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The First Descendant PC Optimized Settings: Every Graphics Option Benchmarked

The best settings for "The First Descendant," optimized for your PC!

The First Descendant is out on Steam and consoles. It is the next-generation MMO featuring the Unreal Engine 5 and its advanced lighting and geometric upgrades. Of course, there’s ray tracing for the higher-end PCs, but it’s complemented by frame generation (DLSS + FSR) to offset the performance drop. There are some issues with the game, especially on Intel 13th/14th Gen K-series CPUs, but that’s not on the developer.

Windows/System Settings to Optimize

Enable Resizable BAR (SAM)

Resizable BAR was enabled on most x86 motherboards and GPUs following the adoption of the PCIe Gen 4 standard. Traditionally, the CPU and GPU have communicated through a narrow BAR (a 256 MB window), constantly moved around to allow the CPU to access different parts of the graphics memory. Resizable BAR allows the CPU full access to the GPU’s memory bus rather than a small portion.

Intel’s 10th Gen CPUs and newer support Resize BAR, while AMD’s Ryzen 3000 chips and onward also support it. On the GPU side, NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 30 series and newer feature Resizable BAR support. The Radeon RX 6000 cards were the first to enable it on the opposite side.

Enabling Resizable BAR usually involves turning on two PCIe technologies from the motherboard BIOS: Above 4G Decoding, and Resizable BAR support. The ASUS, Gigabyte, and MSI motherboard guides are linked for further instructions.

Hardware Accelerated GPU Scheduling and Windowed Optimizations

Turn on “Optimizations for windowed games” in your Windows settings as this will help with latency and thread priorities. To get there, open System Settings (Right-click on the Windows logo and click settings) -> Display -> Graphics -> Default graphics settings and enable both options.

Enable “Hardware Accelerated GPU scheduling.”

Xbox Game Bar and Game Mode

  • Go to Windows settings->Gaming tab-> Game Mode. Ensure Game Mode is enabled.
  • The Windows power plan is best set to “High Performance” or equivalent. Furthermore, if you’re playing on a laptop, keep it plugged in unless that’s not an option.

Overclock your Graphics Card

Overclocking GPUs is fairly safe and easy and doesn’t void your warranty. It can boost your gaming performance by at least 5-10%. Unlike CPUs, you don’t have to mess with the BIOS or worry about BSODs. All you need is an overclocking tool (MSI Afterburner or EVGA Precision X):

Enable XMP/EXPO Memory Profile

XMP (or EXPO) includes a set of pretested memory clocks and timings that run stably on a given memory die. They’re 1-click memory overclocks that save you the trauma of testing every frequency and timing.

Via G.Skill

Most motherboard BIOSes include this setting on the BIOS homepage, under one of the following: Extreme Memory Profile, AI Overclock Tuner, Load XMP Profile, EXPO, A-XMP, or DRAM Profile. Further instructions are linked.

The First Descendant: PC System Requirements

The First Descendant has relatively modest system requirements. At the minimum, you need a 14-year-old quad-core Ivy Bridge CPU and an 8-year-old NVIDIA Pascal GPU (or AMD Polaris) with 4 GB of graphics memory. This has to be paired with 8 GB of system memory and 50 GB of storage (SSD recommended). These target the bare minimum (1080p 30 FPS at “Low”).

ItemsMinimum RequirementsRecommended Requirements
OSWindows 10 x64 20H2
CPUIntel i5-3570 / AMD FX-8350Intel i7-7700K/AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
System Memory8 GB RAM16 GB
VGANVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti/AMD Radeon RX 570NVIDIA RTX 2060/AMD Radeon RX 5600XT
DirectX 12
Storage50GB (SSD Recommended)

The recommended requirements include a Core i7-7700K or an AMD Ryzen 2600X alongside a GeForce RTX 2060 or a Radeon RX 5600 XT. The main memory requirement scales up to 16 GB. This setup should be good for 1080p 60 FPS, using the “High” quality graphics preset.

