DARK SOULS™: Prepare To Die Edition

DARK SOULS™: Prepare To Die Edition

241 ratings
Performance/Optimization tweaks for Dark Souls
By Cookington
Did you know you don't have to suffer with bad performance on Dark Souls? Me neither! I'm here to tell you how you can dramatically improve the performance of Dark Souls thanks to some easy fixes and make sure you can enjoy your deaths at a good framerate!
I'm Cookies. You may know me if you've checked the Borderlands 2 guides on Steam, as I made one of the more popular guides under the "Performance/Optimization tweaks" title. I'm just going to note that I'm not responsible for anything wrong that happens.

This also won't make a computer that can't run Dark Souls at all, as in refusing to launch, work all of a sudden. This is intended for computers that can get in-game and all, but have major lag and slowdown issues.

If you have any friendly constructive comments, post them! They can really help me out.

Before we begin this guide and let you enjoy one of the greatest games out there, this performance fix isn't entirely foolproof. If your PC is struggling in earlier areas, you're probably going to pull your hair out on Blighttown. Blighttown is known to be one of the most performance eating areas in the game.
Before we begin!
Before we start going into tweaking and improving performance, most gamers should know these basics. If you didn't know, here's a refresher.

Update your drivers!
For newcomers to PC gaming (or just casual players), you probably didn't know that updating drivers can improve stable-ness of your PC, fix bugs, and also improve performance in games!

ATi Users: http://support.amd.com/us/gpudownload/Pages/index.aspx
NVidia Users: http://www.nvidia.com/Download/index.aspx?lang=en-us
Intel Users: https://downloadcenter.intel.com/default.aspx

As a note for Intel users, it seems the company ignores gamers, as they pretty much never put out driver updates. I know this as I have an Intel laptop.

Laptop Users: ThrottleStop
A lot of gamers I know play on laptops. And those laptops have Intel processors. Intel processors are known to do something where when they think that they're getting the TINIEST bit hot, they will start to lower your performance to get back to normal temperatures. This application, named ThrottleStop, can stop Intel processors from doing this. WARNING! This application WILL make your PC get hotter and could possibly burn something. While this hasn't happened to me, it'll also lower the lifespan of your PC. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GOOD VENTALATION OR A GOOD COOLER FOR YOUR COMPUTER!!

Download: http://www.techinferno.com/downloads/?did=41

How to Use ThrottleStop
Hang on a second there, I'm not getting off this application that easily. This program needs a few steps to understand first of all.

1. Run the program as administrator, otherwise it won't have access to your CPU.
2. Check off EIST, BD PROCHOT, and C1E.
3. Check off Clock Modulation and Chipset Clock Mod and make sure both are at 100%.
4. Check off Set Multiplier and put it to the maximum it can get. For example, Intel i3 users have a max of 21.
5. Click Turn On and press Save.

Razer Game Booster
This is really optional, and experienced PC users will probably do this by themselves anyways, but I find using this application really easy to use and removes the hassle of doing it manually. What this application does is kill off unneeded background services and processes to get more memory and take off strain on your CPU.

Download: http://www.razerzone.com/gamebooster

Disable Windows Aero
This may not make a huge performance change, and can make Windows... "Ugly" looking, but it's still a good try to see what happens. Press Start, and type in the search bar "Performance" and select "Adjust the performance and appearence of Windows". Select the option for best performance and press Apply. This will make Windows look something like Windows 98, but from testing between the two, I got a pretty small-but-good performance boost.

However, if you are using Razer Game Booster, when changing options and customizing, there is an option to disable DWM and themes, which basically does the same thing as this.
* Download and Install DSFix
You may think I'm crazy because I'm recommending the thing that's supposed to make Dark Souls LOOK better, not RUN better. This isn't actually true and most people ignore that fact. The download site for DSFix doesn't mention better performance either.

  • Download DSFix over here: http://blog.metaclassofnil.com/?tag=dsfix
  • Install it to your Dark Souls DATA folder. For me, that'd be C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Dark Souls Prepare to Die Edition\DATA
* Editing the dsfix.ini - Resolution
Now that you've installed DSFix, let's edit the settings. You can use Notepad for this, but I'll personally be using Notepad++ because I prefer the look and the UI.

First, open up your dsfix.ini (which is in your Dark Souls DATA folder). It should look somewhat like this.

We want to focus on these two first settings.

What we'll need to first do is to edit that setting called renderWidth and renderHeight. The absolute lowest these settings can go is 512x384. This will make the game look pretty horrid though, but it provides the best performance. I personally recommend just trying different resolutions until you find one that will perform the best.

