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Starfield on PC better be lightyears ahead of Xbox

The Xbox consoles might not be powerful enough to run Starfield beyond 30fps, but nothing should stop our PCs from going beyond this limit.

A Starfield character holding a PC rig.

Reality set in for console gamers when Bethesda revealed during Summer Game Fest 2023 that Starfield’s frame rate will be capped at 30fps on Xbox Series X and S. While current-gen consoles enjoyed a brief period of solid 60fps performance modes, we’re starting to see triple-A titles revert to being best played at a 30fps lock. While this is the new(old) norm on consoles, word of a low frame rate lock would be like nails on a chalkboard for PC players.

The Starfield Direct likely convinced people with aging rigs to upgrade their machines for the first time in years, but our gaming standards are higher than they’ve ever been. Technology has evolved to the point where 60fps is viewed by some as low. With that in mind, we need to know that Starfield on PC won’t be held back by a low frame rate cap, allowing us to push to 120fps or beyond.

Starfield uses an upgraded version of Bethesda’s Creation Engine, the same engine powering Fallout 4 and Skyrim. This could be a potential red flag, as one of the Creation Engine’s biggest weaknesses is its inability to handle high frame rates. Yes, there are some Fallout 4 mods and Skyrim mods that can force 120Hz, but this usually results in physics-related bugs. Though the modding community has done a great job trying to fix these problems, it’s clear this issue needs to be addressed internally.

Another point of concern is the lack of ultrawide gameplay in any of the Starfield behind-the-scenes footage. The best gaming monitors these days all support high refresh rates, and a number of them feature an expanded aspect ratio to provide a more immersive experience. We’ve come a long way since Skyrim launched back in 2011, so there’s no reason why the Creation Engine shouldn’t support ultrawide aspect ratios like 21:9 and 32:9.

It’s inevitable that someone will create their own ultrawide mod for Starfield if the space game doesn’t support it at launch, but fans shouldn’t have to rely on the community for this. Worryingly, the Starfield official launch date video briefly showed a dev playing the game on an ultrawide monitor with horrible black bars on the screen. This could be chalked up to the game running on a developer build, or this could be Bethesda’s subtle way of telling ultrawide users that the dream is officially dead.

What concerns me most is that we haven’t received much info on PC-exclusive features when we’re only nine weeks away from the Starfield release date. Unfortunately, support for DLSS 3 at launch is off the table due to AMD’s partnership with Bethesda, which brings FSR 2 (FidelityFX Super Resolution 2) to Starfield. Don’t get me wrong, FSR 2 isn’t bad, but it’s no DLSS 3. Starfield is supposed to be a “modder’s paradise”, so with any luck, we’ll see DLSS 3 added shortly after launch.

We already know what the Starfield system requirements are, but they seem to be surprisingly low given the game’s scope and visuals. Bethesda hasn’t confirmed what these system requirements are targeting either, which could mean the recommended specs run the RPG game at 4K/30fps, just like the Xbox Series X.

Speaking to IGN, Bethesda’s Todd Howard confirmed the Series X is capable of running Starfield beyond 30fps, “We do lock it at 30, because we want that fidelity, we want all that stuff… It’s often running way above that. Sometimes it’s 60. But on the consoles, we do lock it because we prefer the consistency, where you’re not even thinking about it.” So, Xbox players will have to deal with a frame rate cap, but it sounds like that doesn’t exist on PC.

Again, we come back to the question of whether Starfield supports high refresh rates. It sounds like 60fps is a lock on PC, which bodes well for you mid-range PC owners out there, but that isn’t enough for some people. I’m gonna keep it real here. I didn’t drop all this money on my 13900K/RTX 4090 setup just to be capped at 60fps, Mr. Howard. I’m expecting 4K/120fps. Maximum frames, all the time, every day.

Think about this situation in the long run. In the best-case scenario, Starfield turns out to be the next Skyrim, an evergreen game played by tens of thousands even years after launch. You’re telling me there’s a chance I’ll be locked at 60fps indefinitely? Surely you jest? Even the latest TVs support 120Hz, let alone in 2028 when the fifth-anniversary edition of Starfield launches on the PlayStation 6 and Xbox Series XXL. If you cap our frame rate to 60, you could be holding us back for years to come. Don’t do this to us, Bethesda. Confirm Starfield can handle refresh rates beyond 60Hz and we’ll be on our way. Please.

This article was first published in June of 2023.

This article’s header image includes an edited photo from PantheraLeo1359531 used under Creative Commons 4.0.