High Chaos: Dishonored 2 Performance Woes & Tips

I’m still working my way through Dishonored 2 [official site] so that I can bring you a full, detailed review, but with the game officially released today (it was available yesterday for people who preordered), I’ve tried to gather as much information as possible about the performance issues that have seen the game’s Steam rating take a bit of a hammering. As is often the case, given the number of reports and conflicting data, it’s difficult to figure out precisely what to do if the game doesn’t runs smoothly, but I’ve done my own digging and Bethesda have released some tips, while director Harvey Smith is acknowledging the issues on Twitter and says Arkane are working on a new patch.

It’s worth mentioning that my only personal experience of technical issues is mentioned in my coverage of the first nine hours of the game. Alt-tabbing sometimes causes silent crashes if the game is left running in the background and I had to bump the settings down to ‘high’ as soon as I hit the great outdoors. ‘High’ seems pretty good considering I’m on a GTX 970 and the game looks spectacular. It doesn’t give the impression it’s pushing as many pixels and polygons as some other Big Games, but there’s an incredible amount of detail in the environments, and these levels are large and dense.

I’m not getting a smooth 60fps but the fluctuations aren’t particularly severe. They’re unpredictable though, with some impressively large, fully explorable city blocks not even causing a flutter when viewed from on high, and other, smaller locations leading to more severe (though temporary) disruptions. The best piece of advice I’ve received, in terms of preventing the framerate fluctuations, is to deactivate TXAA Anti-Aliasing, which none of the presets appear to do. Playing on ‘Low’ presets or ‘High’ presets doesn’t make a bit of difference to my performance, but disabling TXAA on either steadies the whole ship.

That tip is included in Bethesda’s new FAQ:

We are aware that some of you may be encountering issues with Dishonored 2 on PC. Please take a moment to review our recommendations to help better your experience.

General recommendations

Avoid using Alt-Tab when playing. Relaunch the game if you see performance dropping after using Alt-tab.
Avoid having background applications running in addition to the game.
Video Settings

If you have performance issues, try lowering the resolution.
Use 1440p resolution only if you have a very high-end GPU ( GTX 1070/1080 or equivalent)
Keep the V-Sync activated, especially if you have large framerate fluctuations.
If you have framerate under 30 fps, adjust the “Adaptive Resolution” between minimum (50%) and default value (75%).
Advanced Settings

Use the “Auto” presets: this should adjust your visual settings without impacting your framerate.
If you still have performance issues with “Auto” presets:
Try deactivating the “TXAA Anti-Aliasing”
Try lowering the texture details

Along with that, I’ve also disabled mouse smoothing through the config file:

The file is most likely found on your C drive under \Users\[your user name]\Saved Games\Arkane Studios\dishonored2\base. Add the line g_mouseSmooth "0". There is an option for mouse smoothing in-game, but I feel like movement is more responsive after making the change directly. That could be all in my mind, or a result of other settings being changed slightly, but it’s easily reversible if you don’t see any benefits.

I’m not playing on a super-resolution, just 1920*1080 for me, which is probably helping to keep things steady. The advice here, from a player rather than Bethesda or Arkane, which includes instructions on how to rollback drivers, has also improved performance for me, though not everyone has seen any benefits. Given how many people have serious complaints, from sluggish mouse movement to menu screen crashes, it’s clear that there isn’t one single fix that’s going to solve everyone’s problems simultaneously. And the fact that this post even has to exist is a sign of a failure at some level. Ideally, nobody should have to search for solutions instead of actually playing the game they just bought, and in this case, there don’t seem to be solutions to some of the problems people are experiencing.

Our own Alec couldn’t even see the menu screens, the game crashing before anything had appeared at all except a brief trace in the Task Manager, but disconnecting his Oculus Rift has fixed that problem.

Hopefully Arkane will be able to fix at least some of these issues quickly, but even then Bethesda’s new review policy has helped to prevent criticism and awareness of these problems from spreading pre-release, and a preorder campaign that encouraged people to buy in to play a day early looks even more hollow when a lot of those early buyers are having to wait for another patch before playing. I’ve lucked out and am having a wonderful time with the game – it’s absolutely fantastic and I wish I could be writing more about that rather than about all of this, but a fantastically designed game doesn’t count for much to the people who are struggling to play it.


