Prepare to die all over again thanks to the PC release of Dark Souls 2 by From Software. Now, in thinking back to Total Gaming Network's review of the first Dark Souls for the PC, it was largely positive. We had a few issues here and there but most of the major complaints were alleviated thanks to a little community made tool called DSfix.

If the original Dark Souls did not have DSfix, the first outing for the franchise on the PC would have been a complete disaster. Thankfully, From Software seems to have learned from their mistakes with the first outing and have made significant strides to bring some of the typical bells and whistles that PC gamers have grown accustomed to having over the years.

The load times are fantastic, even when installed to a typical, mechanical drive. I don't believe I was ever able to finish reading the text shown on a single load screen in my over 31 hours of game time. Beyond that, the texture and shadow resolutions have been given a nice bump when compared to the console version.

Even the lighting seems to have been given a slight increase in quality when compared to the console version. Then there are some PC specific features such as the ability to turn on or off features like SSAO, anti-aliasing, motion blur, anisotropic filtering, depth of field, and more. There are individual settings that allow you to customize the texture quality, shadow quality, effects quality, model quality, and more. The game even makes it easy to downsample the game from higher resolutions, assuming you're into that sort of thing.

One neat feature found in this game, one that other developers should take note of, is the auto-scaling system. If enabled, it will adjust certain visual settings, on the fly, to try and maintain a solid 60 frames per second. However, it must be said that From Software once again learned from their mistakes in the previous game and the framerate, even with that scaling system disabled, has remained rock solid all this time.

Unfortunately, despite the wishes of many in the community, the game did not get a significant overall visual upgrade. One of the biggest hopes from the Dark Souls 2 community was that the PC version of the game would release and look closer to how it did back when the game was first revealed. Now, I have no idea of the reasons why From Software seemingly overhauled their lighting, tone, and even colors for the final game when compared to its original reveal, but they did, and no amount of forum born would change that.

Even with the original visuals forever lost to the mists, the game still manages to look fairly decent. Truthfully, it's not always a visual feast for the eyes. It's actually rather rough looking at points, including some questionable world geometry in many locations and flat, almost bland texture work in other areas. There were a number of times where it felt like bump mapping was just non-exist on textures that you would most expect to see it used on (stone floors, walls, etc.). While some vistas are flat out gorgeous, others are ruined by rather low resolution skyboxes. It's a trivial issue but it is one that will most certainly catch your eye while playing.

I really won't dive too deeply into the game mechanics or story because those have been discussed to death by now, especially given how long this game has been out for consoles. I will say that it does offer up a challenge that is very close to the first Dark Souls. It's just a different kind of challenge in many areas.

Instead of more intimate, difficult one on one battles like in the first game, Dark Souls 2 adds some challenge by upping the number of enemies that can come after you at once. It's a cheap way of adding difficulty to the game and may not appeal to some fans of the series. Don't get me wrong though, there are still a decent number of one on one battles to savor and enjoy but not as many as you may remember from the first game. Even with this added degree of "cheap" difficulty, the game never feels impossible. Without a doubt the game is a challenge, but it's never one that is unfair.

The game offers up a ton of replayability thanks to multiple New Game+ offerings. You can, if you so desire, even bump specific sections up to New Game+ before you complete the game. This resets an area, respawns enemies, bosses, and items, and provides a bit of an added challenge if so desired.

There simply isn't too much more to say about Dark Souls 2 that you haven't already heard before. Even at my play time of 31+ hours, I still have not beaten the game yet. In fact, I only recently got to the next major portion of the game and I honestly expect there to be multiple hours of gameplay ahead of me just for my first play through.

To the joy of most PC gamers, From Software overhauled its summon system. While the first game relied on Games for Windows Live, the sequel does not. This makes for a far more reliable online component for those who wish to engage in a little jolly cooperation or invade others for PvP. The servers, though more reliable than Games for Windows Live, have gone down a few times since release. Even with those few outages, this is a welcome and much needed improvement over its predecessor. Though it's unfortunate that some areas of the game force PvP on the player, regardless if the character is a human or hollow. This may not bother some but it is a bit annoying if you are only looking for a pure PvE experience.

Regardless of the platform you choose to play on, Dark Souls 2 offers a great deal of customization options and freedom to the player. Though you may start as one class, the leveling system allows you to specialize in any area you choose. That's part of the appeal in a game like this. You can start off wearing heavy armor and utilizing a two-handed hammer for up close melee combat and then 100 levels later you may end up slinging magical arrows from afar. Even the character creation menu offers almost as many customization options as an Elder Scrolls title.

Bottom line: The game is a lot of fun and the reception certainly proves that this type of game is very much in vogue right now. It's a challenging experience but one that is fair. The improvements made to the PC version are fantastic. Just the fact that you do not need any community mods to make the game look respectable is a tremendous step in the right direction for From Software. A controller is still recommended to get the most enjoyment from the game. The mouse and keyboard controls are improved from Dark Souls, but I still would not recommend them save for the most diehard mouse and keyboard sticklers.

The PC version of the game is priced at $49.99 (USD). The game almost seems to be priced too low for the number of hours of gameplay you will get from this, not just on your first lengthy playthrough but on every subsequent descent into the depths. From Software did a fantastic job here, clearly learning from the mistakes they made on their first PC outing.

Overall: 8.5/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Audio: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10
Value: 10/10

Related Information
Title: Dark Souls 2
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Rated: T for Teen (Blood and gore, mild language, partial nudity, violence)
This review is based on the PC version of the game as provided to us by From Software and Bandai Namco for review purposes.