The Witcher 3’s next-gen improve is gorgeous on PC – however efficiency shouldn’t be good sufficient


The Witcher 3 is over seven years previous now – and we have been shocked and delighted to see CD Projekt RED return to the sport, modernising it with a spread of visible upgrades. Our tackle the console variations is coming shortly, however we’re kicking off with a have a look at the PC construct, which delivers the widest vary of enhancements in comparison with the unique launch. Reducing to the chase, the ray tracing enhancements are good and completely transformative – however there are clear points with efficiency that have to be addressed.

Nearly all of our efficiency assessments have been carried out with the day one launch code, however we delayed the content material till we retested with the hotfix replace – and we’re sorry to say that no matter enhancements CDPR has made don’t deal with any of our main criticisms.

Specializing in the positives first, the developer’s assist for ray tracing options is extremely spectacular. There’s the inclusion of RTXGI, which is a probe-based RT international illumination resolution. On high of that, there’s RT ambient occlusion, higher grounding objects into the surroundings. Lastly, RT reflections and shadows are additionally added to the combo, offering a complete vary of visible upgrades.

The Digital Foundry video breakdown of the brand new Witcher 3 operating on PC.

There are a number of non-RT-based enhancements too. Display screen-space reflections for our bodies of water are added should you’re not utilizing the RT reflections, plus there is a bunch of ‘extremely plus’ high quality choices too. Of those, there are two that basically stand out: foliage density and distance dramatically improve distant element, to the purpose the place the present extremely setting seems virtually humorous by comparability. Likewise, the density of the assorted tufts of foliage has elevated as effectively, so these components stretch out additional into the space and are extra dense when doing so. One other enchancment is the NPC density at extremely plus settings, particularly evident in large-scale cities like Novigrad.

Past the extremely plus settings, there are additional upgrades baked into the brand new replace. I can not converse for all cutscenes, however I actually favored seeing that the low-quality video from the sport’s intro has been changed and seems to run in real-time now – trying so a lot better for it. Past that nicety, the next-gen improve has plenty of new property and better res textures, whereas components that have been beforehand textures – such because the cobbles of Novigrad – at the moment are full 3D geometry. NPCs are additionally extra extremely detailed, whereas hero characters like Geralt get detailed shadows casting from them outdoors of cutscenes. Moreover, all torches throughout the sport world now solid shadows too.

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The final common improve is that the mesh LOD setting – which isn’t adjustable in-game – is way larger within the new launch. This is not all the way down to extremely plus settings because it’s truly baked into all settings presets. Typically talking, the rise in degree of element is without doubt one of the most readily seen upgrades to the sport outdoors of the RT enhancements.

As to why ray tracing is so transformative in The Witcher 3, it is value explaining how the 2015 model works. Within the unique sport, almost all bounce lighting for reflective and uninteresting surfaces is dealt with by cubemaps positioned around the globe by artists very sparsely, leading to a flat, blue-ish monotone look to lighting. RTXIGI and RTAO dramatically will increase realism and as you may see within the video and screenshots on this web page, it is a night time and day enchancment, including in quite a lot of gentle bounce and color, growing realism tremendously.

Different added RT results are nice, however extra situational. Ray-traced reflections, for instance, tremendously help the rendering of water surfaces, once more delivering a large enchancment over the non-RT resolution. Water surfaces now look rather a lot higher whether or not they be seaside bays, tiny puddles on the bottom, and even the small fountains discovered internationally. I’ve solely discovered one exception to this and that is the streams in Skellige’s heartland, the place the RT reflections are a bit damaged, trying static on transferring water. RT reflections additionally apply to any floor that is clean and reflective sufficient, like tiled flooring, armour and weapons.

Ray-traced shadows do their ordinary job of including distance and ranging levels of sharpness primarily based on their distance away from the shadow-casting supply, whereas additionally including screen-space shadows for tufts of grass, giving them a shaded and shadowed look which is in any other case utterly lacking within the unique sport. I feel it is a very important distinction as I all the time thought grass within the previous sport appeared weirdly unshaded and two-dimensional consequently. There are some bugs although – I seen RT shadows seem and disappear at instances for causes I am unable to clarify, so I might hope to see this mounted. RT shadows additionally seem to have interactivity points with Nvidia Hairworks, which I might additionally wish to see addressed.

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With the brand new lighting and improved draw distances, The Witcher 3 seems like a a lot improved sport visually. It simply sucks you again into its environments and you could find your self simply wandering across the sport world having fun with the look and feeling of all of it. It actually is a deal with to return into the sport world and relive it in a brand new gentle, actually. The extent to which you’ll take pleasure in it, nevertheless, depends upon your {hardware}. That is an immensely difficult sport to run, particularly with RT lively – and even with out, it is clear that the DirectX 12 model has troubling efficiency limitations.

To place this into perspective, The Witcher 3 launched as a DX11 title. The following-gen improve ships with each DX11 and DX12 modes, the latter of which is required to make use of RT options, DLSS and FSR2. Though CDPR appears to assert in any other case, the DX11 model seems an identical to the DX12 model with no RT enabled, so I feel it is nice to check the 2 on equal settings. In a busy Novigrad scene, DX11 affords a forty five p.c enchancment to efficiency in comparison with DX12 – and keep in mind that’s with out RT enabled. In flip, DX12 with out RT enabled has a 54 p.c efficiency benefit over DX12 with RT on. These efficiency differentials are all all the way down to the CPU, it needs to be confused, the place we famous huge under-utilisation of the GPU.

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The stark actuality is that the frame-rates we’re seeing right here indicate that the sport at max settings is heavier than Microsoft Flight Simulator or Spider-Man Remastered, two of essentially the most CPU-heavy titles of current instances. Sure, the CPU burden reduces considerably outdoors of built-up areas within the countryside, however the level is that depressed efficiency with a 12900K paired with ultra-fast 6400MHz DDR5 means unacceptably low output on a mainstream processor like a Ryzen 5 3600. There are any variety of the reason why efficiency could also be problematic, however essentially the most important is DX12 and a puzzling under-utilisation of the processor, the place evidently one or two threads are extra absolutely occupied, whereas any others aren’t touched to something like the identical diploma.

There are huge efficiency issues with the sport – and it is all in regards to the DX12 render path. Even when rendering an an identical scene to the DX11 model, efficiency is way decrease. The frame-rate numbers listed here are all from CPU-limited situations on a Core i9 12900K matched with 6400MT/s DDR5.

The one approach to energy previous the CPU limitation is through Nvidia DLSS 3 body technology. As odd because it sounds, the CPU efficiency limitation is side-stepped virtually completely thanks to border technology, making it a killer characteristic in The Witcher 3, assuming you’ve got an honest CPU on the core of your system to start with. DLSS 3 retains the frame-rate excessive with the frame-times much less erratic on common – and there is barely any latency penalty.

There are different points with the sport that I ought to spotlight too. Shader compilation stutter is current within the sport, which I discovered extremely disappointing, whereas I additionally noticed a digital camera stutter impact on panning movement. In abstract, there are a lot of, many technical points that CD Projekt RED wants to deal with with the PC model of The Witcher 3’s next-gen improve.

In the end, I am conflicted about this new launch. I really like the upgrades however there are many disappointments. The sport has nice visuals and the world seems unimaginable now, however the efficiency penalties for utilizing the brand new options are immense. The CPU hit in accessing the DX12 path is unacceptable and desperately wants addressing. And to reiterate, the issues are nonetheless there with the current hotfix patch, suggesting a extra basic strategy is required to get the sport into form.


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