  1. PopeBob says:

    More of note at the moment, I think, is the continued woe of Phenom II users who cannot even start the game due to CPU “limitations.” This has recently happened with both Deus Ex and Mafia III (the former was patched, the latter is seemingly going to be ignored til the end of time), and as yet there’s been no word from Arkane or Bethesda on which of those games’ model they intend to follow.

    Or if the Store Page minimum requirements will in the future specify that SSE4.1+ is a requisite for running the software.

    • lordcooper says:

      Not to mention the massive difficulties in getting the game to run on an Amstrad 464.

      • PopeBob says:

        Yes, you’re certainly right. These are two equivalent things, despite a PhenomII having the basic raw horsepower to very effectively run every current-gen game on the market that’s been developed by a team who cares. 100% similar.

    • Jappy86 says:

      One phenom II user accounted for. I would love for these publishers or developers to just put in the requirements that only Cpus with SSE4.1 can run the game. And in case they don’t, they should patch it like it happened with Quantum Break, No Man’s Sky and MGS V. They like our pre-order money, so at least they could avoid duping us this much. I’ve learned my lesson though, no more buying aaa games on pc.

    • flyingsaucers says:

      It’s MORE noteworthy to focus on an issue affecting a 7 year old GPU that’s well below min. spec? Guffaw.

  2. Yachmenev says:

    I hope it’s not the Denuvo DRM in the game that’s causing issues.

    • Harlequin says:

      As if DRM weren’t an issue unto itself, it’s now causing performance issues? Splendid.

      • lordcooper says:

        These conclusions are so high in the air you need to double-jump to reach them.

      • Baines says:

        1) DRM has a long history of causing performance issues.

        2) Various claims against Denuvo were long ago debunked by multiple people through various different means.

        3) A Bethesda game releasing in a buggy or poorly performing state is largely self-explanatory. It is a Bethesda game. Looking elsewhere first is like looking elsewhere for issues within Ubisoft or Warner Bros PC ports.

        • Yachmenev says:

          About #3.

          Fallout: New Vegas was buggy. It was developed by Obsidian.
          Skyrim was buggy. It was developed by Bethesda Game Studios.
          Dishonored 2 seems to have issues. It was developed by Arkane.

          But I assume it was Bethesda Softworks Q&A department you were thinking of? ;)

          • Baines says:

            Bethesda Softworks in general, not just Q&A. While different dev studios are responsible for different games, the publisher can affect the condition of everything it publishes. Money, support, requirements, priorities, and even general attitude can all play a part.

            Just as Warner Bros itself plays a role in the PC port quality of both High Voltage’s ports of various Netherrealm games and Iron Galaxy’s ports of Arkham Origin and Arkham Knight. Warner Bros is the common link among the different studios, a link that established a history of issues, and was even directly blamed for Arkham.

            Or how it just felt right to say “It’s a Paradox game” at a title like Magicka’s release, when Paradox was only the publisher.

        • flyingsaucers says:

          Bethesda is the publisher, not the dev. Arkane is the dev. Arkane have a long history of producing highly polished cult classics, ergo, “bethesda makes buggy games” doesn’t cut the mustard.

    • Morgan Joylighter says:

      That’s impossible! Every Real Gamer (TM) knows that Denuvo cannot possibly cause any issue with a game! It’s just to protect your loyal game company from the evil pirates who will steal their games and their food they need for their children!

  3. sk2k says:

    Hmm, disabling TXAA leads to white dots in the game, very visible on ceilings and darker parts of the level.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Yep, running anything but TXAA shows distracting dots running through gaps in the scenery. Very hard to ignore.

      I must be one of the lucky ones because I can run TXAA and get smooth frame rates (GTX 970 on a 1920×1200 screen). I don’t know what the actual frame rates are, but it’s smooth enough not to notice any slowdown. With those dots on the lower aliasing settings though, the game is clearly not optimized and I hope there’s a patch soon.

