Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year

Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year

If you've been playing Dark Souls II, and following the coverage leading up to the game's release, you may have noticed that the version of Dark Souls II that was originally shown off to the public was not the same as the game we got on consoles. Tweaks to the lighting, overhauls in the structure of the game and graphical changes have been significant since the original gameplay reveal.

The following post contains some images that could be considered spoilers.

The torch system in Dark Souls II, as I played it in the E3 demo last year , sure did look gorgeous. The idea was that the game would feature a dynamic lighting system that would force players to carry a torch around certain areas just to see. Enemies and objects would have cast very harsh shadows.

In retrospect, that could have also been a massive hassle.

Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year
Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year

Lighting in the IGN gameplay reveal (11 April 2013) and the Playstation All Access demo (29 January 2014).

Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year

Muted shadows in the final version.

Granted, that might have been the point — force a player who would normally operate with a sword and shield to go one-handed, creating an additional level of dynamic difficulty. But that also means that the game would be punishing specific styles of play. What if you prefer to use the bow? What if you're a magic caster? What about people who dual-wield? The Souls series has never been about that, and potentially throwing the entire game balance out the window just to make it look cool wouldn't have been ideal.

Dark Souls II, as it shipped for PS3 and Xbox 360, does not really require that of you. The blacks are less contrasty and while torches help against certain enemies and areas. They are not required to the extent of the original demo. You can get by without carrying a torch everywhere, and frankly, that's how it should be. Half of the fun of Dark Souls is being able to parse out exactly where an enemy is, how far away they are. While it is a cute trick for certain areas of previous games (like Tomb of the Giants), I wouldn't want an entire Souls game that played like that. Also, the shadows as they were presented in the original demo could have been distracting when fighting enemies.

A comparison between the original IGN reveal and the final version shipped.

That said, the game does look massively different from what shipped. Changes beyond just the lighting are evident. Different textures and geometry seem to be present in the versions presented.

Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year
Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year
Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year
Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year
Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year
Yes, Dark Souls II Looks Different Than It Did Last Year

You can read an entire thread of comparisons and speculation over at NeoGAF. It's worth noting that we still do not have the PC version of the game, which might be radically different than the console versions.

We've reached out to Namco Bandai for comment about the apparent differences, and we'll let you know what, if anything they share about them.

Pictures: IGN, HHgaming, NeoGAF


Comments

    It sure doesn't look as pretty as I was hoping and is perhaps a visual step back from the first two buuuut the gameplay and lore is still extremely engrossing which is really what counts. Still trying to soothe that slight burn after all those pre-release videos and screenshots though :(

    Ouch! It looks like a huge step down from the lighting and textures of the pre-release footage. I hope this is a console limitation and the PC version ships with the full range lighting and textures.

    I imagine that the torch change is a gameplay/design decision, as that could still be done on the last gen consoles, but I'm not sure I agree with it.

      I might crank up the contrast and severely lower the brightness to get it a little closer though. :P

    To be honest this feels like a bit of a downgrade ala Colonial Marines. Not a big deal as it's an excellent game, but I did notice that the game didn't look as good as I had hoped given the previews.

    So a theory on GAF that makes sense to me:

    They tried to get the full range dynamic lighting system working on consoles, but they just couldn't get it performant in time, so they dropped it at the last minute. Relighting the game would have been too much work, so a quick surgical fix is to just turn off all the really expensive lights, but that left the game way too dark, so to compensate they just cranked up the ambient lighting (a global "make everything brighter, even areas that are meant to be dark" light), which as a side effect also make the torch much less important.

    I'm hoping that they've left the option in there to keep the cool lighting for the PC version and possibly for a current generation console version as well. Only time will tell!

    Last edited 14/03/14 11:08 am

    But that also means that the game would be punishing specific styles of play. What if you prefer to use the bow? What if you’re a magic caster? What about people who dual-wield? The Souls series has never been about that, and potentially throwing the entire game balance out the window just to make it look cool wouldn’t have been ideal.

    Umm... so what? It can be part of the challenge. Change up your tactics or have a harder time. Why do we have to balance out the game to work 100% of the time for each type of style? This isn't Skyrim this is Dark Souls. I wasn't a bow user in Dark Souls but there were moments where I had to be, and I got by. This also creates conversation for how unique each player's playthrough is. In Dark Souls there were areas and bosses that were hard for some people but easy for others, but that was switched at a different area/boss.

    If you design the game to work for everyone then the only thing the player has to learn is patterns and attacks, not have to learn about new attack styles or approaches.

    My assumption was always that the footage was the PC version. The lighting and particles just looked TOO good to be current console quailty. Regardless, it's still a beautiful game, just think of the first time you saw Mejula, or the Tower of Flame.

      The build with dynamic shadows was running on PS3 beta, several people can confirm it. Plus there is still some stutter in the final build, so I think it really was dropped at the last minute together with some geometry and overall detail. It also looks like the build with better graphics was somewhat optimized since it looks pretty smooth in videos and that is why even the build with worse graphics stutters sometimes, they just didn't have enough time to polish it.

    I've done the media blackout for DS2, so I never had these graphical expectations. For me, I think the quality of the game is pretty sweet, and in the 45mins (I know it should have been more) that I played last night, I thought it was great.

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