Taking the PC Version for a Spin
Dark Souls 2 is a resoundingly good RPG, if our official review is anything to go by. But the original Dark Souls’ PC edition was, let’s face it, an abhorrent nightmare of a port. The studio, From Software, admittedly said (in so many words) “Look, we’re sorry, but we’re not PC guys. We’ll do better next time, I promise.” So it was with cautious fingers and eyes on my monitor that I booted up an early preview edition of DS2’s PC edition. I will say these things primarily: the graphics transferred nicely. The UI and controls, have not… yet.
Later this month on April 25th, the PC version of Dark Souls 2 will be released upon the hordes of PC gamers itching to die repeatedly, but in the kind of way that makes you say: just one more try. Thankfully, the game’s dark and brooding visuals have made a more apt transition to the PC this time that they originally did on Dark Souls 1. I didn’t have to hack into the game settings to get 1080 to work, or Anti-Aliasing, or any of that. There is full support for customizing mouse sensitivity, remapping controls on your keyboard, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, at least as of this writing, the client still defaults all menus and tutorials to the Xbox 360 controller commands.
Being an avid mouse and keyboard gamer when I’m, you know, using my pc I’m a bit miffed by this. Looking and poking around the menus for the mapped controls and suiting them to your own preferences isn’t too hard, once you find out that backspace defaults for the Xbox’s B, and Enter defaults for Start. Yes, you have to “Press Start” to get past the initial opening screen. Ah, the woes of a being a PC gamer sometimes.
Still, I’m not fond of the mouse and keyboard controls as they are set up. Everything minus the attacks are stretched too far out across the keyboard, so I suspect it won’t be long until some “best suggested” setup hits the web after release. If you’d like to save yourself some trouble, I’d highly suggest just plugging in a controller. I’m an M/KB guy, but to enjoy Dark Souls 2 proper I’m about to do the same.
What hasn’t suffered one single iota though, is DS2’s unforgiving and addictive gameplay. I was doing just fine through the first half hour of the game. Most undead I came across were slow and easy to dispatch if I waited for my opening. Then, off in the distance of a dimly lit and watery cavern… I saw a corpse lying on the ground with some item glowing on his person. In Dark Souls 2 terms, this means: it’s an item that could be the difference between life and death. The water in previous places had all been shallow, and in fact, this seemed shallow to my eyes too. Off I ran… to my sinking and drowning first death. That’s right; Dark Souls 2 just trolled me. Using the terrain and default camera position, it hit the fact that the spot right in front of the corpse was a huge drop-off. This death sets the tone for the whole game. If it’s not the mobs that surprise and kill you, it’ll be the world itself.
Dark Souls 2 still does have the worst looking character faces and body models I’ve seen this side of the last console generation, but luckily you’ll find helmets and masks to cover that up sooner or later. Heck, when your decaying undead self looks better than the “life-filled” version, you know there’s a problem. The combat is still the same balanced but brutal affair that favors the patient over the aggressive. And there are mysteries and puzzles galore to be solved in the world as well.
Overall it seems that this PC port of Dark Souls 2 is far better than From’s freshman effort. The textures are far more crisp this time around, the framerate is rock solid, and the mouse and keyboard controls are decent, if albeit still a little rough around the edges. If the team can fix it so that all menus and tutorials adhere to whatever control option you’re using, then I’ll consider the port a triumph. Until then, it’s still a little too much “console version’s sloppy seconds” for me. Still, the gameplay is absolutely tight and punishing, without being too cheap. If you’ve been waiting for the PC version, chances are you’re going to buy this anyway. Just be glad to know it’s a far better port than last time.