Elden Ring has just received a giant patch that addresses some of the performance issues affecting PC players. Elden Ring may prove frame rate isn't everything, but it would definitely be nice to play without stutters. Our own hardware team examined the patch's performance and still found examples of the game having trouble, despite the promise of a fix for "hang-ups in certain occasions."
Valve's Pierre-Loup Griffais has spoken to Digital Foundry about the game's performance on Steam Deck, giving some insight into what he believes is causing these issues across configurations. It should be noted of course that the Steam Deck is a fixed spec, and it is much easier to identify and fix issues on a single device than on the numerous array of possible PC builds.
One possible explanation given for the issues is loading in shaders: but Griffais reckons this isn't as big an issue as it's being painted as.
"On the Linux/Proton side, we have a pretty extensive shader pre-caching system with multiple levels of source-level and binary cache representations pre-seeded and shared across users," Griffais told Digital Foundry. "On the Deck, we take this to the next level, since we have a unique GPU/driver combination to target, and the majority of the shaders that you run locally are actually pre-built on servers in our infrastructure. When the game is trying to issue a shader compile through its graphics API of choice, those are usually skipped, as we find the pre-compiled cache entry on disk."
Griffais explains that the game pre-1.03 had some efficiency issues at certain points, the example given being queuing up command buffers and driving memory resources into "overdrive": basically, the CPU telling the GPU to render lots of things at once.
"Shader pipeline-driven stutter isn't the majority of the big hitches we've seen in that game," says Griffais. "The recent example we've highlighted has more to do with the game creating many thousand resources such as command buffers at certain spots, which was making our memory manager go into overdrive trying to handle it. We cache such allocations more aggressively now, which seems to have helped a ton.
"I can't comment as to whether this is the problem the game experiences on other platforms, as well, but we've been playing on Deck with all these elements in place and the experience has been very smooth."
My experience with Elden Ring, even on slightly older hardware, has been more-or-less smooth, though I have had the odd stutter when the game is transitioning into a new area (one descent in Volcano Manor seems to make it have kittens). This patch seems to have improved things somewhat, but there's clearly a way to go.
As well as the performance issues, Elden Ring's first major update did address some major flaws, including questlines that straight-up didn't finish. The map now shows NPC locations, a bugbear for many, and adds more NPC summons around bosses. Most amusingly of all, for me at least, was a major nerf to the Mimic Tear Ash. My friend had acquired this and been bragging about how they'd melted through bosses that destroyed me, so it's nice that their cheap trick no longer works. The Mimic was beloved, but that's life in the Lands Between.