Closing Thoughts

We're still early in the release cycle for Civilization: Beyond Earth – in fact, our testing was done with pre-launch code, and there's already talk of a day zero patch to fix a few glitches (e.g. with multi-GPU configurations that have more than two GPUs) – so by no means is this the final word in performance. It's not too surprising to see NVIDIA's GTX 980 taking the single GPU performance crown for Beyond Earth, but additional driver tuning may change things a bit. AMD also had a slide showing the R9 290X 8GB edition leading the GTX 980 in performance (with Mantle at least). Hmmm....

The good news is that if you have any reasonably modern GPU – from the GTX 770 and R9 280 (nee HD 7950) – you should be able to run at 1080p and High or even Ultra quality settings. Lesser GPUs can still handle the game as well, and if you're curious it's possible to get frame rates well over 100 FPS even at 1080p if you drop to lower quality settings.

As for Mantle, it's an interesting option if you have an AMD card. While we're not seeing any huge benefits on our test system, it does typically run 5-10% faster than the DX11 path; this is good but in most cases it's not enough to really make a palpable difference to the end user. The word is that lower spec CPUs like the Intel Core i3 and Pentium Anniversary Edition along with AMD APUs can benefit even more. I'm not sure how many people are actually pairing up slower CPUs with high-end GPUs these days, as $200 CPUs are pretty common for gaming systems, but additional options are never a bad thing.

Mantle does have a much more tangible impact on minimum frame rates, and this is always beneficial, particularly once a game is averaging more than 60FPS. In some cases Mantle was able to improve the minimum frame rates (e.g. on R9 290X) by 40-50%, though that was only at less strenuous settings. Still, even the 5-15% increases in minimum frame rates at higher resolutions are welcome. In some cases, Mantle is the difference between AMD's "equivalent" GPUs trailing versus leading NVIDIA's offerings.

Then there's the subject of Mantle and CrossFire performance, which I've now finished retesting. Mantle generally means more work for the developers when it comes to multi-GPU configurations, but with the appropriate effort the results can be quite interesting. Firaxis has chosen to implement a custom SFR mode for CrossFire on Mantle, though at present the only way to enable SFR is to manually edit your configuration files. (Why!?) The result of CrossFire and SFR in our benchmarks is substantially higher minimum frame rates than the D3D11 AFR rendering mode, and average frame rates are also improved relative to a single GPU.

As far as the game itself is concerned Civilization: Beyond Earth looks like it will prove every bit as addictive as the earlier releases. Now that I've done a ton of benchmarking with Civilization: Beyond Earth, I need to find some time to actually play the game. My birthday is coming up next week, so maybe I can get some free time as a present…. Then again, birthdays only last 24 hours and if past experience is any indication, I might need more like a month to get Civilization Fever out of my system. ;-)

Civilization: Beyond Earth Testing Notes


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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Okay, I added a third page where we investigate minimum FPS. Mantle actually helps here quite a bit, so I need to tweak the conclusion a bit. (CrossFire on the other hand is still not working right with Mantle, at least in my testing.) Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Unfortunately, Mantle doesn't really shine on mid/high-end hardware, it's the low-end stuff that it really helps.

    Would be nice to see to see how a Pentium Anniversary, Core i3, AMD FX Octo, Core i7 5930K and 5960 handle it.
  • Alexvrb - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Agreed! Especially FM2+ chips. You'll naturally be testing lower settings and resolutions in such a scenario, however. Reply
  • doronnac - Friday, October 24, 2014 - link

    Thanks for the data Jarred.

    I'm using an average cpu with an above average gpu.
    Some games choke my cpu but only at new levels / checkpoints so it doesn't bother me, but others stress my cpu enough to cause occasional slowdowns.

    Either way, your interpretation of min.fps is the most accurate and least misleading that I've seen. Love it!
  • Iketh - Saturday, October 25, 2014 - link

    even more reason for min frame rate Reply
  • Gich - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Try Mantle "with an AMD APU or a Core i3 processor" and NOT a "hundreds of dollars GPU"?
    Like an i3 + R7 260.
  • dragosmp - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    I'm also a big fan of Civ5 and I'll get this game as soon as possible, but I wonder.

    Maybe the "upgrader" would be a more realistic use-case, like: I have 300$, what do I get? Do I upgrade the ye-old Phenom II to an i5 and stay with the same 7950 (Mantle can't help much) or I get a 290 with the old CPU and count on Mantle to relieve the CPU load?
  • Drasca - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Personally since the TBS is CPU-bound when hitting 'end turn', as the GPU won't help make turns faster, I would go with the CPU upgrade and keep the 7950. Unless you're trying to go 2k-4k resolution, you won't get much GPU benefit. CPU overhead for GPU usage is not very much. Reply
  • looncraz - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Upgrade the CPU. I am running a 7870XT (a.k.a. 7930) with an i7 2600k @ 4.5GHz and nothing slows me down.

    Investing in a good SSD, however, may make even more sense.
  • looncraz - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    I should also note, that the 7950 is helped by Mantle, as is my 7870XT. Any GCN graphics card works. Reply

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