  4. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    So, if Bethesda aren’t sending out review copies, presumably the graphics card manufacturers also aren’t getting copies so they can’t make tweaks to graphics drivers.
    It’s going to be a longer wait for graphics drivers specifically tweaked to work well with Dishonoured 2. Nice work Bethesda!
    (glad I didn’t pre-order, will pick this up in a month or so)

    • Premium User Badge

      subdog says:

      That’s a pretty big assumption to make.

    • rjdriver says:

      AMD released new drivers for Dishonored 2 on Nov 10th. Nvidia did the same a few days beofre that. But at least one player reported getting better performance after he rolled his Nvidia driver back to V373.06

  5. gbrading says:

    I was getting about the same performance as Adam yesterday and I’ve only played for an hour; I bumped everything down to High as well as some stuff had defaulted to Very High. I’m going to try the anti-aliasing tip this evening, see if that does the trick. It was still perfectly playable but still it shouldn’t be doing it.

  6. Zanchito says:

    I read earlier somewhere in the reddiverse (not sure if /r/dishonored or /r/pcgaming , somewhere around those places) that people are having large FPS and stability improvements reverting to older NVidia drivers, they gave the actual driver version and specific settings, I haven’t checked personally.

  7. smeaa mario says:

    I haven’t played either the first game or this one. But now that performance is mentioned, I have to ask: The recommended specs for this game says it needs 6GB VRAM for Nvidia and 8 for other cards. Is this game really so badly optimized? Because from the looks of it, it isn’t supposed to be so heavy on the GPU.

  8. Isendur says:

    Here’s a tip for Bethesda: fix your shit. It’s getting really boring after the Nth release.

  9. Geezer says:

    It seems like every big game release has performance issues. How much of this is the gamer’s fault? My system is dedicated solely to my motion graphics work and gaming. That’s it. I don’t surf the web with it, no downloading (except games), no torrents–nothing. All webby/media/torrent fun is done with my old dusty Dell. If it becomes buggy who cares?
    My gaming system is 2 years old and I NEVER have issues. Dishonored 2 runs smoothly at 60fps on ultra settings. Two months ago I upgraded to a 1080, so my gpu specs are solid, but even before the upgrade I didn’t have issues.

    It seems that there is more to a smooth running gaming system than gpu and cpu. How much rubbish and clutter do we unknowingly accumulate over time in our system from doing various non-gaming tasks? Dunno. I am making this comment no to gloat about my system (who cares, really), but to point out there has to be other issues at play here. Just read the Steam Dishonored 2 comments. Wow. Maybe I’m just lucky. Dunno.

    Dishonored 2 is great, though. Loving it!

    • DeadCanDance says:

      Well, since its bethesda I very much think its on them, no matter how beefy or secluded from the internet your gaming rig is.

    • fish99 says:

      You have a £600 GPU.

      If the issue was having other junk running (which it isn’t, people are capable of rebooting their PCs), that would affect other games too.

  10. JakeOfRavenclaw says:

    I don’t have a high end rig, so I’m hesitant to complain too much, but something definitely does seem…off. I get that there’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes in games, but Mankind Divided both looks and runs a hell of a lot better than Dishonored 2 does for me (ditto for the Battlefield 1 beta, which looked amazing and ran like a dream, though of course that’s less of a direct comparison). The quality of the visuals and the quality of the performance seem really mismatched.

  11. int says:

    Strangely I get worse performance if I turn off antialiasing altogether. FXAA high gives less lag than FXAA low too. CURIOUS!

  12. Cerulean Shaman says:

    I’ve always been incredibly lucky with these things, i.e. I didn’t have issues with Arkham Knight.

    I’m currently playing on 1440p ultrawide, presets had me at ultra, and I haven’t yet dipped below 40 and even then only rarely, which surprised me a little. Removing that weird anti-alliasing has effectively kept me 55+.

    I have a top tier rig, but not even 1080’s (I have an overclocked 980ti and the cash sitting in bank waiting for the 1080ti) seem to have very standardized performance. Some report unplayable fps at low while far older cards are getting great performance on high.

    It’s weird… can’t even begin to imagine what’s causing the problem. If it really was bad optimization I’d assume higher demands would always worsen the problem, no?

