It was inevitable that we'd eventually encounter a game where day of launch bugs affected performance to the point where we'd have to rerun all of our numbers. The first game to earn that dubious distinction is Lords of the Fallen, which we first looked at last week. One week later the first patch has arrived, and with it CrossFire now at least works and performance in many instances has improved. This will be our first "before and after" article, and we'll have charts for both versions of the game.
Lords of the Fallen - Updated Performance and Analysis
We've covered most of the important stuff in our initial article. To reiterate, while Lords of the Fallen does support some NVIDIA-specific PhysX effects, most of those only occur in non-deterministic fight sequences, so they're not really meaningful in terms of repeatable benchmarks. All of our testing is done in a scene relatively early in the game (right after the first boss fight), and from what we've experienced so far it's generally representative of what you'll see throughout the game. Here are the results, with two charts showing the day-of-launch performance on the bottom with the patched performance on top.
The two charts might be a little hard to decipher at first, so let's walk through the major changes. First, GPUs with less VRAM have seen major improvements in performance thanks to the patch. There was mention of fixing some memory leaks, and that could definitely be a contributing factor. The result is that the Radeon R7 250X and Radeon HD 6970 both see substantial gains at every setting we tested, and the GeForce GTX 770 (2GB) and GTX 860M (2GB) also see some large gains. For other cards, the results are a bit mixed; the GTX 780, GTX 870M, and GTX 880M also see a small improvement in performance at most settings, though the 780 at least sees a small drop in performance at 4K and QHD Ultra settings. The other NVIDIA GPUs mostly stay the same, with some showing minor drops at Ultra settings but minor gains at our Low and Medium settings. Interestingly, AMD shows some decent gains at Low and Medium settings on the R9 GPUs, but the R9 290X in particular drops quite a bit in performance at all of the Ultra settings -- the R9 280 and 280X more or less stay static at Ultra settings. Intel HD 4600 meanwhile shows no change.
With CrossFire no longer crashing to desktop, we can also see if there's any benefit to having two AMD GPUs. The R9 290X definitely doesn't benefit from CrossFire, with lower performance with two GPUs compared to a single GPU at all of our test settings. Clearly, there's still some driver work (or profile tweaks) needed to get the most out of two AMD GPUs. The R9 280 fares a bit better, with average frame rates showing an improvement (roughly 20%) at our three Ultra settings as well as the High setting, but minimum frame rates are generally slightly lower than with a single GPU, and "jitter" (uneven frame pacing) is definitely present. The HD 6970 ends up being the best case for CrossFire right now, with a few cases showing higher minimum and average frame rates. At our Medium and Low settings, however, CrossFire ends up requiring more CPU power and this results in lower average and minimum FPS compared to a single GPU; that's nothing new, as CrossFire and SLI are both typically used for running higher quality settings at higher resolutions.
Overall, the patch is definitely a good thing if only that it makes higher quality settings viable on moderate GPUs. Originally, the HD 6970 struggled to achieve acceptable performance even at 1600x900 Medium quality, and 1080p High and above was out of the question. Now 1080p High is mostly playable, and at Medium settings you can definitely run 1080p. The R7 250X also benefits, going from barely breaking 30FPS at our lowest settings (1366x768 Low) to basically providing that same amount of performance at 1600x900 Medium. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary is the GTX 770, however, which has gone from mostly playable but a bit choppy performance at 1080p High/Ultra to staying above 30FPS even at 2560x1440 Ultra. The one thing those three GPUs have in common is that all of them have 2GB or less RAM; conversely, GPUs with 4GB didn't seem to benefit at all from the patch, and in quite a few cases minimum frame rates actually regressed.
I suspect we'll see at least one or two more patches for Lords of the Fallen before things finally stabilize in terms of performance, at which point future updates will likely focus on pure bug fixes and/or DLC/expansions. We haven't been able to test any SLI setups yet, but CrossFire is still clearly in need of work, and the drop in performance on the 3GB and particularly 4GB GPUs at QHD and 4K settings indicates there are additional optimizations to be made. We'll probably also see some improvements in performance thanks to AMD and NVIDIA driver updates, but we'll hold off revisiting Lords of the Fallen again for a few months to let things settle down.