Elden Ring's launch has been marked by strong reviews praising its gameplay and art direction, but also questions over its technical performance on each platform - PlayStation, Xbox and PC. Here at Digital Foundry, our analysis is in progress on the recently released 1.02 version of the game, but we wanted to provide some initial thoughts, recommendations and performance expectations for anyone planning to pick up the game at launch. This will be followed by our full analysis as soon as possible thereafter, detailing both PC and console performance.
First, let's look at the situation on consoles. The performance metrics we saw in the game's network test last year seem largely unchanged on PS5 and Series X. Both continue to offer two modes - a frame-rate mode and a quality mode. However, even running on the launch day patch 1.02, the frame-rate mode continues to run at a range of 45-60fps on PS5 and Series X, while the quality modes on each range between 30-60fps. Both machines run with entirely unlocked frame-rates, and much like the network test, there's still no 30fps cap to even out the wavering reading in quality mode. The result? A highly variable performance for the quality mode in particular, where 60fps is rarely - if ever - achieved on PS5 or Series X.
In comparison, PS5 is typically operating at a higher frame-rate than Series X, though clearly neither is ideal. The bottom line is neither console offers a consistent 60fps in the final release. That being said, there are workarounds for each platform well worth considering. Xbox Series X is greatly improved by its system-level support for variable refresh rate (VRR) if you have a supporting display. VRR helps minimise the perceived judder in its 45-60fps range in frame-rate mode, creating a smoother experience by matching the screen refresh to the frame-rate. This may not be a solution for everybody, but for those with compatible TVs it's the best option on Xbox right now. Series S users also benefit from VRR here. Given this platform's frame-rate mode runs between 40-60fps right now it's a viable choice, though not perfect, given Series S's performance veers more often towards the lower end of this range than Series X.
Meanwhile, hitting a stable 60fps on PS5 involves another tactic entirely. Sadly, VRR support isn't available on Sony's machine right now, but, as with the network test, simply running the PS4 app on PS5 clears up the frame-rate to a smooth 60fps. The trade-off? The game runs at a lower resolution - at what appears to be a reconstructed 1800p - and with lower settings in grass density than the native PS5 version. This is fundamentally the PS4 Pro codepath, using the higher power of PS5 to hit a more consistent performance level. Even with these trade-offs, running the PS4 app on PS5 is currently the best option on any console to achieve a consistent 60fps - and comes recommended if you value outright performance over image quality and higher-end graphical features.
The PC situation is also worth clarifying. As it currently stands the PC version using the latest 1.02 patch has a number of issues that will affect all hardware configurations on all graphical settings presets. Elden Ring is From Software's first foray into low-level APIs on PC and the game uses DirectX 12. As we have seen in other DX12 titles, there can be severe and distracting frame-time stuttering issues.
First there are stutters of up to 250 milliseconds in length when new effects, enemies, and areas appear on screen. These types of stutter lessen as the play experience goes on and enemies, areas, and effects are revisited by the player. A second and more pervasive stutter appears to be tied to loading new game areas - when traversing the terrain, moving from one area to the next can cause minor one-off frame drops a few times a minute, or at worst, tumbling frame-time issues that drop the frame-rate from a steady 60 into the 40s.
Variable refresh rate monitors using G-Sync or Freesync help alleviate a level of the distracting nature of some of these issues, but leaning on the technology is not a good situation in light of how the console versions do not suffer from these stutters. Other issues to note are the lack of ultrawide screen support, no support for frame-rates above 60fps, and unintuitive graphical options that lack visible scaling. As we have seen with other titles suffering from similar issues such as Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Halo Infinite, it could be sensible to wait for further patches before investing time into the PC version of Elden Ring.
So all in all, it's a bit of a mixed bag for Elden Ring right now on all platforms. Many of these issues could and should be fixed in future updates, and we hope that From Software are able to bring the game's performance to a level befitting the rest of the title's quality. We'll go into more depth in future videos and articles, so stay tuned.
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