Elden Ring has launched across PC and both current and last generation consoles, and it’s already made big waves. Suffice to say, it remains true to what people know and love about FromSoftware’s games – our full Elden Ring review gave it a solid 10. That said, it also makes some big changes to the usual formula that impact both its gameplay and technical performance. FromSoftware have always struggled with balancing the design aims and consistent performance, even though this is much better than previous games (helped in no small part to current-generation hardware) it still suffers greatly in performance and controller response due to this.
The most significant change compared to past FromSoftware games is that the map is now vast and largely open from the start, and you can even fast-travel very quickly between save points after you have visited them on foot. You also get a brand-new steed to speed up your travel across the map, which is quite a significant addition to help smooth out the sometimes tedious retreading you’ll need to do after that last boss battle that slapped you from pillar to post. The downside of this new structure is that loading, travel, and streaming are now much heavier on both the engine and the hardware running it.
Another big update is that a dynamic weather system and day-night cycle have been added. Sunrises add a lovely red tint, broad daylight helps increase vision, and the dark of night emphasizes the burning torches and horror you have yet to face. Sun, rain, and strong winds with fog also really enhance the visual quality and variety, as trees jostle violently and thick fog blooms hang in the air. This also adds more load on the engine as, with shadow maps shifting, stretching, and changing dynamically with the scene, textures and lighting can no longer be pre-baked. Although not revolutionary introductions by any means in gaming overall, this is a vast step forward for FromSoftware and means that Elden Ring is the most technically forward-looking game it has crafted, building on its previous efforts with clear Bloodborne and Sekiro influences creeping in.
When it comes to resolution and performance, there are two modes available across all three console platforms. As is the common practice you have a choice to make based on your priorities: either framerate or quality, which predominantly boils down to resolution sacrifices on each console. The level of detail, foliage, ambient occlusion, etc. all remain pretty much identical on every platform between each mode (apart from the impact the resolution itself has on each visual element, of course). The only exceptions are that the shadow resolution and possibly filtering are higher on Series X and PlayStation 5 over Xbox Series S, and that initially only the PS5 retained per-object and camera depth-based radial blur in the Framerate mode, but even that last point was restored to the Xbox Series S and X with patch 1.02. Some areas of it not being active do crop up though, which may be a bug but it’s a hard to tell for sure.
Quality vs Framerate
The resolution differences between modes, however, do stand out. In the Quality Mode both PlayStation 5 and Series X target a fixed resolution of 3840×2160, and this is much cleaner and sharper on all the thin, sub-pixel, and high-frequency elements on the screen. From foliage and specular highlights to particles and texture details, every element of the screen is improved due to the increase in pixel counts. This ultimately presents Elden Ring in the best light possible, and without an overtly intrusive TAA solution it is pin sharp at certain times which enables those texture details to stand out. The Series S runs the quality mode 55% lower than the other two consoles at 2560×1440 – if this is a dynamic solution, which there is always a chance that it is, then I never spotted any points where it dropped below.
The Framerate mode, on the other hand, explicitly changes the resolution to be dynamic. The Series S still tops out at 1440p… so long as you look at the sky, because in action it is often 2080×1170 or a straight 1080p resolution, and can even go as low as 1792×1008 in a good selection of areas. This gives us a 51% scaling factor from that 1440p target. The impact to image quality is large on a 4K screen, and it can leave the cost of performance versus clarity not in favour of the Quality mode.
PlayStation 5 and Series X appear to have an identical resolution target: looking skywards we see 3840×2160 and then in action a low of 2688×1512 on both, however the PS5 is often higher than the Series X, with some scenes being at that lower 1512p on Series X and 1620p on PS5. That means we see a 12-15% gain to the PlayStation 5 in certain sections where heavy foliage overdraw and shadow maps are in play. In reality though, the difference is negligible at these resolutions – it’s barely perceptible even when zoomed in, and especially while in action. The lack of per-object motion blur did stand out before it was patched, although some may still miss the chance to disable it in the menu, along with chromatic aberration and other effects that may cause a noisy image. The results are a game that can look softer and enhance those noisy segments of the screen, with sub-pixel shimmer on moving trees, screen-spaced ambient occlusion in far off foliage flickering, and creating a halo around your character’s head at times. As Framerate mode rarely hits 4K on either console unless the onscreen action is light, just expect this mode to impact the image quality to a small but noticeable degree.
To ensure we could provide an accurate look at how Elden Ring will perform at launch, we had to wait until the release patch was live, which means we’ve tested the pre-launch builds in addition to patch 1.01 and 1.02. As such, we can see that both modes run with a 60fps cap, but that the designated Framerate mode hits that target better than the other option.
