The appearance of the original Dark Souls on PC was welcome but it was... let's say troubled. Its innovative online mode was married to the much maligned Games for Windows Live service and the game was locked at a piddly 1024x768 resolution. Whilst it's understandable developer From Software's lack of experience in creating PC games would have affected the final product, it was still a bitter pill to swallow for PC gamers keen to get their hands on a Souls game.
Whilst enterprising modders would fix up some of the problems, the onus was on From Software to deliver a much more capable PC version of Dark Souls II. They certainly haven't made the same mistakes as before but it still isn't the fully featured PC port many would have hoped for.
Dark Souls II (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release: April 24, 2014
The PC version of Dark Souls II addresses the two big problems from original version.
To start, there's no GFWL support for the online features -- but considering Microsoft is discontinuing its PC service, that's not really a surprise. There are no cloud saves however, which is a shame if you're planning on playing on more than one PC.
Additionally, there are plenty of graphics options this time, which makes a welcome change, however this is still clearly a port of a existing console game, make no mistake. Although the opening menus can be navigated using your mouse, it becomes completely clear that you should be using a controller all the time with this version.
Namco released the recommended system specs for Dark Souls II but considering its appearance on the previous generation of consoles, it shouldn't be too much of a burden for an average PC. Whilst the range of graphics options might not be up to the level of a PC-exclusive title, there's room to adjust textures, lighting, anti-aliasing, and both motion and camera blur. My monitor's native resolution of 1920x1080 was supported and the in-game text looked sharp and crisp.
As such, don't be afraid to crank up the graphics settings, despite what the auto-detect option may assign you. Despite having a powerful desktop, I was assigned "medium" for almost all of the graphical settings available. Cranking them up certainly makes a difference as the approach to the coastal hub area of Majula looks stunning.
However, some things can only be improved so much; some character models still look pretty basic despite turning up the graphics settings. It can become really obvious standing next to certain NPCs but on the whole, From Software has done a much better job with Dark Souls II when it comes to graphics.
On the controls side, using a gamepad is definitely the way to go; whilst a keyboard and mouse combination is feasible (the keyboard bindings are completely customizable), the gameplay has clearly been designed around a controller.
The only major problem I had was that Dark Souls II did not want to play nice with Big Picture Mode on Steam. Each time I tried to launch the game on my TV, it crashed and booted straight back to the desktop. Aside from the Big Pictures issues, I felt Dark Souls II performed well and I had no crashes or any game-breaking bugs hinder my experience.
If you were hesitant about buying Dark Souls II after the less-than-stellar port of the first game, then you won't have anything to worry about this time.