Morrowind strongly stands as one of the best role-playing games ever made, leveraging its uniquely crafted environment to draw players ever inward toward the spirit of a truly fantastical landscape. The game's undertone is severe, its thunderous symphony of beautifully orchestrated music guiding players through blight-stricken Vvardenfell. And yet, Morrowind is also one of the loosest, kooky games we've ever played – something with which Creative Lead Ken Rolston agreed in our 2014 interview.
It was 2002 that Morrowind first hit store shelves – quite literally, as digital downloads didn't much exist – and shortly thereafter that expansions Tribunal and Bloodmoon accompanied the RPG. Countless attempts have been made to reimagine Morrowind on various engines of newer descent. Lately, we've been paying attention to the Skyrim engine's Skywind, Morrowind engine's Morrowind Rebirth, and ground-up engine and remake OpenMW.
The above video walks-through the three major Morrowind remakes, explaining each of their goals and levels of completion. The full script for this video can be found below, should a quick read-through be more appealing than video format.
Helldivers. I'll sum the story in a sentence: You are a “Helldiver” whose only mission is “spreading democracy” from Super Earth to the Cyborgs, Bugs, and Illuminates by landing on various planets. Each intergalactic democratic mission consists of two or three objectives – such as activating SAM Sites or carrying briefcases across the map – and then getting the hell out of there, all while battling aforesaid enemies of democracy. Truth be told, if you’re playing Helldivers, you’re not in it for the story; you’re in it for the pure arcade carnage it so gleefully relishes in providing.
Cloud Imperium Games' Star Citizen achieved a major milestone with the distribution of its Alpha 2.0 package, allowing multiplayer exploration in addition to existing dog-fighting and free flight. This release gives players the first glimpse of the game's open world intentions, presenting environments forged in Sci-Fi influence.
There's not much in the way of gameplay just yet, but Alpha 2.0 has been made available to all backers for initial bug- and stress-testing. We decided to conduct a test of our own, specifically looking at GPU performance and preset scaling across multiple “game modes.” Right now, because the pre-release game is comprised of several disjointed modules, there's no one “Play Star Citizen” button – it's split into parts. Racing, free flight, and dog-fighting are in one module (Arena Commander), the Hangar stands alone, and online testing with ArcCorp and Crusader were just released.
For our Star Citizen video card benchmark, we look at GPU vs. GPU performance in the race, delta performance scaling on ArcCorp and in the hangar or free flight, and talk methodology. The game isn't done and has yet to undergo performance optimizations and official driver support, so we won't be recommending the usual “best graphics cards for [game]” this time, as we usually do in our game benchmarks.
Rico's back in town. This time, the vigilante who saves the people by blowing up The People's Water Tower comes in high-fidelity graphics with a focus on lighting FX and water tech. Just Cause 3 revisits a partnership with nVidia's GameWorks development kit, making use of the WaveWorks tech that was previously found in Just Cause 2 (a 2010 release). The game's graphics settings are fairly simple for anyone following our game benchmarks, but we'll recap potential points of confusion further down.
Our Just Cause 3 GPU benchmark puts nVidia & AMD graphics cards to the test at 1080, 1440, and 4K resolutions, using “Very High” and “High” settings for FPS testing. Among others, the video card benchmark includes the 980 Ti (+ SLI), 980, 970, 960, et al., and AMD's 390X, 380X (+ CrossFire), 290X, 270X, et al.
We've noticed some curiosities with Just Cause 3's implementation of water detail scaling and will cover that further down.
Forthcoming team shooter Overwatch is Blizzard's first new IP in years, fusing familiar FPS and team-based elements with MOBA-like playable characters. That, at its core, is what we'd call a “team shooter,” a genre that's been popularized most recently by Team Fortress 2.
The game is still going through closed beta testing, with select Battle.net accounts receiving invites to play-test the game over a few weekends. This weekend's test was, according to Overwatch PR Manager Steven Khoo, an attempt at learning “how Overwatch runs on your system” and a reach-out for “technical feedback.” We figured we'd throw ten video cards at the game and see how it does.
