Some of our worst fears about Starfield may now be confirmed

Screenshot from Starfield, a Bethesda Studios game.
Bethesda / Bethesda

We saw it coming, but we’re still not happy. According to a recent leak, gamers who want to play Starfield may be unhappy if they have an Nvidia or Intel graphics card. It’s increasingly looking like the upcoming Bethesda game will only support AMD’s upscaling tech, FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.0. Such assumptions have been floating around for a while, and a look into the game files seems to have confirmed them, bar any unexpected findings closer to the release date.

Sebastian Castellanos on Twitter dug through the Starfield preload files on PC, and there’s been no sign of any support for Nvidia’s DLSS or Intel’s XeSS upscaling technologies. We’ve seen it coming ever since AMD announced an “exclusive partnership” with Bethesda — and Starfield in particular. Both the game studio and the GPU and CPU maker have been worryingly silent on the matter ever since. While this might come as no surprise, it’s still disappointing if it turns out to be true.

Right now, the files only appear to confirm support for AMD’s own FSR 2.0. While FSR 2.0 is definitely an improvement over the previous version, it’s still no match for DLSS, which is supported by Nvidia’s own hardware (Tensor cores). This especially applies to DLSS 3, which generates entire frames instead of just pixels and can deliver a pretty massive boost to frame rates. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty impressive. As covered in our review of the $600 RTX 4070, enabling DLSS made it reach 73 frames per second (fps) in Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K with ray tracing toggled on. It drastically outperformed the $1,200 RTX 4080, which didn’t have DLSS 3 enabled.

So after combing through Starfield preload files on PC, I don't see any sign of it supporting DLSS/XeSS. If true I think this would generate a lot of backlash for Bethesda & AMD (due to their refusal to confirm whether they block rival GPU vendor techs in their sponsored games).

— Sebastian Castellanos (@Sebasti66855537) August 18, 2023

An important disclaimer is that you don’t need an AMD graphics card to run FSR 2.0. Unlike Nvidia’s DLSS, FSR 2.0 can run on every GPU, be it AMD, Nvidia, or Intel. While that makes the disappointment a little less bitter, it’s hard not to assume that many owners of Nvidia’s top GPUs from the RTX 40-series might want to enable DLSS 3 in a game as demanding as Starfield. Unfortunately, they might not be able to.

What makes matters worse is that it shouldn’t be difficult for Starfield to include support for all three upscalers. If the game can support FSR 2.0, there’s almost no reason why it wouldn’t be able to support DLSS and XeSS. Nvidia even tries to simplify the implementation of DLSS for game devs with Nvidia Streamline. Sure, it adds some extra work, but it’s almost certainly possible.

Assuming that Starfield really won’t support DLSS and XeSS, it might all be down to the exclusive partnership between AMD and Bethesda. However, it’s hard to determine what AMD might have to gain from this — after all, users with GPUs from other vendors can still use FSR 2.0, so there’s no reason to swap to an AMD GPU just because of Starfield. Let’s hope that the other upscalers might still show up somewhere in the game files or be added at a later time.

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