Test Bench

  • CPU: Intel Core i9-12900K.
  • Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus Z790 Hero.
  • Cooler: Lian Li Galahad 360.
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090.
  • Memory: 16GB x2 DDR5-6000 CL30.
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM1000e.

The First Descendant: Resolution Scaling & Graphics Presets

The First Descendant averages approximately 100 FPS on our GeForce RTX 4090 (+Core i9-12900K) setup at 1080p “Ultra,” without ray-tracing. QHD or 1440p is slightly slower with an average of ~95 FPS, while 4K finishes off with 69 FPS, with lows of 59 FPS. A performance deficit of 38% between 1440p and 4K makes sense, but a mere 8% gain upon switching to 1080p indicates a CPU bottleneck.

From 100 FPS at 1440p “Ultra,” we recorded an average framerate of 138 FPS at 1440p “Low,” and 119.4 FPS at the “Medium” quality preset. The “High” quality preset yielded 108 FPS with lows of 96 FPS. That’s a 38% framerate difference between the lowest and highest quality graphics preset, ignoring ray-tracing.

The First Descendant Ray Tracing Performance

The First Descendant features three ray-tracing effects: Ray-traced reflections, ray-traced ambient occlusion, and ray-traced shadows. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t allow you to choose between them, and all three are enabled with varying levels of quality depending on your settings.

Ray tracing is unsurprisingly brutal on even the fastest GPUs. The GeForce RTX 4090 drops from 100 FPS to 72 FPS at ultra-quality ray-tracing, averaging ~90 FPS at the medium and high-quality presets. The visual impact of ray tracing is quite significant, with shadows standing out the most. The below comparisons give a better understanding of how they impact the image quality.

Click here for an image comparison of ray-traced ambient occlusion versus rasterization.
Click here for an image comparison of ray-traced shadows versus rasterization.
Click here for an image comparison of ray-traced reflections versus rasterization.

Anti-aliasing (TAA) and Visibility Quality (LOD)

The First Descendant uses temporal anti-aliasing to smoothen jagged edges. It can’t be turned off, you can only adjust the sampling quality/rate. TAA is mostly evident during motion, reducing shimmering and jagged teeth along object boundaries. The performance impact of anti-aliasing is minimal.

The “Visibility Quality” controls the LOD, adjusting the distance (from the player) at which objects are culled from view, including vegetation, buildings, and enemy units. The performance impact of visibility will vary from map to map but was nominal in the “Kingston” area.

Click here for LOD quality image comparisons

Post Processing and Effects Quality

Post-processing comprises shader-based effects like motion blur, depth of field, bloom, and lens flare. As expected, it has a subtle impact on visual quality and performance. The difference is mainly felt in the lows.

Click here for post-processing quality image comparisons

Effects quality enables texture weathering on buildings and other concrete structures, in addition to certain reflective and translucent visual effects such as tears/echos. It has a moderate impact on performance.

Click here for “Effects” quality image comparisons

Shadows and Reflection Quality

When ray-tracing is disabled, The First Descendant uses screen-space reflections (SSR) where only those objects visible on the screen are reflected in water bodies and shiny surfaces. It significantly impacts performance, with “Low” being 10% faster than “Ultra” at 1440p.

Click here for reflection quality image comparisons

The standard shadows are rendered using shadow maps whose resolution varies depending on the quality setting used. Like reflections, shadows drastically reduce the performance with ultra quality being 11% slower than low.

Click here for shadow-quality image comparisons

Global Illumination and Shader Quality

Global illumination calculates the diffuse lighting, which can drastically impact visual fidelity indoors. This involves calculating light generated by secondary light sources in the scene, most notably light reflected by transparent or opaque objects in an area. Due to the complexity of indirect light sources, this can be quite performance intensive, reducing the framerates by nearly 14% in The First Descendant. Medium or High are notably faster while providing comparable quality.

