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Play It On A Mac: Dark Souls - Prepare To Die Edition

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In this weekly series I'll show you how to get your favorite Windows-exclusive PC games running on OS X. For more information on the programs used, check out the Play It On A Mac explainer. For suggestions and/or questions about any game, feel free to contact me on Twitter.

Even though the game is the harsh, evil, despicable spawn of Satan himself, I love Dark Souls. The game, and it's newly-released sequel, are big hits on home consoles, but the Windows-exclusive version of Dark Souls, called Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition is a giant pain in demon ass even for those with Windows gaming PCs, so how are we going to get it running on a Mac? Let's see...

CrossOver

I kind of had a feeling that Dark Souls was going to be a problem with CrossOver, and I was right. Despite the game holding a seemingly incorrect Silver ranking on the official CrossOver compatibility list, you won't be able to get the game running on your Mac using this method.

The problem here isn't so much with the game itself or CrossOver, but with the game's requirement of Games For Windows LIVE connectivity. Games For Windows LIVE has huge issues connecting to the internet through CrossOver and the game outright crashes before you even get started. On to the next option!

Parallels

After a trying install and several Games For Windows LIVE sign-ins and sign-outs, the game boots up and runs. On my decidedly modest test machine, the game is what I would consider to be unplayable, which is a huge bummer. No matter what settings I tweaked in Parallels, the game tops out at around 15 frames per second, which just isn't workable for a game that requires quick reflexes to avoid untimely deaths.

This isn't necessarily the fault of Parallels, however, as Dark Souls on PC is notorious for being one of the most poorly optimized games in recent memory. If you have a more powerful Mac on your hands, Parallels may very well work for your Dark Souls excursion, but it didn't work out that way for me.

At this point I considered it a bit of a personal challenge to get this game running on my lowly Mac mini, so we moved on to our last and final option.

Boot Camp

dark souls screenshots

As in Parallels, the obnoxious install and update process eventually gave way to actual gameplay. As in Parallels, the game was running below my playability standards, but unlike in Parallels, I would occasionally see a glimpse of the coveted 30fps mark that I was searching for.

You see, the way Dark Souls was coded forces the game to commit to a certain framerate depending on the resources available. If your PC has ample power to display what is needed, you are locked in at 30fps by default. If not, the game attempts to halve that speed and locks you at 15fps. During my Boot Camp play time I was constantly jumping back and forth between 15fps and 30fps, which made combat and exploration difficult.

There is a tool used by Dark Souls PC diehards that is made to allow super powerful rigs the chance to run the game at 60fps with maxed out graphics and texture swaps. It's called DSfix (Dark Souls fix), and while there was zero chance I was going to be running the game at 60fps, I was able to use it to help me out a bit in my Boot Camp Dark Souls adventure. Here's how:

  • First, download DSfix 22 and unzip it.
  • Now, find the folder containing your Dark Souls executable file and copy the contents of your DSfix folder into it.
  • Once this is done, open the DSfix configuration settings file using a text editing program. Here you'll be able to tweak the individual settings for DSfix.
  • Find the Unlock Framerate option and change it from a "0" to a "1" and change the Frame Rate Limiter from "60" to "30."
  • Make sure both antialiasing and motion blur are disabled.
  • Now save and exit.

Upon restarting Dark Souls, I found that rather than pushing me all the way down to 15fps when the game sensed it couldn't maintain a steady 30fps, the framerate only dipped down to 25fps occasionally before jumping back up to 30fps, which was the new limit I had set. The dip from 30fps to 25fps isn't nearly as noticeable as a plummet all the way to 15fps, and I found the game to be absolutely playable with these new settings in effect.

Keep in mind, this is fast-paced action RPG in 1080p, and I'm running it on a Mac mini with Intel integrated graphics. That's a hell of an achievement if I do say so myself.

Verdict

After an unusually intense install and testing process, I found a way to make it work, and I'm extremely happy with the results. Some diehard PC gamers (which I consider myself to be, as well) might roll their eyes at the middle-of-the-road framerate mark, but for those dedicated to the Mac, and who have never had a chance to play this fantastic game, it's a perfectly adequate way to experience it.

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