The Witcher 2 Tweak Guide

PreviousNext

General System Optimization

The Witcher 2 Tweak Guide by Koroush Ghazi

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings continues the story of the monster slayer Geralt of Rivia, a powerful and enigmatic sorcerer-warrior introduced in the original The Witcher game. As Geralt, you have been implicated in the murder of a King. The path to justice takes you through an atmospheric world teeming with all manner of beings, side quests and mysteries. Even though it is a Role Playing Game, and contains many of the features fundamental to an RPG, The Witcher 2 also has a challenging real-time combat system requiring practice and skill to master. A PC exclusive upon release, The Witcher 2 takes full advantage of every ounce of the PC platform's power and versatility. It features numerous PC-orientated settings, and pushes even the hardiest of systems to their limit if so desired.

The aim of this guide is to allow you to better understand and best utilize all of the configuration options available in the game, as well as covering any important advanced tweaks for further customization of The Witcher 2 (TW2).

Before proceeding further, make sure you meet the game's minimum requirements as provided below:

  • Processor: Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ or better
  • Memory: 1GB RAM (Windows XP), 2GB RAM (Windows Vista/7)
  • Hard Drive: At least 16GB of free space
  • Video Card: 512MB and Pixel Shader 3.0 (e.g. GeForce 8800 or better)
  • Sound Card: Direct X 9.0c compatible
  • OS: Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista SP2 or Windows 7
  • Internet connection required to install

What follows are full descriptions for the numerous settings available in TW2's built-in Configuration Tool, including screenshot comparisons where relevant to highlight the impact on image quality of changing these settings. Performance information is also provided for every setting, although bear in mind that the precise impact on your particular system depends on your specific hardware combination and your other game and system-wide settings. The aim here is to give you enough information so that you can make an informed choice as to the settings you enable or disable to obtain a balance of visual quality and performance acceptable to you.

General System Optimization

Almost as important as any in-game setting is the way your Windows installation is configured. A great many problems and performance issues - particularly stuttering, crashes and slowdowns, can be traced directly to sub-optimal settings in Windows and out-of-date or badly configured drivers. For this reason it is recommended that you download the relevant version of the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (TGTC) and take the time to optimize your Windows installation correctly. At the very least make sure to update your graphics drivers to the latest available version.

Performance Measurement

To successfully conduct any tweaking, you will need some way of objectively measuring your performance in Frames Per Second (FPS). The quickest and easiest way to measure your FPS in any game is to use the free FRAPS utility. Download, install and launch FRAPS before starting up The Witcher 2. You will now see a yellow FPS counter displayed in the corner of your screen.

Pay attention to this FPS figure, particularly during graphically intense scenes, such as in heavy combat or cutscenes - if it dips into the low double or single digits for example, this is a good indication that you need to adjust various settings until your minimum FPS is consistently above 20-25 FPS during normal gameplay, such as when walking around or conversing with others, and higher still (e.g. 30-35 FPS +) during combat to maintain appropriate responsiveness.

Basic In-Game Settings

To access the basic in-game settings, start The Witcher 2, and once in the main menu of the game select the Options item. The settings you can alter here are covered below, and none of them has any impact on performance. Access to the more detailed settings is covered on the next page.

Sound and Music

Music Volume, Sound Volume: These two sliders respectively control the volume of music in the game, and sound effects and dialog. Set to suit your taste. If you are having problems with audio in The Witcher 2, try reducing the number of channels to 5.1 or stereo in your sound card's control panel in Windows, and also make sure you have the latest audio drivers - see the General System Optimization section of this guide.

Gameplay

Difficulty: The difficulty level in TW2 is chosen when you start a new game, however you can change it at any time during an active game using this setting. This is a very important gameplay setting in TW2. Easy difficulty means enemies are weaker and do less damage, and Geralt does more damage to them. Normal difficulty is actually moderately hard, and requires some practice to master the art of winning battles against multiple opponents. Hard is only for very experienced players, and needs the use of all of Geralt's skills, equipment and magic to win battles. Insane is incredibly difficult, and no save game can be loaded if Geralt dies.

Combat Log: If this option is ticked, detailed data on the types of actions and the amount of damage dealt and received will be displayed during combat. This is for those who prefer a more traditional RPG interface for combat.

Tutorial Panels: If this option is ticked, small tutorial windows with helpful tips will appear whenever Geralt encounters new features, or uses new items and powers. Novice players, particularly those new to The Witcher series, should keep this setting enabled, at the very least during the Prologue and the start of Chapter 1.

