Dark Souls II PC Performance Analysis, Editorial

With the release of the PC port of Dark Souls II, Eurogamer's tech-minded sub-site, Digital Foundry, has decided to go back to the title for a performance analysis that includes the PC version. Their conclusions:

From Software is no longer dipping its toe in the PC pool as it was with the original Dark Souls port - it's swimming with confident strokes. The visual distinction from 360 and PS3 isn't always massive in terms of core asset-work, and sadly the aesthetic is still no closer to the alpha footage seen at last year's E3. But that's fine. What we do have is a bevy of graphics settings, opening the gates to smoother shadows, slightly higher-res textures, as well as overhauled normal maps not seen on the console versions - plus a reduction in LOD pop-in. On top of that, unleashing the game at 1080p or more lets many of these visual augments stand out as they should.

Such refinements help position the PC version as the definitive release, but none are more crucial than its ability to hit a stable 60fps. Coming from the sub-30fps playback on console, the PC release is a breath of fresh air when played on anything from a lower-end AMD HD 7790 to the high-flying Nvidia GTX 770. Optimisation across a range of GPUs is much more on-point this time, and the accuracy of controls when parrying, or cuing a timely defensive roll, makes the game much more satisfying in action.

However, certain technical hiccups do overshadow this port job. While no stability issues affect our play-through, lock-ups are reportedly a widespread frustration for those booting the game while outputting through HDMI or using control inputs besides an Xbox 360 pad. Glitches such as these urgently need addressing, though fortunately Namco Bandai confirms that each case is being investigated. It's a tedious hurdle before an otherwise-appealing PC port then, but if you can work around it until a patch arrives, Dark Souls 2 has never looked or played better.

Meanwhile, GameInformer's Matt Helgeson tried the game for a bit before concluding that the game simply isn't for him, though he's very careful to note he understands why it resonates with a large audience:

Ultimately, Dark Souls II just wore me out. I already play a game where I fail at the same repetitive tasks over and over again, with only small incremental rewards to give me the illusion of progress - It's called "real life." Proponents of Dark Souls would say that, unlike other games which give you an inflated sense of being superhuman, Dark Souls II is pitilessly in its indifference to whether or not you succeed. In this uncompromising way it teaches you to be a better gamer.

But you know what? I want an inflated sense of being superhuman in a video game! In fact, I would argue that that is the entire point of video games. Guess what? Maybe I don't want to be a better gamer. Ever think of that? I'm just going to sit here and be the same old crappy gamer I've been my whole life - just keep those endless lives, recharging health bars, and frequent checkpoints coming, video game industry! Most days, I've got a couple of hours a night to game after my wife goes to bed and before I nod off, so I'd prefer to spend that time making progress in a game, not dying endlessly. If that makes me a video game wimp, so be it.

I want to note that this opinion is coming from my own viewpoint. I understand that the Souls series has struck a nerve with a large audience - in many ways due to some of the aspects of the game that I personally find frustrating. That's fine. At a different point in my life, I may have felt the same. I'm glad I played it, and it's another reminder of how valuable these One Night Stands are for me as a game writer. I'm not going to go back to Dark Souls II, but I do come away with a better understanding of it, and a respect for the fact that the developers have bravely contradicted of much of the conventional wisdom of console game design in 2014. Dark Souls II is a definitely a game I can appreciate - preferably from a distance.