Starfield's preload files suggest there is no sign of DLSS or XeSS support amid AMD sponsorship

A futuristic base on alien planet
(Image credit: Bethesda)

And lo it has come to pass, Starfield looks like it will definitely not be supporting either Nvidia's DLSS or XeSS upscalers. At least not at launch anyways. We kinda thought that would be the case the instant it was announced the Bethesda space cowboy-em-up was partnering with AMD on the PC side, but a dig into the preload files for the game has seemingly confirmed it.

A twitter user, Sebastian Castellanos, has been poring through the files on PC, now that the Microsoft store preloads have begun alongside the Xbox X/S. They have posted a shot of the different files and folders and states that there are no sign of any .dlls referring to other upscaling technologies outside of AMD's own FSR 2.

That means, barring a day 1 patch to add support, we're going to be out of luck. And I'm 100% sure Nvidia would have crowed about any involvement in Starfield by now if there was going to be any.

Now, it must be said that FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.0, or FSR 2, is an agnostic feature that will work on every vendor's graphics card. So all your AMD, Nvidia, and yes, even Intel GPUs will support FSR 2. And it's a very good option, far improved over the first generation of the tech, and we can't wait for FSR2 to be added into Baldur's Gate 3.

Not having Intel XeSS then isn't such a huge miss, they are very similar, though maybe even Intel's upscaler can deliver slightly better visuals than FSR 2. But there's still not a lot in it. More of an issue, for recent Nvidia GPU owners at least, is the fact that DLSS is missing.

DLSS is a superior technology, offering a higher fidelity end product, largely by virtue of the fact that it is a proprietary tech. It utilises the Tensor cores of Nvidia's RTX GPUs to help create the upscaling effect, and it's so good we'd almost always recommend its use. There are basically no downsides.

It's also largely similar, from a developer's perspective, in terms of implementing it into a game. AMD specifically made FSR 2 so that it could be easy for devs to add to games that already support DLSS from version 2.0 and up. It's been estimated that it would take less than three days to get FSR 2 in place in those instances, so it ought to work similarly the other way around, too.

So, why doesn't Starfield include DLSS? Well, therein lies the rub. We can't say for sure, but it certainly looks like it's something to do with that AMD partnership. AMD has studiously refused to answer any questions about whether the terms of partnerships restricts the use of competing upscaling features. Given the fact that historically, Sony titles aside, AMD sponsored games don't support DLSS makes that quite a likely situation.

We have specifically asked both AMD and Bethesda if it is completely free to add in support for other upscalers alongside FSR 2 for Starfield and they have either responded that they are choosing not to comment or have, in the case of Bethesda, completely ignored us.

An image of a custom Starfield ship, pieced together with trailer snippets.

(Image credit: Bethesda / User __ass on Reddit.)
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It would absolutely be worse if it were the other way around, where it only supported the Nvidia-only DLSS feature, but the green team has been very explicit about the fact it "does not, and will not block, restrict, discourage, or hinder developers from implementing competitor technologies in any way." 

Still, at least everyone gets to use a decent upscaler, even if they're blocked from using the best option available for their GPU.

There will inevitably be modders beavering away to jam the DLSS dll files into the game once it is released—one has already promised to have DLSS 3 support in the game before the full September 6 launch—but mods are never going to be as effective as fully realised implementations by the developers themselves. 

The internet wasn't happy about it when the partnership was launched, and I expect this will keep on riling people up when the game launches without support in September. 

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.