Forspoken PC tested: a confusing, deeply disappointing port

Forspoken PC tested: a confusing, deeply disappointing port

Forspoken’s launch on PlayStation 5 was technically difficult, with patchy visuals and inconsistent performance, so I wondered if the PC version could be the panacea for all woes. John mentioned in his DF Tech Review. We’ll get into the gory details shortly, but the good news is that the PC version runs better than the PS5 version – at least on high-end hardware. However, there are also some serious issues unique to the PC version that need to be addressed.

So here’s what you need to know, including how the PC version compares to playing on PS5, an overview of how DirectStorage reduces load times and optimizes settings to improve performance.

On first start however, Forspoken on PC gives a positive first impression. There’s an extensive settings menu with options to select image reconstruction techniques, dynamic resolution, ray-traced ambient occlusion (RTAO), and even an in-game benchmark. that these options are there, these PC intricacies fall into their execution.

Let’s start with the image quality options. DLSS (2.4.12), FSR (2.1), and even XeSS are provided depending on your GPU, but while they’re a net positive, each suffers from certain issues.

Here is DF’s full technical review of Forspoken in video form.

For example, FSR image resolution has issues with transparency effects such as particles, so things like fire can look much worse with FSR compared to DLSS or XeSS. Elsewhere, motion and deocclusion artifacts are present, and post-processing blurs such as depth of field look pixelated, as if unreconstructed. XeSS interacts with depth of field in an even worse way, with massive jitter issues that surely need to be fixed.

DLSS is probably the best option here, but both it and XeSS have issues with single-pixel specular effects when motion blur is enabled; these pixels are dragged into lines by the motion blur, as if a firefly filter is disengaged. Even the game’s TAA at native resolution has issues, with exposed ghosting on particles, much like FSR.

However, even with all these issues, the image quality on PC is at least significantly better than on PlayStation, mainly because DLSS (if available) is generally better than the FSR 2.1 used on PS5 and the internal resolution on PC is much higher.

Dynamic Resolution Scaling (DRS) is another rare inclusion for a PC port, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work properly in launch or patched versions of the game. In the launch code, the option only really did anything when used with native resolution plus TAA, but you can still enable it for some reason when DLSS, FSR or XeSS is engaged – quite confusing for the user. A patch released today fixes this issue, providing the ability to use image reconstruction techniques such as DLSS with dynamic resolution, but enabling this seems to have a deleterious effect on frame times for reasons which I don’t quite understand. For now, I recommend not using this feature. VRS is equally confusing, as enabling it brings no measurable performance benefit, nor any apparent change to visual quality.

The additional ray-traced ambient occlusion does not work as expected in gameplay, leaving the game with the same lighting issues found on PS5.

This brings us to Forspoken’s two ray tracing options, Shadows and Ambient Occlusion (RTAO). To be fair, these are the dullest RT options of a AAA title to date. RT shadows, for example, do not apply to many objects, such as grass or larger foliage, character hair, and even some characters; instead you just get a minimal implementation that helps small opaque details close to the camera and a nice softening for far shadows. Enabling RT shadows reduces performance by around 20% on RTX 4090, and for midrange or lower GPUs the cost of the BVH structure in video memory is enough to make it extremely difficult to recommend.

RT Ambient Occlusion should be a more significant upgrade for the world of Forspoken, but it almost seems like it either doesn’t work or has such a short beam length that it’s extremely subtle, with many scenes exhibiting artifacts typical of screen space ambient occlusion (SSAO) instead. Oddly enough, some cutscenes seem to feature a properly functioning RTAO, only for it to be disabled after the cutscene, even though the RTAO remains enabled in the settings. Therefore, RTAO is also not worth enabling, with nearly a 10% performance hit on RTX 4090, over 500MB of extra VRAM used, but most scenes look the same regardless.

So from my testing it seems like a lot of Forspoken options don’t work properly – and there are other more transient issues as well. For example, LODs may never load, or entire buildings may never load, so people are just floating around in the ether. The performance is also weird, as in a test I found that simply moving the camera corresponded to an instant drop of around 20% in performance – which is fairly new behavior. I also encountered what looked like dropped frames, but upon review with our tools, it became clear that the game was still running at 60fps, but the camera was stuttering on its own. I’ve also had four crashes while playing the PC version in the short time I’ve been with it, which isn’t a deal-breaker on its own, but contributes to an overall feeling of lack of polish with the version. pc. At least there’s no shader compilation stutter, which is a relief.

