In brief: Some fans were disappointed upon discovering that Alan Wake 2 runs far worse on older GPUs than other recent titles. If you must play one of the year's most critically acclaimed games but can't upgrade to a graphics card that supports mesh shaders, running it through a Vulkan compatibility layer might help. Your mileage may vary.
Alan Wake 2 is earning some of the best reviews of 2023. In a year with an unusually high number of critically acclaimed releases, Remedy's latest has emerged in Game of the Year conversations alongside titles like Baldur's Gate 3, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and the Resident Evil 4 remake.
Gamers who want to play the recently released Alan Wake sequel but only have a Pascal or RDNA 1 GPU may want to try a mod that swaps the game's DirectX 12 implementation for Vulkan. Although, be warned. The installation process is complex, still has many issues, and may not work for everyone. In the best-case scenario, players on an Nvidia GeForce 1080 Ti or Radeon RX 5700 XT should only expect 1080p gameplay at low graphics settings.
Unfortunately, the PC version's requirement of mesh shaders, which can manage scene geometry more efficiently than earlier methods, locks out some older enthusiast GPUs even though they can still handle other recent releases. Some of the weakest cards supporting mesh shaders, like the RTX 2060 or GTX 1660 Ti, usually appear below the GTX 1080 Ti or RX 5700 XT in benchmarks, but Alan Wake 2 tests reverse the situation.
The latter two GPUs generally can't maintain 30fps in native 1080p at the lowest graphics settings. This issue could limit the game's reach, as the population of users still playing with older-generation cards isn't insignificant.
Fortunately, a user on the TechPowerUp forums discovered that a Vulkan-based compatibility layer designed to run DirectX 12 games on Linux could lift performance by up to 50 percent. With the mod, the 1080 Ti managed around 37fps in 1080p on the low preset, likely just playable enough for some users, especially if they connect a controller.
The method is far from preferable, nor is it foolproof. It didn't work for Tom's Hardware or some commenters in the original forum thread. The original poster provides several suggestions to address issues like changing the DXGI swapchain method in the Nvidia control panel, disabling the Nvidia overlay, manually installing Vulkan drivers, and more.
Attempting the mod with AMD graphics cards is even more complex. The TechPowerUp thread lists a different set of files they require, and some might perform better on Linux than on Windows. The 5700 XT hit 60fps on Linux in at least one test. However, these workarounds won't bring acceptable performance to Polaris GPUs like the popular RX 580.
When Remedy explained Alan Wake 2's high system requirements by noting its dependence on mesh shaders, the developer theorized that mods could lower the barrier to entry. These early Vulkan compatibility experiments could be the first step toward that goal.
In related news, Remedy released the 1.0.8 patch for Alan Wake 2 this week. It promises over 200 improvements and bug fixes, which could at least slightly improve graphics and performance.