Dark Souls 2 has come to the PC, and while everything I wrote about the game in my PS3 review still holds true (short version: it’s a fantastic game), the PC version deserves a little special attention.
See, when Dark Souls was originally ported to the PC – after an outcry by eager fans, no less – it was something of a fiasco, resulting in the odd situation of a fantastic game that required a considerable amount of fixing on the part of the player community. To their credit, From Software straight up admitted that they really were out of their element when it came to PC porting, but they also said that this time around they were going to try hard to do a proper job of bringing their game to the PC audience. The fast verdict: they’ve largely succeeded, and this game is far more friendly to gamers straightaway. There’s still a lack of polish here and there, but nothing that’s going to get in the way of the average gamer’s experience.
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First, let me talk about the keyboard and mouse experience. Like many extremely stubborn gamers, I will go to great lengths to avoid having to mess around with a gamepad when playing PC games – and most of the time, I don’t find it necessary anyway. With the first Dark Souls, I clearly recalled giving up and getting a gamepad early on – it was just far too sloppy and confusing an implementation for me to work with. This time things are different, and I found myself able to run around and beat the holy hell out of the hollowed after just a few moments acclimating myself to the experience. It’s not just a serviceable means of control – I actually prefer it to the gamepad experience now, thanks to the fluidity with which mouselook performs, allowing me to keep an eye on any and every angle of the game with ease.
Games for Windows Live is also gone, of course, which means that the online component of Dark Souls 2 is entirely handled by Steam. Needless to say, this is a welcome change of pace – no awkward logins required, no archaic interface to meddle with – it just works immediately. Now, I played around in a prerelease world which meant I didn’t get much co-op time, but I was able to see the ghosts of other players, read messages, and so on, indicating that everything’s going according to plan on that front. Really, this is less a case of From Software doing a bang-up job and more an illustration of how the world of PC gaming is a bit brighter now that GFWL is dead and buried, but hey – it’s still a cause to rejoice.
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Naturally there’s going to be room for gaming enthusiasts to tweak and upgrade their Dark Souls 2 experience above and beyond the norm as well, though that should be of little surprise – the original game saw the same thing happen once the tweaking community dedicated themselves to the effort. For most people, I suspect this isn’t going to be a big concern – the game is very pretty as-is, and the gameplay is the stuff of dark, frustrating beauty, and that should satisfy the typical gamer. Those of you who want to play the game of rubbing console owners’ noses in the superior power of the PC will, however, probably enjoy playing around on this front.
The big takeaway point here is that Dark Souls 2’s PC experience is solid, and feels far superior to the condition its predecessor initially launched in. The one complaint I had in my gameplay experience was that the menu interaction with the mouse was a bit sloppy – but it was serviceable, and that’s a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things. This one’s out on Steam as of this writing, so if you’ve been waiting for the change to dive into this world but were holding out to see if you could get a reasonable or even superior experience on the PC, the verdict’s in – throw down the money, because this is a fantastic game with a good-enough port.
Dark Souls 2 for the PC is a far cleaner port attempt than the first Dark Souls port. The death of Games for Windows Live continues to mean good things for PC gaming, the potential to tweak up the graphics for the technically capable is still on offer, and the whole experience is far more gamer-friendly right from the get-go.