Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia PC Performance Review
Published: 10th May 2018 | Source: OC3D Internal Testing | Price: |
Gameplay-wise Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia offers a lot of unique elements, crafting a campaign experience that will feel fresh for both existing fans and newcomers to the series.
Thrones of Britannia focuses on improving Total War's siege battles, moving to an era of early medieval fortification, with small towns having little to no of defence, changing the way the game plays on both the campaign map and on the battlefield. Players can no longer shore up their defences and rely on their strong walls, especially when their food-producing towns can be destroyed in an instant if undefended. In the campaign units are no longer purchased in one go, making the replenishment of armies is crucial, while a new food mechanic ensures that armies don't grow too large too fast and limited army supplies prevent your troops from marching into enemy territory too far without consequences.
While this first entry into Creative Assembly's Saga series is undeniably Total War, the game's focus on a specific moment in history and a relatively small scope has left a lot of space for cracks to appear, especially given how relatively unknown historical figures like King Alfred The Great are outside of the UK.
Technologically Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia can be seen as a downgrade from the Total War: Warhammer series, discarding Creative Assembly's latest engine to develop the game using what was Total War: Attila's engine. This older engine is 32-bit, though Creative Assembly has stated time and time again that Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia's version would be further optimised.
The reasoning behind the use of Total War: Attila's engine is logical, Thrones of Britannia was made on a low budget with ships at a lower price than main series Total War titles. Total War: Attila's engine requires less work to develop a new medieval combat sim, with the Total War: Warhammer engine offering too many unnecessary elements like magic, orcs, and a vast supply of large monstrous enemies. A lot of Total War: Attila can be repurposed during the creation of Thrones of Britannia, whereas using Total War: Warhammer as a baseline would have required a lot more work to achieve.
Sadly, the use of Total War: Attila's engine has caused a large number of issues with Thrones of Britannia's performance, especially when it comes to CPU utilisation. Throughout our testing, we found that Thrones of Britannia would frequently become CPU limited, with single-core performance typically becoming an issue. This issue affected both the campaign and battle sections of the game on both out Intel and AMD-based systems, making a steady 60FPS in the campaign and in battle extremely difficult to achieve at the game's higher settings, even on high-end hardware.
While we can undeniably get decent performance out of Thrones of Britannia with some settings adjustment, it is disappointing to see such a CPU heavy game be limited primarily by single-threaded performance, especially in an era where quad-cores are standard, and 6-8 cores processors are becoming increasingly popular amongst gamers. If Creative Assembly wants to make more games using this engine, they will need to work on adding increased multithreading support and making the engine 64-bit, as such a CPU heavy game shouldn't be 32-bit anymore.
Graphically, Total War: Thrones of Britannia can deliver some satisfying visuals, but again when compared to Total War: Warhammer we feel that this is a step backwards for the series, especially when combined with the game's CPU performance issues. This backstep can also be seen in the game's graphical settings, where useful options like resolution scaling are missing.
On the topic of graphical settings, we would also like to see the option for both the campaign and battle sections of the game to use different graphical settings, as both modes offer very different performance characteristics. This extra tinkerability would allow players to maximise the graphical fidelity and performance of each using custom settings, which could be extremely useful for some players.
While we do have a lot of complaints about Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia on the performance side, we cannot deny that the title is fun to play and provides a worthy extension to the series from a gameplay perspective. We have enjoyed seeing how each of the game's changes has affected out campaigns, making the game's other limitations all the more disheartening.
Anything that Creative Assembly can do to make Total War: Thrones of Britannia to increase it multi-threading support would be a massive benefit to PC gamers, especially if their "Saga" series is set to continue using older versions of Total War's Warscape Engine. There is no reason why an i7 6850K or a Ryzen 7 1700X should be so CPU limited in some sections of the game.
With Thrones of Britannia, Creative Assembly has focused on gameplay instead of performance, with their use of their less-threaded, 32-bit Attila iteration of the Warscape engine being an extremely divisive factor amongst fans of the series. Many of these shortcomings can be addressed with finely adjusted graphical settings, though Creative Assembly could have likely avoided many of the game's performance shortcoming by using a newer iteration of their Warscape engine.
Do not get us wrong; we have loved our time with Thrones of Britannia, believing it to be a great start to what will likely become a collection of small, tightly focused Total War Sagas. Most of the performance issues that we have described are rectifiable with fine-tuned graphical settings and perhaps a few trade offs.
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