Difficult QTES: A Quick Time Event (QTE) occurs in certain parts of the game, and requires that you press certain keys/buttons in a particular sequence to succeed. Fist-fighting is one example of a QTE. If Difficult QTES is ticked, these QTEs will be more difficult, requiring faster timing, and there will be more of them. If Difficult QTEs is unticked, the QTEs will be easier, and some QTEs - such as those in cutscenes - may be removed altogether. You cannot disable QTEs completely however.

Subtitles: If ticked, text subtitles will be shown for spoken dialog; if unticked, no subtitles will be displayed.

Control Options

Choose Controller: This setting allows you to choose the type of controller used in the game. Keyboard is the default and normal controller for PCs, however you can also use a Gamepad to play TW2 if you have one attached to your system and it is supported by the game. To change the keys/buttons assigned to particular functions, you will need to open the Witcher 2 Configuration Tool as covered on the next page, and click the 'Input settings' button.

Mouse Sensitivity: This slider determines the level of responsiveness of the mouse to your movements. Keep in mind that if you change this setting and still have a laggy feel to mouse movements, it is likely due to low performance. Check your framerate with FRAPS during any lag, and if it's below around 20-25 FPS, you will need to adjust your settings to improve FPS and hence keep your mouse feeling suitably responsive at all times. Setting the Vertical Sync option to Disabled also helps reduce mouse lag - see the Vertical Sync setting later in this guide.

Invert X-Axis, Invert Y-Axis: The Invert Y-Axis option acts like an Invert Mouse option if ticked - moving your mouse upward will result in pointing the camera down, and moving the mouse downward will make the camera point up. Ticking the Invert X-Axis option will change your mouse movements such that moving the mouse left will result in looking right, and vice versa.

Graphics

Brightness, Gamma: The Brightness slider controls the overall brightness of the game image. Adjust it to ensure that you can still see detail in dark scenes, but that the image isn't overly bright. Gamma is more complex and should generally remain at its default value. You should instead calibrate your monitor using the Display Calibration feature of Windows 7, or use a monitor calibration package/website - see the General System Optimization section for details.

On the next page we look at how to change the detailed settings using the Witcher 2 Configuration Tool.

Witcher 2 Configuration Tool

To access the full in-game settings, first open The Witcher 2 launcher. You can do this by starting TW2 from its main launch icon, or by going to your \Program Files (x86)\The Witcher 2\ directory and running the Launcher.exe file. Once in The Witcher 2 Launcher menu, select the Options item. Alternatively, to directly access the Configuration Tool at any time, go to your \Program Files (x86)\The Witcher 2\bin\ directory and run the Configurator.exe file.

The Witcher 2 Configuration Tool opens in a new window and by default will only contain a handful of basic settings. Tick the 'Show Advanced Options' box to see the full range of advanced settings.

In the following section, we'll go through each of these settings and see how they affect performance and image quality.

In the performance graphs shown, for each setting we start with a "baseline" where all options are set based on the Ultra Preset, but with UberSampling, SSAO and Vertical Sync Disabled. From this baseline, we vary individual settings to measure their effect on performance and image quality. To see how various combinations of settings work for other Nvidia GPUs, check out the Optimal Playable Settings section of the site.

Full System Configuration

  • GeForce GTX 460 1GB
  • Intel Core i7 940
  • 3GB RAM
  • Win7 64-bit
  • Nvidia 275.33 WHQL Drivers

Resolution, Fullscreen, Vertical Sync

Screen Resolution

This setting determines the Resolution of the game image, measured by the number of pixels horizontally and vertically (e.g. 1920 pixels x 1080 pixels). The number of resolutions available here is limited by the capabilities of both your graphics card and monitor. The higher the resolution you choose, the more detailed the image will be, with noticeably less blurriness and jaggedness. However higher resolutions also generate an increased load on your system, particularly your graphics card, and hence will reduce your overall performance. The performance impact can be quite substantial, so if adjusting the other settings fails to sufficiently improve your performance, reduce your resolution. For the sharpest image on an LCD monitor, you should select the maximum available resolution here, which is also referred to as your Native Resolution.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Screen Resolution

As can be seen, progressively higher resolutions take their toll on FPS. If all else fails to improve performance, lower the resolution.

Fullscreen

If you want to run TW2 in a window on your Windows Desktop, as opposed to taking up the entire screen, then select disabled here. Running TW2 in windowed mode can be useful if you want to reduce the game's screen resolution but still maintain a crisp image. However to prevent problems with memory management and hence overall stability, I recommend enabling Fullscreen.

