Notebookcheck

Total War: Rome II Benchmarked

Florian Glaser (translated by Ariana Brodsky), 09/13/2013

Fun or just frustrating? Following the current trend, Creative Assembly and SEGA released their new epic strategy game before it was quite ready. Gamers are registering complaints about performance issues, texture problems and other sorts of bugs. You can find out here how well various notebook GPUs get along with Rome II.

Total War: Rome II Logo

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Graphics

We tested the "original version" of Total War: Rome II and were left with mixed feelings. The new Total War narrative is one of the most appealing strategy games we've ever seen, but on closer look there certainly are a lot of bugs.

While Rome II makes a striking impression at low zoom levels, close-ups definitely reveal flaws. Experienced gamers are bound to criticize not only the weak textures and frequent clipping errors, but even the periodically low polygon count.

It should be noted, however, that such high zoom-levels aren't all that common in the strategy genre, so it's not quite fair to expect the graphics quality typical of action or shooter games.

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The developers deserve to be praised for the comprehensive settings options. Let's begin with the basic graphics menu, which offers a variety of resolutions and a whole six presets. You can control the individual settings in the advanced options. Here we have about 20 menu items that span from "A" as in "anti-aliasing" to "W" as in "water". Depending on the level and graphics card, the game uses the Shader Model 3, 4 or 5. Although Intel's HD Graphics 3000 and HD Graphics 4000 chips have a compatible feature set, we could only use the "low" and "medium" quality settings.

It's also a shame that Creative Assembly only built-in an anti-aliasing mode and didn't think the presets through as far as they should have (the highest setting only activates 2x AF, which takes hardly any computational power). Like we've seen with the Call of Duty series, the game's graphics quality degrades very quickly as you select lower settings. At low or medium details, Rome II looks quite ugly (muddy textures, missing vegetation, reduced object count, etc.).

Even on the "High Quality" setting, epic battles don't quite reach their full potential. Only at high or ultrahigh details can we speak of first-class visuals. No current notebook graphics card can handle the top level, "Extreme". According to the developers, several patches should be released in the next few weeks. The patches are supposed to help with the game's performance, but whether the developers' intentions come to fruition remains to be seen.

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In general, we can say that the frame-rates fluctuate enormously. Even high-end GPUs' frame-rates plummet in some situations, despite the fact that the average display refresh rates suggest that the game should run fluidly enough for normal gameplay (see the screenshots below the Verdict section).

We also frequently had to fight with incorrectly loaded textures. Despite the fact that we selected the correct settings and installed the current drivers, on many systems the resolution of the character models was too low. As a result, some graphics cards ranked above models that are actually stronger (for example, the GT 640M ranked above the GT 750M).

Additionally, often textures "pop up" relatively late, which makes for a somewhat unstable image. All in all, the graphics don't seem to be fully developed. As was true of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the number of errors a gamer will encounter is (still) very high.

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Benchmark

Following Shogun II's example, Rome II also has an integrated benchmark. This benchmark is located in the advanced graphics menu and lasts about two minutes. Since the benchmark only reaches up to 66 fps (that is the maximum number of images recorded), we used the Fraps tool for our speed measurements -- here there is no limitation.

Results

Due to the fluctuating performance, it's not easy to reach a universally applicable conclusion about the game's system requirements. Even users of high-end systems have complained of jerky graphics. If you only take the benchmark into account and observe the recorded performance drops, you'll need an average of at least 40 fps to run the game fluidly. 

On the basis of this assertion, for low details and 1024x768 pixels, we recommend an entry-level chip on the level of the GeForce GT 720M or HD Graphics 4000. You'll need at least a mid-range GPU, like the GeForce GT 630M, to play the game at normal details and 1366x768 pixels. For the "High" preset, depending on the resolution, you'll require a model from the upper middle class or lower high-end sector (from the GeForce GT 640M up).

As previously mentioned our highest quality setting, comprised of the combination of 1920x1080 pixels and the "Extreme" preset, overtaxes every notebook graphics card on the market. Even mighty desktop GPUs, like the Radeon HD 7970 or the GeForce GTX 680, don't manage more than 40 fps (on average) in the benchmark. If you're willing to settle for the ultra setting, which runs about 40% more fluidly, for 1920x1080 pixels you'll need at least a GeForce GTX 680M.

A look at the Radeon HD 7660G reveals that the strategy title can also be limited by the CPU. It's hard to reach more than 40 fps with the A10-4600M. Speaking of AMD: While the Radeon HD 8970M ran suspiciously slowly at moderate settings (beneath the level of the GTX 660M), we couldn't even test the HD 7970M, because Rome II only recognized the integrated GPU. This problem must be tied to the game, the driver (we tried version 13.4 and 13.8 Beta2) or the Enduro graphics switching.

