Benchmarked - Assassin's Creed: Unityby Jarred Walton on November 20, 2014 8:30 AM EST
Image Quality and Settings
In retrospect, I probably should have just skipped the Ultra quality setting and opted for some form of custom settings. The texture data just overwhelms most GPUs at Ultra, and even High still struggles in many cases. Even more problematic is that there are only three texturing options: Low, High, and Ultra.
I also want to point you to NVIDIA's Assassin's Creed: Unity Graphics and Performance Guide, because if you're wanting a better look at what some of the graphics options really mean in terms of quality that article has everything you need to know. One item particularly worth noting is that NVIDIA recommends 2GB cards use Low textures, 3GB cards can do High, and Ultra is for 4GB cards (or maybe 6GB/8GB cards).
Anyway, here's a quick look at what the various presets do for quality. Let me start with a table showing what specific settings are applied for each of the presets. Again, the NVIDIA page linked above has a good explanation for what each of the settings does, and more importantly it has image sliders to let you do A/B comparisons for each setting. (Disregard their AA images, though, as it looks like they used 2560x1440 and shrunk them to 1080p – oops.)
|Assassin's Creed: Unity Image Quality Presets|
The main things to note is that there's a rather noticeable difference between Low and High texture quality, but not so much from High to Ultra. Environmental quality has a generally minor effect on the appearance of the game, especially at everything above Medium (though there are a few areas that are exceptions to this statement). The difference between Low and High shadows is also quite small, but the Soft Shadows implement PCSS (Percentage Closer Soft Shadows), which do look quite nice while also causing a moderate performance hit.
Anti-aliasing has a ton of settings, but the most useful are generally the MSAA options; those are also the most demanding. FXAA is as usual nearly "free" to enable and can help remove jaggies along with some other image details, which might be the best solution. TXAA performance is pretty similar to 4xMSAA I think, which means it's mostly for high-end rigs. Bloom is pretty much always on except at the lowest setting. Finally, ambient occlusion has two options along with off: SSAO or HBAO+. NVIDIA developed HBAO+ as a better version of AO, and in general I think they're right. It's also supposed to be faster than SSAO, at least on NVIDIA GPUs, so if you have NVIDIA hardware you'll probably want to enable that.
Looking at the presets, the difference between Ultra and Very High is visible in the right areas (e.g. placese with shadows), but they're overall pretty similar. There's a more noticeable drop from Very High to High, mostly with the change in textures, and at least for our test images the Medium and High settings look almost the same.
There are a few last items to note on benchmarking, just by way of reference. First, Assassin's Creed: Unity uses "dynamic" day/night cycles. They're not really dynamic, but Ubisoft has four preset times: morning, noon, dusk, and night. The reason this is important is that benchmarking the same sequence at different times of day can result in quite different results. There's also "dynamic" weather (or at least clouds) that can throw things off. Second, if you change certain image quality settings (which I'll get to next), specifically Texture Quality, you have to restart the game for the changes to take effect. Last, the game has dynamic crowds, which means the runs aren't fully deterministic, but in repeat testing the variance is generally less than 3% and closer to 1%.
The good news is that when you load up the game is always at the morning time slot, so basically you have to exit and reload between every setting change. Yes, it's quite tedious if you're benchmarking a dozen or so GPUs….