Dying Light 2 PC performance: The best settings for high FPS

Dying Light 2 PC performance: The best settings for high FPS

After seemingly endless delays, Dying Light 2 is here. Although the game doesn’t fully live up to expectations, it’s still a true next-gen experience. To optimize your gameplay, I rounded up the best settings for Dying Light 2, as well as looked at the performance you can expect with ray tracing and upscaling.

The game’s massive open world is demanding on even the latest hardware, so you’ll need a beefy PC to run Dying Light 2 with ray tracing. The three upscaling options offer a lot of bandwidth for low-end hardware, thankfully, though their trade-offs in image quality may be too big to stomach.

The best settings for Dying Light 2

The sun sets over the city in Dying Light 2.

Dying Light 2 doesn’t have a lot of graphics options, offering a nice change of pace from the stuffed menus in titles like Call of Duty: VanguardThose few settings offer a lot of bandwidth, though. After testing each of the settings and tweaking the biggest losers, I was able to increase my frame rate by nearly 33%.

Here are the best graphics settings for Dying Light 2:

  • Render mode: D3D12
  • Anti-aliasing: High
  • Motion blur: Off
  • Particle quality: Low
  • Contact shadows: High
  • Ambient occlusion: Low
  • Global illumination: Medium
  • Refection quality: Low
  • Fog quality: Medium
  • Sun shadows: PCF

I ignored ray tracing for these settings to get a baseline. I’ll talk more about ray tracing later. Normally, I try to find a balance between image quality and performance, which generally leads to a mix of medium and high settings. Dying Light 2 is more taxing than most games, though, so I pushed some settings down to low.

For easy wins, change the render mode to DirectX 12 and bump reflection quality down to low. Simply switching to DirectX 12 brought back an extra frame, while reflection quality brought nearly a 13% increase in my average frame rate. Reflections are important, render mode is the most demanding setting based on my testing.

A player dropkicks two zombies in Dying Light 2.

The other important settings are ambient occlusion and fog quality, which both brought about a 10% increase in average frame rate. I left fog quality at medium because the low setting really tarnishes the atmosphere. I was content to turn ambient occlusion down to low because the visual change isn’t as stark.

I wouldn’t recommend turning ambient occlusion off. The game looks much flatter, and there isn’t a big difference in performance between the low setting and turning off ambient occlusion entirely.

The other interesting note is motion blur. I always turn motion blur off, and I recommend you do so in Dying Light 2. Turning off motion blur not only looks a lot better, but it can also increase your frame rate by around 8%. If you need motion blur, leave the setting at low.

Dying Light 2 system requirements

System requirements for Dying Light 2.

Like Back 4 Blood and a number of other games released over the past year, Dying Light 2 has five different lists of system requirements. At minimum, you’ll need a GTX 1050 Ti, and if you want ray tracing and 4K, you’ll need at least an RTX 3080. The system requirements have some interesting quirks, though.

All of the three ray tracing presets call for Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), and there’s a reason for that, as I’ll dig into in the following sections. Ray tracing is incredibly demanding in Dying Light 2. It’s beautiful, but impossible to run at native resolution. You need something like DLSS.

For the other system requirements, most of them check out. A decent quad-core from the past few generations will get you by, though a six-core CPU is ideal. Techland recommends the eight-core Ryzen 7 3700X for the top spec, but a six-core chip like the Ryzen 5 5600X will work just as well.

For graphics cards, Techland is leaning heavily on DLSS. Based on my testing, the recommendations are just a little underpowered. You can reach the performance bars set by the system requirements, but it looks like Techland factored in the aggressive Performance mode for DLSS, not the Quality or Balanced modes.

Dying Light 2 performance, tested

Enough with settings and system requirements — let’s talk performance! It’s rare to find games that feel next-gen on PC, but Dying Light 2 fits the bill. It can run on the hardware of today, but it’s built for the hardware of the future, especially if you want all of the visual bells and whistles.

RTX 3070 RTX 2060 Super RX 580
1080p Ultra 103 fps 61 fps 39 fps
1080p Recommended 127 fps 82 fps 46 fps
1440p Ultra 75 fps 43 fps 26 fps
1440p Recommended 93 fps 59 fps 32 fps
4K Ultra 40 fps 22 fps N/A
4K Recommended 53 fps 32 fps N/A

As I typically do with PC performance guides, I grabbed three graphics cards for three common resolutions — the RTX 3070 for 4K, the RTX 2060 Super for 1440p, and the RX 580 for 1080p. I ran all of the cards through my test bench with an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X and 32GB of memory.

With the RTX 3070, I couldn’t manage native 4K at 60 frames per second (fps), even with the recommended settings. If you want native 4K, the RTX 3080 will do much better. Thankfully, the plentiful upscaling options make 4K possible on the RTX 3070, and with my recommended settings, you can squeeze out even more performance.

Players use the paraglider in Dying Light 2.

