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

    Keep in mind that the computer turns are not really doing anything with graphics, so basically Mantle would have little to no impact on speeding up the AI. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    The built in "lategameview" benchmark does not test turn times. It's entirely a rendering benchmark. Reply
  • ToTTenTranz - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Has AMD ever presented Mantle as a big boost for systems with an overclocked $350 CPU?

    I thought Mantle was supposed to be a performance enabler for low-power and/or cheaper CPUs...
    For your viewers' sake, please repeat the Mantle benchmarks using low-end and midrange CPUs.
    Reply
  • ajlueke - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    I think the this part of the review captures the intended message.
    "There are definitely quieter Radeon R9 GPUs, but even then I don't think they're going to be hard pressed to match the GTX 970 or 980". So you believe they are going to match the GTX 970 and 980 with ease?
    I believe dropping the "don't" will get across the point you wanted to make. But of course, unless you are testing a MSI R9 290X lightning or Sapphire Vapor-X, perhaps you can leave out speculation in a data driven review entirely.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Yeah, the "don't" was a mistake. Basically, a GPU drawing 250W is going to be hard pressed to match the noise profile of a GPU drawing 160W. That's all I'm saying. Reply
  • BreezeDM - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    is there a Civ: BE computational benchmark like there was for Civ V? Reply
  • TelstarTOS - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Nice article, thanks :)
    Happy to read that my 970 is more than capable at 1440p.
    Reply
  • siriq - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Well it is not just your 970, my GTX 570 do avg 25 fps in 2560x1440 ultra 4xmsaa. Still ok for strategy. However in 1920x1080 same settings the game fly! Got 45-50 fps. Even in 2048x1080 same settings almost the same result. Like the new nvidia driver. Nice smooth in the game. Reply
  • zeock9 - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Considering most people won't be buying reference model of either brands, and especially so since GTX970 doesn't even have one, we'd very much like to see benchmark done with AIB partner boards with custom coolers that are overcloked right out of the box, because that is, ironically, a much more realistic portrayal of what consumers will be basing their decisions upon. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    I have three reference designs (GTX 980, GTX 770, and R9 280X); everything else is a card purchased at retail. I'm a little leery of overclocking too much, but I know the R9 280 cards in particular can easily hit 950/5600 clocks. I suppose I should also note that all of the cards had their power limits increased, where applicable. (The 280/280X/290X were set to +20%, the GTX 780/970 are +6%, and the GTX 980 is +25%. I didn't actually overclock the cores or RAM, however.)

    Anyway, I generally disagree with testing heavily overclocked cards, as it can give false impressions, and even mild overclocks aren't always guaranteed. The results I'm showing should be achievable with every GPU tested. If you have a card that's overclocked, it should perform better than what we're showing, but as not all cards overclock to the same level that can be a slippery slope. :-)
    Reply

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