Forspoken PC reviewed: a confusing, deeply disappointing port

The launch of Forspoken on PlayStation 5 was bumpy from a technical point of view, with uneven graphics and inconsistent performance, so I wondered if the PC version could be the panacea for all of the problems John addressed in his DF Tech review. We’ll get into the gory details shortly, but the good news is that the PC version does play 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 the game on PS5, a look at how DirectStorage cuts load times, and tweaks settings to boost performance.

On first boot, however, Forspoken makes a positive first impression on PC. There’s a comprehensive settings menu with options to choose from image reconstruction techniques, dynamic resolution, ray-traced ambient occlusion (RTAO), and even an in-game benchmark. But while it’s great that these options are there, these PC niceties fail in their execution.

Let’s start with the image quality options. DLSS (2.4.12), FSR (2.1), and even XeSS are deployed depending on your GPU, but while overall positive, they suffer from a few issues.

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

For example, FSR image resolution has issues with transparency effects like particles, so things like fire can look a lot worse with FSR compared to DLSS or XeSS. Elsewhere, motion and disconnection artifacts are present, and post-editing blurring, such as B. depth of field, appear pixelated, as if they were not reconstructed. XeSS interacts even worse with depth of field, with massive flickering issues that certainly need patching.

DLSS is probably the best option here, but it and XeSS both exhibit single-pixel mirroring issues when motion blur is enabled; these pixels are drawn into lines by the motion blur, as if a Firefly Filter has moved out. Even the game’s TAA at native resolution has issues with ghosting on particles, similar to FSR.

Despite all these issues, picture quality on PC is at least noticeably better than on PlayStation, mainly because DLSS (when 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 either the launch or patched versions of the game. In the startup code, the option only did anything when used with native resolution plus TAA, but for some reason you could still turn it on when DLSS, FSR, or XeSS was enabled – quite confusing for the user. A patch released today fixes this issue and adds the ability to use dynamic resolution image reconstruction techniques like DLSS, but enabling it seems to adversely affect frame times for reasons I don’t fully understand. For now, I recommend not using this feature. VRS is similarly confusing, as enabling it brings neither a measurable performance benefit nor an apparent change in visual quality.

Separation evident in Forspoken on PC
The additional ray tracing ambient occlusion does not work as expected in gameplay, leaving the game with the same lighting issues as on PS5.

This brings us to Forspoken’s two ray tracing options, shadows and ambient occlusion (RTAO). To be honest, these are the most lackluster RT options in a AAA title yet. For example, RT shadows don’t apply to many objects, such as grass or larger leaves, character hair, and even some characters; Instead, what you get is a minimal implementation that supports small opaque details near the camera and a nice blur for distant shadows. Enabling RT Shadows drops performance by about 20 percent on RTX 4090, and for mid-range or lower GPUs, the cost of the BVH structure in video memory is enough to make it extremely hard to recommend.

RT Ambient Occlusion should be a more sensible upgrade to Forspoken’s world, but it almost looks like it won’t work or has such a short beam length that it’s extremely subtle, with many scenes instead exhibiting artifacts typical of Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO) are . Strangely, some cutscenes do seem to have RTAO working correctly only to disable it after the cutscene, although RTAO remains enabled in the settings. So it’s not worth enabling RTAO either, with almost a 10 percent drop in performance on RTX 4090, more than 500MB of VRAM is used, but most scenes still look identical.

From my testing, many forspoken options do not work properly – and there are other more temporary issues as well. For example, LODs might never load, or whole buildings never load, so people just floated around in the ether. Performance is weird too, as I found in one test that just moving the camera equated to an immediate ~20 percent drop in performance – which is pretty novel behavior. I also encountered what appeared to be dropped frames, but upon investigating with our tools, it became clear that the game was still running at 60 fps, but the camera was stuttering on its own. I’ve also recorded four crashes playing the PC version in my short time with it, which in itself isn’t a deal-breaker but adds to a general sense of lack of polish in the PC release. At least there is no stuttering in shader compilation, 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-instantaneous PS5 version. That’s because this is the first shipping title to feature DirectStorage 1.1, Microsoft’s toolbox for speeding up load times on PCs equipped with (ideally) NVMe SSDs running Windows 10 or 11.

system loading time
PS5 (Performance Mode) 4.4 sec
PC, DirectStorage enabled (Core i9 12900K + NVMe SSD) 4.1 sec
PC, DirectStorage disabled (Core i9 12900K + NVMe SSD) 5.4 sec
PC, DirectStorage enabled (Ryzen 5 3600 + NVMe SSD) 6.8 sec
PC, DirectStorage disabled (Ryzen 5 3600 + NVMe SSD) 11.7 sec
PC, DirectStorage enabled (Core i9 12900K+ SATA SSD) 10.2s

If we load the exact same save from the same space, we can see that a 3.5GB/s SSD (PCIe 3.0) loads the game faster than on PS5 (4.1s vs. 4.4s); With DirectStorage disabled with a command-line option, the same load takes about 25 percent longer (5.4 seconds), slower than PS5. That’s with a fast 12900K processor, though; The same drive used with an older, slower Ryzen 5 3600 still benefits from DirectStorage (6.7s enabled vs. 11.7s disabled), but takes longer to load. So DirectStorage helps, but CPU 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 than the NVMe SSD (10.2 seconds on SATA vs. 4.1 seconds on NVMe). Finally, Windows 11 offers better loading performance than Windows 10, with games finishing loading two seconds faster on Windows 11 with DirectStorage on (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 currently doesn’t seem to be used in Forspoken without an increase in GPU compute usage when the game is running a dedicated load. While arguably the most interesting part of the DirectStorage 1.1 API isn’t used, the game’s load speeds are noticeably faster than usual. During gameplay, streaming is usually kept at a reasonable level, typically maxing out at 300MB/s if you’re using the Quickly traverse the game world and pan the camera around.

However, there seems to be a bug related to streaming. After loading a save, the game streams at 500MB/s for minutes, even when the camera is completely still. In one example, I captured the transfer of 90GB of data in three minutes until the behavior stopped for no apparent reason. Turning off DirectStorage also seems to severely impact performance in CPU-limited scenarios, although you’ll have to dig into the command-line options to disable DirectStorage, which probably won’t affect normal gameplay.

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

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

For those with a large enough GPU, unless you have a modern processor (e.g. at least Ryzen 5000 or Intel 12th gen), I would recommend disabling the RT options (shadow and AO) if you want a consistent 60 fps. Second, for simple GPU performance gains, lower the cloud quality to low – you won’t see much of a difference, but it can provide a performance boost of more than 10 percent in some situations. Third, if you’re looking for more GPU performance, consider reducing screen area reflections to the default value – although this sometimes results in some instability and flickering in SSR. Other than that I don’t have any optimized settings as the game doesn’t look good anyway compared to similarly performing titles on PC and sacrificing settings like shadows or model quality wouldn’t be advisable.

While Forspoken’s comprehensive PC settings menu makes a good first impression, this is a deeply disappointing port with near-useless RT and a severe texture quality penalty for graphics cards with 8GB or less VRAM. Overall image quality and load times are improved on PC compared to PS5 given the right hardware and software, but there are few viable options for regaining performance on low-end hardware or boosting graphics over the PS5 push version out. Hopefully some or all of the issues identified in this review can be addressed as there is a gist of a fun game here and PC gamers deserve better. Forspoken PC reviewed: a confusing, deeply disappointing port

Fry Electronics Team

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