Dark indeed -- this is one of the worst ports we've ever seen.
I can give it this much: Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition does run. Yet when over 100,000 PC gamers petitioned Namco Bandai to bring its popular console action RPG to the PC, this probably wasn't exactly what they had in mind. We've had our concerns over the quality of the PC ever since we first saw it earlier this year, and now that it's here, the worst of them are confirmed: this is just about a worst-case scenario port. It's a shame, too -- it's like getting that bike you asked for for Christmas only to find that it's so poorly assembled you can barely ride it.
I can now confirm first-hand that no matter what resolution you set in the options, Dark Souls will run at 1280x720 (or 720p) and stretch to fit. It looks pretty terrible on a PC monitor, or anything higher than 720p resolution. Everything's blocky, and even text looks awful. Of all the low-quality shortcuts From could've taken in putting Dark Souls on the PC, limiting the resolution may well be the most inexcusable. I've seen a lot of bad ports, but it's been a long time since I've seen something this bad.
But from the modding community comes hope! NeoGAF poster Durante has already posted a home-brewed resolution fix (you can read more about that here). Once installed and properly tweaked, it improved the overall visual quality of Dark Souls significantly on our PCs. There's still a lot of testing to be done before it can be strongly recommended, because we're just not sure yet how well Dark Souls will endure this tinkering, but it's better than nothing.
There's nothing outstanding here, but at least it's not missing any essential features. Music, sound, and voice volumes can all be adjusted, but there's no surround sound or special headphone profiles.
Dark Souls can be played with the mouse and keyboard, but only if you really want to hate the experience. From didn't even bother to design proper mouse and key icons for on-screen prompts, so good luck figuring out what button you're supposed to push when it flashes "Press RT for Strong Attack" and you don't have a gamepad plugged in. Move the camera with the right analog stick? C'mon, guys. Really?
There are also some absurd default control settings, such as how the End key is used to bring up the menu while Escape does nothing, or how camera controls are set for the I, J, K, and L keys, as if you'd want to control the camera with the keyboard instead of the mouse. Actually, given how the floaty, inaccurate camera is only just barely controllable with the mouse, how much worse could it be?
And while you can remap most keys, you can't assign anything to the Mouse 4 or 5 buttons. On the upside, Dark Souls does support hot-swapping between keyboard/mouse and gamepad without having to toggle a setting in the menu. Yeah, that's a pretty small upside. If you've already bought Dark Souls and you don't have a gamepad yet, I highly recommend you buy one ASAP. When using one, it plays identically to the Xbox version.
Once Dark Souls is up and running, it's hard-capped at 30 frames per second, ensuring that your performance will never be better than just barely tolerable even on top-of-the-line hardware. And that's best-case -- even playing it for just a few minutes on my GeForce GTX 470-powered PC I encountered a bunch of framerate drops, notably every time a cloud of dust was kicked up during the first boss battle with the Asylum Demon. (Note that this was without installing the resolution patch.)
There's an autosave feature, and that's it. But seeing as how this is a core component of Dark Souls' difficulty and challenge (and thus its charm), I'm not too bothered by the inability to scatter save files. Apparently there's Steam cloud support, but I haven't yet confirmed this.
We knew this was coming too -- Dark Souls' multiplayer and player profiles are tied to Games for Windows Live. As much as we'd all love to see GFWL left to rot in a shallow grave, it's still not going to stop me from enjoying a good game.
To some extent this feels like I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth here, since Namco Bandai only created the PC version of Dark Souls after PC gamers cried out for it en mass. But in reality, Namco isn't "giving" us anything -- it's charging us $40 for a product, and that product is technically poor. It's a shame that it'll generate some bad word of mouth, and in turn lower sales, as the lesson Namco Bandai and other publishers will probably take from Dark Souls is that no matter how many PC gamers say they want a port, they won't buy it. But that's the wrong lesson: the lesson is that PC gamers won't buy poor-quality products.
Of course, if you're playing on a gamepad, the challenging gameplay experience of Dark Souls is intact, but this is just an unfortunate and underdeveloped mess of a port. With the limited resolution and framerate and lack of usable mouse and keyboard controls, it feels as though From simply emulated an Xbox rather than properly porting Dark Souls to the PC.
Spy Guy says: I have to say, I'm blown away that the resolution patch came out the same day as Dark Souls did -- especially since the release happened a day earlier than Namco Bandai said it would. Time will tell if it works properly the entire way through, but if one guy can make that fix so quickly, you have to wonder what else could've been improved with just a few hours' work. Does this info put you off of Dark Souls, or are you prepared to die anyway?
Lucky we have modders in the PC community to fix issues :)