It's hard to think of a game with a more infamous reputation than Lichdom Battlemage. It launched on consoles in April with an average frame-rate under 15fps. Yes, it was really that low. A couple of months on, a patch designed to address these problems was released and we can confirm that the game is much, much better now. In fact, there's a night and day improvement.
That's right, Lichdom Battlemage has been completely renewed with a monumental performance boost across the board. It's a miraculous save that seemed out of reach at the time of release, but there's no doubting that some serious optimisation work has yielded remarkable results. On Xbox One, the game is now capped at 30fps with an adaptive v-sync solution in place and actually manages to maintain its target frame-rate nicely. You'll still run into some light tearing here and there but it's now one of the best-performing CryEngine games on Xbox One. Who would have expected that?
PlayStation 4 doesn't fare quite as well - the boost in performance is massive, but the frame-rate is completely uncapped and highly inconsistent. This leads to situations where you're getting nearly 60fps in less demanding areas while still dropping into the mid-20s during major battles. Of course, this is a substantial improvement over the original game, which could drop as low as 12fps, but the experience still feels sub-par. There's also some intrusive hitching and stuttering that seems to crop up regularly during gameplay, and this really needs addressing.
So how has the developer managed to produce such an enormous boost to performance? One of the sacrifices concerns resolution - both games now operate at 1600x900 as opposed to the full 1080p of the original release. While the resolution drop certainly has a positive effect on performance, it's clear that a lot of additional optimisation was carried out as well. The reduced pixel-count alone can't explain anything up to a 3x improvement in frame-rate.
And the good news is that Lichdom Battlemage still manages to look reasonably clean at the reduced resolution. The more significant issue is actually the lack of decent anisotropic filtering - textures are blurred at oblique angles. This highlights an interesting point, namely that native rendering resolution is only one factor that defines in-game image quality, and it's not always the most important.
Loading times were another sticking point in the original release - starting up any level meant waiting more than two minutes, whether you were gaming on PS4 or Xbox One. It felt like an eternity and made it very difficult to jump in and out of the experience. The developers have made efforts to tackle this issue as well and have managed to shave off thirty to forty seconds per load. That still puts us at around 90 seconds to load a level, which is still too long, but at least the game doesn't have to reload upon death.
With titles like this it's always interesting to watch how things unfold. In two months, the game evolved from a virtually unplayable mess into a fairly decent offering, making it clear that perhaps the developers should have been given more time to get the game right before it was released. The origin of this title on consoles is particularly curious - having been originally created by Xaviant and released in 2014, the game was picked up by Maximum Games and ported by the Portuguese development house Bigmoon Studios.
This isn't a new relationship either - prior to the release of Lichdom, Maximum Games and Bigmoon released Alekhine's Gun on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as well. Similar to Lichdom, the game ran very poorly on consoles. Hopefully the situation with Lichdom will help the two companies avoid situations like this in the future. After all, Xaviant's Lichdom Battlemage really isn't a bad game - it remains pretty cool on PC - but the console ports have gained a negative reputation as a result of the botched initial release.
Still, we're happy that the developer has taken the time to address its faults. When a game is released in bad shape, it's not always a guarantee that it will be patched into shape so when it does actually happen, it's obviously good news. So if you're thinking about giving the game a shot, we can actually report that the game isn't half bad on Xbox One. The PlayStation 4 version remains too unstable for our liking but at least it's much more playable than it was at launch.