Dark Souls PC Technical Review



Product: Dark Souls
Company: Namco Bandai
Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Eric Amidon
Date: September 5th, 2012

Graphics options, visuals, performance, & controls

Graphics options

Besides the basics, you get a scant two options: one for AA, and one for Motion Blur. Worse, the resolution is actually locked to 1024x720 (turning the option up merely increases scaling), and default AA seems to simply blur the image instead of applying true anti-aliasing.

Visuals

I was actually expecting a little worse from the screenshots released to date, but Dark Souls certainly isn't in great shape in the graphics department. There's a glaring lack of sharpness in most areas replaced by unpleasant blur; in the areas that don't suffer too badly, textures are reasonably easy on the eyes and shine through somewhat. As I understand it, textures are taken directly from the Xbox 360 version which suffered compared to its PS3 counterpart.

Another downside: 16:10 aspect ratio is not supported, so no matter what you're stuck in 16:9 with black bars on the top and bottom of the screen if you've opted for the extra vertical space.

On the plus side, cutscenes are of reasonably high quality, and are presented in proper 16:9.

Performance

One of the major flaws here is the 30fps cap. The odd stutter and drop aside, it's easy enough to maintain this (at least in the early hours), and the game is reasonably smooth and playable, but somewhat like the visuals, it's one of those things where you don't realize how much it hurts until you see better. Load times, however, are quite fast, clocking in at a few seconds at the absolute most.

Controls

Mouse and keyboard controls in Dark Souls are simply not a viable option: the mouse cursor is always present on screen, Xbox 360 controller buttons can be seen everywhere (including the tutorial), the camera moves when using the mouse in menus, camera control is not smooth with the mouse, and many of the default keys are very awkward (O for target locking, End for the menu). It's workable, but barely, and so frustrating I couldn't wait to switch over to the 360 controller within my first minutes of playing.

There is a bright side: keys can be rebound (not extra mouse buttons, though), the mouse wheel is supported (though controls can't be binded to it), and there are a variety of control options to tinker with, including camera speed, inversion, and more.

Playing with the 360 controller, things make a lot more sense immediately: the tutorial flows, bindings are intuitive, and camera control is relatively smooth (I can't tell if I'm just not used to analog sticks or not, but sometimes I have to fight with it a little). It's worth noting the manual itself states this version of the game was designed with the 360 pad in mind, and even the system requirements practically insist its needed.

Appreciably, swap in/out functionality is supported, so you can plug in your controller at any time and get to playing with it. As well, keyboard and mouse will work whether or not you have a controller plugged in.