Configuration Set

This option determines which preset configuration level is applied to the settings. The available options are Low Spec, Medium Spec, High Spec and Ultra Spec.

Preset Low
Preset Medium
Preset High
Preset Ultra

Click to enlarge

Looking at the simple screenshot comparison, you can see that even at Low Spec the graphics are still reasonably presentable. There is Bloom lighting in effect to soften the scene, however textures are quite blurry, especially those on Geralt's face and clothing, and on the ground and tombstones behind him. At Medium Spec, the addition of SSAO adds noticeable richness to shadows, and textures improve slightly. At High Spec, textures become much more crisp, along with Anti-Aliasing to smooth out the jagged edges. At Ultra Spec, the difference is difficult to see in a static screenshot, but pay close attention to the angled surface of the tombstone laying on the ground to the left, and the mound of grass to the right - these become more detailed due to the use of UberSampling to enhance detail. The extra anti-aliasing effect from UberSampling also smooths out and enhances edge detail further, such as those of the blades of grass, and the tree leaves to the top left. The screenshots don't demonstrate the addition of effects such as Motion Blur, Light Shafts, and Depth of Field during cutscenes and dialogs at each higher level of preset.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Configuration Set

The graph confirms that the first big drop in performance comes when going from Low Spec to Medium Spec; then the most significant impact of all comes at Ultra Spec, because at this preset the strenuous UberSampling option is automatically enabled, crippling framerates on even the most powerful single-GPU system.

It should also be noted that the Ultra setting is not the highest possible image quality in The Witcher 2, as the Texture Memory Size setting can be raised even further past this preset, so too can LOD Distance. The presets are only a starting point. It is strongly recommended that you do not rely solely on them, and that you individually customize the various settings detailed on the following pages. This will definitely give you the best results in terms of both performance and image quality.

Vertical Sync

Also known as VSync, Vertical Synchronization is the synchronization of your graphics card and monitor's abilities to redraw an image on the screen a number of times each second, measured in Hz. This is not the same as FPS, but when VSync is On your maximum FPS will also be capped to your monitor's Refresh Rate which for most people is 60Hz (60FPS). When VSync is Off, you may experience a phenomenon known as 'tearing' - portions of the image temporarily appear to be out of alignment. This does no harm to your system, but it can be annoying. Enabling VSync removes tearing but can also reduce your FPS by up to 50% or more, and can also introduce mouse lag. To benefit from VSync without taking the performance hit, enable Triple Buffering. Otherwise to guarantee the highest framerates, and to prevent mouse lag, the quickest and easiest solution is to simply set Vertical Sync to disabled.

Textures & Shadows

Texture Downscaling

This setting controls the quality of the textures used in the game. Textures cover the surface of every object in the game. Enabling Texture Downscaling at Low or High progressively reduces the resolution of textures, making them blurrier. At None, textures are presented at their original resolution, making them much more detailed, but require more texture memory.

Texture Downscaling- None
Texture Downscaling- Low
Texture Downscaling- High

Click to enlarge

The screenshots above demonstrate the impact of changing this setting. At None, no downscaling is applied and hence the surface of the walls, door, and window in particular show a great deal of detail and depth. At Low, the resolution of the textures is lowered, resulting in some blurring and loss of detail. At High further reduction of texture resolution leads to significant loss of detail and blockiness.

A performance graph is not provided, as reducing texture resolution by itself doesn't necessarily result in any significant change in FPS. The primary reason to enable Low or High Texture Downscaling would be to reduce any obvious texture loading/streaming as you enter new areas, and also reduce the potential for stuttering and sudden slowdowns as you wander around - especially when combined with an appropriate value for the Texture Memory Size setting below.

Texture Memory Size (MB)

This setting determines the amount of memory which the game will allocate for storage of textures. It has no real impact on FPS, nor does it alter image quality in the game. It only affects the amount of stuttering and visible texture loading which occurs as you wander the game world. The optimal setting to use depends in large part on the amount of Video RAM (VRAM) on your graphics card, as well as the Texture Downscaling setting covered above.

The available settings are shown below, along with the corresponding maximum amount the game will allocate to storing textures in memory:

    Very Small = 100MB
    Small = 200MB
    Medium = 300MB
    Large = 400MB
    Very Large = 600MB

Remember that all of your graphics card's VRAM can't be used just for storing textures, so it's best not to select a setting which is greater than your actual VRAM amount - this may increase stuttering or hitching, and even cause crashes in some cases. At the same time, choosing a value which is too low will result in moments of noticeable texture streaming during the game. Start off with a value around half of your actual VRAM (e.g. select Small for a GPU with 512MB VRAM, Large for 1GB of VRAM, Very Large for 1.5GB of VRAM or more). Then if you don't run into any problems after a while, raise this setting to the next largest value and play further to see the impact.

