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Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition Review - PC

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  • Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition Review - PC

    Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
    Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is one of those rare games that actually lives up to its name. You will die, a lot, but you will enjoy every moment of it. Thanks to the mass support of an online petition, the tough as nails action RPG has made a rather successful transition from consoles to the PC. The game is not without its faults, but because it's on the PC, the community has already ironed out a few of the more glaring omissions that From Software was unable to personally tackle.

    Dark Souls is not a game that you can simply pick up and get into without passing through a few hurdles. It is a difficult game, something that many gamers in this day and age have not really had the pleasure of experiencing. If anything, the brutal nature of the game seems to have its roots firmly planted in old school games from the NES and Atari days. There is no room for error here as enemies can quickly take you out in just a couple of well-placed hits. It is a thinking man's action game at heart, each encounter with an enemy requiring some measure of planned strategy before you engage in battle.

    Part of the challenge in Dark Souls lies in the fact that your character and his actions all carry a heavy weight. You won't be able to strike your foe the instant you hit the button. Attacks take some small amount of time to carry out, made even more apparent if you choose to wield a hefty two-handed sword. Movement around the environment also reflects this idea of weight. Simply put, don't expect to duck and dodge out of every incoming attack. As strange as it may sound, the combat system in Dark Souls feels closer to what a real life encounter would be like than most other games manage to convey.

    As one of the few remaining survivors from a world overcome by unspeakable horrors, the game doesn't pull any punches and will put you through your first death before the first cut scene plays. Coming across other survivors can either be a Godsend or a terrible mistake. They are just as likely to offer you help in your journey as they are to give you bad advice and guidance. While you aren't fully alone in the world, messages written on the ground from other players will either help or hinder you, just as the NPC's are liable to do.

    As noted, the combat in Dark Souls does take some time to get used to. Hit a button to begin your initial attack. Subsequent button presses will allow for slightly more rapid attacks but these all come at a cost of your stamina. Swing too much and your stamina becomes depleted, leaving you open for a devastating counter-attack. Stamina also comes into play while running or performing nearly any action in the game. Again, this is a factor that needs to be in the back of your mind as you try to strike a balance between knowing when to attack and when to find a shady spot to regain some of that stamina.

    The only surefire way to keep in high health and stamina is to visit the all too few campfires scattered throughout the game. These allow the player to regain health, stamina, and spend the precious souls you have picked up from your slain enemies. Campfires also allow you to reverse the effects of death. Death in this game is a unique beast in its own right. You begin as a human but after dying just once you become what is known as a Hollow, essentially making you an undead character. The player can return to being a human by spending an item known simply as Humanity. While in your human form, the game opens up a bit more, allowing you to summon in phantoms or be invaded by other players from all over the world. Those in the Hollow form do not have this luxury. The catch here is that Humanity is given out sparingly and must be carefully utilized.

    Oh yes, there is another catch here for using the campfires. Every time you use one, the enemies respawn. It may seem like a cheap way of increasing the difficulty but in the world of Dark Souls, it works incredibly well.

    So you have your strategy down to a science and you managed to take out a good number of enemies without dying. Congratulations, you have a lot of souls here to spend! Souls are used to level your character stats up as you see fit, or they can be used to purchase items from various vendors throughout the game. Unless you are incredibly good at the game, you will never want to keep hold of too many souls for too long. Dying will cause you to lose all of your currently accumulated souls. A corpse run to retrieve those souls is entirely possible, but just keep in mind a few things. If you happen to die again before retrieving those souls, they are gone for good. If you manage to make it back to where you died previously, the enemies that killed you the first time will still be there now.

    It's this mechanic that has led to a few instances where a single corpse run has turned into multiple corpse runs, each time bringing the pile of souls closer and closer to safety. It has also led to a few instances where hundreds of dropped souls have been within sight as the words "YOU DIED" burned a hole into my already defeated eyes. There is no choice, at this point, than to start accumulating souls from scratch. However, don't think of it as a grind. It's not really a grind when it's almost always your fault that you lost those souls in the first place.

    It would be easy to dive into the hidden depth contained in the game. It is as much an RPG as it is an action game. A good deal of the enjoyment of the game is exploring new areas, discovering where you shouldn't explore yet until having leveled up enough, discovering character builds that work for you, and discovering what enemy or NPC is safe to engage and which are not. Here's a good hint though: If you're just starting off in the game, try not to attack NPC characters, as they are quite ready to hunt you down on a repeated basis.

    The environment in Dark Souls is interesting in its own right. The art team behind the game has done an exceptional job at creating environments and visuals that are simply stunning. The problem though is that the default internal resolution of the game is unacceptable for most modern day PC gamers. The game renders everything at an internal resolution of 1024x720. Ouch. If you play at typical PC resolutions such as 1920x1080, what you will experience is a blurred, stretched mess as the game simply stretches that 1024x720 resolution up to 1920x1080.

    I won't lie here and say the game would have gotten as high a score in the Visuals category if we were judging based solely on an un-modded experience. However, a Dark Souls fan named Durante has done what From Software was unable to do. He not only made it possible to increase the internal resolution up to whatever resolution you desire, he also added in features such as SMAA, SSAO, HUD scaling, HUD opacity settings, adjustments to the depth of field blur, alt-tabbing crash fixes, and so much more. This tool, called DSfix, has gone through a number of updates. Without it, the game would be severely crippled on the PC in multiple ways, even extending beyond simply making the game look gorgeous.

    If you do pick up this game, installing DSfix should be your first step prior to ever firing the game up for the first time. It is the only way PC players will want to experience the game as it allows for the details created by From Software's design team to really shine through. It isn't a texture replacement, it simply allows you to see the textures and the environment as they were originally before being given a hearty backhand by console limitations.

    For as engaging, challenging, and enjoyable Dark Souls Prepare to Die Edition is, there is still one more glaring problem here. Unless you use a controller, the game in an un-modded state does not allow for the use of a mouse. Again, this was something that was fixed by users but it is certainly something that PC gamers should not have to contend with in this era of gaming.

    From Software has admitted that they did not know what they were doing in their port of the game to the PC world from consoles. It was their first time ever developing a game for PC gamers, so perhaps some slack could be given here. It's just unfortunate that the gaming community created a fix for the internal resolution in less than 30 minutes of the game being released, and a mouse fix was created almost as quickly.

    Overall: 8.5/10
    Gameplay: 9/10
    Audio: 8/10
    Visuals: 8/10 (with Durante's DSfix)
    Value: 8/10

    Relevant Links
    Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition on Steam ($39.99 USD)
    Dark Souls website
    Latest DSfix from Durante (Currently at version 1.3 at the time of this posting)
    Dark Souls Mouse Fix (Currently at version .7 at the time of this posting)

    Dark Souls Prepare to Die Edition was provided to TGN for review purposes. The game was reviewed on the PC and is also available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is rated M for Mature (Blood, Gore, Partial Nudity, Violence).

  • #2
    It's an amazing game, too bad they didn't spend more effort on the PC port. And it would also be good if they improve from Demon's/Dark Souls and add some PVE replayability other than buffing monsters in NG+