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Lichdom is the worst-performing game Digital Foundry has ever tested

A 15fps gameplay average on PlayStation 4.

You may not be familiar with Lichdom: Battlemage, but after reading this, you may not be able to forget it either. Lichdom is a console port of a two-year-old PC game that also happens to be one of the worst performing console games we've ever tested. We've run through the likes of Broforce, The Last Tinker, Assassin's Creed Unity and even Shadow of Mordor on PlayStation 3 - but nothing quite matches what we're witnessing here.

There's no beating around the bush here - Lichdom is a game that rarely manages to deliver a frame-rate north of twenty frames per second. In fact, the PlayStation 4 clocks up an average frame-rate of just 15fps across the run of play, with dips as low as 10fps. On top of that, frame-time latencies can be astonishingly high with some remarkable stutter. We've run the rule over a multitude of titles since we started frame-rate testing console games back in 2008 - and we're pretty sure we've never seen anything quite as bad as this.

To make matters worse, if you're unlucky enough to play the game on Xbox One, you'll be treated to the same incredibly low frame-rate - and v-sync is disengaged too. The end result is a game with constant tearing - and it's a level of performance so poor that we actually found it difficult to look at the screen for more than a few minutes at a time. In comparison, while still very sluggish, v-sync is active on the PS4 version.

Lichdom on console has to be seen to be believed. The PC version - also featured - is actually pretty good and a lot of fun.

Lichdom is also one of the few games this generation running on CryEngine 3. Now, CryEngine doesn't exactly have the best track record on consoles but there have been some impressive releases over the years including Ryse: Son of Rome, which remains a beautiful-looking launch title, not to mention the visually lavish Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the exceptionally poor Sonic Boom on Wii U plus the often dodgy last-gen ports of Crysis. Against all odds, Lichdom: Battlemage actually manages to run slower than all of them.

Then we come to loading times and it's here that the 'Cry' in CryEngine takes on new meaning. Lichdom demands patience from its players. Throughout the adventure you will be faced with an onslaught of loading screens that can last anything from two to three minutes. It's a game that parks you in front of a loading screen for extended durations, only to exhibit severe texture streaming pop-in once finished. At least each map is sizeable in scale, and the game doesn't require a reload upon death, but the waiting time between these maps is interminable.

On the quest for positives, there is at least a full 1080p rendering resolution on both consoles, making Lichdom the very first CryEngine 3 game to run at full HD on Xbox One. However, perhaps that wasn't the best idea, bearing in mind the constant tearing and plateaus in the performance level. Beyond that, when placed side by side, we also note that the Xbox One version is remarkably dark. It's not simply a matter of adjusting the gamma slider here - the lighting appears different with a lower overall contrast leading to a darker, more dimly lit experience overall. In comparison, the PS4 version looks mostly identical to the PC original.

Xbox OnePlayStation 4
Textures load slowly on both consoles but it would appear that PS4 has a slight advantage here. It's rather surprising that such severe texture pop-in appears following nearly three minutes of loading.
Xbox OnePlayStation 4
The Xbox One version of the game is inexplicably dark - something that cannot be completely corrected using the gamma setting. It would appear to be a change inherent in the game's lighting.
Xbox OnePlayStation 4
Screen-space sun shafts are present and the game supports CryEngine 3's dynamic time of day, which is nice.
Xbox OnePlayStation 4
Some of the effects look great but, if you're playing on Xbox One, expect to see tear lines on a regular basis. It's almost impossible to avoid.

Speaking of the PC version, it should be noted that the original release on Steam runs like a dream on our GTX 970 set-up. A full 1080p60 is easily within reach and the game manages to feel highly responsive to boot. Console users are actually given a small taste of this with tutorial videos captured from the PC original - though it does feel somewhat like salt is being rubbed into the wound.

There's actually a genuine sense of disappointment here, because fundamentally, Lichdom is a genuinely fun title - as long as you play the original PC game [UPDATE 22/4/16: And at the time of writing, you can buy that - along with nine other titles for £2.29]. This is a game few have heard of, but it's also one that's well worth checking out (it helps that the original release is exceptionally cheap now) - and it could have found a following on consoles. But the performance and loading issues are simply too severe to overlook. The game itself becomes nearly impossible to enjoy when performance is consistently this poor.

We don't know where things went wrong and we have sympathy for the developers but the fact is, this is a game that should never have been released in this state. Lichdom should either have been held back until it was truly ready or simply remained exclusive to the PC if producing a competent port wasn't possible. Selling a game like this for near full price is unfair to consumers. Still, if this looks like a game you'd like to try, the PC version is the way to go. Take a look at the video above to see the difference - the console version just doesn't deserver your time or money.

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About the author

John Linneman

John Linneman

Staff Writer, Digital Foundry  |  dark1x

An American living in Germany, John has been gaming and collecting games since the late 80s. His keen eye for and obsession with high frame-rates have earned him the nickname "The Human FRAPS" in some circles. Hes also responsible for the creation of DF Retro.

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