Affects the quality of lighting, including "dynamic environment maps" and subsurface scattering (light penetration of translucent objects).
In practice, it's difficult to describe any setting as strictly worse or better, except Low, which suffers from sparse light shafts and a lack of coverage on foliage and ground surfaces. Even then, it's fairly subtle.
Testing reveals the slightest possible impact on average and minimum FPS and no definitive impact on minimum FPS. Keep this setting at Ultra.
This setting affects the quality, distance, and resolution of shadows.
In practice, you can observe progressively more detail and depth of shadows at all distances as you increase this setting. This is mostly easily seen on foliage and the shadows cast by the trees nearest to the player in the screenshots above. The effect is subtle but definitely present.
Benchmarking tells us Shadow Quality has a consistent and significant impact on performance across all settings at all levels. Given the overall subtle visual changes seen with this setting, it's a great choice for tweaking. Low does hurt visuals quite a bit, but Medium and High offer a good balance between visuals and performance, so if you need some extra frames, try both and find what suits you best.
This setting is said to alter the quality, resolution, and maximum number of effects. I could find no examples of the effect of this setting in-game, so screenshots have been left out of this section.
Testing shows Effects Quality has a consistently small but appreciable impact on framerate, namely average and minimum values. Given how difficult it is to notice the effect of it in-game, this is a good choice for tweaking. I recommend starting with the Low setting and increasing it only if you find yourself bothered by any lacking effects in-game.
Post Process Quality
This setting controls the quality of various post processing effects including motion blur, distortion, high-definition range (HDR), and depth of field.
I focused on HDR when looking to contrast the different Post Process Quality settings as it's by far the most noticeable effect. It's difficult to observe the differences when moving from setting up or down to another, but if you compare Low to Ultra, it's more apparent: as HDR is known for, virtually every aspect of the scene looks richer thanks to the more realistic lighting and added detail.
Testing shows Post Process Quality has no definitive impact on framerate. This should apply (more or less) to scenes or moments that employ the other aforementioned effects, too. As such, you're free to keep this one at Ultra and enjoy the sights better for it.
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