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

    It's a $330 CPU running up to what was once $1100 worth of GPU (2 x R9 290X). It's more CPU than a lot of people have, but OC i7-4770K isn't much faster than an overclocked i5-4670K that only costs $220. Most gamers have something roughly at the level of the i5-4670K is my feeling; if they don't, then they probably don't have an R9 or GTX graphics card either. :-)

    (And yes, there are always exceptions, but we're talking big picture here.)
    Reply
  • Kalelovil - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    That assumes that people are building their PCs today.
    There a plenty of people still with i7-2500k/FX-8320 era CPUs and mid-high end GPUs who are interested in effects of Mantle on game performance.
    Reply
  • Artuk - Friday, October 24, 2014 - link

    That would be me. I am running on an FX-4100 OC to 4Ghz. My R9 280X is my "tock". I will tick again when windows 10 comes out and get a new CPU etc.

    I think a lot of us with 1 GB video cards found ourselves upgrading with the latest set of games hungry for more texture memory even if everything else was "acceptable".

    My hope is that mantle will mitigate the sub-par processor a bit.
    Reply
  • Artuk - Saturday, October 25, 2014 - link

    My informal benchmark with the FX-4100 and the R9 280X was that mantle provided a significant benefit on the part of the bench at the end where it pans out. The scrolling was smoother and I was seeing 30 fps with mantle. With DX11 the scrolling struggled and I was in the teens a few times. Generally Mantle was showing a 25% increase in the extreme cases.

    In the earlier part of the bench where it is a little more zoomed in I saw the same moderate 5fps or so difference that others are seeing.

    YMMV
    Reply
  • limitedaccess - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Is it possible to test the performance and playability with IGPs, particularly at 1080p (but lower settings)?

    If Beyond Earth retains the touch controls from Civ 5, then it would be a rather suitable game for hybrids/convertibles (eg. Surface Pro).
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    I can add a bit of testing today on IGP and see how that goes... stay tuned. Reply
  • garbagedisposal - Friday, October 24, 2014 - link

    Also interested in this, thanks for testing. Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Mantle needs to be tested with a slower GPU to really shine. Testing it with one of the fastest CPU's out is not really the best test for Mantle.

    Running the same test with a slower CPU (say 2-3 years old) should show a bigger jump.
    Reply
  • limitedaccess - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Did you (and is it possible) to test whether or not Mantle has an impact on turn times (for AI calculations) if it does reduce CPU overhead for rendering? Reply
  • SviGG - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Exactly what I'd like to see! Civ has always been a cpu bound game, especially toward the endgame. Try playing a large map with 8-12 civs in the modern age. You can go make a coffee between each turn, makes it nearly unplayable. With mantle's biggest benefit being cpu limited scenarios, which so far has meant pairing a highend gpu with a low end cpu, I'd like to see what kind of impact it has on turn times. I've been waiting to see those kinds of test since they announced Beyond earth would be supporting mantle. I'd be interesting to see what it can do with some high end cpu's when the game can actually push them. Reply

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