Be forewarned when purchasing a retail copy of Dark Souls II. This is not the beautiful game that Bandai Namco has been hyping for the past year. All that gorgeous lighting and fantastic sense of atmosphere you've seen so far? You might be able to experience those on the PC version when it launches next month. For now, console gamers are turning on their home copies and finding a shocking surprise.
Something has happened to Dark Souls II, and we are not quite sure what.
While we are preparing our thoughts for a full fledged review, I figured it was important to share this beforehand if the graphics are a huge selling point for you when looking for this game. We don't want you waiting too long.
Dark Souls and Demon's Souls were not exactly graphical powerhouses, but to mask their shortcomings, FromSoftware thought of clever lighting techniques and other masking ideas to create a sense of atmosphere that didn't allow graphical limitations to slow it down. Art direction at its absolute finest. Demon's Souls and Dark Souls are masterpieces of the craft. It's this sense of atmosphere which has defined the series so far, alongside its brutal difficulty of course.
With Dark Souls II, all seemed to go well from the prepared trailers, but turning on the game shows nothing of the sort. Environments are bland, character models are cheap, and distant panoramas can't even begin to cover up some of the faded textures. Not a shred of that atmosphere can be found anywhere. Without the lighting and masking techniques, Dark Souls II comes off as a product that could have been a PlayStation 3 launch title, not a potential cross generational hit.
Call me picky, but that video aboves reveals there is lot more to this than just my personal preference. It's clear that this new engine FromSoftware created for the game wasn't made with the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 in mind, and a lot has been sacrificed to keep the game running at a steady pace. Graphics are not a make or break sale for me, but when I can tell that I'm playing something that is only half a product…
That goes double for when I know there is something better just around the corner. I would rather wait the extra month. Rest assured that the gameplay is still intact, but one look at this video shows that these console versions are not the versions you want.
Stay tuned for our full review in the coming week. Consider this just an early warning until then.
UPDATE: Just to clarify, this is not a comparison video between the PlayStation 3 and PC version. This compares a previous PlayStation 3 version with the retail version that was just released. The build I played at TGS 2013 looks totally different, and it more closely resembled the footage found in this PlayStation Access video.