Dark Souls II Performance Analysis

Eurogamer's Digital Foundry branch has published a not quite flattering technical analysis of the console versions of the title, which gives the performance edge to the Xbox 360 version of the game. It looks like neither match the reveal footage of the title though, thanks to some aesthetical change, yes, but also due to a downgrade tech-wise:

Equally disappointing is what could have been. Early PS3 beta footage of the game shows a massive overhaul in scenery lighting has taken place, particularly in the Cardinal Tower on show. Most changes can be argued as being purely in the interest of aesthetic preference - such as a mossy flourish being added to the area. However, it's hard to ignore the removal of a giant 'soul ball' alpha effect when claiming souls, the reduction in lit torches, and that some rocky wall textures are replaced by flatter, blander variations in the final product. It's a revised look that lessens the emphasis on pitch black environments too, leaving us with dungeons that rely less on the torch lighting mechanic.


All of which leads us to a crossroads when recommending one version over the other. On the one hand, if you can't bear the thought of playing through a Dark Souls game with heavy tearing, the PS3 version is the only way to go for now. Performance is largely a sub-30fps affair for Sony's console, but thanks to an engine revamp with more aggressive LOD scaling, we have yet to experience sustained drops as egregious as the original Dark Souls at its worst. For the smoothest performance though, the 360's ability to push 30-40fps at most points is worth considering among those tolerant of tearing artefacts.

It's not a clear-cut answer then, and to top it off, there are some other minor considerations. Both games run at the same resolution with identical assets, though superior alpha effects on the 360 counts as a positive for that console. The better texture filtering on PS3 is a curious plus for Sony's platform also, and its free online service may be enough to curry favour among regular PvP players. Either way, throughout the rebuilding of its engine, this looks, plays and feels like a Dark Souls game, and fans will be well served by the core experience on either platform.

For those stubbornly waiting on PS4 or Xbox One versions, From Software is staying strictly mum on any next-gen details - besides acknowledging that this technology will form the bedrock of future efforts. The upcoming PC release will at least demonstrate the improvements planned for the game's textures and frame-rate - and whether that could extend elsewhere. As a cheeky aside for PS3 owners, the PS4 controller works impeccably with Dark Souls 2 with a wired connection. For now, that's about as close to a next-gen version as we're going to get.

Hopefully the inevitable Dark Souls III will give From Software the chance to execute their artistic vision in a way that's not impaired by poor tech.