Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition Review

A 4K Beautiful Boys Adventure
Developer: Square Enix Publisher: Square Enix Platform: PC

So close to perfect, yet so far away

Final Fantasy XV was a game that really took me by surprise, and there were a couple factors leading up to its release that made me avoid the game initially. For starters, the only Final Fantasy game I had played was Final Fantasy X, and while I enjoyed what I did play, I found a lot of it needlessly convoluted which eventually led to me dropping the game for something else. Another thing which didn’t help FFXV leading up to release is the fact that I had played a few preview builds of the game, none of which left me with very good impressions of the title. Admittedly, this was still quite a ways from the actual release of the game and it was so soon that I felt the game would be improved prior to release. Once it came out, I ended up getting it and absolutely adoring it. It very quickly became one of my favourite RPGs of this generation (yes I know it is technically a JRPG but it feels more like a regular RPG). Everything about it just engaged me as a player, though I never actually returned for the DLC. But it’s okay because Square Enix had my back and later announced that the game would be coming to PC users. As a higher framerate and high quality texture junkie, I was incredibly keen to see this game in its best form possible. What I can say is even though there are a few blemishes, Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition is something to behold.

Given that this game was previously reviewed by us, I will only be reviewing the technical performance of the game in depth. If you would like to read our review of Final Fantasy XV, click here.

Let’s start with the minimum and recommended specifications for the game and what it comes with on the various available platforms for PC. The specifications will be colour coded for each brand (blue for Intel, red for AMD and green for Nvidia). The minimum spec requirements call for Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 64-bit for the OS, an Intel Core i5-2500/AMD FX-6100 at 3.3GHz or above, 8GB of RAM, a GeForce GTX 760/GeForce GTX 1050/AMD Radeon R9 280 and 100GB of free storage space with SSD as the recommended drive; this is for 720p 30fps. The recommended system specs (which are for 1080p 30fps) call for the same OS, an Intel Core i7-3770 at 3.4GHz or above/AMD FX-8350 at 4GHz or above, 16GB of RAM, a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB/Radeon RX 480 and the same storage space. If you wish to play at 4K you need a behemoth of a computer which consists of an Intel Core i7-7700/AMD Ryzen 5 1600X at 3.6GHz or above, a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and 155GB of free storage space. I’d honestly not recommend playing the game at 4K as your framerates really will suffer, but that is something that I will dive into later.

  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z270-Gaming K3
  • CPU: i7 7700K 4.6ghz
  • GPU: Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1080 Ti 1708ghz
  • Memory: G.Skill Trident Z RGB 3000mhz 16GB (2x8GB)
  • Cooling: Corsair H100i v2 w/3x Thermaltake Riing RGB Fans (stock fans removed)
  • DualShock 4: Fully supported
  • Xbox One: Fully supported

A talking point for the game is how it is readily available on the various game hosting platforms on PC: Steam, Origin and the Microsoft Store. One of the caveats of this was that various versions would have some features or insubstantial content. Steam users would receive a bunch of costumes which pertained to both the game’s singleplayer and multiplayer modes, which are available on the workshop. Origin users will get Sims-themed content if purchased before May 1st 2018 (though I would not recommend this as Origin sucks). Finally there is the Microsoft Store, where purchasing the game here will allow for you to crossplay between Xbox and PC within the game’s Comrades expansion (the multiplayer). I personally hate using both Origin and the Microsoft Store, so Steam was it for me.

Now that the requirements and platforms are out of the way, how does the game look? Well, if you can visualise how the game looked on console, think that but infinitely better. I ran the game at the highest quality settings with the 4K resolution pack active and it is by far one of the best looking games I have ever played on my PC. Previously, that title went to The Witcher 3, which also has an impressive set of visuals. Admittedly I chose to play the game at 1080p as I see no real benefit from a higher resolution and I would prefer to maintain a higher framerate, however I did run a test of the game at various resolutions and graphical presets to evaluate performance, all of which I’ve put in a the graph below. The test was run using a save point at the Hammerhead parking spot. From there I made the game begin an automated drive down to the Leirity Seaside parking spot. Every time the test was run the weather behaved the exact same, the only differences were a car or two which popped up on the road during the tests. The reason I chose this route was because it went through various areas which required different amounts of rendering (forest-like areas hit hard with GameWorks active, more specifically TurfEffects).

FFXV Benchmarks

Final Fantasy XV Benchmark Results

This is not a game that I would recommend playing at 4K. While you do receive some nice benefits from the higher pixel density like less aliasing and better clarity in game textures, the performance cost severely outweighs the potential benefits. Going from 1080p to 4K incurs around a 48.1% performance loss, going from an average framerate of 81 in 1080p to 39 frames per second in the best case scenario. While this is to be expected because you’re trying to power/render 4x the amount of pixels, anyone who has a rig powerful enough to run this game at 4K probably values their frames over the resolution bump. 1440p manages to hit that sweet spot between performance and resolution, managing an average framerate of 65 frames per second, however there were points where the frames noticeably dropped, as shown with the 0.1% low of 28 frames per second. I still confidently say that 1080p is just fine for pretty much any game and you reap the rewards of higher framerates, especially with an average of 81 frames per second. 720p yielded similar framerates but at that point the resolution made the game blurry so I wouldn’t recommend that.

