Our 8K test system
PC built by Chillblast
Motherboard: Asus ROG STRIX Z390-E GAMING
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U14S
Case fans: Noctua NF-A14 PWM Chromax 140mm
Processor: Intel Core i9-9900K, 8 Cores / 16 Threads
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090
Storage: 500GB Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2 PCIe
Secondary Storage: 2TB Samsung 860 QVO
Power: Corsair RM850x 80 PLUS Gold 850W PSU
Case: Fractal Design Vector RS Tempered Glass
RAM: G.Skill Trident Z RGB 32GB DDR4 3200MHz
Screen: LG 55NANO966PA
With FromSoftware, the team behind critically acclaimed titles like Dark Souls and Bloodborne, teaming up with A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin, it’s little surprise that Elden Ring – the fruit of that collaboration – has been so eagerly awaited.
Now that it’s out, the reviews for it have been fantastic. However, I was keen to see how the game looks and plays at 8K on TechRadar’s monster 8K test machine.
As with trying Dying Light 2 at 8K, I’ve been using the LG 55NANO966PA 8K TV for testing on, and when combined with the powerful Nvidia RTX 3090 graphics card, this setup can give us a taste of what the future of gaming may hold.
Hard mode activated
With 8K resolution weighing in at a huge 7,680 x 4,320, running any game is going to be extremely demanding, especially ambitious open world games with huge enemies, such as Elden Ring.
However, we’ve seen recent games like Dying Light 2 and God of War come with support for Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling technology, along with AMD’s rival FidelityFX. Both of these features run games at lower resolutions, then upscale them to a higher resolution which offers better performance with minimal impact to graphics.
Both DLSS and FidelityFX Super Resolution have helped modern games hit 8K resolutions while maintaining playable framerates, with some even hitting 60 frames per second (fps) at 8K – what we consider to be the ultimate benchmark for 8K gaming.
Unfortunately, the PC version of Elden Ring is relatively barebones, and doesn’t offer DLSS or FidelityFX support. This means we’ll need to attempt to play the game at native 8K resolution – a challenge as difficult as FromSoftware’s notorious difficulty levels in its games.
The game is also capped at 60fps, and while that won’t impact how it plays at 8K, as HDMI 2.1 can only support a maximum of 60fps at 8K anyway, it suggests that the PC port wasn’t a priority for FromSoftware. This, sadly, does not bode well for how the game can play at 8K.
Playing at 8K
First of all, I set the game to 8K with the graphics settings at ‘Maximum’. The game certainly looked very good, but in my tests the game averaged 30.5 fps. On the one hand, this is pretty impressive, and above the 30fps minimum I consider to be playable.
However, there were some noticeable frame rate drops to as low as 8.3fps. This made the game feel rather choppy when playing. Interestingly, PC players have been complaining about sudden fps drops at other resolutions, and FromSoftware has promised a patch to fix that. We could see performance improve a bit at 8K, then.
But, while Elden Ring is certainly playable at 8K with Maximum settings, this is a game where fast reflexes really make a difference, and at 30fps the game feels sluggish compared to the 60fps it hits at 4K on the same PC.
Next, I knocked the settings down to ‘High’. While this didn’t make a big difference to the average frame rate, which was only slightly higher at 31.6fps, this time I didn’t see quite as big drops in fps, with 25.5fps as the minimum.
This led to a much more consistent performance, and the graphical difference was minor enough for me to recommend this setting.
Dropping the settings down further to ‘Medium’ again didn’t change the average frame rate much (31.4fps), which suggests that the engine Elden Ring uses just isn’t suited for extreme resolutions. Graphical quality was noticeably degraded, however, with distracting pop-in affecting far away objects and NPCs (non-player characters), and rough edges on objects where anti-aliasing had been downgraded.
The drop in graphical quality and lack of corresponding performance increase means this is a setting to avoid.
Finally, I tried Elden Ring at 8K on ‘Low’ settings. This gave me the best results so far, with an average frame rate of 38.9, a bit leap over previous settings. However, visuals again took a hit, with textures and shadows being particularly impacted, and prone to flickering. Again, the impact to visuals wasn’t worth the frame rate gains I managed.
8K dreams crushed (kind of)
So, my Elden Ring 8K dreams were crushed. Sure, it’s playable at 8K at 30fps, and it does look very good, but this is a game you really want to play at 60fps. Dropping the resolution to 4K allowed the RTX 3090 to hit a steady 60fps with settings on maximum, and the game felt so much smoother and more responsive.
It is a shame, however, that the PC version of Elden Ring feels rather undercooked. Not only are their frame rate issues that impact players at lower resolutions, but the lack of DLSS or FidelityFX support is a real shame.
Also, while the art direction of the game is at times breath-taking, it’s not the most graphically impressive title out there. If you want a real 8K showcase, God of War remains the game to beat.