Click here for GI image comparisons

Shader quality sets the visual fidelity of ambient shadows, similar to ambient occlusion but more subtly, affecting the colors of different objects when illuminated. It has a low to moderate impact on performance, with the lows seeing more of a drop in comparison.

Click here for shader-quality image comparisons

Vegetation, Object Quality, and Physics

Vegetation quality sets the density of grass and foliage, and the distance (from the player) at which it’s culled in detail. It has a modest impact on performance.

Click here for vegetation-quality image comparisons

Object detail is used to control the geometric detail of objects, both nearby and far away from the player character. This is done by increasing the polygon count and the use of tessellation. Apart from the highest setting (ultra), all the other options perform roughly the same.

Click here for object-quality image comparisons

Physics quality sets the accuracy of object ragdoll and jiggle physics, among other motion-disrupting animations. Its performance impact is only notable in certain scenes with a lot of destruction/debris flying around.

Upscaling & Frame Generation: NVIDIA DLSS 3.5 & AMD FSR 3.1

Upscaling alone isn’t enough to boost framerates past 100 FPS, and frame generation is essential for gamers playing at 4K. Luckily, The First Descendant features NVIDIA DLSS 3.5 and AMD FSR 3.1, both incorporating frame generation.

Upscaling grants an underwhelming 20-25% performance boost, while frame generation straight-up doubles the frame rates, pushing them past 150 FPS. Gamers using NVIDIA RTX GPUs should stick to DLSS upscaling and ray reconstruction as FSR can produce blurry results.

Click here for upscaling and frame-generation image comparisons

The First Descendant: CPU Bottlenecks

The First Descendant is mostly GPU-bound at 1440p and 4K, with and without ray-tracing. FHD or 1080p is slightly CPU-bound with a GPU-busy deviation of 22% using the “Ultra” quality graphics settings.

1080p Ultra (RT Off)

The Medium/Low graphics quality presets are also CPU-bound with a GPU-busy deviation of 25% and 40%, respectively.

1440p Ultra (RT Off)

The First Descendant: GPU VRAM Usage

The Last Descendant takes up to 10 GB of VRAM at 1440p Ultra, including ray-tracing, set to ultra. The lowest-quality preset uses just over 7 GB of graphics memory at 1440p, increasing to 8.4 GB at the highest, and 10 GB with ray-tracing “Ultra.”

Ultra HD or 4K uses 10.1 GB at the ultra-quality preset, while 1080p sits over 8 GB. This excludes ray tracing.

Best Settings for The First Descendant PC

Optimized SettingsHigh-end PCMid-Range PCLow-end PC
Resolution4K (3840 × 2160)1440p (2560 x 1440)1080p (1920 x 1080)
Target FPS120 FPS120 FPS120 FPS
Texture QualityUltraUltraUltra
Anti-aliasingUltraUltraUltra
Shadow QualityUltraUltraUltra
Reflection QualityUltraUltraUltra
Global IlluminationUltraUltraMedium
Shader QualityUltraUltraHigh
Object QualityUltraUltraUltra
Vegetation QualityUltraUltraUltra
Effects QualityUltraUltraUltra
Ray Tracing QualityUltraHighMedium
UpscalingDLSS/FSR PerformanceDLSS/FSR BalancedDLSS/FSR Quality
Frame GenerationOnOnOn
High-end (4K)Mid-range (1440p)Low-end (1080p)
CPUCore i7-13700K/Ryzen 7 7700XCore i5-13600/Ryzen 5 7600Less than: Core i5-12400/Ryzen 5 3600
GPURTX 4070 Ti Super/RX 7900 XTRTX 4070/RX 7800 XTRTX 3060/RTX 3060 Ti/RX 6600
Memory32GB (dual-channel)16GB (dual-channel)Less than: 16GB (dual-channel)

Areej

Processors, PC gaming, and the past. I have been writing about computer hardware for over seven years with more than 5000 published articles. Started off during engineering college and haven't stopped since. Find me at Hardware Times.com and PC Opset. Contact: areejs12@hardwaretimes.com.

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