Is Dark Souls PC Unplayable?

Soon enough, the PC version of Dark Souls will be available on Steam.  I recently did a review of it, and I found it a very challenging, but ultimately very deep experience, with a very clear and admirable design philosophy.  To miss it would be a real shame, in my opinion.  When the PC port was announced, I was pretty thrilled.  PC gamers could now play this excellent game!

However, potential let down after potential let down kept cropping up, each successive one turning potential players and customers off.  PC features such as variable resolutions, multitudes of graphical filters, and upping the framerate past the console standard of 30 FPS are nowhere to be found in the PC port.  Instead, Dark Souls for PC is locked at an internal resolution of 1024 x 720 and can’t go beyond 30 FPS.  Additionally, Dark Souls’s controls heavily favor the controller, and it also uses Games For Windows Live as its online platform, which has a very dreaded reputation in the PC community.

Many gamers are appalled by the port, either declaring their intentions to pirate it, or swearing it off entirely.  That’s understandable, to an extent.  These features I’ve mentioned are pretty vital for the PC, and excluding video customization options makes this port no better than most other console ports.  GFWL, in particular, happens to be a huge roadblock, as Steam outclasses it in practically every respect.  Hell, some regions can’t even play games that support GFWL!

However, I don’t think the game looks too bad.  Take a look at this video of the first seven minutes by ShadowZack.  Even in 1080p, the port still looks pretty decent.  It’s a little blurry, sure, but from what I’ve read, people make the game out to look like an upscaled, PS2-level mess.

Interestingly though, a user on Neogaf has come up with a fix that allows you to change the internal resolution.  Granted, the art assets won’t magically change, but this seems to make the game “finally playable” for some posters on message boards everywhere.

I think I’m missing something here.  The difference between a game being playable for many is an upscaled internal resolution.  The graphics look better, of course, but suddenly playable?  That phrasing doesn’t make any sense.  When a game is unplayable, that shouldn’t refer to graphics (unless in the rare cases where you can’t see what you’re doing, or something), but to the gameplay itself.

I'm no graphics enthusiast, but this fix makes the game look pretty good.

In a similar vein, Bethesda’s latest RPG, Skyrim, came out with a ton of bugs (like always), and a UI that heavily favored consoles.  The PS3 version was actually literally unplayable for some time, as game saves would accumulate so much data, that the game would start to crash very frequently.  That’s what I’d consider unplayable.  The other ports aren’t so unplayable.  Yet I don’t see people lambasting Bethesda.  At least, the complaints about Skyrim don’t seem to be in nearly as much volume as the complaints about Dark Souls seem to be.  While I would suspect the relative lack of criticism and declarations of piracy is due to the Elder Scrolls’ heavy modding features (and the idea that fans can fix everything Bethesda screws up or doesn’t bother with), that’s a topic for another day.

Dark Souls is still an awesome game.  I’ve only played it on PS3, but from what I’ve played, the game is, contrary to what naysayers would have you believe, actually playable.  And from what I’ve seen in that video above, there’s nothing that would indicate the gameplay getting worse.  I would thus imagine the PC port is actually playable.  You should be getting the same awesome experience, albeit with a muddier look for those of you with very large monitors (though it already looks better than the console version).

I suppose character models aren't all that great, however.

If anything, I could see the argument that the weak KB+M controls make the game unplayable, but Dark Souls was very much designed with a console controller in mind (after all, the PC port was literally an afterthought).  You very much need full radial movement in Dark Souls, and the eight degrees of motion WASD affords will not cut it.  I suppose you could make the argument that From Software could have changed the controls to make the camera follow the mouse at all times, which would certainly allow for more radial movements.  However, that changes the feel of the game, something I’m sure From didn’t want to do.  If they did want to change the feel of the game, I’m sure they would’ve hired another studio to do the porting job.

Dark Souls, from a purely graphical standpoint, is subpar.  It never had graphics like some of the prettier PC games, such as The Witcher 2.  Though Dark Souls has fantastic art direction to make up for that, the PC port doesn’t upgrade the graphics a significant amount.  I certainly understand the complaints about the graphics.  I understand the GFWL complaints even more.  However, what I don’t understand are the claims that the game is unplayable.  I think PC gamers need to reevaluate what makes a game playable and what doesn’t, because graphics certainly don’t.  Gameplay, I would imagine, determines whether a game is playable, and Dark Souls has great gameplay in spades.  Dark Souls won’t win PC port awards, sure, but Dark Souls is, in fact, perfectly playable, and From Software didn’t shortchange you on that.

As an anecdote, you can already pirate the game, but as of writing, you cannot save your progress.  In addition to the inability to go online with the pirated version, I’d say the pirated version is actually more unplayable.


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A mad scientist who's so cool!


A mad scientist who's so cool!


  1. I dont understand why its "unplayable" I play it on my PC just fine I even manage 2 do it using my mouse which most people I talk 2 seem 2 think is imposible

  2. It is all about the reaction time with Dark Souls. And "Reaction time" with a KB+M just doesn't happen. This game was made for a controller. I have both the PC and Xbox version of this game. I know first hand on both so trust me when I say don't even think about getting this game on PC unless you have a game pad first.

  3. constantly having to recenter the camera by pressing o makes the game unplayable
    another example, why did the progs bind the END key instead of the REGULAR ESC key for the menu
    it gives you an idea f people who never played any game on a pc, these guys should not be hired to port the game on such a platform

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