Borderlands 3 PC Performance Review and Optimisation Guide
Published: 16th September 2019 | Source: OC3D Internal Testing | Price: |
Borderlands 3 is a strange PC release, and a single sentence can summarise our thoughts on the game's PC version. This game should run better at launch.
A lot of this stems from Borderlands 3's use of DirectX 12. As it stands, Borderlands 3's DirectX 12 mode is more of a hindrance to gamers than it is a viable option. Between the stuttery performance that it can cause and the long (or some case never-ending) boot times, it is hard to recommend this option to PC gamers. This is a huge problem, as if it worked, it would be the API of choice for most PC gamers.
Borderlands 3 can be heavily CPU limited. Our RTX 2080 Ti offered practically identical performance levels at 1080p and 1440p under DirectX 11. For the most part, Borderlands 3 is single-thread limited under DirectX 11 with an RTX 2080 Ti, and these CPU limitations bring our minimum framerates dangerously close to 60FPS in our benchmark runs. This is found within several areas within Borderlands 3, making it a huge problem for anyone looking for 100+ gaming.
When it comes to DirectX 12 performance, AMD's Radeon graphics lineup will see notable performance gains in both CPU and GPU limited scenarios, whereas Nvidia RTX series GPUs will see lower framerates in GPU limited areas while also seeing higher framerates in CPU limited areas.
If DirectX 12 worked as intended, Borderlands 3's CPU limitations would be significantly reduced. Beyond that, the performance of Radeon graphics cards would also increase thanks to Asynchronous Compute. DirectX 12 should have been the API of choice for Borderlands 3, but at launch, the option is too broken to recommend. We hope Gearbox can address Borderlands 3's DirectX 12 issues soon.
Another thing that needs to be noted is that Borderlands 3's Badass Preset is too demanding to recommend to most players. If we are honest, the same thoughts also applying to Ultra. Most PC gamers should base their settings choices on Borderlands Medium, and High presets, adjusting settings from there as needed. Ultra Settings for Material Complexity, Volumetric Fog and Draw Distance are not worth their performance cost. This makes these settings hard to recommend for anyone without an overkill system for their chosen resolution.
Pages 6 and seven of this analysis detail how Borderlands 3's settings impact the game's performance; and give recommendations on what settings to change within the game. Here we note that Medium settings with TAA and FidelityFX enabled makes for a great 60+ FPS settings setup for RX 580 and GTX 1060 users. A mixture of Medium and High settings at 1440p would also be a good mix for 60FPS with the GTX 1070, RX Vega 56, GTX 1080 and RTX 2060.
When pitting Nvidia's RTX 2060 series against AMD's Radeon RX 5700 series, we can see that team Radeon is a clear winner here, even under DirectX 11. DirectX 12 heightens this lead, making it unfortunate that this game's DirectX 12 mode is so buggy.
If you are looking for a great mix between performance and graphics quality, Borderlands 3's Medium and High settings are what players be looking at initially. Then you can look at our performance data from page 7 of this review to judge how each graphics setting in Borderlands 3 can impact game performance.
Borderlands 3 would have probably gotten less flack from PC players if the game renamed a few presets. Very Low to Low, Low to Medium, Medium to High and High to Very High. A move like that would have prevented a lot of PC players from complaining about using Medium settings on mid-range setups. PC's Medium settings look great in Borderlands 3, especially if combined with TAA. As sad as it is to say this, a lot of PC players just want to play their favourite PC game at High or better. As silly as it sounds, simply renaming a few settings or lowering your standards for "Ultra" can be the difference between a PC game being called optimised or unoptimised by some a vocal component of the PC gaming community.
Had Borderlands 3's DirectX 12 mode worked properly on PC at launch, a lot of the negative points that we have for Borderlands 3's PC version would simply disappear. Radeon GPU performance would be stronger and the game's CPU performance limits would have been alleviated. Gearbox needs to get Borderlands 3's DirectX 12 mode out of beta as soon as possible. In many cases, that's what's preventing Borderlands 3 from reaching the performance heights that it should on high-end systems.
Aside from that, Borderlands 3 contains a lot of graphical settings that have a performance cost that's not worth their graphical impact. Volumetric fog is a prime example of this, and there are several other settings that offer a minimal gain in Borderlands 3's graphical prowess while having a significant performance impact. These settings are detailed on Page 7.
For 1080p 60FPS, PC gamers can make do with a Radeon RX 580 or Geforce GTX 1060 with a mixture of Medium and High Settings. For 60+ FPS at Badass settings, GPUs like the Radeon RX 5700 or RTX 2060 Super are required.
At 1440p, graphics cards like the RTX 2080 Super are required for 60FPS at badass settings. Thankfully, lowered settings like Material Complexity and Volumetric Fog will make GPUs like the Radeon RX 5700 and RTX 2060 Super ideal for 1440p 60+ FPS gameplay. It is only at 4K when 60FPS becomes challenging to achieve.
Today, Borderlands 3 is a mixed bag. With some tinkering, the game can offer stellar performance and fantastic visuals, assuming that you don't aim for Badass settings right out of the gate on mid-range setups. Hopefully, Gearbox will soon release Borderlands 3's "final" DX12 implementation", but until then you might have to stick to DirectX 11.
Borderlands 3's PC version is more than serviceable, but sub-par DirectX 12 support and other game bugs have left us with a feeling that this game is somewhat unfinished. Regardless, PC gamers can achieve great performance and compelling visuals within the game over a broad spectrum of hardware configurations. Hopefully this analysis will help you optimise your game settings in Borderlands 3.