Final Fantasy XV is a 2016 action-adventure RPG game developed and published by Square Enix. The game was released on PC platform in 2018, and it has also been released on Google Stadia in 2019. The game is the latest installment in Final Fantasy series, and as such is one of the visually most impressive Final Fantasy games to date. Final Fantasy XV features large open world environments, an action-based combat system, as well as vehicle travel and multiplayer features. In this article we will explore Final Fantasy XV’s graphics settings and game’s system performance on PC platform. We will also provide a graphics settings optimization guide for owners of AMD Radeon RX 580 and Tier 4 graphics cards.
Final Fantasy XV is powered by Square Enix’s internally developed Luminous Engine which features state-of-the-art computer graphics technologies which enable the game to render up to 150 million polygons per second at any given time. Despite being a graphically very impressive game, Final Fantasy XV is able to run pretty well on most mid-range and high-end PC systems, as well as video game consoles. In order to examine game’s performance on PC, we have used our standard benchmark PC rig with the following components:
Testing Rig Specifications
|CPU||Intel Core i7-4770 @ 3.4 GHz|
|RAM||16GB (4×4) Kingston HyperX Fury DDR3 @ 1866 MHz|
|MBO||ASRock Z97 Anniversary|
|GPU||Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB|
|SSD||Kingston HyperX Fury 120GB|
|HDD||WD Blue 1TB - WD10EZEX|
|PSU||FSP Hexa+ 500W|
In order to measure how many frames per second can our system achieve, we have used MSI Afterburner tool (ver. 4.6.2) and RivaTuner Statistics Server (ver. 7.2.3). Since Final Fantasy XV doesn’t have a built-in benchmark tool, our benchmark consisted of running the same arbitrary sequence for 60 seconds and then logging the data with the programs we have mentioned above. All benchmark runs were performed by our Radeon RX 580 graphics card running with AMD’s Radeon Adrenalin 2020 Edition 20.8.1 graphics driver.
Since Final Fantasy XV offers a variety of adjustable graphics settings with which you might not be familiar with, there are four image quality presets at your disposal to easily switch to: Low, Average, High and Highest. Here you can see our average FPS results for 1080p resolution at each of the mentioned presets:
As you can see, our Radeon RX 580 had quite a few difficulties achieving 60 FPS on average, and was only able to do that once we set our graphics settings preset to Low. At that preset, our card was able to run Final Fantasy XV at frame rates of up to 75, however, we weren’t very satisfied with the overall image quality. On Average preset, which is essentially the same image quality at which Final Fantasy XV runs on non-pro PlayStation 4, our RX 580 managed to achieve comfortable 56 FPS. Difference between High and Highest image quality preset was almost indistinguishable, however, we did notice slightly richer combat visual effects on Highest quality. Finally, our minimum FPS scores were very low due to occasional stuttering and were usually below 15 FPS mark, while our maximum scores differed a lot, but were approximately 10 FPS higher than our averages.
At Highest image quality preset, the game looked very impressive, but we weren’t able to understand such a big performance drop compared to the Average preset, which looked almost the same. At Average preset, the game seemed to have less crisper shadows, and slightly more toned down particle effects, but other than that, the game still looked beautiful. There also seemed to be less ground tessellation and model LOD was somewhat less complex, but these differences very barely noticeable, and the game looked the same way it looks on PlayStation 4, so we were pretty satisfied with this image quality preset.
Lowering overall image quality to Low preset increased our frame rates significantly, but the drop in image fidelity was way too dissatisfying. At Low preset, the game loses almost all shadow effects, while model LOD and textures become quite blurry, and lighting also becomes very poor. With these settings on, the game looks more like a ten-year-old MMORPG, but if you have an old or weak computer, than these graphics settings might be appealing for you.
Playing this game in resolutions higher than 1080p with Tier 4 graphics card proved to be pointless. At 1440p our RX 580 struggled to maintain stable 40 FPS, while at 4K resolution, the card couldn’t render more than 21 frames per second at any point. Nonetheless, this game could probably be playable at 1440p resolution with RX 580, provided you tone down some graphical settings from highest image quality preset, and acquire a FreeSync or G-Sync monitor with LFC technology, and a refresh rate range of at least 30-60 Hz.
