For a marquee game on 6-year-old hardware (which was already relatively underpowered when it launched in 2017), the open-world construction set of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a pretty impressive technical feat. Digital Foundry recently laid out how the game’s day-one patch ensures the software “holds very close to the 30 frames per second target” for “nearly the entirety” of their playtime.
Still, Digital Foundry does note that Tears of the Kingdom‘s frame rate can still drop down to 20 fps at times, especially when Link’s signature Ultra Hand ability is activated in crowded areas like Kakariko Village or Goron City. For those situations, though, Switch users with a hacked console can use overclocking tools to make the game run more smoothly.
In a recent video, Modern Vintage Gamer (MVG) walks viewers through the overclocking options offered to Tears of the Kingdom players who have installed a tool like sys-clk on their hacked systems. Pushing the CPU up from around 1 GHz to 1.5 GHz leads to “really not much difference at all” in MVG’s testing. By contrast, increasing the GPU speed from 768 MHz to just 900 MHz (in docked mode) results in frame rates that are “definitely smoothed out,” though there are “still… times where it does drop its frame rate.”
The biggest performance improvement, though, comes from speeding up the system’s memory clock from 1.6 GHz to above 1.8 GHz. That increase removes what MVG calls “probably the biggest bottleneck of everything on the hardware right now” leading to a situation where “no matter what I do here, I can’t get the frame rate to drop below 30 fps.” And that improvement sticks around even if the CPU and GPU are held at their original clock speeds.
As always with overclocking, this kind of performance improvement isn’t without risk. Overclocked components create more heat, which can lead to component damage/failures or system shutdowns, especially if the ambient temperature is too high where you’re playing. Even overclocking that falls short of bricking your system can lead to increased fan and/or battery usage, meaning higher electricity usage and shorter play times when away from an outlet. All of these risks might be especially pronounced for the memory overclocking described here, which pushes past what Digital Foundry once called “the hard limit of the Tegra X1” that powers the Switch.
For players who just can’t stand the thought of frame rate dips while traversing Hyrule, though, the risk may be worth it. And for those who want to mitigate that risk with some dodgy-looking accessories, you can always invest in a questionable external fan for the system dock.
Listing image by Nintendo
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