Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia PC Performance Review
Published: 10th May 2018 | Source: OC3D Internal Testing | Price: |
Custom settings - Maximise framerate with a minimal visual sacrifice
For the most part, we found that Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia was CPU limited, though no self-respecting Total War fan wants to play the game with anything other than the game's maximum unit sizes. This end goal is why our "Optimised settings" use the max unit size of Ultra.
Those who are having CPU issues in battles will find that unit size changes can quickly alleviate the problem, with other settings having a smaller overall effect. What we have done here is lower some secondary settings while maximising unit size and unit/building detail. We have also cranked up Anisotropic filtering to the max, having a minimal effect on performance.
Our work here highlighted one key factor that Creative Assembly should address in all future Total War games. This factor is a separation between campaign map settings and battle map settings, as both areas have hugely different performance profiles and can, therefore, benefit from separate settings menus.
Every Total War player will be familiar with the campaign map, the area where most owners will be dedicating the majority of their playtime, where gamers forge grand strategies and enemies all too often throw a hammer into the workings of your kingdom.
The turn-based nature of the campaign map makes framerates somewhat irrelevant, though the time spent here will make smooth scrolling preferable. One thing to note here is that the campaign map is massively CPU limited, more often than not reducing GPU usage to a crawl at resolution s like 1080p.
These CPU limits are often due to single-threads getting maxed out, with Intel and AMD both being affected by the issue. On our Intel-based system, we can see a considerable increase in framerate in out screenshotted scene, though when scrolling around the map framerates can sometimes dip into the mid-50s. In general, the game will stay above 60 when navigating the campaign map on our Intel CPU, though on our Ryzen 1700X the game would only stay around 45-55 at the same settings.
Sadly the campaign map has a distaste for Ryzen 1st Generation processors, offering a lower framerate using both Ultra settings and out optimised settings, which is hugely disappointing given the fact that Total War: Warhammer II's engine received Ryzen optimising patches, something which this modified Attila engine game doesn't seem to possess.
Moving into the battle map, we can see that we are CPU limited in the area below on both sets of graphical settings, with performance numbers that are seemingly identical for both despite the fact that our "optimised" settings make use of a much larger number of soldiers in each unit.
The main difference trade-off here is that for an increased unit count some detail must be sacrificed, with the reduction in particle effects removing the fire in distant buildings (which is rarely seen in-game) and a decrease in shadow quality in far-off buildings beyond the wall.
Other minor details in tree quality, shadows and terrain details can also be noted, though these changes are almost impossible to spot outside of a side-by-side comparison.
This medieval cityscape is an area where our optimised settings yield some impressive results, offering an image that we would call superior to the game's native Ultra preset, with our increases in Anisotropic Filtering generating a lot of extra detail in the terrain when viewed at a tight angle.
Changes to terrain, tree and grass details remain hard to notice, especially when our maxed out anisotropic filtering settings make the game's existing terrain details look a lot sharper.
Now, this is where we can see our increased unit counts come into play. Here both our optimised settings and Thrones of Britannia's Ultra preset showcasing almost identical performance and visuals, aside from the increased detail of distant terrain thanks to higher anisotropic filtering levels and the larger unit counts offered by our use of the game's Ultra unit size.
Using larger unit sizes adds an extra level of scale to any Total War battle, making large cavalry charges and other unit interacting all the more satisfying to watch unfold. This is the kind of visual spectcle that only Total War can offer.