From Software and Namco Bandai made little effort to make Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition playable a PC game. This is a barebones, lazy port of a console game and it shows — everywhere. From the “PRESS START BUTTON” on the title screen to the Xbox 360 button prompts left everywhere to the decision to lock the resolution, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is a sterling example of Everything To Not Do in a PC Game in the Year 2012. However, once a few tweaks are applied, it’s the same great game already available on the 360 and PS3 albeit with new bosses, enemies, and areas.
First, let’s talk about my experience with Games For Windows Live. Trying to register a new account with Microsoft’s awful always-on DRM proved to be an exercise in not punting my computer across the room.
There are pirates out there playing the game, I thought. And I can’t even get past this stupid registration screen.
So I retyped all my info and tried again a couple more times in case the error was a one-time thing. The error wouldn’t go away. Message boards commenters revealed that I wasn’t the only one who encountered this roadblock. And not just with Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition, but many other games shackled by GFWL.
There are pirates out there playing the game, I thought. And I can’t even get past this stupid registration screen. From, Namco, hell, any PC publisher, refrain from using GFWL. Please. It’s horrible. Downloading this off Steam and then contending with another always-online service is redundant as hell.
I tried registering with another browser — Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer, instead of Chrome! — and nada. Then I got the bright idea to make a Hotmail account and log-in using that, figuring that Microsoft services are in league with each other. After going through that registration process (passwords must have lower/upper/numbers/symbols/ancient symbol, please!) I was able to log into GFWL to discover I still had to deal with Xbox Live GamerTags. Ugh.
Once I changed my GamerTag or whatever (only allowed one free change!) and logged in, I was greeted by the Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition title screen. And a big “PRESS START BUTTON” message. The game also started in Windowed mode, its default mode. After rubbing my eyes from disbelief I tried creating my character. Except I couldn’t use the mouse to change parameters and options. I had to use the arrow keys to scroll up, down, left and right between each selection. That control method fits a console; on a PC, which has a mouse hooked right up to it, it’s cumbersome. And baffling.
Then things got really embarrassing. Once I made my Knight and began my journey, Xbox 360 button prompts accompanied each action in the tutorial section. “A” button to examine, “RB” to attack. These pop-up prompts were meaningless when controlling with a mouse and keyboard, so I opened options — accessible by pressing the End key– to see how to attack or do anything, and to fix things. It’s impossible to navigate or fight properly using a mouse and keyboard even after tinkering with control options. The game wasn’t designed with that kind of input in mind, which throws the whole idea of a PC port into the air. Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition requires a controller.
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition at least gets simple stuff like WASD movement correct, but performing elaborate moves like jumping and kicking proved impossible, as well as controlling the camera with the mouse. There’s no smoothness or finesse to it. The camera jerks around so much it makes walking up stairs challenging. There’s no precision. As such, locking on enemies is — yup, you guessed it — impossible to do with the mouse.
If a game cannot released in 2012 can’t do what several other games have done in the past several years with a mouse and keyboard, then, well, it’s a pretty bad port.
To top all that off? No mouse sensitivity settings. None. If a game cannot released in 2012 can’t do what several other games have done in the past several years with a mouse and keyboard, then, well, it’s a pretty bad port.
I eventually researched how to do make an Xbox 360 or PS3 controller playable on my PC. I ended up using Motion In Joy and a USB cable to get my PS3 controller working. Once I got that set up the game controlled fine. Even with competent mouse and keyboard control, a controller is the best way to play this game. In Dark Souls it’s preferred to keep your shield up, run, jump and lock-on enemies. Often these abilities are used in tandem with one another. That’s not likely to happen with mouse/keyboard.
The other major problem is the more notorious one: the locked resolution. Stuck at 1024 x720, Dark Souls look much older and uglier than it actually is. With Durante’s easy fix the game looks much better. He’s been updating his fix frequently too, making other useful changes to the game based on players’ suggestions. Since the resolution fix, he’s added game save backups (very handy for whenever GFWL craps out), the option to get rid of the ever-present cursor, and other worthwhile adjustments. Y’know, stuff that should’ve been there to begin with. That’s often the case with PC games: when the devs fail, it’s up to the community to step in.
ALL THAT SAID…
This is the console version of Dark Souls, playable on PC. It’s playable and it’s great, tense, grim stuff. Yes, this port is lazy and weird, but it’s also on PC because the fans wanted it there. It’s better than no lazy port at all. The outside fixes — a controller and the work of a programmer unaffiliated with Namco Bandai or From Software — plus all the additional content almost make the PC version the optimal way to play the game. Until you factor in Microsoft’s woeful DRM, and the huge graphic overlay for equipped items and weapons, but that should get sorted out by the tireless efforts of the PC gaming crowd.