For those with less VRAM, a combination of choosing a reasonable amount of memory to allocate to textures, and employing some Texture Downscaling to reduce the size of textures will result in the smoothest and most stable gameplay. You can also set a custom amount of memory to use for this setting as detailed in the Advanced Tweaking section of this guide.

Shadow Quality

This setting controls the quality of the shadows in TW2. The available settings are Low, Medium, High and Ultra. In practice, altering this setting shows no discernable change in shadow quality. See the Advanced Tweaking section for another method of altering the quality of shadows.

Shadow Quality Ultra
Shadow Quality Low

Click to enlarge

The screenshots above show the difference between the two extremes of Ultra Shadow Quality and Low Shadow Quality - pay attention to the shadows cast by Geralt and the stone wall to the left. It is extremely difficult to see any notable difference in both the density and blending of the edges of the shadows.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Shadow Quality

The graph shows that just as the visual difference is difficult to discern, the performance difference is also minimal. As such, you may wish to set Shadow Quality to Low to ensure optimal performance with no real loss in image quality.

Number of Shadowed Lights

This option sets a limit on the maximum number of lights that can cast shadows at any one time. In areas with multiple dynamic light sources, this can affect performance due to multiple sets of shadows being cast.

Number of Shadows- Ultra
Number of Shadows- Low
Number of Shadows- Ultra
Number of Shadows- Low

Click to enlarge

The two sets of screenshots above show that whether this setting is at Ultra or Low, it usually makes no real difference to the appearance of most scenes with multiple light sources. Lowering this setting can help improve FPS, particularly during combat when magical effects can create new dynamic light sources which may add shadows, so you may wish to lower this setting with no major impact on image quality.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Number of Shadowed Lights

The graph shows that as noted, the performance impact of this setting in all but the most strenuous of circumstances is not noticeable. Once again, you may wish to set this option to Low for a potential performance improvement without any real loss in image quality.

LOD, Bloom, Light Shafts & Anti-aliasing

LOD Distance

LOD is short for Level of Detail, and the available options for this setting from lowest to highest are Minimal, Very Near, Near, Normal and Far - referring to the distance from Geralt at which various game world object(s) begin to lose detail or disappear altogether. As the LOD level is reduced, FPS can increase noticeably.

LOD Far
LOD Near
LOD Minimal

Click to enlarge

The screenshots above show the difference at the two extremes of Far and Minimal, with the midpoint Near setting also provided to show the way LOD transitions between these two points. Compare the Far screenshot, which has the highest level of detail, with Minimal which has the lowest - the most significant difference is in the foliage. At Minimal, much of the distant foliage has been removed. However even close to Geralt, the foliage has become less complex. Look in particular at the branches and tree trunks to the near left of Geralt, and you can see they have visibly reduced in complexity and detail, or are entirely missing in some cases, at the Minimal setting. Interestingly however, the difference between the Far and Near settings is almost indistinguishable.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: LOD Distance

The graph shows that performance improves as LOD is reduced. Given the performance improvement simply by going from Far to Near, and the minimal reduction in visual quality, Near is recommended as a good compromise for those who need more FPS without sacrificing too much detail. You can also set a custom LOD Distance level as detailed in the Advanced Tweaking section.

Bloom

If Enabled, this setting implements Bloom lighting, which adds a hazy glow to the game world. It is intended to provide a sense of atmosphere and a dream-like quality to the game. Given the performance impact of this setting is minimal on most systems, the choice as to whether to enable or it not usually comes down to a matter of taste.

Bloom On
Bloom Off

Click to enlarge

As the screenshots above show, quite clearly when Bloom is enabled the sky glows significantly more than when it is disabled. While some people do not like bloom because it can be unnaturally bright at times, bear in mind that it does have benefits: it helps covers up the aliasing of distant objects; and it also assists in covering up the loss of distant detail if you have lowered the LOD Distance setting. If you want to reduce background blurriness even further, consider disabling the Depth of Field - Gameplay setting as covered later in the guide.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Bloom

The graph shows that altering Bloom does not have a major impact on FPS. If you dislike the Bloom effect or are struggling for FPS, disable it.

