By Egge 54 Comments
By now the unofficial confirmations regarding a possible upcoming PC port of From Software's unapologetically hardcore action RPG Dark Souls are numerous enough that it's no longer meaningful to file this in the "rumors and wishful thinking" category. With that in mind, here are the top three reasons why I personally think having this game on PC is such a great idea;
1) Ensuring the long-term preservation (as well as incremental enhancement) of a truly great game.
Being able to play old games can be a hassle regardless of platform but console hardware developers such as Microsoft and Sony aren't exactly helping by severely limiting or even going so far as to actively strip out backward compatibility from their dedicated gaming systems, and the infamously subpar quality of (some) so-called "HD" re-releases of late don't inspire much confidence in the motivation of publishers to keep their older console games fully and faithfully playable on future entertainment rigs. Now, the PC platform has its own share of problems - enough of them, in fact, that entire commercial services (such as The Artist Formerly Known as Good Old Games) have sprung up to deal specifically with an increasing demand for easily playable classics patched up to work well with modern computers and OS setups. But the operative term here is "patched", since the inherent flexibility of the PC platform obviously allows both commercial and non-commercial actors to tinker directly with the game files and develop workarounds which adapts or even tricks the product in question to function properly on current operative systems and hardware configurations. An added bonus in this respect is modability, but at least in the case of Dark Souls I have a feeling that the focused design of the game in question makes modding a comparatively superfluous activity. User-made high-res textures, custom shaders etc. make a certain amount of sense but I'd probably put such efforts in the "modern compatibility" column since they don't directly influence gameplay.
It goes without saying that none of this perhaps needlessly pedantic concern with preservation would mean much if the actual product we're concerned with here wasn't worth saving from the slings and arrows of outrageous backward incompatibility in the first place. But despite not actually having played much of Dark Souls myself (I own PS3 copies of both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls but have only played the former game extensively), judging from what has already been written about the grim brilliance of From Software's latest RPG I think it's already fair to say that it's one of the finest releases in its genre during the current hardware generation. Whether or not the cool but not altogether essential online functionality is switched off at some point - and here the PC as a platform could presumably make unofficial networking solutions a viable option - the mere thought of having this challenging, lengthy, multi-layered and extremely replayable RPG experience readily available on digital distribution networks such as Steam etc. for many years to come is enough to warm my old school heart.
2) Increasing the likelihood of more frequent console-to-PC ports of high-quality niche titles.
Provided that all those petition writers and forumites who have expressed their strong desire for a computer version of Dark Souls manage to put their money where their mouths are and actually support this PC release the game could do very well indeed; both immediately at launch and during a longer time frame which includes the inevitable price drops and Steam sales etc. In turn, that would make it somewhat more likely that the recent bout of more or less unexpected PC announcements (including Warren Spector's Epic Mickey 2 and Yakuza developer Toshihiro Nagoshi's Binary Domain) might become a real trend and carry over into the next console era, during which increased technological parity between consoles and PCs should at least in theory make the business of porting a less jarring "oh shit, this looks awful in 1080p"-kind experience.
More specifically, Dark Souls is probably the one big test case in terms of an almost universally acclaimed but still relatively niche title, which in all likelihood would never have been ported if there hadn't been a very vocal demand for it among both ordinary gamers and more professional journalists and media content producers alike. The broadly Westernized aesthetics might seem to make this is a somewhat special case, but I personally doubt that since one would have expected to see a lot more of, say, King's Field on PC if this line of reasoning was correct. Thus, a successful PC port of Dark Souls potentially could play a significant role for future PC releases of previously console-exclusive Japanese games.
3) Promoting a cease-fire in the unhelpful console/PC culture wars.
This third point is rather speculative, and there have admittedly been some not entirely unreasonable arguments made for why Dark Souls - with its' gamepad-oriented control scheme and resolute lack of quickload functions - could very well end up alienating at least those exceedingly dogmatic PC players who conflate platform standards with design imperatives (which even otherwise well-meaning enthusiasts sometimes do). If that indeed turns out to be the case, it's their loss.
However, I do believe that Dark Souls represents a golden opportunity for those often uninformed skeptics who mostly associate console gaming in general with, say, Gears of War and Final Fantasy to discover the rich Japanese subculture of challenging and often surprisingly Western- and/or PC-influenced console titles. Indeed, apart from their most recent titles Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, it's not hard to see why From Software's focused gameplay and understated art design have enabled them to make a breakthrough of sorts in the West at the exact same time that some of the Eastern heavyweights such as Square-Enix are disappearing further down the rabbit holeof tired JRPG conventions. Ideally, Dark Souls could serve as a rebuttal both to the notion that all Japanese games are messy, impenetrable and influenced by the least tasteful anime imaginable as well as the embarrassingly wide-spread idea that console games by definition are dumbed-down and shallow compared to PC games.
But, yeah, all I really wanted to say with this is that it sure is nice to know that there's going to be at least one version of this game without the much-discussed frame rate issues in Blight Town...