Now it is no surprise that Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition is a taxing game and these performance numbers aren’t exactly bad, but they are definitely held back by Square Enix’s use of Nvidia GameWorks. At the risk of sounding like an AMD fanboy (even though I don’t really have any AMD parts in my computer, and the only AMD component I own is a Radeon RX 360 purely for game testing purposes), GameWorks just isn’t great. The performance cost compared to the visual benefit isn’t up to par and I would strongly suggest keeping GameWorks off as it makes for an all-round smoother experience. While some monsters (like the Bloodhorn and the Garulet) use HairWorks and TurfEffects makes the general terrain nicer, I would have much rather gone without TurfEffects and substituted HairWorks with TressFX which is AMD’s open-source solution to hair rendering. Not only does it work better and can be more easily fine-tuned for each game, it comes with much less of a performance hit for everyone.

Looking at 4K, the performance goes from an average of 39 frames per second to 48 frames per second, an increase of 18.75%. This is actually quite a noticeable difference and will be very visible to the naked eye. A higher framerate allows for smoother gameplay and clearer animations. If you MUST play the game at 4K, for the love of smoother experiences, turn all GameWorks options off. The performance for 1440p with GameWorks off is really what surprised me, however. A performance gain of approximately 20.7%, going from an average of 65 frames per second to 84 frames per second whilst maintaining a solid level of pixel density which will help with any aliasing that you may notice on lower resolutions. Naturally, as you lower the resolution you increase in framerates, but I’d definitely say 1440p is the max resolution I would go. Any higher just comes at too much of a performance cost. If you’re running at 1080p, you can get away with GameWorks, but be mindful that there are random points where you’ll have frame hitching and these will be much less frequent with GameWorks off. GameWorks has an average performance hit of 20.21% (that’s pretty large). Please do keep in mind that this is on a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and GameWorks causes even larger performance hits on AMD’s cards.

Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition Screenshot 2018.03.08 - 23.03.33.20

The implementation of Nvidia GameWorks isn’t the only misstep that Square Enix made when it came to this version of Final Fantasy XV. While there are some areas of the game where it really feels like they were trying as hard as they could to cater to the PC market, the menu navigation isn’t one of them. If you opt to use keyboard and mouse, instead of having an on-screen cursor, moving the mouse will navigate up and down the menus accordingly. While this doesn’t seem like much, it makes navigating menus with the mouse a chore and the only remote remedy is to use the mouse wheel instead of moving the mouse itself. Why they opted for this rather than just have a cursor to help navigate the menus is beyond me but it’s annoying. This is one of the main reasons I opted to just use my controller instead, aside from the fact that I found it to be more enjoyable with a controller.

Another gripe I have with this game was the bizarre choice to not have borderless windowed as one of the display options. Running exclusive fullscreen just sucks because I tend to alt+tab a lot and windowed mode isn’t much better. I know a lot of people who would choose Borderless Windowed as their preferred display option. Another bizarre issue with the display modes is that when you do alt+tab out of the game during exclusive fullscreen, the game enters windowed mode and you need to either fiddle with the display modes or use the alt+enter command to return things to normal. I have no idea why this issue exists, but the frustration is real. Looking past this, one of the more frustrating issues with Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition has to do with hot swapping between input methods (controller to kb/m and vice versa). This is an issue which became more and more prevalent when trying to use the aforementioned Nvidia Ansel. Having to use a keyboard shortcut is fine to access Ansel, but when swapping input methods there is a major hitch in the performance. I ran a 30-second benchmark at “Coernix Station – Alstor” five times where I changed the input method every five seconds. These are the results:

FFXV Input Method

Final Fantasy XV Input Method Change Performance Benchmarks

Disregarding the average FPS as you’re not hot swapping between input methods every five seconds when you play, but take a look at the 0.1% Lows that are graphed. 4.2 frames per second as a 0.1% Low is ridiculously low and it is very jarring when it occurs in game.

Now Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition comes with all the previously released DLC: Episode Gladiolus, Episode Ignis, Episode Prompto and the Comrades Multiplayer Expansion. All these expansions behave differently in a technical aspect and I plan to dive into which are the real problem areas in each piece of content with a piece yet to come, but I will note a couple thing down here. Firstly, if you are going to be playing the Comrades Multiplayer Expansion, I highly recommend turning all GameWorks settings off and tuning down your graphics a little bit; something which can only be done in the main menu. There was a lot more frame hitching in the Comrades expansion, to the point where it was nigh unplayable. Episode Gladiolus also caused some issues with the framerate, often dipping below 45 frames per second when running at the highest preset and GameWorks on with a 1080p resolution setting. I don’t even want to imagine what the framerate would have been like a 1440p let alone 4K.

Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition Screenshot 2018.03.10 - 21.40.52.25

Final Thoughts

Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition is by far the best way to play Square Enix’s critically acclaimed 2016 JRPG. Featuring an incredible set of visuals with settings that can be independently tuned to your liking, it seems that Square Enix really went all out with the PC version of this game. Unfortunately there are a few caveats like poor mouse support in menus, frame hitching when hot swapping between a controller and kb/m the lack of a borderless windowed display mode and the less-than-desirable 1%/0.1% lows. But its biggest drawback, by far, is its use of Nvidia GameWorks, which not only induces large performance hits but also locks Nvidia Ansel away from AMD users, such that they are effectively paying full price for what is essentially less features within the game.

Reviewed on PC | Review code supplied by publisher

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Good

  • Insane visuals/high framerates
  • Comes with all the DLC
  • GameWorks effects are nice

Bad

  • Input method hot swapping causes frame hitching
  • Comrades and Episode: Gladiolus have frame issues
  • GameWorks is restrictive at best, punishing at worst
7.5

Good

Jordan lives and breathes Dark Souls, even though his favourite game is Bloodborne. He takes pride in bashing his face on walls and praising the sun. Hailing from the land of tacos, he is the token minority for WellPlayed.
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