Total War: ATTILA – PC Performance Analysis

Total War: ATTILA has just been released and Green Man Gaming was kind enough to provide us with a review code for it. Total War: ATTILA is built on the next iteration of the Warscape Engine, and it’s time now to see how this strategy game runs on the PC platform.

As always, we used an Intel i7 4930K with 8GB RAM, NVIDIA’s GTX690, Windows 8.1 64-bit and the latest WHQL version of the GeForce drivers. While NVIDIA has already included an SLI profile for this title, SLI scaling is really all over the place. For unknown reasons, our GPU usage was only used at 50% during the campaign (and sometimes during the entire benchmark). While running the game in Single GPU mode, we witnessed our one GPU core being stressed. This would hint towards a possible CPU limitation, however that was not the case. When we dropped our resolution to 1024x768, we noticed a similar behaviour. While our actual framerate was improved, the performance difference between Single GPU and SLI was next to nothing (and once again, our GTX690 was being used at only 50%). This could very well mean a possible engine limitation with multi-GPU systems, or a driver issue that NVIDIA needs to resolve.

Single GPUSLI
Single GPU 1024x768SLI 1024x768

While normally strategy games are CPU-bound, we were kind of impressed with what The Creative Assembly has managed to achieve with this latest iteration of its Warscape Engine. Before continuing, do note that all of our tests were made via the game’s benchmark tool, showcasing a really demanding scenario. Obviously, the in-game performance is superior to that in various occasions. In addition, we dropped our resolution to 1024x768 – as a means to avoid any possible GPU limitation – and ran the benchmark in Single GPU mode (in order to avoid the aforementioned SLI scaling issues)

Total War: ATTILA was able to run with 36.4fps with “Max Quality” settings at 1024x768 on our GPU (that was behaving like a GTX680) on a simulated dual-core system. By dropping the quality settings to “Quality” we managed to increase our average framerate to 42.4fps on that simulated dual-core system. This proves that a dual-core Intel system is more than enough in order to play this latest Total War game.

Total War Attila Chart

Warscape Engine scaled incredibly well on multiple CPU cores. Total War: ATTILA’s benchmark ran with 53.2fps on a simulated tri-core system, with 57.8fps on a simulated quad-core system, and with 62.4fps on our hexa-core system (“Quality” settings at 1024x768). For what is worth, we did not notice any performance boost when we enabled Hyper Threading. When we increased our resolution to 1080p, our GPU (in Single-GPU) mode pushed 45.5fps (which is more than acceptable for a strategy game like Total War). And when we increased our graphics settings to “Maximum Quality”, our average framerate dropped at 26.4fps.

Total War ATTILA CPU GraphTotal War ATTILA CPU Graph2

From the above, it’s pretty obvious that Total War: ATTILA is basically a GPU-bound title. While an Intel dual-core system will let PC owners enjoy this new Total War game with a ‘console-like’ framerate, a mid-range GPU won’t be able to pull acceptable framerates. This is one of those rare cases where a high-end GPU can actually benefit a relatively old PC system.

Graphics wise, we have to admit that we were not really impressed with what was displayed on screen. Don’t get us wrong, Total War: ATTILA is a good looking game. It supports ambient occlusion, screen space reflections, and packs massive armies (with units that sport a nice amount of details). It also features destructible buildings. Still, it lacks the ‘wow’ factor. It won’t leave you speechless with its visuals, and to be honest we kind of hoped for something a bit more than a slightly upgraded version of Rome 2 (regarding its overall presentation and aesthetics, and not the actual tech features this next iteration of the Warscape Engine supports).

graphics options

All in all, Total War: ATTILA is a title that requires a high-end GPU to shine. As The Creative Assembly noted, the game also packs an ‘Extreme Quality’ option but let us tell you that this option won’t make the game look ‘next-gen-ish.’ The only differences between ‘Max Quality’ and ‘Extreme Quality’ is the inclusion of 4xMSAA and an increase in the Unit Size number (from Large to Ultra). And that’s that. No ‘next-gen’ shaders, no additional detail on the Units themselves, no ‘next-gen’ lighting, no massive terrain deformation.

In conclusion, Total War: ATTILA is a strategy game that will not stress your Intel CPU. A dual-core Intel CPU is able to handle this title, though we don’t know whether AMD’s weaker CPUs are able to keep up with them. According to various reports, AMD users (both GPU and CPU owners) experience underwhelming performance with this title. Total War: ATTILA scales well on multiple CPU cores, but has major issues with SLI systems. And while those with really strong GPUs (and Intel’s CPUs) will be able to enjoy this latest Total War game, everyone else will encounter performance issues.

Here is hoping that The Creative Assembly will be able to address the game’s underwhelming performance on AMD’s CPUs, and tha NVIDIA will be able to provide a new SLI profile with ideal SLI scaling.

bugged SLI (notice the bad SLI scaling)bugged SLI 2(notice the bad SLI scaling)

GMG Charts 2

Those interested can purchase the game from the “Button” icon below this paragraph. Moreover, you can use this Voucher code for an additional 20% discount (20DARK-SIDEOF-GAMING). Notes regarding our Voucher code: valid until May 29th 00:00 UTC, single-use only on selected PC download titles.

GMG button

Enjoy!

Those downsampling from 4K may very well call it ‘Super Ultra Uber Extreme Quality’ just for the fun of it.

Total War: ATTILA – Official Launch Trailer

John Papadopoulos

John is the founder and Editor in Chief at DSOGaming. He is a PC gaming fan and highly supports the modding and indie communities. Before creating DSOGaming, John worked on numerous gaming websites. While he is a die-hard PC gamer, his gaming roots can be found on consoles. John loved - and still does - the 16-bit consoles, and considers SNES to be one of the best consoles. Still, the PC platform won him over consoles. That was mainly due to 3DFX and its iconic dedicated 3D accelerator graphics card, Voodoo 2. John has also written a higher degree thesis on the "The Evolution of PC graphics cards." Contact: Email