Benchmark Table: Total War: Rome II
Benchmark Table: Total War: Rome II

Verdict

Creative Assembly still has a lot of work ahead of them before anyone will speak of "flawless graphics" when they talk about Total War: Rome II. The original, that is to say, the unpatched version, leaves us asking whether the title might have been released prematurely. Without powerful hardware, the image jerks chaotically at high settings. As of right now, owners of weaker notebooks will have to make do with mediocre graphics quality.

Benchmark Graph GTX 680M (Ultra)
Benchmark Graph GTX 680M
Benchmark Graph GTX 780M (Extreme)
Benchmark Graph GTX 780M
Benchmark Graph HD 7970 (Extreme)
Benchmark Graph HD 7970

Test Systems

Our four most important test devices are courtesy of Schenker Technologies (mysn.de):

  • W503 (Core i7-4700MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 765M, GTX 770M, GTX 780M, Radeon HD 8970M & HD Graphics 4600)
  • M503 (Core i7-4702MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GT 750M)
  • XMG P502 (Core i7-3610QM, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 670MX, GTX 675MX, GTX 680M, Radeon HD 7970M & HD Graphics 4000)
  • Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GT 630M & HD Graphics 3000)

A further thank you goes to Crucial for providing the 480 GB M500 on which Windows 7 Professional 64-bit is installed.

GPU drivers used: Nvidia 326.80 Beta, AMD 13.8 Beta2, Intel 9.17.10.3223 and 9.18.10.3165.

From left to right: Schenker Xesia M501, M503, XMG P502 & W503
From left to right: Schenker Xesia M501, M503, XMG P502 & W503

