I’m not ready to upgrade my PC yet. Would I pay $20 a month to rent one that’s in the cloud? Starfield is the first game that actually makes me think about the possibility.
Today, Starfield arrived on Nvidia’s GeForce Now, a service that lets you take advantage of an RTX 4080-equivalent GPU, and I spent some time benchmarking the hard-to-play game. It definitely looks and plays better than on my aging 1440p desktop, and looks great in hand.
It’s not a panacea. I currently have wired gigabit fiber internet and live just a few towns away from Nvidia’s west coast servers. Even then, the game currently doesn’t run as smoothly as it does on the best gaming PCs. In the city of New Atlantis, I saw drops to 47 and 48 frames per second regardless of my graphics settings or resolution, as many worlds are fundamentally limited by your CPU speeds.
But in Neon’s cyberpunk core, I never saw a dip below 60fps at 4K resolution and Ultra spec, regardless of whether I was just walking around town or instigating a fight. Are So much smoother than my 5600X/3060 Ti desktop machine.
(By default, GeForce Now sets the game to Ultra with FSR2 enabled, at 75 percent display resolution. That way I got 70-80 fps in core Neon – consistently 10 fps higher than the native resolution.)
On other worlds, and in lighter firefights, my cloud gaming framerate was well north of 60fps at Ultra spec. I still need to test on Masada III though.
Right now you’re probably wondering what my headline is. If it’s so great, why is it also the “worst way to play”? How can it be “the best” if high-end PCs can play the game better? Well, some people might prefer to play this game on handheld, and I would adopt that experience Starfield on a Steam Deck or ROG Ally:
GeForce Now lets you stream to just about any system you have, and it’s a blast to watch
But the small tragedy of Nvidia’s GeForce Now is that you won’t experience anything I’m talking about unless you cough up cash first.
I decided to give the free version of GeForce Now a try as well, and Starfield is basically unplayable that way. After waiting almost half an hour for the game to load, sync my cloud saves, and compile the shaders, I was greeted with images like this:
Not to mention scary error messages:
It is a shame. I would be ashamed to send this free trial out into the world as an example of cloud gaming. Nvidia, do you really think this will convince anyone to pay?
If you’re interested and have good internet, I highly recommend trying the Ultimate tier for a month – and make sure you manually set your GeForce Now resolution to 4K, even if your monitor can only handle 1440p.
Nvidia’s streaming quality is noticeable better if it has more render resolution to work with; I saw all kinds of mud and irregularities at 1440p that completely disappeared at 4K.