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Games : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: April 24th, 2014 Movie Release Year: 2014

Dark Souls II

Overview -

First, there was 'Demon's Souls' on the PS3, then there was 'Dark Souls' on the PS3 and 360. But before 'Dark Souls II,' 'Dark Souls' received both a DLC expansion and a PC version. The long awaited PC version included the 'Prepare to Die' DLC at a bargain price, so what could possibly go wrong? A lot, as it turns out. Not only did the game need a user mod just to escape the 720p resolution, it was also built on the wretched and now defunct Windows Live platform. Fast forward to 2014 and the PC version of 'Dark Souls II' arrives a mere six weeks after the last-gen console versions. The game has already been vetted by fans on the consoles, but did Bandai Namco and From Software learn from their earlier PC mistakes?

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Video Resolution/Codec:
Audio Formats:
LPCM 5.1
Release Date:
April 24th, 2014

Video Review


The move from last-gen console to the PC has paid some excellent dividends with regards to the visuals, and yet from a more objective standpoint could be considered less than ideal. (Just try to forget about the early demo shots.) Unlike the lackluster PC port of the last game, 'Dark Souls II' on the PC offers both a full array of supported resolutions as well as some scalable PC visual options. (My playthrough was mostly at 2560 x 1440 except for some time spent at 1920 on a TV.)

Dark Souls II

Dark Souls II

Along with a vastly superior rendered resolution, the framerate is also very solid though subject to motion blur effects. The zone by zone hitching common to the PS3 version is gone. Equally as important as these improvements is the presence of higher resolution textures, which is a major upgrade for the characters (there should really be an up close model viewer), but also helps pretty up many structures to varying degrees. Improved shadow depth and draw distance also are easy to notice and enjoy as many far off details now resolve themselves properly. The UI scales well with the resolution maintaining its fidelity without artifacts.

With such improvement, including good stock AA, one might ask why would describe the PC's visuals as less than ideal. That would be because that game remains a last-gen product with several last-gen visual issues.

My description of the PS3's visuals remains mainly accurate even with the improvements:

"And here's where the quantity focus hurts the most. I expected lots of ugly textures, seams, light leaks, reskinned characters, items, and objects. I also expected that the art design would trump most these typical game concerns. Sadly, the quality of the game's visuals really wanders. There are a few impressive vistas, reveals, and interesting designs for bosses and characters. Mostly though, the game is a step down from its predecessor when it comes to visual fidelity and art design. It often exhibits even less sizzle than the 'Dark Souls' expansion."

"The texture resolution on many of the backgrounds, (though greatly improved on the PC), makes for the kind unsightliness to suggest the notion of anti-demo material. Much of the game's UI elements and enemy set are recycled from the previous game, and overall the art style can feel imitative and less inspired and polished than past efforts. The new torch mechanic while sometimes fun means entire rooms of low-light that typically only receive a point light after being cleared out.

"While running through complicated areas both quickly and slow, there were many moments when holes in the world, missing geometry faces, or other similar environmental artifacts became visible or noticeable. These issues did not affect play, and never where bad enough to fill the screen. They are only glaring when specifically searching for them."

For example:

Dark Souls II

Dark Souls II

All of these points hurt the PC version, it's this last one that is the most illuminating as to the cause. In spite of the big step up in hardware, 'Dark Souls II' remains a game built for the last-gen platforms. The unsightly geometry that makes up much of the environments remains in place. While at the same time, the game continues to load, unload, and occlude the PS3/360 worthy world with PS3/360 constraints. While most players are fine with the game's design remaining faithful to the console versions (i.e. keeping the world the same size, with the same number of enemies, objects, etc.), the PC version winds up stick with the same often ugly geometry and overall amount of world loaded limitations.

Audio Review


I'm a huge fan of the PS3's sound capabilities, and don't always find the PC version of a game to be an obvious improvement. Nevertheless, it seems like the audio sampling of the PC version's audio assets are of a higher quality. Overall, the sound design, while similar, is a bit smoother on the PC.

When it comes to audio, the game is terribly effective at what it sets out to do. Whether it's the limited use of music or the jingle of chains of a enemy hidden behind a secret door or the terrible voice of a riled and formerly friendly NPC, the sound design bends nearly every rule in an effort to subtly build tension, and this with a mostly recycled set of sound effects. Rarely ever in games are the surrounds engaged to simultaneously fool and inform the player, and 'Dark Souls II' never relents on this audio assault. Let a large enemy chase you, and you'll find that their loud steps have just the right break between to cast doubts about their continued pursuit... until you turn around.

Be it desperate, crazy, or sanguine, voice acting for the NPCs retains an exaggerated quality. Somehow, when combined with the limited and often perfunctory conversation loops, (key for extracting story details) the result just seems even more perfectly suited for this installment than the last.

Final Thoughts

For much of my playthrough, I kept thinking that if I had to choose one of the 'Souls' titles to play or recommend, it would be 'Dark Souls.' And yet 'Dark Souls II' was clearly meant to entertain the veteran 'Souls' player with a depth beyond its predecessor. Though parts of the game feel like a poor rehash, everything that make the series thrilling, challenging, and enjoyable is here along with revamped online options that dare to tempt even the most solitary player. Hunting down items, NPCs, bosses, areas, shortcuts- I gorged myself on it all, and continued time on both the PS3 and PC has yet to satiate my desire for the game's particular kind of hurt. Detractors of the series (those that have actually played a title) can be comfortable opting out, but everyone else should see that death is only the beginning, the preparation necessary to live.

While disappointed that the PC version retains the geometry and visual leaks of the last-gen PS3, the texture upgrades and other visual improvements make for a much more appealing visual experience, while the quick loading times feel luxurious after playing on the console. And all of this upgrade comes in a solid package without the needing community mods. If you've been waiting for the PC version, wait no longer, the best version of 'Dark Souls II' (by far) begins here.

Dark Souls II