Dark Souls II PC Review – The Best Way To Die
It’s safe to say at this point that everyone knows the basic premise for Dark Souls; you’re alone, you’re outnumbered, and you will die. When Dark Souls II was announced the Internet went nuts with hype and speculation, with just one question clouding minds with doubt: will it live up to the legacy of the original? Good news is, it totally does and the rumours that circulated assuming the game would be easier can be quickly quashed. Dark Souls II is every bit as hardcore as its predecessor, and yes, you will die a lot.
The game introduces you to the world of Dark Souls II with a beautifully detailed cutscene which outlines that the only hope you have of ever reclaiming your humanity is a long and arduous path, filled with suffering and despair. Which is perfect for Dark Souls. Enemies which can be reached early-on give you the swift lesson that almost everything is dangerous and likely tougher than you, a theme which remains true for much of the game. The tutorial is much kinder than what you would’ve found in the original DS, as it actually walks the player through three areas while teaching all the basics through practice. Conveniently placed enemies allow you get to grips with critical hits, two-handed combat and even more complex aerial maneuvers.
The story in Dark Souls II, just like in its predecessor, is told through the environments, areas and items. Every item has a detailed description, and often players are left to make their own theories and decisions on what happened with the game world. Castles, villages and wharfs are filled with the crazed Hollows that once lived as humans, offering a consistently dark and depressing atmosphere. It’s all part of the Dark Souls experience, and it’s an experience I relished from beginning to end.
Controls on the PC version of the game are nice and work fine. The entire game is controllable with mouse and keyboard and does a much better job oat this than the original PC release of Dark Souls. Whilst the original DS on PC had many problems including a locked frame rate at 30FPS and 720p resolution, Dark Souls II happily does away with all these issues. 60FPS is available instantly and the game supports resolutions up to 4K straight away, which is more than high enough for a vast majority of gamers. The “quality” of the original Dark Souls on PC made a lot of gamers fear for this port, but ultimately it’s safe to say that they did a much better job and the PC version is undoubtedly the best way to play Dark Souls II. Keep in mind that while keyboard and mouse controls are fine and work, the game is still best played with a controller.
Exploration in Dark Souls is key. A classic throwback to before detailed maps and quest icons told us where to go in games, Dark Souls II really lets the player make their own decisions about how to traverse the world. If one area or boss is posing too much of a threat, perhaps try and go down a different route or defeat enemies for souls which can buy or reinforce equipment or even level up your abilities.
The only real sense of urgency is created by the game organically; the story doesn’t put you in a corner and tell you that something awful is happening and you should rush, the game doesn’t force you into these devised ways to make you feel panicked. Instead, it’s all natural and most situations happen because of player curiosity. Bosses appear because the player walked right into their domain, enemies chase you because you took a step too close to them, and you panic because you created a situation where you’re outnumbered, outmatched and in danger of losing progress. This feeling of being in control of what happens but simultaneously being overwhelmed is just one part of the Dark Souls II experience which makes it so unique.
Graphically, Dark Souls II on PC outperforms its console counterparts on virtually every element. Resolution is higher, texture quality can be set higher, there is better anti-aliasing, SSAO, characters model quality is higher… Every graphic option can be set to be better than what we’ve seen on console. On console, make no mistake, the areas tended to look beautiful in places, eerie in others, but mainly because of the artwork, which truly shines on PC. Light shafts filter through high-up windows and bonfires look gorgeous surrounded by a glowing orange hue; the game, although mostly dark and sad, has moments of true beauty. Praise the Sun!
And of course, atmosphere would be nothing if not for incredible sound design. Monsters howl in pain and anger, footsteps echo, torches and bonfires crackle away. Whilst the game doesn’t have much in the way of a soundtrack for the most part, in some areas incredible scores kick in, such as bossfights, and this contributes to the epic and intense feeling of those moments.