – however this does not detract much from the game and it is still gorgeous, snazzy lighting or not.
A summary of Dark Souls 2’s technical improvements on PC can be found on PC Gamer in a guest article by Dark Souls 1 modder, Durante, the mind behind the fantastic DSfix which transformed Dark Souls 1 into a whole different beast by removing the 1024×720 resolution cap and included other various fixes.
I’m unsure as to whether this is a placebo effect or not, but with the silky smooth fps that you can consistently play at in Dark Souls 2, it feels a much more challenging experience as reactions must be on-point. Although milliseconds of difference in truth, you can certainly feel it.Dark Souls 2 remains a challenging experience throughout and although you’ll quickly learn how to fight your foes quite easily for the first few hours these soon become much more diverse in their movement patterns and so you’ll have to adapt on a regular basis – deaths will be in abundance, that much is guaranteed. There have, however, been fundamental changes to mob spawning and when an enemy has been defeated a certain number of times he’ll cease to spawn any further, making progression through an infuriating area a little less challenging and also eliminates easy soul farming.
Bonfires are a welcome sight no matter where you are. From Software rarely allow you to feel safe, but upon feeling the great warmth of the ethereal fire before you, for that brief period you do feel secure, the terrors of the world no longer relevant as you sit and contemplate your fate.
Boss fights live up to their reputation in the sequel and range from absolutely horrifying to downright frustrating. The scale of bosses vary, adding much variety to an already distinct set of creatures that inhabit the land. Pacing within battles seems a little slower, with more careful management necessary to ensure that you don’t suffer a deplorable loss of your human form.
Matchmaking has been improved considerably in Dark Souls 2 although invasions are fewer with the removal of the Red Eye Orb as there is no longer an item that can be used for infinite invasions. Cracked Red Eye Orbs are still available and work as they did in the first game.
As with Souls 1, there are a copious amount of spells, each with varying effects, damage and number of times you can use them. The game also provides a fine balance between realism and fun in terms of encumbrance – so while you can wield colossal swords, they will weigh you down, which when partnered with heavy armour turns you into a glacially slow mammoth of a man unable to dodge effectively.
Playing on both a 24” monitor at 1920 x 1080 and a 32” TV at 1080p also, the UI was crisp and clear at all times. From Software opted for a change to the inventory this time around and instead uses a grid system which makes navigation much less of a hassle and feels much more intuitive than that which is found in the first game.
There is little sense of direction in Dark Souls 2, other than a particularly eerie scene at the beginning of the game but this is certainly not a bad thing. Players are left to their own devices upon leaving the tutorial area and are free to wander as they please, which if they are anything like me stumbling into an area quite clearly not designed for my level 12 Deprived – they will soon be frustrated at their recurrent deaths.
Mob variety is excellent and the design of the many sentient beings you’ll encounter range from downright creepy to utterly bizarre, and trust me, when I say creepy, I mean Dead Space 1 freaky. Items, as always, are in abundance and there are tons of variations of each type each with differing art design. You’ll find monstrous greatswords to mutilate, falchions to cut and maim and even enormous clubs to bludgeon your opponent with.
The soundtrack complements gameplay, with music never seeming out of place. There are a number of varying tunes to fit a multitude of settings that the game will put you through, some will make you feel alone, and isolated from the world while others will get your adrenaline pumping as you fight your way through waves of enemies in order to reach a boss.
Overall, Dark Souls 2 on PC is a considerable improvement over its predecessor and while not a huge difference to console versions it remains an utterly horrifying, silky smooth, rewarding experience.
P.S. If you want more of a Dark Souls 2 fix then feel free to read Josh’s review of the console versions here.