Light Shafts

If this setting is enabled, strong sunlight shining through various objects will create shafts of light. The most prominent example of this is when sunlight filters past the branches of trees in the forest. It is a visually impressive effect which adds atmosphere and realism to a scene, but it is also a major performance hog.

Light Shafts On
Light Shafts Off

Click to enlarge

The screenshots above show that as sunlight travels through the forest canopy and the bush behind Geralt. With Light Shafts enabled, there is a multitude of separate beams of light visible; with Light Shafts disabled, the appearance of sunlight is extremely generic and also makes the scene darker.”

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Light Shafts

The graph shows that enabling Light Shafts reduces performance, however what it doesn't show is that in some cases the performance impact can be quite major. The added realism and aesthetic value of this effect must be weighed against the hit some systems will take when enabling it. If you notice major slowdowns when wandering around outdoors, then consider disabling this setting.

Anti-Aliasing

Antialiasing (AA), a technique used to reduce the jaggedness of lines in computer graphic, can be enabled in The Witcher 2. The game uses a custom post-process form of AA which does a good job of reducing jagged lines with a moderate performance hit, however it does not allow you to set specific sample rates such as 2x, 4x, etc. TW2 is incompatible with traditional Anti-Aliasing such as that forced through your graphics card's control panel.

Antialiasing Off
Antialiasing On

Click to enlarge

The screenshots above show that when Anti-Aliasing is disabled, the portcullis has pronounced jaggedness, especially noticeable on the horizontal beams towards the top. When Anti-Aliasing is enabled, this jaggedness is greatly reduced, making the scene much smoother. Interestingly, the screenshots also highlight the fact that when Anti-Aliasing is enabled, textured surfaces are slightly crisper and more detailed than when it is disabled, so it aids in enhancing the clarity of the entire scene, not just in removing jaggedness.

If you want even greater reduction of aliasing and a further increase in surface detail, see the UberSampling setting later in this guide.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Anti-Aliasing

The graph shows that there is a pronounced reduction in performance from enabling Anti-Aliasing in The Witcher 2. This makes Anti-Aliasing a prime candidate for disabling if your system is struggling for FPS, as it is a luxury rather than a necessity.

Blur, Depth of Field, Vignette & Wet Surfaces

Blur Effects

This setting, if enabled, allows the use of special effects which blur the screen at certain times in the game. This does not include the blurring which is visible when you quickly turn around for example - that effect is controlled by the Motion Blur setting covered later in this guide.

Blur Effects On

Click to enlarge

Though difficult to capture in a static screenshot, the shot above shows one instance of the use of blur: when Geralt has taken damage from a trap. The blurring is used to indicate Geralt's disorientation at having been injured. The impact of this 'radial blur' effect is most prominent around the edges of the screen. In practice Blur Effects are not used frequently in the game, so disabling this setting will not have a major impact on visual quality.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Blur Effects

The graph shows that when Blur Effects is enabled, framerate may drop slightly when such effects are visible on screen. The most significant impact of enabling Blur Effects however is the potential for a momentary lack of responsiveness in combat and other dangerous situations when the effect occurs, which is the worst time to experience such a hiccup. If this is occurring on your system, disable Blur Effects.

Depth of Field - Gameplay

Depth of Field (DoF) in gaming is an effect which usually makes objects in the foreground appear sharper and more distinct, and those in the background increasingly blurred and hazy. It is used to add a heightened sense of depth to a scene. In The Witcher 2, there are three separate settings which control Depth of Field effects - this one affects the use of DoF during general gameplay, while the other two (Cinematic Depth of Field and Depth of Field - Cutscenes) relate only to the use of DoF in cutscenes and dialog sequences. Disabling Depth of Field - Gameplay can make the scene much clearer and also improves performance, at the cost of what some might consider a more cinematic look.

Depth Of Field Gameplay On
Depth Of Field Gameplay Off

Click to enlarge

The screenshots above demonstrate that when Depth of Field - Gameplay is disabled, the trees and buildings in the far distance behind Geralt become much clearer. The ship in the mid-distance just over Geralt's right shoulder also becomes clearer, and the scene generally has a much less hazy look about it. However the use of DoF effect can give more impact and visual appeal to this relatively drab scene, at the expense of some clarity in the distance.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Depth of Field - Gameplay

The graph shows that with Depth of Field - Gameplay disabled, FPS improves slightly. Since this effect is applied throughout the game, disabling it will mean that you will notice an overall improvement in average framerate. For many however the choice is more about taste than performance.

