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Something is terribly wrong with The Outer Worlds: Spacer’s Choice Edition’s PC performance

Law, this is bad

Surprise RPG remaster The Outer Worlds: Spacer’s Choice Edition has turned out to be even more of a PC wilter than its raised system requirements would suggest. I’ve only been bumbling around the starting planet of Terra-2 so far, and thus haven’t seen every single weather system upgrade and character model touch-up that the Spacer’s Choice Edition has to offer, but it’s made a worrying first impression in the performance department.

I started on an RTX 3070 (matched with an Intel Core i5-11600K and 16GB of RAM, all well above the recommended spec), and slapped on Ultra quality to try at 1440p. The result: a dismal trudge through the 30-35fps range, with regular drops down into the twenties. A few interior areas helped it creep up to 40fps or so, but still, that’s staggeringly low when the same setup will often stay above 100fps in The Outer Worlds’ original version.

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What of the graphics cards listed in the official requirements? First I tried the 6GB GTX 1060, as per the minimum spec. Switching to the Low preset could, in fairness, allow this GPU to spit out anywhere between 40fps and 60fps in most areas. Medium, however, dropped too often into the 20-30fps zone to really play comfortably. You could still say this minimum GPU requirement is accurate, but is there really much point in buying a remaster if you can only engage its ugliest settings? Especially with the sting of knowing that in the original, the humble GTX 1060 could average 70fps on Ultra quality.

Then there’s the GTX 1080 Ti, which is listed as a recommended GPU. This could only barely manage Ultra at 1080p, sadly, mostly varying between 30fps and 40fps with occasional drops below. It took a lowering to Very High quality before a more stable 45-50fps could be achieved.

Getting desperate, I swapped in MSI’s mahoosive RTX 4070 Ti Suprim X card, believing that surely this £950 goliath would show the Spacer’s Choice Edition who’s boss. Yet even this proved disappointing: Ultra quality lingered around 45-55fps at 1440p, a resolution that the RTX 4070 Ti usually shreds to ribbons, and trying the same preset at 4K produced an unplayable 20-25fps. On this GPU, that’s about the same pace as Cyberpunk 2077 running at 4K, on its highest quality settings, with its toughest ray tracing enabled. Absolute madness.

The Spacer’s Choice Edition does generally look better, even if some of its enhancements are easy to miss; see for yourself in the comparison shots above. Lighting is simultaneously more realistic and more atmospheric. Facial animations during conversations are smoother and more naturalistic. And environments are more densely detailed, especially with foliage. Even so, it’s difficult to comprehend how these changes could knacker performance to the extent that they have; there are new, higher-res textures, but no other obvious FPS-killer like ray tracing. Developers Obsidian claimed pre-release that it would be able to hit 60fps at 4K – using what? Low settings and a liquid nitrogen-cooled RTX 4090?

There are other problems too. Stuttering is frustratingly common, with heavy hiccups happening several times a minute across all four of the graphics cards I tested. There’s also the occasional visual glitch, which obviously isn’t ideal for a mostly graphical remaster. See these tubes of glowy science stuff? Their contents flicker in and out of existence depending on where you are in the room.

A labratory in The Outer Worlds: Spacer’s Choice Edition, showing tubes that would be filled with a glowing liquid, were it not for a glitch.
A labratory in The Outer Worlds: Spacer’s Choice Edition, showing three glowing tubes.
The worst part is this seems to be upsetting Parvati.

Can the Spacer’s Choice Edition be made more... choice? I think it’s feasible that the stuttering and bugs could be brought under control with updates, though given how brutal the Ultra, Very High and High settings can be – even on cutting-edge graphics hardware – the only way its biggest problem can be resolved is if Obsdian can somehow find some hefty framerate gains. And that sort of thing almost never happens by way of patches. Here's hoping The Outer Worlds 2 is a tad more easygoing, eh?

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