Bumping down to 1440p was much more forgiving, which isn’t surprising, as 1440p is still the sweet spot for native resolution. With recommended settings, the RTX 2060 Super manages nearly 60 fps at native 1440p, and the RTX 3070 nears 100 fps. But 1440p is the baseline for Dying Light 2, with native 4K only reserved for the most powerful hardware.

The RX 580 shows its age in a big way in Dying Light 2. I wasn’t anywhere close to 60 fps at 1080p, even with recommended settings. That’s not a good sign for budget gamers, especially considering the underpowered RX 6500 XT. There are upscaling options, but as I’ll dig into later, they sacrifice a lot of image quality at lower resolutions.

Ray tracing performance in Dying Light 2

Frank hands the player a beer in Dying Light 2.

Ray tracing is always demanding, but it’s especially rough in Dying Light 2. Without upscaling, ray tracing is almost exclusively reserved for RTX 30-series graphics cards. It’s too taxing on AMD’s RX 6000 cards, as well as the older RTX 20-series cards. You can turn on ray tracing, but you’ll need to compromise.

RTX 3070 RX 6700 XT
Ray tracing 40 fps 21 fps
High quality ray tracing 30 fps 13 fps

I originally tested ray tracing in 4K, but after seeing results in the single digits at native resolution, I bumped down to 1440p. The results above are at native 1440p for the two ray tracing presets in Dying Light 2. There are about five ray tracing options in the game, each of which represent a significant downtick in performance.

You don’t want to turn on ray tracing at native resolution in Dying Light 2. There are a number of upscaling options, and they should be mandatory. Even the RTX 3090 can’t manage playable frame rates with ray tracing turned on at native resolution. I’ll touch on the various upscaling modes, including ray tracing, in the next section.

For native resolution, you can see just how far back the RX 6700 XT is compared to the RTX 3070. It’s no secret that AMD’s most recent graphics cards don’t handle ray tracing well, and Dying Light 2 brings that issue to the forefront. The game is beautiful even without ray tracing turned on, so I’d recommend most people just leave it off.

Ray tracing comparison in Dying Light 2.

You can see in the comparison above how much depth ray tracing adds to Dying Light 2‘s world. The grass show complex shadows, and the distant tunnel is wrapped in shadow. It looks great, but Dying Light 2 is so wonderfully detailed that you don’t need ray tracing. The game looks great either way, and the performance trade-off is too steep.

DLSS, FSR, and upscaling in Dying Light 2

Dying Light 2 includes three upscaling options: DLSS, AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR), and an in-game upscaling tool. DLSS is only available on RTX 30- and 20-series graphics cards, but the other two upscaling modes are available for every GPU.

I normally test upscaling by reaching for an aspirational scenario — 4K at 60 fps. I couldn’t do that with Dying Light 2. Instead, I tested the the middle quality preset for each of the upscaling tools for the respective resolution for each graphics card: RTX 3070 for 4K and so on.

RTX 3070 (4K) RTX 2060 Super (1440p) RX 580 (1080p)
DLSS Balanced 64 fps 68 fps N/A
FSR Balanced 79 fps 75 fps 60 fps
Linear Balanced 82 fps 79 fps 61 fps
DLSS Balanced (with RT) 34 fps 32 fps N/A
FSR Balanced (with RT) 37 fps 34 fps N/A
Linear Balanced (with RT) 38 fps 35 fps N/A

All three offer a significant uplift in performance. Without ray tracing, they push each GPU past the 60 fps line, optimizing far more than settings can alone. I used the middle quality preset for the upscaling modes, but keep in mind that these presets are using different render resolutions. FSR Balanced uses a higher render resolution than DLSS Balanced, for example.

You wouldn’t know that from the image quality. You can see the three upscaling modes stacked up in the image below. DLSS is on the left, FSR is in the middle, and the in-game upscaling is on the right.

Upscaling comparison in Dying Light 2.

Despite working with a lower resolution, DLSS maintains a lot more detail. You can see that clearly in the distant trees, as well as up close on the train car. FSR and the in-game upscaler offer larger performance improvements, but they don’t look nearly as good as DLSS.

For image quality, they stack up how you’d expect: DLSS looks the best, and the in-game upscaler looks the worst. However, FSR and the built-in upscaler are remarkably close. The upscaler is softer with objects close to the camera, but the difference isn’t big. And the built-in upscaler offers the biggest performance improvement across the board.

Most players will only have the option between FSR and the built-in upscaling tool. FSR is the better option in most cases, unless you’re trying to play the game at 4K. In that case, the linear upscaling tool is close enough, and it performs better.

The main issue is when you bump down the resolution. If you’re upscaling to 1080p, for example, the image will look much worse overall. That’s the nature of upscaling, unfortunately, and general-purpose solutions like FSR and linear upscaling can’t reconstruct a low resolution scene like DLSS can.

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