Vignette

This setting, if enabled, makes the edges of the image slightly darker. This photographic technique is known as a Vignette, and in The Witcher 2, is purely an overlay with no performance impact.

Vignette On
Vignette Off

Click to enlarge

The screenshots above provide an example of the Vignette effect. When enabled, the borders around the image are darker, but this is really only noticeable when compared with the screenshot where the effect is disabled; in the game, this effect is subtle and easy to miss. Once again it has no impact on FPS, so whether you enable or it not is solely up to whether you consider it a desirable effect to have.

Wet Surfaces Rain Effect

This setting, as the name suggests, controls the way in which wet surfaces appear when it's raining. This is a relatively subtle effect, and given rain is not a frequent occurrence in The Witcher 2, its impact can be difficult to notice.

Rain Off
Rain On

Click to enlarge

The screenshots above attempt to demonstrate the impact of enabling this setting, but since it is an animated effect it is difficult to capture properly in a static screenshot. When the Wet Surfaces Rain Effects setting is enabled, some objects coated by water from the rain, such as the large barrel on the right, will show a shimmering translucent film of moving water on their surface. When this effect is disabled, the rain will appear exactly as before, but objects will not show obvious surface wetness from the rain.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Wet Surfaces Rain Effect

The graph shows that the performance impact is noticeable but not significant, particularly as rain is not common in the game. Unless you are struggling for FPS, or notice slowdowns during rain, then the effect can remain enabled for added realism.

SSAO, Motion Blur & More Depth of Field

SSAO

Enabling this setting implements Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO), a form of Ambient Occlusion, which is a lighting effect that enhances the richness and realism of shadows. In TW2, SSAO can add to the appearance of depth in a subtle manner, but it also has a significant performance impact.

SSAO On
SSAO Off

Click to enlarge

The screenshots above show the difference between having SSAO enabled and disabled in the same scene. At first it simply appears as though one shot has more shadow than the other. In reality the additional shadowing from SSAO is aimed at specific areas. Look at Geralt - with SSAO there is shadowing around the edges of his face which add more depth; similarly, look under his right arm and you can see there is soft shadowing which increases the perception of the curve of his torso. The plants and branches to the left also have added richness from SSAO, rather than simply being dark (shadowed) or bright (unshadowed) in the absence of SSAO. Ultimately because of the way SSAO softens and blends shadows, it is not a blatantly obvious effect in many scenes, but it definitely enhances graphics through more realistic shadowing.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: SSAO

The graph confirms that the performance impact of SSAO is significant. Add to that the fact that it is a subtle effect, and the end result is that for many, SSAO should be one of the first things to disable (along with UberSampling) to maintain playable FPS without greatly impacting on image quality.

Motion Blur

This setting controls the use of blurring when you move the camera around in the game. This form of blurring is most obviously if you rapidly spin around. Enabling Motion Blur will reduce FPS whenever the effect is visible. Remember that other blurring effects in the game, such as when taking damage, are controlled by the Blur Effects setting covered earlier in the guide.

Motion Blur On

Click to enlarge

The screenshot above was taken as the camera was quickly spinning around Geralt, so it is an exaggerated example of what Motion Blur looks like. However as you can see, while Geralt and the ground near him remain in clear focus, the background has been significantly blurred.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Motion Blur

The graph shows that with Motion Blur enabled and in effect, FPS drops noticeably. This is particularly important during combat, or at any time when you need to react quickly and hence move the camera around rapidly - your FPS will drop at precisely the time when you need the highest FPS for optimal responsiveness. It can also result in additional stuttering whenever you move the camera. So unless you have a high-end GPU, it may be best to disable Motion Blur to improve FPS and smoothness in such circumstances.

Cinematic Depth of Field

Depth of Field (DoF) has been covered under the Depth of Field - Gameplay setting earlier in this guide. The Cinematic Depth of Field option applies an enhanced form of DoF designed to make cutscenes and dialog scenes look much more like a stylised movie and less like regular in-game animation. Because of the additional GPU processing involved, this effect reduces performance when it is used and is one of the reasons why many people experience slowdowns in cutscenes. See further below for screenshot comparisons.

Depth of Field - Cutscenes

This option controls the use of normal Depth of Field in cutscenes and Dialog scenes. However keep in mind that if you disable Depth of Field - Cutscenes, but leave Cinematic Depth of Field enabled, then you will still have DoF in effect. So you should use both these settings in combination with each other, rather than changing them in isolation.

