This Witcher 3 mod can help snatch valuable performance from its hungry ray tracing

witcher steam deck
(Image credit: CD Projekt)

In 2015, my GTX 770M laptop crumpled like a paper bag when it squared up against the Witcher 3, leaving me hungry for more power and inspired to build a GTX 1080 desktop a year later. In 2020, that noble beast was in turn brought low by Cyberpunk 2077, hardly ever keeping to a consistent 60fps at 1080p low.

The seasons change, the tide rolls in, and CD Projekt destroys my computers: the beefy, pricey RTX 3070 I got just last year can just barely crest 40fps with the Witcher 3's new ray tracing implementation, and this is one of the rare times I've looked at RT comparisons and gone, "hey, that actually does look better!" If you're like me and eager to eke some extra performance out of The Witcher 3 Next Gen's ray tracing, you may want to try modder alikoko's Optimized Raytracing over on NexusMods.

Essentially, alikoko's mod lowers the number of probes producing light rays to bounce around a given scene of the game, reducing the load on your GPU while still providing ray traced lighting. I think of it as a user-hacked high/medium/low settings slider for The Witcher 3's RT global illumination, and alikoko cited a 20-30% performance improvement on an RTX 2060 Super. Other users in the comments noted similar uplift, and I found alikoko's mod helpful on my setup, often delivering more than 50fps with the "performance" preset, RT global, and mostly Ultra settings on DLSS Performance.

Alikoko does warn of potentially inaccurate lighting on indoor scenes, however, and the mod does not yet make any tweaks to the RT sub-settings of shadows, reflections, or ambient occlusion. Other issues with The Witcher 3 Next Gen, like the inefficient CPU usage and ray tracing-associated memory leak reported by Digital Foundry, likewise still remain.

Alikoko's mod is a worthwhile tool for the average Joe looking for a taste of that RTX 4090 life, but I've ultimately thrown in the towel⁠—even with a G-Sync monitor, the game feels sluggish under 60fps, and I was not happy with how much performance would degrade over a long play session with ray tracing enabled. With RT off and everything else cranked to Ultra+ (and even the dreaded Hairworks enabled) I've got a pretty hard floor of 70fps at 1440p, DLSS Quality. 

For my next Witcher 3 lighting mod experiment, I'm thinking of taking jojolapin102's Better SSAO for a spin⁠—is it really PC gaming if you're not obsessively tweaking this crap more than actually playing the game? If you're jumping into the Witcher 3 for the first time or a replay, be sure to check out our guide to getting the Henry Cavill armor they added in 4.0, and we have similar guides to the first round of Ursine and Feline Witcher school sets.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.