Dark Souls 2 Visual Analysis: PC vs. PS3 vs. Xbox 360

From Software with another behemoth, leaving an itty-bitty more destruction desired.

Posted By | On 15th, May. 2014 Under Article, Editorials


There’s no point beating about the bush with this title. Dark Souls has been one of the greatest games that has left From Software’s crafting table. In spite of that, the PC version of the game was downright appalling. Now with the sequel of the game in place, everything is almost the same, if only better by a smidgen. With the developers keeping mum about the new-gen console release of Dark Souls 2, we have only the last generation of consoles to pit against each other, and of course the PC.

Dark Souls 2 runs similarly enough on both the consoles. Enough to call them identical. Spotting out the differences requires peeled, scrutinising eyes and the attention span that of a lizard while catching flies; which isn’t much anyway but enough to get our work done here. The only apparent difference between the two older generation of consoles is that the Xbox 360 lacks V-sync implementation, resultant of which, there’s a considerable amount of screen tearing.

dark souls 2

"Instead of becoming an all out console war, Dark Souls does away with the differences and sits cosily between the two with some minor differences that anyone would be hard pressed to notice even after pitting the two systems side by side. It comes down more as how big an improvement Dark Souls 2 is over its predecessor. "

Owing to the PS3’s better texture filter, it naturally fares better that its MS counterpart. The texture rendering difference is sometimes apparent at a handful of locations and most;y when you notice the terrain you’re walking on. This is also because of the fact that the PS3 utilises anisotropic filtering; the 360 completely ignoring the said effect, has visibly downgraded textures, again, at only a handful of locations.

Thee 360 still manages to live upto its name with a few things that the Sony console lacks. Gamma correction is more visible in the MS console and alpha processing too, is better, resulting in transparency effect s where needed, i.e., water, flames et al. The PS3, lacking this, shows up jagged ends, especially when objects are overlaid in the environment.

The PS3 again scores more with its anti-aliasing which is better than its rival. Whereas, the 360 has better lighting effects especially noticeable in the way crepuscular rays are rendered. Thus, instead of becoming an all out console war, Dark Souls does away with the differences and sits cosily between the two with some minor differences that anyone would be hard pressed to notice even after pitting the two systems side by side. It comes down more as how big an improvement Dark Souls 2 is over its predecessor.

Dark Souls 2

"Even on the lowest settings, alpha particle effects are way better than that of the Xbox 360, and of course than the PS3. Even with these whirlwind of improvements, the PC version is a little disappointing on a lot of takes. "

With excellent lighting effects, higher resolutions (at 1280×720 instead of the prior game’s 1024×720), ambient occlusion, model rendering etc, the game is definitely an improvement over its forerunner. Before coming to the downside of the game’s graphics in general, here’s what the game has to offer on the PC.

The PC version of Dark Souls is a PS3 port and performs largely like the console when set on the lowest settings, which oddly are actually ‘medium’ settings.

The PC version is a remarkable improvement, with provisions for resolutions of upto 4k and excellent shadows in contrast to the jagged shadows on both the console versions.

The graphics menu is pumped up considerably, offering options for anti-aliasing, blur, model detail rendering, shadows, effects, textures and anisotropic filtering.

Even on the lowest settings, alpha particle effects are way better than that of the Xbox 360, and of course than the PS3. Even with these whirlwind of improvements, the PC version is a little disappointing on a lot of takes. With only FXAA anti-aliasing in place, it’s sometimes not enough to do away with the jaggy problems. Especially when playing in high-res.

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"All in all, Dark Souls 2 has a lot of improvements with regard to its predecessor considering the visual aspects. But even so, it seems From Software has missed the train to making Dark Souls 2 a confounding beauty to behold. The new lighting model in the game is splendid, but in comparison to the alpha-build version showcased at the E3 2013, it wanes like a scared otter. "

There’s something off-putting about the 2D skybox, which is a problem that pervades to both the consoles too, as the objects rendered at far away distances are done so at lower resolutions. Even though the lowered level of detail pop-in is appreciated vis-a-vis the consoles, the bokeh depth of field is disappointing.