Cinematic Depth of Field Enabled - Depth of Field Custcene Enabled
Cinematic Depth of Field Disabled - Depth of Field Custcene Enabled
Cinematic Depth of Field Disabled - Depth of Field Custcene Disabled

Click to enlarge

Since the Cinematic Depth of Field and Depth of Field - Cutscenes settings both apply only to cutscenes and dialog scenes, and since disabling Depth of Field - Cutscenes by itself is rather pointless if Cinematic Depth of Field is left enabled, the screenshots above show a cutscene first with both effects enabled; then with only Cinematic Depth of Field disabled; then with both Cinematic Depth of Field and Depth of Field - Cutscenes disabled, effectively removing all DoF. As you can see, when Cinematic Depth of Field is disabled, some DoF is still in effect, however Geralt's figure becomes slightly clearer, as do the trees and rocks in the background. When both Cinematic Depth of Field and Depth of Field - Cutscenes are disabled, DoF is removed and the entire scene becomes completely crisp and clear (aside from some blurring from Bloom lighting in the top left).

While Cinematic Depth of Field is impressive, it is a strenuous and exaggerated form of DoF which may not be to everyone's taste. If you prefer a milder form of DoF in cutscenes and dialog scenes, disable Cinematic Depth of Field and leave Depth of Field - Cutscenes enabled. If you want to remove all DoF from such scenes, whether for performance or aesthetic reasons, then make sure to disable both settings.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Depth of Field - Cinematic

The graph shows that the same cutscenes and dialog scenes will perform dramatically better when Cinematic Depth of Field is disabled, and improve further when Depth of Field - Cutscenes is also disabled. If you leave Cinematic Depth of Field enabled and only disable Depth of Field - Cutscenes, the performance and image quality difference will be minimal, so it is not recommended.

Dangling Objects, UberSampling & Decals

Dangling Objects Limit

This setting determines the extent to which "dangling objects", such as Geralt's hair or pieces of clothing, will actually dangle and move about realistically. Setting this option to enabled puts a limit on just how much and how many of such objects will dangle, but it does not disable dangling objects altogether. Even with this setting enabled, Geralt's hair will still move about, as will other dangling objects. The setting is designed to help reduce the load on your CPU from excessive physics-based animations.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Dangling Objects

The graph shows absolutely no change in FPS in practice when this setting is disabled - i.e. removing the limit on the number and type of dangling objects. Only low-end and dual core CPUs are likely to benefit noticeably from enabling this setting; if you have a quad core CPU then the impact will be minimal at best, hence this setting can be set to disabled for maximum physics at minimal loss of performance on such CPUs.

UberSampling

This setting controls a special mode which, when enabled, improves image quality through the performance-draining technique of rendering the same scene multiple times before displaying the final result. The practical effect of this Supersampling technique is that textures become clearer, and jagged lines are smoothed out further. However it requires both a high-end CPU and a high-end GPU to obtain remotely playable framerates.

Ubersampling Off
Ubersampling On

Click to enlarge

The screenshots above provide a comparison of a scene before and after UberSampling has been applied. The key differences from enabling UberSampling are that clarity is enhanced - the twigs and dirt to the near left and right of Geralt are sharper and more detailed; the ground receding into the distance has sharper textures; the foliage such as the tree branches in the distance, the clumps of grass, and the bushes to the far left are slightly more detailed; and any slight jaggedness which TW2's Anti-Aliasing setting has not already removed is further smoothed out. However at the same time, it bears noting that the textures on Geralt's clothing and his sword scabbards become slightly less distinct with UberSampling enabled. Similarly, the tent cloth, particularly the darker roof patches, shows less detail with UberSampling enabled.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: UberSampling

The graph shows that UberSampling is by far the single most demanding setting in The Witcher 2, reducing FPS by around 60% at each resolution. In fact no current single GPU setup can run TW2 with UberSampling smoothly at higher settings. UberSampling therefore is designed primarily for high-end multi-GPU configurations, and also future single GPUs. Given that it provides only a slight improvement in image quality for a massive hit in terms of performance, UberSampling is the first setting all users should consider disabling before moving on to examine the performance impact of any other settings.

Decals

A decal in The Witcher 2 is a mark or smear left by blood, dirt or dust. During heavy combat for example you may notice blood splatters on the ground and on Geralt's sword and face if this setting is enabled. The available options for the Decals setting are Disabled, Medium Spec and High Spec. Disabled prevents any such marks from appearing, which can reduce realism, but can improve performance on low-end CPUs. At Medium Spec, some decals will be displayed, and at High Spec more decals will be visible in a scene. Regardless of the setting, all decals will vanish after a short period of time.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Performance Comparison: Decals

As you can see, on most systems disabling or reducing decals will not have any significant performance impact. The main benefit of reducing the Decals setting is for those with low-end systems who want to ensure additional FPS, particularly during heavy combat when there are plenty of blood decals constantly being generated.