Overview

Discussion
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Pos      Model                                     Total War: Rome II
 Total War: Rome II (2013)
low
1024x768
Low Preset
med.
1366x768
Medium Preset
high
1366x768
High Preset
ultra
1920x1080
Extreme Preset
 3NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 SLI (Laptop)
105.3
 8NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
84.72
 11NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M SLI
261.4
94.2
 23NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop)
169.22
63.44
 30NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M SLI
170.7
131.4
31.6
 31AMD Radeon R9 290X
217
172
139
56.32
 38NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
191.43
593
 39NVIDIA Quadro M5000M
373
299
235
57
 45NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
259.8
205.52
164.36
46.256
 48NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
249
168
125.6
38.4
 49AMD Radeon HD 7970
201.1
155.2
111.3
36
 56NVIDIA Quadro M3000M
349
271
217
40
 59AMD FirePro W7170M
185
162
153
36
 63NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M
245
175.5
149.22
36.72
 66NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
266
194.8
141.4
33.8
 68NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
257.2
184.4
138.8
33.9
 74NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
274.6
197.42
161.352
34.352
 75NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M
217.5
161.2
129.5
31.6
 77AMD Radeon HD 8970M
25.4
Pos      Model                                     Total War: Rome II
lowmed.highultra
 83NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
219.6
160.3
121
27
 85AMD FirePro M6100
182
152
118
23
 92NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
216.95
163.15
133.258
25.558
 94NVIDIA Quadro M2000M
221.252
174.63
138.84
25.54
 96NVIDIA Quadro K4100M
191
146
121
22
 98NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
190.32
154.852
118.12
20.22
 99NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
113.52
21.22
 105NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
186.8
138.2
106.7
18.5
 111NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
84.1
87.352
72.552
182
 112NVIDIA Quadro M1000M
166
126
107
20
 118NVIDIA GeForce 945M
133
101
73
17
 119NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
163.22
121.252
91.44
15.954
 133AMD Radeon HD 7770
121.6
100.6
72
25.3
 142*AMD FirePro W5170M
113.6
99.6
16.4
 144NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
156.8
116.4
91.3
16.6
 146NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
162.6
117.9
93.9
14.4
 150AMD FirePro W5130M
106
78.052
65.152
16.752
 154AMD Radeon HD 8870M
96.5
78.2
 159AMD FirePro M5100
118
90
76
12
 160NVIDIA Quadro K2100M
88.352
66.652
52.62
9.32
Pos      Model                                     Total War: Rome II
lowmed.highultra
 167NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
118.8
86.3
67.7
16.1
 169AMD Radeon HD 8850M
62.6
51
16.8
 171AMD Radeon R9 M265X
79.1
65.4
10.4
 174AMD FirePro W4170M
86
67
55.2
9
 180NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
93.12
69.452
53.32
9.852
 182NVIDIA GeForce 940MX
82.72
64.452
55.452
14.1
 183NVIDIA Quadro K1100M
83.8
62.5
49.1
9.42
 184NVIDIA GeForce 940M
572
47.652
40.62
11
 185NVIDIA GeForce 930MX
60.1
51.3
11.5
 190AMD Radeon R7 M370
81.952
632
53.82
8.452
 193NVIDIA Quadro K620M
61
48
40
10.5
 194NVIDIA GeForce 840M
59.33
46.33
39.73
10.23
 195AMD Radeon R7 M275DX
74.2
57.3
47.4
16.7
 196NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
66.3
53.4
7.9
 200AMD Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
70
54.5
48.1
13
 201Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
87
64
44
13.1
 203NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
67
49
39
7
 207NVIDIA GeForce 830M
55
42.3
35
8.1
 211*NVIDIA Quadro M500M
62.6
48.1
42.3
10.5
 215NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
60.1
41.5
33.6
10.1
Pos      Model                                     Total War: Rome II
lowmed.highultra
 217NVIDIA GeForce 825M
61.9
 228AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8750M Dual Graphics
34.7
27.7
23.8
 229NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
55.12
42.82
34.42
10.22
 232AMD FirePro M4100
45
6
 233AMD Radeon HD 8750M
62.33
503
31.72
7.452
 235AMD Radeon R7 M270
63.4
47.2
38.3
7.3
 236AMD Radeon R7 M265
64.7
51.1
42.4
7.5
 240NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
71
48
40.2
11.5
 241AMD Radeon R7 (Kaveri)
36.5
29.1
25.7
 258AMD Radeon R7 M340
62.652
47.82
41.62
7.452
 259NVIDIA GeForce 920M
47.6
36.9
31.2
 266AMD Radeon R7 M260
55.92
43.22
36.252
7.22
 269*Intel HD Graphics 620
44.8
32.4
26.6
4.4
 278AMD Radeon HD 8670D
65
48.7
39
7.3
 282AMD Radeon R6 (Kaveri)
35.5
26.8
22.7
6.3
 302AMD Radeon HD 8570D
55
43
32.8
6.4
 303AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
44.2
31.7
25.7
 304AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8570M Dual Graphics
25.8
18
14.4
3.1
 306AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
45.7
33.7
27.9
 307AMD Radeon HD 8670M
40.6
30.5
26.2
Pos      Model                                     Total War: Rome II
lowmed.highultra
 308AMD Radeon R6 M255DX
50.3
39.5
30.6
6.4
 309AMD Radeon HD 7660D
61
47
37
6.7
 327AMD Radeon HD 8650G
41.252
33.82
23.12
8.7
 332NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
52.652
38.852
30.252
6.352
 337AMD Radeon R5 M330
41
31
26.6
5
 338AMD Radeon R5 M255
59.52
47.32
39.152
6.552
 341NVIDIA GeForce 820M
50.7
38.6
30.5
 342Intel HD Graphics 520
43.5516
32.0516
27.215
4.712
 344NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
47.7
32.4
24.7
 346AMD Radeon R5 M240
40.5
31.9
28.2
 348AMD Radeon R5 M230
42.9
32.2
27.1
 355Intel HD Graphics 6000
48
36
28
 358Intel Iris Graphics 5100
47.752
35.552
25.952
8.752
 363Intel HD Graphics 4600
35.654
25.354
18.83
7.052
 365Intel HD Graphics 5500
35.95
26.356
20.96
74
 369AMD Radeon R5 (Kaveri)
27
20.3
17.1
 373AMD Radeon HD 7660G
40
31
22.5
11.3
 376Intel HD Graphics 5000
39.8
29.4
21.6
6.6
 392AMD Radeon HD 8550G
47.7
34.8
27.5
7
 399AMD Radeon HD 7610M
43
35
27
7
Pos      Model                                     Total War: Rome II
lowmed.highultra
 401AMD Radeon HD 8470D
36.6
29
20.8
4.1
 409Intel HD Graphics 4400
31.815
2615
17.515
5.86
 439Intel HD Graphics 5300
24.9
17.4
13
3.6
 448AMD Radeon HD 7480D
27.9
22
16.7
2.8
 449Intel HD Graphics 4000
27.754
20.54
 457AMD Radeon R5 (Beema/Carrizo-L)
22.3
18.2
15.5
 458AMD Radeon R4 (Beema)
24.72
19.12
15.652
 460Intel HD Graphics 4200
27.7
18.4
13.3
4.7
 469AMD Radeon HD 8450G
29.4
21.6
17.6
 473AMD Radeon HD 8400
23.7
17.8
 485AMD Radeon HD 8350G
32.5
24.8
19.7
 486AMD Radeon HD 8330
19.8
15.2
 489AMD Radeon R3 (Mullins/Beema)
26.5
19.2
15.3
 512AMD Radeon HD 7420G