Last year’s release of Dark Souls on the PC was … let’s be gentle in a way the game is not and say “a little lacking.” It was still the same superb, generation-defining title (and in many ways superior to the console versions, even in its ropey ported state,) but the transition had all the signs of being handled by people who had no idea what they were doing. That’s probably because From’s porting team at the time didn’t have a lot of experience with the PC, and frequently admitted as much in interviews before the Prepare to Die edition was released.
At launch, the title was stuck at 30fps, had no support for resolutions higher than 720p, used the onerous Games For Windows Live as its multiplayer backbone, did nothing to prevent hackers abusing the system and was pretty rubbish to play on mouse and keyboard.
But the PC community, resourceful as ever, managed to overcome almost all of those problems in a matter of hours.
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The bulk of the work was done by Peter ‘Durante’ Thoman, whose amazing DSfix mod added support for higher resolutions, various anti-aliasing and depth of field effects, back-up saves (not for cheating purposes, but because GfWL is so unreliable) and user interface modifications. Others contributed useful tweaks like a mouse fix, framerate unlocking and, more recently, another team has released a mod to help you connect to your friends in the game world a lot more easily.
You can also find mods out there to restore spider-lady Quelaag’s missing nipples and … look, I know ok, just re-read all the cool stuff people figured out and mended that I just listed there. It’ll make you feel better.
So, with Dark Souls II on the way in 2014, should PC users be worried about another bungled port courtesy of From Soft?
Judging by what the studio is saying this time around, probably not. Already, there are three sources stating as fact that the PC version of Dark Souls II will run at 60fps. None of them are English language publications, so there is that ever-present issue of translation; but unless every outlet is running with the same duff information it does seem as if From wants to utilise the PC’s inherent power this time around.
GameKult’s actual interview with new game director Yui Tanimura is even more revealing, stating (if Google’s translation can be believed) that the PC is actually the title’s lead development platform. It’d perhaps be wise to retain some caution here though, because the same translation appears to show Tanimura confirming that Dark Souls II uses an entirely new engine. Judging by the familiar look to the gameplay shown on Wednesday, that doesn’t seem entirely accurate.
While we’re dwelling on hopeful information, it’s worth noting that the current box art for the game has no mention of GfWL on it. Now, box art is often subject to change and things like the ‘pending rating’ mark are obvious placeholders, but this may be a further sign that From has listened to feedback from PC players. At present, Namco is neither confirming or denying whether GfWL will be used.
So, 60fps seems like a distinct possibility, PC as the lead platform should guarantee proper support for high resolution displays and there’s a chance GfWL won’t be used. No mention of whether more thought will be put into a mouse and keyboard control scheme, nor if any systems will be put in place to prevent online cheating, but as initial announcements for a game not due until next year go these are pretty encouraging.
The other major worry about the game, of course, is whether its notoriously challenging and rewarding gameplay mechanics will be hijacked by a push for mainstream accessibility. Well, the original Dark Souls is said to have sold almost 2.4 million across all platforms, so it’s borderline ‘mainstream’ already, regardless of its difficulty level. In addition, Tanimura has re-stated that there will be no ‘easy mode’ and that the studio wants to make another highly challenging game. The saving and pausing system will remain the same too.
The recent gameplay footage was reassuring in its familiarity, but did show off a few new bits and pieces. Rather than an Estus Flask, the player was using a ‘Stone of Healing’ to alleviate his wounds. They’re said not to be replacing Estus Flasks, but it looks as if the Stones are an option that can be consumed a little more rapidly.
From also showed a section akin to a mini Tomb of the Giants, where the player had to light a carried torch at a nearby brazier and head off into the darkness. As those who played the first game know, having to carry a torch in your shield hand to light the way can seriously disrupt your ability to fight and protect yourself. Well, it looks like Dark Souls II will now have periodic trips into the darkness. That’s alarming. In a good way.
It’s always difficult to put too much stock in early, stage-managed footage, but if From’s intent was to ease the concerns of Dark Souls fans about the direction the sequel may take the game, then it achieved that aim. The emphasis was on dangerous, challenging encounters in foreboding environments. Just the kind of thing fans will have wanted to see. With director Yui Tanimura talking openly about putting “more care” into the PC version and near-confirmation of improved technical aspects like 60fps, things are looking optimistic for this otherwise resolutely bleak series.