Overwatch isn't particularly GPU intensive, but it does make use of some advanced shadow and reflection techniques that can impact FPS. We performed some initial settings analysis – shown further down – to determine top-level performance impact on a per-setting basis. This is the basis of our eventual graphics optimization guide (see: Black Ops equivalent), something we'll finalize at the game's launch. For now, the goal was to provide a foundation upon which to base our GPU test methodology with Overwatch. This graphics card benchmark looks at the best GPUs for Overwatch (beta), testing 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions across “Epic” and “Ultra” settings.
Battlefront is one of the best-optimized games right now, strictly looking at the graphics-versus-framerate output across multiple GPUs. The game fronts brilliant shading, lighting, and post-FX, leveraging what appears to be some form of PBR (though we're not positive) to create a more realistic aesthetic without hammering draw calls and polys.
That was all tested on an X99 platform, though, so we figured it'd be worth a look at Battlefront's fluidity across our (still limited) CPU suite. We benchmarked Battlefront with the Intel lineup (G3258 to i7) and some of AMD's FX CPUs, including one APU + dGPU combination. Anything not present here means one of two things: We either don't have it or it is presently being used for another benchmark, which accounts for quite a few CPUs, given game launch season.
We've been conducting CPU benchmarks on Star Wars Battlefront over the past few days and, thanks to DRM install limitations, it's taken a lot longer than normally. The testing has finally progressed to low-end CPUs, including the A10-7870K ($128) and popular Intel Pentium G3258 ($50) dual-core processor. The 7870K posed no issues with Battlefront – performance is nothing phenomenal, but it works – but the G3258 didn't work at all.
This limitation was a result of Battlefront's forced CPU requirements. The game demands a quad-core CPU, and the Pentium G3258 will produce a black screen issue when launching Battlefront. Interestingly, the beta seemed to work on the G3258 just fine – again, not the best FPS, but it worked – and that has ceased with the full launch. We're seeing a black screen with max FPS (200, capped) that allows console input, but doesn't actually output video. This threw a flag that the game should work with the G3258, even if poorly, and we decided to do some research.
Assassin's Creed: Unity was the last AC title we benched, and it led us to an exciting discovery: Some games, like AC Unity did, will present a sizable performance disparity between 2GB and 4GB models of the same video card. The Assassin's Creed series has long been heralded as a standard bearer for lighting, shading, and FX technologies, emboldening its geometrically complex environments with supporting filtration and processing. Lighting and shadows propel games like Assassin's Creed to a point in visual fidelity where, without bloating poly-count beyond reason, the models and meshes look smooth and sculpted beyond the geometry's own means, were it unassisted by lighting.
Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Syndicate was made available to us last night, at which point it was immediately used for benchmarking AMD's brand new R9 380X GPU. This graphics card benchmark of Assassin's Creed Syndicate tests the game at Ultra and Medium settings across 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions. All the latest cards are present in our Syndicate GPU benchmark – the GTX 980 Ti, 980, 970, 960 4GB vs. 2GB, 950, and 750 Ti from nVidia; the R9 390X ($240), R9 380X, R9 290X, R9 285, and R9 270X from AMD.
Of most note, AC Syndicate carries Unity's legacy of truly accentuating the 2GB vs. 4GB VRAM gap in the GTX 960 cards, something that should, theoretically, propagate to other multi-size models (like the R9 380, if we had them).
October 9 saw the conclusion of a beta week full of GPU benchmarking, posting initial performance numbers that were agreeable with nearly all modern, $120+ GPUs. Our testing put everything from the 750 Ti to the 390X – and above – to the test, and we ultimately concluded that the ideal GPU selection included the R9 380 & GTX 960 for 1080p and GTX 970 & R9 390X for 1440p. But that was the beta, something we indicated amply in the first benchmark, and those numbers had potential to shift as the game approached launch.
Star Wars Battlefront is now officially out for PC. Our refreshed Star Wars Battlefront GPU benchmark tests FPS output at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K, using Ultra, High, and Medium settings. The tests, as always, bench the GTX 980 Ti vs. the 980, 970, 960, and downward, alongside AMD's R9 390X vs. the R9 290X, 285, 270X, and 250X.
Below is a look at the game's graphics settings maxed-out at 4K, followed by a quick recap of the Battlefront graphics settings and what they do.
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