  13. somnolentsurfer says:

    So, is it not worth attempting to run this on less than minimum spec? I’d been looking forward to it, but I’m on a Mid 2015 MacBook Pro (2GB Radeon R9 M370X).

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Curious myself, since I’ve got a laptop with an 860M. I could run Mankind Divided with various things lowered or turned off, so I assume I can run this, but the performance problems make me wary.

      • somnolentsurfer says:

        Yeah, I’ve found Mankind Divided playable (if not the smoothest) on medium settings at 720p. But that had minimum specs of 2GB VRAM. This says 3GB.

        • bigbeatboy says:

          I own the same Macbook Pro (i7 2.5ghz R9 M370X 2GB) and am curious to try… From what I found (link to goo.gl), a GeForce GTX 950M will run it (30fps, very low settings, 1280×720) which means the M370X might be very close to that… I’m tempted to buy it and give it a try. If you guys do, keep us posted ;)

    • bigbeatboy says:

      Update! According to this video (link to youtube.com) if this dude isn’t lying about his computer… it’s playable !

  14. balasco says:

    Any tweak to stop lore pages moving while your trying to read them?

    • Zenicetus says:

      I think we’re probably stuck with that as an “artistic” decision, unless someone can figure out how to mod it out.

  15. JarinArenos says:

    Recommended 6-8GB VRAM?! The heck is this junk?

  16. DrMelon says:

    Getting massive performance boosts on my aging NVidia 680 by setting Max Prerendered Frames to 1 in the Nvidia Control Panel. Might work for some of you too, even on newer cards!

  17. Funkengreuven says:

    The single biggest improvement I’ve been able to make is in using a tool to keep the cpu priority on “high” versus “low”. For some reason, this game defaults to low which gets me about 12-15 fps on my system and major fps drops when looking in certain directions. Even if you alt-tab out and change it in task manager, it simply reverts right back to low immediately. It doesn’t stick until the next loading screen as some have stated. I’m using a tool called “Process Lasso” which keeps the cpu priority at high and fps up to 45-60 on my system. BTW, I’m running 5892×1080 surround resolution on a 980ti 3-way sli system. I run Medium settings, except for high fxaa, and all values at the bottom of the screen set to “on” (i.e. bloom, god rays, etc.) I have a 3930K processor OC’d to 4.3ghz, but this tip should help any system. Once you install Process Lasso, look in the options and create a “watchdog” rule that states when “Dishonored2.exe” exceeds 1% cpu utilization, then set “cpu priority” to “high”. You’ll figure it out easily enough if you look for “watchdog” and “create rule”. You can launch the game, then alt-tab out and go to process lasso and you’ll see the Dishonored2.exe process. Create the rule fromt here if you’re having a hard time finding the .exe file, and then see if this helps you. This trick made the difference between a playable & non-playable experience for me. I did not create this tip; I found it online, but can’t remember where now.

  18. ynamite says:

    THIS! So much!

    For me the game was just about playable (on an aging i7, GTX 970, 8 GB RAM), hovering between 20 and 30 FPS in complex scenes. I’ve set everything to Ultra, except textures and shadows and I’ve disabled antialiasing and adaptive resolution, by setting it to 100. Actually, the latter doesn’t seem to make any difference as far as I can tell, at least not visually.

    Using the “process lasso” app to keep Dishonored 2 running in high priority mode I consistently upped my FPS from their mid 20s to easily above 35+. Even indoors, where I’d usually get between 45 and 60 I now easily get 70 – 75 FPS.

    Additionally, in the Nvidia control panel, I’ve set the maximum of prerendered frames to 1 and I’ve forced v-sync to off for the Dishonored 2 application (I read somewhere that it helps with stuttering, but I’m not sure it actually does anything).

    All this made the game much more playable and enjoyable in effect and so far this is the only thing that’s made a big enough difference to actually fiddle around with. Also seems strange that these settings have that much of an effect on performance.

    I must say, I’m a little disappointed in RPS and other press for not giving Dishonored 2 the flack it deserves. The game itself is truly great imo, but the state it was released in on PC is just not good enough. Reviews, Wot I Think’s etc. need to reflect that adequately. As it stands, the game garners way too much praise for doing way too little to alleviate said problems.