That covers our look at the settings available in the Configuration Tool. The next page examines the advanced tweaking possible in The Witcher 2.

Advanced Tweaks

PC gamers are quite fortunate in that The Witcher 2 has a detailed set of easily accessible advanced settings which can be accessed via the game's built-in Configuration Tool. The judicious use of these settings will allow you to have a good balance of performance and image quality.

However for those who wish to take things a little further, TW2 also offers some more advanced tweaking potential in the form of editing .ini files. The main file to alter is User.ini, found under your \My Documents\Witcher 2\Config\ directory. Make a backup copy of this file first, then open it with a text editor like Notepad. The vast majority of the settings in the User.ini file can, and should, be altered using the Configuration Tool as covered earlier in this guide. There are however a few settings which can only be altered in the .ini file, or can be changed beyond the preset values allowed in the Configuration Tool, and these are covered below:

DanglesLimiter=0

This variable is the same as the Dangling Objects Limit setting found under the Witcher Configuration Tool. However here you can control its implementation more precisely. A value of 0 is the maximum, and places no limitations on dangling objects; a value of 1 means there will be dangling objects only on Geralt; and a value of 2 will replace all dangling objects with static meshes.

TextureMemoryBudget=600

This variable corresponds to the Texture Memory Size (MB) setting in the Configuration Tool. It sets the maximum amount of memory which The Witcher 2 allocates specifically for texture storage. You can assign a custom value in Megabytes for this setting. There is no cap on the value for this variable, but be aware that setting a very high value may cause problems - see the Texture Memory Size setting earlier in this guide for more information.

FoliageDistanceScale=0.5

MeshDistanceScale=0.7

Together the variables above control the Level of Detail in the game, which is the same as the LOD Distance setting in the Configuration Tool. The lower the value for these settings, the lower the distance from Geralt at which detail beings to be stripped from foliage and from meshes (solid objects such as characters, buildings and terrain). These variables give you more precise control over LOD than the regular preset levels, and you can also raise them above the normal maximum of 1.2 to further increase detail in the game. Note that the FoliageDistanceScale variable does not exist by default in User.ini, so it must be manually added in. Furthermore, there is no upper limit to the values for this variable.

MaxCubeShadowSize=256

MaxCubeShadowCount=1

MaxSpotShadowSize=512

MaxSpotShadowCount=3

The variables above relate to the quality of shadows in the game. The Shadow Quality setting in the Configuration Tool does not appear to alter these variables correctly in line with the values stored in the preset .ini files under \My Documents\Witcher 2\Config\profiles\ directory. The end result is that even if you set Shadow Quality to Ultra, the values in your User.ini file remain equivalent to the Low preset level. You can manually edit the lines above in User.ini to match the appropriate value in the preset .ini file of your choice.

Importantly, if you change any of the variables in User.ini, then be sure not to change any settings via the Configuration Tool as this can overwrite/reset any of your manual changes to the variables. First adjust all your settings properly with the Configuration Tool, then edit User.ini.

Mods

The Witcher 2 has proven popular with the PC community, such that a range of modifications (mods) have already been released to alter particular aspects of the gameplay and graphics. You can download a range of these mods for free from here, but keep in mind that they are not officially supported, and make sure to read the instructions for each mod carefully.

Conclusion

With some general system optimization, and appropriate changes to the advanced settings via the Configuration Tool, you should be able to have The Witcher 2 running relatively smoothly on your machine. If you're still experiencing problems, head over to the Official Witcher 2 Community Site as well as the Official FAQ for the current state of play on solutions to known issues.

In terms of gameplay tips, one very important thing to keep in mind: The Witcher 2 is not meant to be a simple hack and slash game. It's designed as a proper real-time RPG, which means you have to use strategy, and you must take the time to learn and practice the fundamental gameplay mechanics, including the intricacies of using signs, potions, and sword combos for example. Combat can be very frustrating when you start TW2, but over time it becomes easier - though it always remains a challenge when fighting more than one enemy, even at the Normal difficulty level. Read the manual carefully, use quicksave (press F5) regularly, and don't give up if you die repeatedly in the Prologue. The Witcher 2 provides an extremely rewarding experience, and is well worth the effort.

Until next time, take care!

submit to reddit Email