Nonetheless, the bloom effect and crepuscular rays in the game are out right gorgeous, making every battle out in the open a spectacular thing of beauty.The game is handled well by mid-end cards like the 7790, even with the lower end 7750. The former handling the game at around 60fps and 40fps respectively.

Cutting down on graphics settings – especially the effects quality, which is a major resource hog – can enable the game to be run on low end GPUs too, whilst maintaining a console-esque frame rate, which isn’t bad at all.

All in all, Dark Souls 2 has a lot of improvements with regard to its predecessor considering the visual aspects. But even so, it seems From Software has missed the train to making Dark Souls 2 a confounding beauty to behold.

The new lighting model in the game is splendid, but in comparison to the alpha-build version showcased at the E3 2013, it wanes like a scared otter.

dark souls 2

"The level of detail on the consoles is quite disappointing and rather noticeable, which can get irksome to the careful eye. Textures on both the consoles are egregious, and done for the sake of getting things done. Everything from the environment textures to character clothing, the textures are horrendous, yet still, an improvement over the first game. "

The alpha-build lighting had gamers across the globe drivel and slobber helplessly as if suffering from brain epilepsy. But From Software chose to do away with THAT exact thing. No matter what their reasons, this is unforgivable. In addition to it, Dark Souls 2 on the PC – frustratingly curious as it may be – dos not utilise the new Direct X11, but instead, sticks to the older Dx9 version.

The level of detail on the consoles is quite disappointing and rather noticeable, which can get irksome to the careful eye. Textures on both the consoles are egregious, and done for the sake of getting things done. Everything from the environment to character clothing, have horrendous textures yet, still are an improvement over the first game. But staring at giant mountains and cliff edges which look more like painted geometrical blocks, doesn’t seem very appealing.

FPS cap is missing on the consoles, which results in screen tearing, although it is still handled by the Sony console better than the MS console. PS3 frame rates are sometimes lower than that of the 360, often by a margin of 10+ frames; for example, during battles or when the depth of field is extensive.

Coming to depth of field, the developers have tried to be clever pricks. Although not noticeable outrightly, the game has a number of game elements strategically placed to save on rendering, which would be awesome if it didn’t interfere with the game.

The seamless integration of the world is still there, but instead of allowing players to often look at the whole area from a vantage point, Dark Souls 2 has a lot of mountains and/or buildings placed in between that preclude the user from appreciating the beauty of the game.

dark souls 2

"Dark Souls 2, although a significantly commendable improvement over the first game, hasn’t struck a few right notes. The game is much better implemented and there are a truck load of improvements, graphically and otherwise but still leaves a teeny tiny bit to be desired. "

One moment you glimpse a coruscating spectacle of sunlight streaming through from a crevice on a cliff, happily trundling towards it to find a sprawling view to behold, only to find a handful of more cliffs blocking the rest of the map from being visible.

This is in stark contrast to the first game, which really awed me, especially when I happened to witness the view while moving to the Catacombs and whilst on the Church top after defeating the bell demons.

Dark Souls 2, although a significantly commendable improvement over the first game, hasn’t struck a few right notes. The game is much better implemented and there are a truck load of improvements, graphically and otherwise but still leaves a teeny tiny bit to be desired. Mind, there’s nothing game breaking about it, it’s only that the game isn’t what From Software had us in for.

While the PC version of the game is recommended for those seeking aesthetic beauty (and otherwise), console gamers have not much to fight over since the game runs almost identically on both, the PS3 and the Xbox 360.

Dark Souls 2 as such, is best taken not as a new game, but rather a radically improved version of Dark Souls, delivering more of the same difficulty and satisfaction quotient as the game before. Death, is imminent. Only more beautiful.

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