Nvidia graphics card owners can rest easy; Starfield modders have already added support for Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super-Sampling (DLSS) technology (alongside the game’s official support for AMD’s FSR2 upscaling). But unlocking the full power of that mod will require either paying for a Patreon subscription or using cracks to get around some controversial DRM protecting the most full-featured version of the mod.
Since its initial release on Friday, the “Starfield Upscaler” is currently the most popular Starfield mod listed on clearinghouse NexusMods. That should be welcome news to a significant portion of the PC gaming community running a newer Nvidia GPU that supports the frame-rate-enhancing upscaling technology. That’s especially true for the Nvidia owners who were outraged when Bethesda announced an official Starfield partnership with AMD this summer.
In practice, though, the practical effect of that DLSS support might be hard to notice for many players. In Ars’ testing on a GTX 2080 Ti gaming rig (running at 2560×1440 resolution, Ultra quality, and 50 percent render resolution), we were able to hit 35 frames per second using both the DLSS mod and the game’s built-in AMD FSR2 support (which also works on Nvidia cards). Neither upscaling technology had an apparent performance edge, even as both improved significantly on the ~25 fps frame rate when running at full resolution without any upscaling (and even as DLSS has shown superior visual quality in other tests).
That said, the free upscaling mod currently offered on NexusMods only supports the more limited DLSS2 standard, which dates back to 2020. Players who want access to the frame-generation capabilities of DLSS3 in Starfield can subscribe to the Patreon page for modder PureDark, which offers a beta version that supports the more modern upscaling standard on compatible 4000-series Nvidia cards. Those frame-generation capabilities can improve frame rates further by inserting AI-generated frames between those generated by the game itself.
There are plenty of people who are philosophically opposed to the idea of paying for game mods, as evidenced by the strong backlash when Valve tried introducing paid mod support on Steam in 2015 (using Bethesda’s Skyrim as the first test bed at the time). In fact, some of those free-mod-loving gamers have reportedly released a crack for the DRM embedded in the mod itself. That’s right; these days not even mods are safe from the never-ending battle between pirates and developers.
For anyone hoping for a more official (and less morally fraught) way to add DLSS support to Starfield, AMD hasn’t completely ruled it out. In a recent interview with The Verge, AMD Gaming CEO Frank Azor said that “if they [Bethesda] want to do DLSS, they have AMD’s full support… If [our partners] ask us for DLSS support, we always tell them yes.” No public word yet from Bethesda on whether that “if” will become a “when” any time soon.
Listing image by Bethesda