Final Fantasy XV was a beautiful looking game on home consoles, but it’s even more beautiful on PC thanks to the recently released Windows Edition. However, the game does have some performance issues, namely if you want to play with all the settings maxed out like I do. And therein lies my problem: I can’t max all the settings even with my NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB graphics card. Normally, this would not be an issue. There are quite a few games which recommend about 8GB of VRAM in order to run everything at maximum, but cards with less VRAM can still accomplish this feat if you sacrifice some performance(It’ll still hit 60fps, just, if you were getting more than that then that’s what you lose.). Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is one example. When the game released, EA put out a High Resolution Texture set that added an “Ultra” setting to the games graphics settings. This setting was meant to be used with a GTX 1080 which had 8GB of VRAM, but my card handled that setting like a champ despite not being the recommended card and with 2GB less VRAM. Final Fantasy XV, on the other hand, makes this difficult because of how its graphics options work, and it has nothing to do with my graphics card not being good enough. Let me explain.
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition has a lot of graphics settings including NVIDIA GameWorks settings, only one of which(ShadowLibs), is not available when using an AMD card. However, textures aren’t handled in quite the same way as they are in other games. It was obvious because there is no “Texture Quality” setting in the options. Instead, textures are governed by a setting called TRAM(Texture RAM). What this setting does is tell the game or your computer how much VRAM it’s allowed to use, and this tells it what kind of textures to use because the game is designed to only allow the use of higher quality textures if you have more VRAM. Depending on the TRAM setting, the size of the textures will adjust accordingly. However, if you crank this setting to max, and do not have a GTX 1080 Ti 11GB or Titan Xp 12GB, you will have problems. If you’re like me and have a card with 6GB, and you set it to High instead of Highest, you will still have problems. And these problems aren’t insignificant. At the Average setting, I get close to 60fps even with all the other settings maxed out at 1080p(Except Filtering which I turn down to low.). But the second I bump up to the High TRAM setting, my game turns into a slideshow and becomes completely unplayable.
Now, you may be thinking “But why would that cause a problem like that if you can still run the higher textures at a performance loss if you have less RAM?” Well, that’s because of how the TRAM setting works. It doesn’t know how much VRAM you actually have. It also, apparently, cannot distinguish between VRAM and regular RAM. It will use your VRAM first. When it runs out of available VRAM, it will then try to use your regular RAM as VRAM. And that does not work, especially since that RAM is in use by a lot of other things. That is what causes the slideshow that the game becomes, and that is why, in order to get higher resolution textures, you need a GPU with the right amount of VRAM. This problem could easily be solved by turning this into a regular setting that just increases the resolution of the texture without caring how much VRAM you have. Pretty much every other game in existence does it like this. But instead they decided to tie texture resolutions to specific VRAM counts, using a feature that can’t even distinguish between VRAM and RAM
So is the game unplayable? At the High and Highest TRAM settings, with High Resolution Assets switched on, yes. At the Average TRAM setting, with High Resolution Assets switched on, no. It is entirely playable if I simply flip TRAM down to Average. However, this also brings the games texture quality more in line with that of the console versions, and that is not why I bought the PC version. If Square’s implementation had been better, this wouldn’t be a problem(It also wouldn’t be a problem if I wasn’t a graphics whore. And some would argue that the quality difference is negligible anyway.), but I want to play the game at its best, and that means I have to upgrade my GPU.
Upgrading my GPU causes problems in and of itself. Right now, GPU prices are through the roof thanks to miners who buy up all the GPU’s on the market no matter the price, causing a shortage and supply can’t meet demand. So if I want a 1080 Ti 11GB, I have to track one down and either pay whatever the asking price is, or hope I can find one for close to the original price(For reference, a 1080 Ti normally goes for $800, but right now they go for upwards of $1200.). But this year, NVIDIA is expected to release their new line of GPU’s, which, regardless of whether they release in the next two months or later this year as rumors suggest, the next Ti or Titan model likely won’t hit shelves until early to mid next year. So I have to ask myself if investing in a new GPU now while prices are inflated is a good idea, or if I should wait for the next generation cards and hope the prices come down.
So for now, I’m shelving Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition until I can get a GPU that can handle the game at its best. And by then, more DLC should be out giving me an even better experience for my second playthrough of the game.