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Starfield’s DLSS mod is a worthwhile tweak mired in tedious DRM discourse

Paid mods? Cracks? Look mate, I’m just here for the frames

A spacesuit-clad Starfield protag aims a pistol in front of the Frontier, which has landed nearby.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bethesda Softworks

"Modders will fix it" is a cliché, but the thing about clichés is they’re rooted in fact. So it is with Starfield, which already has a DLSS mod ready to patch in the class-leading Nvidia upscaler that Bethesda left out in favour of AMD FSR 2.

It’s the work of seasoned modder PureDark, previously seen hammering both DLSS and FSR into Skyrim. I’ve tried the Starfield mod and it works rather nicely, granting a visible quality boost on RTX graphics cards while equalling FSR’s ability to smooth out Starfield’s sometimes-tricky performance. Unfortunately (and largely by association), it’s also been dragged into a spot of nasty business, one involving a separate mod for DLSS 3 frame generation and PureDark’s application of DRM.

Was Starfield worth the wait? Liam and Alice B discuss this question - and more - in the video above.Watch on YouTube

See, the main DLSS upscaling mod is free to download and install, as you’d expect. But PureDark’s other Starfield DLSS mod, which adds AI-powered frame interpolation for those with RTX 40 series GPUs, is only available to his Patreon backers, with the mod itself including copy protection software to block non-subscribers from employing it. Which I suppose he’s entitled to do, though it’s not exactly in the spirit of PC game modding.

Sure enough, the frame generation mod’s paid-for release invoked a lot of that other grand PC gaming tradition: arguing, especially among those who remember Valve and Bethesda’s own doomed attempt at introducing paid mods for Skyrim. Now, just a couple of days onward, that DRM has been cracked, meaning Starfield now such a thing as pirated mods. Deary me.

I haven’t tried DLSS 3 frame gen in Starfield myself; not to come over all Centrist Dad In Space, but I’m interested neither in paying for mods nor in downloading anything from dodgy crack sites. I’m mainly just sad because the standard DLSS upscaling mod, which is free and can benefit a far wider array of graphics cards than just the RTX 40 series, is good! And now it's going to be forever yoked to a controversy over paid mods, an inherently silly subject that I’d hoped we’d all moved past.

So, enough discourse diving. Here’s how the DLSS mod performed on an RTX 4060 at 1440p, as well as an RTX 4070 Ti at 4K:

FSR 2, 75% render rez FSR 2, 60% render rez DLSS, 75% render rez DLSS, 60% render rez
RTX 4060, 2560x1440, Ultra quality 38fps 43fps 39fps 43fps
RTX 4070 Ti, 3840x2160, Ultra quality 50fps 59fps 52fps 59fps

Evidently there’s no night-and-day speed difference between the two upscalers, though DLSS is a smidge quicker with render resolution at 75%. Still, it’s never slower than FSR, which for an official mod ain’t bad – especially since both AMD and Bethesda have spent weeks bigging up their partnership.

The real reason RTX GPU owners should try this mod is image quality. Between DLSS’s generally smarter upscaling methods and its superior anti-aliasing, Starfield looks sharper around the edges and more fluid in motion. Especially so in the latter case: fast-moving objects, including yourself if you have the third-person camera engaged, exhibit slight distortion around the edges with FSR. DLSS isn’t perfect, but movement does look a lot cleaner, and is generally closer to native resolution.

Fidelity differences are more subtle in still screenshots, but they are still there. If we zoom in a bit, we can see how DLSS has both cleaner-looking shadows and less jagged edges than FSR. And the finer the details, the wider the quality gap – those strands of loose hair are far less pixelly with DLSS.

A zoomed-in comparison image showing Starfield running with modded-in DLSS vs FSR 2.
Left: DLSS/60% render resolution; Right: FSR 2/60% render resolution | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bethesda Softworks

While the full power of DLSS 3 remains either locked behind a paywall or off sailing the seven seas, this upscaling-only mod can count itself with BetterHud among Starfield’s modding highlights thus far. I’d recommend it even with the, uh, baggage, and if you’re after more techy tips, our Ollie has produced a handy list of the best Starfield mods, and also a list of the most useful Sterfield console commands.

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