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To properly assess the PC version of Dark Souls III from a technical standpoint, one has to get passed FromSoftware’s prior, poor reputation first — bearing in mind atrocities such as Ninja Blade, Dark Souls, and then the heavily downgraded-yet-playable Dark Souls II. Equally it is vital to benchmark the game on a midrange rig, and at different game stages to minimize environment-related (e.g. populated/empty scenes/landscapes within a given camera angle) margin of error. Steam reviews implicate a troubled port, and our concerns include the culprits of some of the basal, most common issues, as well as the general state of the PC port as compared to the console versions.
Test build variations: 1. GTX 950/FX-8350/8GB DDR-III 1600//Win 8.1 2. HD 7850 (2GB)/I5-2500K/8GB DDR-III 1600//Win 8.1 3. GTX 650 Ti Boost (2GB)/FX-6100/8GB DDR-III 1600//Win 8.1 4. R7 370X/I5-6600K/8GB DDR-III 1600//Win 8.1
The game heavily borrows from the original Dark Souls in terms of gameplay and story (Assassin’s Creed much), and whether that would mean a similar performance is also to be expected on PC is a good starting question. General playability level (e.g. controls, port generalities such as menu integration, options) is certainly improved upon, and in our 8 to 9 hours of playthrough, we’ve barely come across anything lacking and/or game-breaking, the game being absolutely playable (preferable, in our case) with mouse and keyboard. The case of graphical options/optimization, however, happens to be different. Whereas it’s not so much comparable to what we call the benchmark of shoddy ports, Dark Souls — after all, From have harvested tons of money (souls, eh?) from PC gamers during past four years to act more caringly (though not too caringly, Bloodborne comes to mind) — it still suffers from a number of issues, which we will now discuss.
One prime complication is the lack of an all-inclusive access to graphical settings. Dark Souls III offers little-to-none control over the game’s core array of demanding settings, and that is very much its fatal flaw in the way it provides the user with superficial control over what goes on in the screen. Yes, the game employs the same amount of enhancements and additional effects as seen in Bloodborne, a title notorious for abysmal loading times and massive framerate slumps on its ‘home’ platform, resulting in effects overkill and poor performance. The key point here is that neither Bloodborne, nor Dark Souls III, run at 60FPS on consoles, both being locked to 30FPS. So does a competent midrange rig, say our third and second build variations, both of which theoretically mirror the hardware used on consoles, perform the game the same way (with everything maxed out and at 1920X1080) while locked at 30FPS? The answer, while positive, will take us to our biggest issue so far with the PC port of Dark Souls III: the sheer disregard for the average player.
To get the game run always at 30FPS, one has got to head way to the dedicated driver panel, and force the game to run at half-refresh rate. A longtimer might dismiss this as elementary, but even so, the disregard for the player does not end there, and the remaining instances exceed burial of what could have been simple in-game settings. With that said, all of our four build variations succeeded in maintaining 30FPS at all occasions. The load times, with the exception of a not-so-fast game startup, were relatively fast, even on mechanical hard drives; and, as far as random crashes and bugs were concerned, we did not encounter any (hopefully that will be enough for G-Spot to get off PC players’ back once and for all — NO ONE FALLS FOR YOUR NONSENSE; GET A LIFE). Therefore, if one were to assess the PC port based on how the consoles run the game, the conclusion would be that of overwhelming dominion. But, canceling out the said presupposition, and taking into account instead the fact that the same four builds are able to hit steady 60FPS in titles with marked superior graphical fidelity (port examples include MGS V, Mortal Kombat X; and PC codes, Dirt Rally), we will end up with, what is for the moment being — as Mortal Kombat X did improve on what was also initially a shoddy port — a shoddy port, yet, one whose console point of origin is equally ill-optimized, as opposed to say, MK X.
Now, to get back to the problem of contradictory Steam reviews, we could assuringly claim that the majority, if not all, of those have got to do with what we just discussed, that is From’s disregard for the average player. Obfuscation of graphical options as basic as vsync not only is unjustifiable, it is the deathnote to any port’s day-one public feedback.
In addition to the vsync issue, there are one or two other common issues that we postponed to the end of article as a way of resurfacing, and making the guide more accessible, all of which you can find below:
Of the earliest things we noticed while testing the game was the immense amount of stuttering, which made the already sub-60FPS performance even less endurable. As this seemed by no means an impossible thing to get rid of, unlike the forced visual effects, we tinkered with driver panels and noted several interesting things: a. ‘shader cache,’ a feature set to ‘on’ by default, and a feature ironically designed to reduce stuttering and load times in particular, was by and all responsible for every instance of stuttering we were experiencing in our initial four hours’ run, and b. the adaptive power management had unbalanced the overall performance on two of our newer GPUs.
You might also want to force ‘virtual reality pre-rendered frames’ to ‘use the application settings,’ ‘texture filtering – quality’ to ‘high performance,’ ‘maximum pre-rendered
frames’ to ‘1,’ to ensure maximum achievable FPS while leaving all in-game options to the highest level possible.
Guard break and jump attack have been impossible to perform while using Logitech gamepads, namely F310/F510, ever since the release of Dark Souls II, and while Scholar of the First Sin didn’t improve on that, Dark Souls III doesn’t seem to have done so either. Mostly an issue on Logitech’s side — the devices are known for their deadzone issues regardless of the game in question — there is a certain go-togetherness to framerates and the said issue. Solutions include locking your framerate to 30FPS while trying to adjust the deadzone/antideadzone attributes, but that will require the mods community to come up with the needed tools. If you have the misfortune of owning Logitech gamepads, you’ll just have to keep an eye on mods, or in case of owning a mouse with customizable additional keys, set the strong attack to a key other than left click, and use mouse and keyboards as a makeshift solution; it works without any issues whatsoever, and who knows, maybe you’ll eventually agree with us on mouse and keyboard being the way to go for Dark Souls.
Written by Ari Wilson