Taking Quality mode first, the Series X and PlayStation 5 never hit 60fps during the tested sections, with highs of 45 and 47 respectively here and both dipping into the 30s. Normally this would be rather alarming, but FromSoftware’s engine is notorious for its bad frame-pacing, which is the delivery of frames over an even cadence. Think of it like a drum, with each beat being evenly spaced from the others – so long as it’s even, the action feels smooth. When it is variable, however, input times on the controller and the visuals on screen are negatively affected. As such, even capping the framerate to 30fps would still cause judder and would likely feel no better. That means Quality mode should really big capped to 30fps, but has been left to run as fast as it possibly can.
The Series S is identical but performs worse, with the Quality mode only hitting the low 40s when screen view is at a minimum. Most of the time it is 32fps or lower and can drop to sub-30fps even with the latest patch applied. Again, the impact here is a 30fps feeling game most of the time, but because the framerate cap is still technically 60fps, we actually get a better presentation in this mode than if it were capped to 30
The Framerate Mode does improve on this by 45%, enabling 60fps to be hit – sadly it is rarely at that level, and can still drop below 30fps even at sub 1080p. The impact to image quality is greater than the overall boost to performance. The main choice here comes down to your screen: If you have a 1080p screen then the resolution cost is lower and thus the increase to game fluidity is welcome and may be worthwhile. On a 4K screen, though, this is not the case because the upscale from sub 1080p is exacerbated on such a sharp and normally larger screen these usually are. My recommendation here would be to leave Elden Ring in Quality mode as the increase to performance the Framerate mode offers, although welcome, is insufficient to balance its image quality cost. However, having the choice for either is always best, so do what’s right for you.
The PlayStation 5 and Series X have almost the same challenges, but the image quality cost is much lower than last-gen systems. As such, even on a 4K screen the increase to fluidity that Frame Rate mode provides is the best compromise, largely as you are always north of 1440p, which is where the Series S tops out. What we do see here is that we also get performance gains in addition to the resolution increase. We could see 4-7fps higher performance on PS5 over Series X at the best of times during similar cutscenes, a 13-20% in the Quality mode. Again, that’s fairly negligible, as outside of this analysis you would likely never really notice it since the action and variation makes them both feel more 30fps than 60. It does stand as a good benchmark though, as here the resolution and effects are matched with only the performance being the variable factor. Aside from that, both consoles fail to achieve a consistent or stable frame-rate, even if it is admittedly better than previous FromSoftware games that were locked to 30fps.
The sacrifices Framerate mode makes means it does a much better job of occasionally hitting that higher ceiling, however neither are anywhere close to being locked at 60fps and can dip back into the mid 40s or even 30s from my tests. Due to the resolution scaling being an additional factor along with higher frame rates achieved we can see bigger gaps between the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5: 10-15fps at the most fill-rate bound sections of trees, shadow maps, particles, etc. In other sections, however, the gap is only 3-5fps leaving us with a small but clear gain for the PlayStation 5 over the Series X of between 10-20%, which aligns with the results we see in Quality Mode as well.
This does leave the PlayStation 5 the better performing of the consoles, though not by an amount that makes a huge difference. Cutscenes can again be some of the most impactful in terms of performance, but that’s far less of an issue since they are a passive experience. One nice benefit of the PlayStation 5’s backwards compatibility mode is you can also play the PS4 version, or in this case the PS4 Pro version, which provides a reduced image quality of 3200×1800 (likely a reconstructed method as per Sekiro) and some graphical cutbacks. The reward is a perfectly locked 60fps readout from all tested sections. This offers the absolute best way to play if performance is your main priority, and that includes the PC due to the current patched version experiencing heavy prolonged stutter and slow down when it happens.
Finally, we have loading, which is another area where the PlayStation 5 wins out – but this time by the largest amount, being almost three times faster from a load to the same point of the main menu: 6.3 seconds versus 17.8 seconds on Series X, with the Series S less than half a second behind that. This is true for fast traveling and and the all-important respawn times as well. As this is a huge game with plenty of different areas to load into and travel between you may see variations on this speed, but from multiple tests the results show that the PS5 always comes out on top.
Elden Ring pushes some improvements in model quality, scene density, lighting, effects, and more compared to FromSoftware’s previous games. From a technical perspective, it is certainly up there with the best that team has made, even if the framerate can never reliably hit the 60fps cap it has set for itself. The Series S does lose out in such a GPU-heavy game, with basic level of detail culling being a key area the engine doesn’t do well. Buildings can stay visible and not swap to a reduced polygonal model or simply removed from render when far away, half-rate animations can still crop up at long distances on all platforms, and the rocky performance means Framerate mode and Quality mode aren’t as differentiated as they should be. If you have the choice then PS5 is the best all round option in all modes and game areas, but the Series X still offers a welcome boost over the previous gen and is never far behind enough to cause great concern. And while it’s not as smooth as it should be by modern standards, if you played Dark Souls back on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, then this is a silky-smooth affair by comparison.
Source: IGN Video Games All