The last resolution option we need to adjust is the presentWidth and presentHeight. You don't want the game actually PLAYING at 512x384 and make your monitor scream in agony, so we'll need to adjust this setting. You can set this to your native resolution, because the render settings is what the game plays at. The present setting is just what the game will upscale to.
* Editing the dsfix.ini - Random pretty stuff
There's a lot of settings that are intended for what DSFix was made for: making the game look better. However, because we're trying to improve performance, we don't want these settings.

All you need to do is just change aaQuality to 0 so that it's supposedly off (we'll make sure it's 100% off later in the guide) and change the aaType to SMAA. The reason why we need to still set a type is because FXAA seems to have worse performance from the tests I've done, so this is why we're setting it to SMAA.

Ambient Occlusion
This setting is a giant OFF OFF OFF for performance. ssaoStrength should be set to 0, ssaoScale should be set to 3 (because that's the lowest option), and leave the ssaoType to its default, VSSAO.

Depth of Field
We're going to set all three of these to the absolute lowest settings. dofOverrideResolution and disableDofScaling should be set to 0, and dofBlurAmount should be set to o. Not zero (0), but the letter o.
* Editing the dsfix.ini - Framerate
This will be the biggest performance increase right next to the resolution. It's a weird fix, and it seems to show off that From Software's framerate lock for 30FPS isn't optimized well at all.

Change unlockFPS to 1. Now, I'm guessing none of your PCs will be able to handle 60FPS (I haven't seen that many hardcore PCs that can either!), so change FPSlimit to 30.

The last setting, FPSthreshold, is also what I was talking about to disable anti-aliasing entirely. Change that to 30.
* Playing!
Now that we're done with editing the INI for the best performance possible, we'll want to actually test Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition. So, let's start it up!

Log in with your normal Games for Windows Live stuff, and let the intros pass and everything. When you get to the main menu, stop and go to the PC Settings menu.

Adjust the resolution to that it's up to whatever you set in the presentResolution settings in the dsfix.ini. As I said in the guide, that would've been your native resolution.

You'll also want to turn off Antialiasing. Even though we turned it off in DSFix, the anti-aliasing that Dark Souls has already interferes entirely with DSFix. You can decide if you want motion blur on or not.

Now you can start up your Dark Souls save and enjoy playing through one of the greatest games out there!

Want proof that this works? Check it out on my laptop (hooked up to a TV) that uses a Intel HD Graphics 3000 and Intel i3 @ 2.10GHz! (If the video doesn't play, the link is over here.)

Before we leave and let you enjoy one of the greatest games out there, this performance fix isn't entirely foolproof. If your PC is struggling in earlier areas, you're probably going to pull your hair out on Blighttown. Blighttown is known to be one of the most performance eating areas in the game.
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bigguy Jan 8 @ 1:28am 
So Ive tried to adjust my resolution settings as shown above, and now when I go into the game it is locked at the wrong resolution and I havent been able to reset it. Not entirely sure what I did wrong but id like to atleast play it at 1920x1080 again... some help would be greatly appreciated
Kaibaria Dec 10, 2017 @ 11:31pm 
holy shit...I was already using DSFix with performance settings but it was literally so laggy that I played in slow motion. flicking on a couple more from this guide I didn't understand (resolution stuff mainly) instantly gave me frames...I think it's cause the default renderWidth and renderHeight make it run at 1080p...?
Aphotic Nov 25, 2017 @ 10:53pm 
A Wingless Monkey Nov 4, 2017 @ 3:58am 
Holy shit. Just "unlocking" the FPS to 30 made the game run smooth again. It's been nearly choking on itself ever since the switch to Steam from GFWL. This, alone, fixed it. Thanks!
Jem'appellejeff Oct 6, 2017 @ 8:51pm 
didnt work for me it looks like garbage
hankytonk Aug 27, 2017 @ 5:36pm 
Thanks so much for this man! Only got 2/3 through this game before my save got deleted and currently only have a laptop, this made it playable. Praise the sun brother
The Emperor's Champion Jul 31, 2017 @ 8:06am 
This doesn't work for me. I've istalled the latest version and everything. It boots up fine and the menu is okay, but as soon as I actually load into the game I get like 10 FPS. I actually got better frames on my laptop then I'm getting on my desktop
DataGreed Jul 14, 2017 @ 12:34pm 
Thanks, runs at 60FPS on gtx1080, had to globally enable fast vsync in driver settings, though
LoneStarr88 Jun 24, 2017 @ 6:41pm 
holy crap this worked so well, dark souls doesnt look like ass anymore, thank you
youareachoirboy Jun 17, 2017 @ 5:05am 
This is a great guide, but although I've followed the instructions to the letter, I keep getting that issue where the game displays in a little box in the corner of a grey screen. Whenever I Google it, all I see is people raging at other people for not having read the dsfix readme and turned antialiasing off in the game menu. Mine is DEFINITELY OFF, but I seem to have this issue regardless. If anybody could help, that would be great.