Elden Ring Ray Tracing Update PC Review

Elden Ring was the most critically acclaimed game released in 2022, receiving countless awards spanning different categories, including some related to the game’s technical aspect.

Still, it’s hard for me to think of Elden Ring as some sort of engineering masterpiece. While its art is top-notch, the game doesn’t feature cutting-edge technologies, and its default look is far from the most impressive game we’ve seen. There are texture mods and other user-created graphics tweaks and tweaks on PC, but they can only go so far.

That’s why I was eagerly awaiting the ray tracing update. Bandai Namco first announced that Elden Ring would be updated with ray tracing support months before launch. Then there was no further official news on the matter (although dataminers had spotted the addition of related strings hinting at an impending release) until finally ray tracing was added to Elden Ring with this week’s 1.09 patch.

So, has FromSoftware managed to push the game’s graphics to new heights? Yes and no. It’s not a game-changing difference, which is hardly surprising since FromSoftware just chose to implement ray-traced shadows and ambient occlusion. While it’s understandable that the developers wouldn’t want to jump into adding ray-traced global lighting, as that would have required re-authorizing all of the game’s lighting, they could at least have added ray-traced reflections as well. For that we have the precedent of additions to an existing game and live service to it (Grand Theft Auto V on current generation consoles).

Coming back to Elden Ring, the effect of ray tracing (set to maximum on PC) varies between scenes, which is why I shot several both indoors and outdoors early in the game. In general, the ray tracing implementation improves the accuracy of shadows, making objects like rocks or foliage look more grounded and realistic. It can be noticeable, although there’s little day-night difference. Aesthetically, it tends to make the visuals darker than the non-ray tracing option.

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Speaking of performance, outdoor scenes are a lot more tiring. In this little cave, for example, maximum ray tracing costs 29 FPS (on the GeForce RTX 4090, the most powerful graphics card available, at 4K resolution), a drop of 24% compared to disabled ray tracing.


Once we step out of the cave, the power cost is much greater. Max ray tracing runs at 53 FPS while ray tracing out is up to 99 FPS. The FPS are almost halved here, although the visual improvement is clearly visible with the foliage. Also note the greatly improved shadows on the player character’s cloak.


Here we are once again in this cave at the beginning of the Elden Ring. It’s so dark that it’s harder to see the differences, but if you look at the barrels you’ll see more accurate shadows with ray tracing. The performance cost is nearly non-existent, dropping from 120 to 107 FPS.


However, this is a rare case. Entering a large open field again results in a significant drop in performance. RT off runs at 115 FPS, RT ON (Max) drops to 71 FPS, a 38% drop.

However, note the improved shadows across all foliage and even on the player character’s gear and face.


In the next image comparisons we are back at the first place of grace. The performance delta is similar (102 vs. 60 FPS, a 41% drop).


If we move slightly to the left we will find the first NPC sitting by a campfire. The performance is almost halved again here (118 to 67 fps). However, check out the rock and foliage shadows near the mule – they’re much more realistic.

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Near the arched passage, the difference in performance is virtually identical. Here we also observe that with ray tracing enabled, the lighting no longer bleeds through, giving the scene a darker look.


Looking directly at the Earth Tree, the impact on performance is slightly less, going from 109 to 75 FPS, a 31% loss.


The last image comparison brings us back inside. Once again, the performance hit is far more modest (122 vs. 97 FPS, a 20% drop). Significantly improved the shadows of the jug and the stone wall.


Overall, the Elden Ring update isn’t as disappointing as the initial reports say, but it’s not great either. Also, it’s not a huge improvement compared to the screen-space RTGI shader that people have been injecting via ReShade since shortly after the game launched.

However, the biggest disappointment is the lack of any upscaler addition in this patch. There’s a reason NVIDIA designed the GeForce RTX graphics cards with both RT cores and Tensor cores, the latter of which are geared towards recapturing at least some of the performance loss due to ray tracing with clever AI image reconstruction (DLSS ) inherent.

The games that tried to introduce ray tracing support without upscaling can be counted on one hand: Life Is Strange: True Colors, Rune II, Stay in the Light and World of Warcraft. Saints Row started without an upscaler but added AMD FSR 2.1 in a patch released in late November.

It’s no big surprise that a developer still locks their PC games to 60 FPS and players have to use external programs to unlock the frame rate beyond that threshold. That’s why I reached out to PureDark, the author of the DLSS/FSR/XeSS mods for REFramework (CAPCOM’s RE Engine-based titles) and Creation Engine (Bethesda’s Skyrim, Fallout 4), urging him to to deal with adding upscalers to Eldenring. I thought it was badly needed for the ray tracing update and it turns out I was right about that.

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PureDark is already working on it, the DLAA implementation is already complete. I can also add that he is now trying to insert Frame Generation aka DLSS 3. Needless to say, that would be a big deal and probably more than enough to offset the performance cost of ray tracing in Elden Ring. Stay tuned!