Dark Souls II has followed its console release up with a PC port! How does this version compare to the others? 411's Marc Morrison checks in with his full review!
Title: Dark Souls 2
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: Action RPG
Rated: T for Teen
Honestly, what is there to say about Dark Souls 2? Nothing I could really write here could sway you one way or another. If you like Dark Souls 1, or Demonís Souls, then this game is certainly for you. If you have a slight interest in the game, or want to pick it up on a whim, heed my warning: the game is brutal, unforgiving, grueling, and doesnít explain (at best) about 55% of the systems going on in the game. The baffling thing though is that the game does get inside your head in an insidious way to make you keep going. This isnít really a review of the game itself, more just on the PC side of the equation.
First, you need a gamepad for this game, preferably the Microsoft 360 Wired gamepad (or wireless version). While Dark Souls 2 does have mouse/keyboard support it is badly implemented, mapping your four attacks to the two mouse buttons, one left mouse button controls left attack (double click for strong attack) and the same for the right mouse button. Youíll need a gamepad for this game, and if you canít get a 360 gamepad, get one of those emulator programs that fools your PC into thinking it is plugged in.
The game runs perfectly fine, from a technical perspective, actually. I did encounter one crash to desktop, when I went into video settings menu. This only happened once though, so Iím inclined to think it was just a once-off bug. The visuals have a nice bump up from the 360/PS3 version also, with, now, a nice suite of video options. The original Dark Souls on PCís options were basically ďDo you want graphics or not?Ē The options here are for actual PC games: texture quality, antialiasing, depth of field, motion blur, resolution, and so on. As of the time of this writing there is already a mod for the game called ďGeDoSaToĒ which gives you more granular control over the graphical options (if you want), but as opposed to DS1, the mod feels like an extra thing for DS2, and not a requirement before playing the game. Thankfully, the much-hated GFWL (Games for Windows Live) client is dropped from this game, so saving ad patching is now a cinch.
As for the game visuals themselves, it really does look nice. Youíll likely need to bump up the brightness by some degree, but what I played of Dark Souls 1 was a grim, depressing, claustrophobic place. While it did have some open areas, there was an almost permanent gloom to the world. This game has some actual brightly lit areas. While the very beginning is somewhat drab, the second you escape from the caves and see the town of Majula, bathed in a perpetual sunset, it is really quite pretty. Itís akin to when you walked out of Vault 101 for the first time in Fallout 3 and saw the world around you.
Online works well in the game alsoÖto a certain degree. You can use the covenant system to try to link up with your friends to either draw them into your world, or to go into theirs and fight a boss together. The netcode works well, and I saw no lag with this feature, or being invaded by others into my world. HoweverÖlike with the first game, Cheat Engine rears its head up with this game. Within the first hour of the game being released to the masses (I mostly played a reviewer version), someone invaded my realm, and one-hit killed me. Now, that guy could have been just so good as to be better than the character I had about 15 hours in, but ďnoĒ. He used Cheat Engine, and boosted his skills up to max level to slaughter everything in sight. This problem will only escalate once the real trainers and hacks come into fruition (Iíd guess 16 hours), and the mass hacking begins. If you do want to play online, make sure you do it only with friends, or people you know. Otherwise, youíll end up dead.
Audio is also handled well, music is pleasant enough, sound effects have a good weight to them, and the voice acting is all done by some rock solid English and Irish folk. I didnít go through the full credits list, but at least 95% of the cast is from those two areas. Of special note is Peter Serafinowicz who is just about awesome in anything he does.
I havenít mentioned a lot of Dark Souls 2ís gameplay, and thatís kind of intentional. I honestly, just donít think it is a game for me. I can recognize that it is of reasonably high quality and it does have its voracious fans, but the way the game doesnít explain itself well, or how enemies can stun-lock you to death make it a frustrating experience. Those things are seemingly intentional though and that is what the fans enjoy, so who am I to really judge? If you like the deliberate mechanics of the game, then this is more of that, in a nice looking package.
Actual graphics options make this the best version of DS2
Killing something can make you feel accomplished
A hugely expansive world to explore that is quite lovely
The game deliberately keeps you in the dark about critical game systems
Constant deaths can lead to frustration
Cheaters ruin the online experience
Dark Souls 2 isnít a game for me, but is still a quality game, overall. It is slightly easier to play (the early fast travel is a god-send) but also about as cumbersome as the first game, overall. If you like extremely challenging and obsessive gameplay, then Dark Souls 2 is certainly for you. It looks great, has a good overall sound, and the PC version is the superior version to play.
The game does have a great world design, some terrifying and detailed enemy design, and an overall bump due to options on the PC front
Again, not for me, but I understand others like it. The basics are fun, but the lack of explanation is aggravating
Nice music, and impactful sound effects. The voice acting is all around fantastic though, although more would certainly be nice
Not my bag, but thatís a subjective thing. I liked exploring the world a lot but dying 20 times in a row is never fun
Multiple classes to explore, a new game plus, and (likely) eventual mods, will extend the life of this game out dramatically.