First, let's address the big elephant in the room. Yes, the PC version of Dark Souls was a mess. Maybe it's that I'm used to the PC platform being treated like royalty, but porting a game directly from console to PC resulted in one of the worst PC ports I can think of in recent memory. To be fair, PC development was foreign to developer From Software at the time, and all it wanted to do was fulfill the widespread requests for porting their critically acclaimed game over to PC.
Knowing this, you're probably wondering if Dark Souls 2 has suffered the same fate. I'm glad to report that no, no it hasn't. Dark Souls 2 on PC is a finely crafted version of what I can only imagine will end up being considered one of 2014's best games. It also comes close to being the ultimate Souls game.... really close.
For one, the PC version runs smooth as butter as long as you have the hardware to support it. Playing on an Ivy Bridge 3570k with a GTX 570, I was treated to a consistent 60 frames per second. I can't think of a single time I noticed frames dropping, which is a radical departure from the console versions. Image quality is also improved. Running on high settings, the texture resolution is higher, and shadows create a sharper contrast between the flickering light of torches and the pervasive darkness that hides the game's cruel enemies.
If nothing else, the PC version is a success because you can play it at 1080p and 60 FPS, a first for the series. I've only been able to play on my hardware, but what I've experienced leads me to believe that From Software has come a long way in terms of PC development during the last year. The game feels optimized, although perhaps a tad CPU bound—my GPU didn't even sound like it was trying.
All this said, Dark Souls 2 is by no means a progressive game. There are moments where you'll feel like you're playing a next-gen Souls game, particularly when open environments first present themselves—hello Majula!. Not before long you'll see some of the remnants of how From Software was able to get the game to run on last-generation consoles. Oh, and that water looks absolutely ridiculous.
Where the PC version falters is in menu navigation when using a mouse. Truthfully, it's an abomination that I couldn't adapt to no matter how much I tried. If you're going to be playing with keyboard & mouse, you'll want to use the arrow keys, backspace, and enter to move around menus. It's a small price to pay for the better presentation, but there are times you'll be in a tough situation and the menu controls might just make you suffer.
For the record, these shortcomings only affect menu navigation. Combat feels great with a keyboard and mouse.
If you do happen to have a controller lying around, you might just want to connect it as Dark Souls 2 can be played with a variety of controllers. Yes, including the DualShock 4. I highly recommend playing with a DualShock 4, or any controller for that matter. Toggling between gameplay and menu navigation is less of a hassle once you ditch the keyboard and mouse.
If you haven't played Dark Souls 2 and have a PC that meets the minimum requirements, it's easy to recommend that you pick this game up at its friendly $49.99 price. Whether or not it's better than Dark Souls really doesn't matter; this is the first time the Souls series can be natively played at 1080p and 60 frames per second. If you love the thrill of triumphing challenge, and want nothing less than the best presentation, Dark Souls 2 on PC is a game you won't soon forget.
Jonathan Leack is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @jleack.
Copy provided by publisher. Dark Souls 2 is available on PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.