After examining overall image quality presets, we proceeded further with the analysis of all graphics settings in Final Fantasy XV. This phase of analysis consisted of running the game at maximum image quality preset, but with each separate image quality setting disabled or maximally lowered. We, however, didn’t test the performance of NVIDIA-sponsored settings, such as HairWorks, VXAO, TurfEffects and ShadowLibs, since these settings wouldn’t work very well with our Radeon RX 580 graphics card. After we acquired the results with each graphical setting off, we had the ability to compare them with the results while they were on. Thus we had a chance to determine performance impact of each of the graphics settings on overall frame rate. As a baseline we used highest quality preset. Here are the results:
From the above chart, we can see that turning off different graphical settings results in improved system performance. This clearly indicates that game’s engine is well-coded, despite using multiple middleware technologies which are usually badly implemented, and can produce erratic performance issues on various PC configurations. It is interesting to point out that, unlike many other games, Final Fantasy XV doesn’t offer a feature to change game’s textures quality. Even at Low preset, textures seem almost identical to the ones from the Highest preset, and the only option to decrease or increase textures quality is by adjusting game’s internal textures resolution. We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, lets translate our graphics settings performance data into relative measures. Here is what we get:
Despite the fact that Luminous Engine appears to be well-coded, and able to handle thousands of polygons and produce stunning visuals, its anti-aliasing feature proves to be quite disappointing. In most modern PC games, anti-aliasing comes with a low performance cost, but in Final Fantasy XV, enabling temporal aliasing decreases average frame rate by more than 22 percent. Along with that, the jaggies are still visible with temporal aliasing on, and changing this setting to FXAA make matters even worse. In our opinion playing Final Fantasy XV without any anti-aliasing solution seems to be the worst looking experience, so we do recommend playing with TAA enabled, despite the fact that this will cause major performance impact. Keep in mind also that Filtering option also adds image smoothing, so consider enabling or disabling this setting according to your preferences.
Second most taxative graphics setting is Model LOD, or character’s model level of detail. This setting is by itself quite self-explanatory, as it adjusts how detailed the characters look in the game, and how their hair models look complex. This setting also modifies the draw distance of foliage and enemies. Decreasing this setting to medium will retain original character’s appearance without any major loses in model complexity, as well as view distance, and will improve your average frame rate by 5 to 6 percent.
Another setting which impacts performance a lot is Ambient Occlusion. Turning off this feature will greatly decreases overall image quality, as well as lightning scheme. Since this feature significantly makes game’s graphics appealing, we don’t recommend disabling this setting. Higher settings are more taxing to your GPU, so you should aim for medium to high setting. If you own a very powerful graphics card, such as GeForce RTX 2070, or RTX 2080, then feel free to also enable NVIDIA-VXAO setting, which will even more improve game’s ambient occlusion.
Assets, Anisotropic Filtering and Motion Blur appear to impact the overall performance the same way, however, first two options are major graphical settings, while the third is just a post-processing visual effect. Assets apply high resolution textures to the game, and you shouldn’t enable this option if your GPU has lower than 8GB of VRAM. Anisotropic filtering keeps textures looking crisp when observed from an oblique angle, but is very demanding on certain hardware. Motion blur seems to be very prominent during the battles in this games, but it’s performance cost is way too high, so we recommend disabling this option.
Geomapping setting is essentially a terrain or ground tessellation feature, which adds to the terrain textures “bumpy look”. You can safely turn this option off if you don’t pay attention to the terrain, and want some extra FPS.
Like in many games, shadows setting in Final Fantasy XV also impacts performance substantially, but it is more demanding on your CPU, than on your GPU. Lowering down this setting will makes shadows look softer, while increasing will make them look crisper. If your card struggles with total VRAM usage, you can lower TRAM setting in order to limit the texture quality RAM access, and gain a few more FPS.
