The Outer Worlds system requirements, settings, benchmarks, and performance analysis
Welcome to The Outer Worlds, a place filled with colonists struggling to survive. Our review called it quirky romp across a solar system ruled by corporations, but it’s quirky in other ways as well. It’s not the most demanding of games, but Outer Worlds can be taxing on budget and mid-range PCs if you ramp up the settings too far, and it tends to stutter on occasion. The stutters are more noticeable when you’re running around the larger outdoor areas, but in terms of absolute minimum framerates, just about every graphics card I tested occasionally drops into the sub-20 range (if only for a frame or two).
What can you do about the stutters? Short of waiting for a patch, not much. Thankfully, average and even 97 percentile minimums aren’t so bad. And since Outer Worlds is an RPG with shooting elements, the occasional dip in framerate isn’t too terrible. You can certainly play the game at 30 fps in a pinch, though falling below 20 fps is a problem. With a high-end PC, even 4K at 60 fps or more is possible, but the ultra preset only gets there with a 2080 Ti.
This is the third game to use Unreal Engine that I’ve looked at in as many months—Borderlands 3 and Gears 5 being the other two. This is also the fourth major AMD-promoted game I’ve looked at in recent history—along with the above two and Ghost Recon Breakpoint, these four games are part of AMD’s Raise the Game promotion. But similar to Breakpoint, performance on AMD hardware—specifically AMD GPUs—is not quite where it should be. And the latest 19.10.2 drivers didn’t help matters. AMD’s Ryzen CPUs on the other hand do quite well, at least with the latest Zen 2 / Ryzen 3000 models I tested.
A word on our sponsor
As our partner for these detailed performance analyses, MSI provided the hardware we needed to test The Outer Worlds on a bunch of different AMD and Nvidia GPUs, multiple CPUs, and several laptops. See below for the full details, along with our Performance Analysis 101 article. Thanks, MSI!
The Outer Worlds PC feature checklist has more yellow than I’m used to seeing, and much of it could be easily fixed with a patch. Fullscreen resolution support is limited to 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratios, for example—if you have an ultrawide or doublewide monitor, you’ll have to use windowed fullscreen mode. Then you run into the next issue: the FOV doesn’t auto-adjust to your aspect ratio. A 32:9 resolution like 3840×1080 ends up looking like a 3840×2160 image with the top and bottom quarters cut off. Thankfully, there are manual FOV adjustments that can get around this, but it’s not a great start.
I’m also giving the graphics settings a yellow, because even though there are five presets, there are only six individual settings (if you count motion blur). The problem is that there’s no anti-aliasing setting, and The Outer Worlds uses temporal AA that can make things look blurrier than I like. It’s not terrible but images tend to look a bit soft.
[Note: You can try editing the GameUserSettings.ini file in C:Users*user name*AppDataLocalIndianaSavedConfigWindowsNoEditor to tweak settings that aren’t directly exposed in the game, but there aren’t a lot of options. I tried setting sg.AntiAliasingQuality=1 and sg.AntiAliasingQuality=0, but the game still looks like temporal anti-aliasing is in use.]
Finally, there’s the question of mod support. Speaking with Gamesinformer back in February, Obsidian said they’d “love” to include mod support, but it’s not happening at launch. Given the popularity of Fallout New Vegas mods, there’s hope the game will get mods in the future, but don’t hold your breath.
The Outer Worlds system requirements
In a nice change of pace, The Outer Worlds is pretty tame when it comes to official system requirements. There’s little detail about what sort of experience you’ll get with the minimum specs, but just about any gaming PC from the past five years should suffice. I’ll have benchmarks of modern GPUs and CPUs in a moment, though I don’t even have any 3rd Gen Core i3 or AMD Phenom II processors available to test anymore, and the same goes for GPUs from 2012. If you’re still using a graphics card from that era … my condolences to you.
- OS: Windows 7 (SP1) 64-bit
- CPU: Intel Core i3-3225 or AMD Phenom II X6 1100T
- RAM: 4GB
- GPU: Nvidia GTX 650 Ti or AMD HD 7850
- Storage: 40GB
- OS: Windows 10 64-bit
- CPU: Intel Core i7-7700K or Ryzen 5 1600
- RAM: 8GB
- GPU: GeForce GTX 1060 6GB or Radeon RX 470
- Storage: 40GB
I can’t say too much about how a minimum spec PC will do, though I’ll get to Intel’s integrated UHD 630 in a moment. Meanwhile, the recommended configuration should just about average 60 fps at 1080p ultra … if you have the Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB, at least. I didn’t test an RX 470, but I did test the slightly newer and faster RX 570, which just barely averages 60 fps at 1080p high—and drops to 43 fps at ultra. At least the download size is only 37GB, which is starting to feel almost small in this day and age. (In other news, I just downloaded all 117GB of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Oof.)
The Outer Worlds settings overview
With five presets but only five (six with motion blur) individual settings, there’s not a whole lot of tweaking available. In terms of image fidelity, there’s a pretty noticeable difference going from low to medium to high, but from high to very high and ultra the changes become far less noticeable. You’ll still see a fair amount of object pop-in as well, even at ultra quality. Despite the entirely new world and a different game engine, The Outer World often feels a lot like Fallout in that respect.
As usual, I tested one AMD and one Nvidia GPU at all five presets, and then I tested again with each of the ‘advanced’ settings dropped to the minimum (low in this case). View Distance and Textures caused almost no change in performance, though I tested with a fast CPU and 8GB VRAM cards. Slower CPUs may benefit more from decreasing the view distance, and cards with less than 4GB VRAM should probably stick with the high or medium texture settings.
Visual Effects (bullets, explosions, lasers, etc.) and Screen Effects (blood splatter, light flares, chromatic aberration, and ‘more’) also don’t cause a massive change in performance. I measured a 5-7 percent improvement in performance with visual effects on low, and a slightly larger 8-10 percent increase with screen effects on low.
That leaves Shadows, and as is often the case, this has a pretty sizeable impact on both performance and image quality. I think there are multiple types of shadows lumped in under this category, including ambient occlusion, but whatever the case you can improve performance by around 21 percent if you drop shadows to low. I’d suggest aiming for medium or high if possible, however, as the game can look a bit flat if you turn shadows all the way down.
Overall, there’s not a massive change in performance from the various settings. Going from the ultra preset to the high preset will improve performance by around 30 percent on most GPUs, while dropping from ultra to low (minimum) will net you about a 60 percent boost in framerates. I’ve seen other games more than double performance at low versus ultra quality, but then those games also tend to look worse at minimum quality. Look at the above gallery and you can see that even when using the low preset, The Outer Worlds doesn’t look too shabby.