One of Forspoken’s few bright spots on its PC has to do with its load times, which are excellent – in some cases faster than the already near-instant PS5 version. Indeed, it’s the first title to ship with DirectStorage 1.1, Microsoft’s toolkit for reducing load times on PCs with (ideally) NVMe SSDs running Windows 10 or 11.

PS5 System Load Time (Performance Mode) PC 4.4s, DirectStorage Enabled (Core i9 12900K + NVMe SSD) 4.1s PC, DirectStorage Disabled (Core i9 12900K + NVMe SSD) 5.4s PC, DirectStorage Enabled (Ryzen 5 3600 + NVMe SSD) 6.8s PC, DirectStorage disabled (Ryzen 5 3600 + NVMe SSD) 11.7s PC, DirectStorage enabled (Core i9 12900K + SATA SSD) 10.2s

When loading the exact same save from the same area, we can see that a 3.5GB/s SSD (PCIe 3.0) loads the game faster than PS5 (4.1s vs. 4.4s); with DirectStorage disabled with a command-line option, the same charge takes about 25% longer (5.4 seconds), making it slower than the PS5. It is with a fast 12900K processor; the same drive used with an older, slower Ryzen 5 3600 still benefits from DirectStorage (6.7s on versus 11.7s off), but loads take longer. DirectStorage therefore helps, but processor speed is also a factor. Similarly, SATA drives also benefit from DirectStorage, but in my testing a SATA SSD took more than twice as long to load the game as the NVMe SSD (10.2s on SATA versus 4.1s on NVMe). Finally, Windows 11 offers better loading performance than Windows 10, with game loads completing two seconds faster on Windows 11 with DirectStorage enabled (6.8s vs. 8.8s), and essentially the same speed with DirectStorage off (~11.8s).

Note that the DirectStorage 1.1 standard includes GPU decompression, but this doesn’t appear to be used in Forspoken at this time, with no spike in GPU compute usage when the game is under dedicated load. So despite not using what is arguably the most interesting part of the DirectStorage 1.1 API, the game’s loading speeds are noticeably faster than they otherwise would be. While gaming, streaming tends to be kept at reasonable levels, normally maxing out at 300MB/s as you quickly scroll through the game world and rotate the camera.

However, there seems to be a bug related to its streaming. After loading a save, the game transfers 500MB/s for minutes, even when the camera is perfectly still. In one example, I captured this transferring 90 GB of data over three minutes until the behavior stopped for no apparent reason. Force-disabling DirectStorage also seems to significantly hamper performance in CPU-limited scenarios, although since you have to dig into the command-line options to disable DirectStorage, it probably won’t affect normal playback.

On 8GB GPUs, on all tested settings, textures never load properly.  On a 10 GB GPU, this is resolved.

On 8GB GPUs, on all tested settings, textures never load properly. On a 10 GB GPU, this is resolved.

Based on everything we’ve seen so far, the PC version of Forspoken has a lot of issues, and this unfortunately carries over to overall performance and “optimized” settings. The game is remarkably unplayable on GPUs with 8 GB or less of VRAM. In my tests with the textures set to standard or any setting, the textures never seem to load and remain blurry, while on graphics cards with 10GB of VRAM, the textures load fine. It is therefore impossible to recommend the game on PC unless you have more than 8 GB of VRAM.

For those with a large enough GPU, I would recommend turning off the RT options (shadows and AO) unless you have a modern processor (e.g. at least Ryzen 5000 or 12th Gen Intel) if you want a consistent 60fps. Second, for easy GPU performance gains, reduce the cloud quality to low – you won’t see much of a difference, but it can result in a performance improvement of over 10% in some situations. Third, consider reducing screen space reflections to standard if you’re looking for more GPU performance – although this does sometimes produce a bit of jitter and jitter in the SSR. Otherwise, I don’t have optimized settings, as the game already doesn’t look great compared to similarly performing titles on PC, and sacrificing settings like shadow or model quality would be ill-advised .

So despite Forspoken’s extensive PC settings menu providing a good first impression, this is a deeply disappointing port with nearly useless RT and a severe texture quality penalty for those on graphics cards with 8GB or less VRAM. Overall image quality and load times are improved on PC compared to the PS5, with the right hardware and software in place, but there are few meaningful options to regain performance on low end hardware. range or push the visuals beyond the PS5 version. Hopefully some or all of the issues identified in this review can be resolved, because there’s a fun core of gameplay here, and PC gamers deserve better.

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