Finally, lightning setting appears to be unrelated to shadows, as it improves lightning and reflection quality effects, as well as certain particle effects which can be observed during the combat. The lower the setting, the less lighting effects are pronounced.
Resolution Scaling, Radeon Image Sharpening and Optimal Settings for Radeon RX 580
Just like many other new PC video game titles, Final Fantasy XV also comes with an option to decrease or increase game’s overall image resolution. This feature enables you to decrease game’s internal resolution from your native display resolution to 50% or 75%, or even increase it up to 200%. That way you can increase overall performance and play this game at 720p resolution as if it’s 1080p, or even recreate a pseudo-8K mode if you play the game at native 4K and increase internal resolution up to 200%.
Since we concluded in previous paragraphs that playing this game with Tier 4 graphics card at resolutions higher than 1080p is meaningless, we decided to test the game’s performance with highest image quality preset enabled and at native 1080p, but with internal resolution lowered to 75 and 50 percent. These were the results:
As you can see from the above chart, by lowering game’s internal resolution, we have managed to achieve some fantastic performance results. By decreasing internal resolution to 75% (from native 1080p), our average frame rate score climbed well above 60 FPS mark. Decreasing resolution even further, to 50 percent, increased average FPS results even more, however, image became so blurry that we found it quite unplayable.
In short, decreasing game’s internal resolution proved to increase performance a lot, and retain highest image quality, however, there was one big caveat – the image became rather blurry. At 75%, this image blurriness was somewhat tolerable, but at 50% it became absolutely horrible. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy XV doesn’t let you to choose a custom resolution modifier (for example 80% or 92%), so you are stuck with these two options (if you go below your native resolution). In order to keep improved system performance, but fix image blurriness, we decided to enable Radeon Image Sharpening feature for Final Fantasy XV via our AMD Adrenalin Driver control panel. We set image sharpening to 100%, and launched the game again. This time, our results were even more impressive.
By enabling image sharpening through AMD Adrenalin Driver control panel, we essentially fixed image blurriness problem which was caused by lowering game’s internal resolution from native 1080p to SXGA+ (1400×1050 pixels). Thus, we improved overall system performance by achieving 64 FPS on average, with all graphical settings set to maximum, and artificially recreated a 1080p image resolution at no performance cost through our hardware’s capabilities. The final result was very impressive, and despite the fact that lower internal resolution was still observable, we were quite content with the experience we’ve got.
In this situation Radeon Image Sharpening (RIS) proved to be a fantastic feature. RIS basically functions the same way as NVIDIA’s DLSS technology. By decreasing internal game’s resolution you get the ability to keep all of the graphical settings at the highest setting possible, and with better average frame rates. This comes with a price, which is image blurriness, however, by enabling RIS, or DLSS, this problem is fixed as image appears to be sharper and upscaled to the native display resolution thanks to the technologies integrated into your hardware.
In short, if you own a Radeon RX 580, or similar Tier 4 graphics card, you can easily play Final Fantasy XV with highest image quality at 60 FPS on average with few minor tweaks. Provided that you lower internal resolution, and put to good use Radeon Image Sharpening or NVIDIA DLSS features, you can achieve an ultimate gaming experience, especially if you pair your machine with a FreeSync or G-Sync capable monitor.
Final Fantasy XV is beautifully crafted role-playing game with amazing open world environments, and artistically authentic monsters and characters. Although game’s story and gameplay mechanics might not be pleasing for everyone, Final Fantasy XV, nonetheless, features an amazingly crafted fantasy world worth checking out.
In terms of system performance, Final Fantasy XV is rather demanding title which won’t be able to run at stable 60 FPS on most Tier 4 graphics cards at 1080p resolution. With few tricks, like adjusting internal resolution and enabling image sharpening technologies, this is possible to achieve, but if you want purely crisp gaming experience, you should better invest in more powerful graphics cards, such as NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2060, or AMD’s Radeon RX 5600 XT.