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Performance guide: what you need for 60fps in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

(Source: pcgamer.com)

Assassin's Creed Odyssey at ultra quality gives the boot to even high-end PCs.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at ultra quality gives the boot to even high-end PCs.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is one of the best games in the series, with many improvements to the formula that keep it interesting. It also happens to be one of the most demanding games around when it comes to PC requirements—par for the course for a new Assassin’s Creed game. You can certainly play it on a modest system—at 30fps (give or take)—but if you’re the type of player that likes to dial up the settings to maximum quality, prepare for some hurt. Even on the burliest hardware around, like Nvidia’s new RTX 2080 Ti, you’re not going to hit 60fps at 4k, and at 1440p you’ll still need an RTX 2080 or RTX 2080 Ti. Yeah.

So dial down any performance expectations a notch. A smooth and steady 60fps at maximum quality shouldn’t be your target, but instead aim for 60fps using the high preset, or even medium quality. It won’t look quite as nice, but it’s better than severe stuttering and generally mediocre performance. Even then, you’re still going to get inconsistent framerates pretty much regardless of what you do.

If you run the game’s built-in benchmark, on every set of hardware I’ve tested, every other frame tends to spike up or down on frametime. That’s bad and creates microstutter, and fixing it usually involves spending more time on game optimizations and driver tuning. I suspect we’ll see both patches and new drivers within the next week or two that improve the situation, so consider these preliminary numbers a snapshot of launch performance for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. I’ll revisit with additional testing if it’s warranted.  

To give you a clear picture of what I’m talking about, here’s the 60 second benchmark plotting framerate over time, using the 1080p ultra preset running on the fastest CPU and GPU currently available:

In an ideal world, that line would be flat—perfectly consistent performance—but even going with relatively consistent frametimes we should get something like this. It’s the same data as the above image, only I’m averaging the framerate over 20 frames instead of looking at each individual frame:

A word on our sponsor

As our partner for these detailed performance analyses, MSI provided the hardware we needed to test Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on a collection of different AMD and Nvidia GPUs, along with AMD and Intel platforms—see below for the full details. Thanks, MSI!

With the above in mind, here’s how Assassin’s Creed Odyssey runs on a limited collection of AMD and Nvidia GPUs, as well as AMD and Intel processors. Again, I expect things to improve with future game patches and driver updates.

My test settings include all five presets at 1080p—from the minimum low preset to the maximum ultra preset. I haven’t had time to do a full analysis of the individual settings and how they impact performance, but except in cases where you run out of VRAM (eg, on the GTX 1050), going from maximum to minimum quality won’t even get you a doubling of framerates. I’ve also tested at 1440p and 4k using the ultra preset, just to see if anything can possibly deliver acceptable performance at those settings.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey system requirements

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As a quick refresher, here’s what Ubisoft lists as the minimum and recommended system requirements for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

MINIMUM

  • OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 (64-bit only)
  • Processor: AMD FX-6300 (3.8GHz), Ryzen 3 1200 (3.1GHz), or Intel Core i5-2400 (3.10GHz)
  • Graphics card: AMD Radeon R9 285 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 (2GB VRAM)
  • Memory: 8GB RAM
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Resolution: 1280×720
  • Video Preset: Low
  • Target Framerate: 30fps
  • Storage: 46GB available space

RECOMMENDED

  • OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 (64-bit only)
  • Processor: AMD FX-8350 (4.0GHz), Ryzen 3 1400 (3.2GHz), or Intel Core i7-3770 (3.40GHz)
  • Graphics card: AMD Radeon R9 290 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 (4GB VRAM)
  • Memory: 8GB RAM
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Resolution: 1920×1080
  • Video Preset: High
  • Target Framerate: 30fps
  • Storage: 46GB available space

RECOMMENDED 4K

  • OS: Windows 10 (64-bit only)
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 1700 (3.0GHz), or Intel Core i7-7700 (3.60GHz)
  • Graphics card: AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 (8GB VRAM)
  • Memory: 16GB RAM
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Resolution: 3840×2160
  • Video Preset: High
  • Target Framerate: 30fps
  • Storage: 46GB available space

One thing that should immediately raise a few eyebrows is the target 30fps in all three cases. I can see 30fps on a min-spec PC as a reasonable goal, but recommended settings are usually for 60fps. This is the first not-so-subtle hint that Odyssey is going to be a bit of a beast when it comes to hardware requirements. The good news is that a recommended spec PC will typically easily beat the target fps, but again it’s a very low bar to clear.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey requires a restart for most settings changes, and the benchmark includes variable weather conditions. In testing, I’ve seen swings of up to 20 percent between benchmark runs at the same setting, mostly based on the weather. Heavy rain and think clouds will tank performance, while sunshine and clear skies make things look much better. I’ve run each setting multiple times under ‘sunny’ conditions and taken the best result to minimize variance between the hardware configurations.

MSI provided all the hardware for this testing, including the latest GeForce RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti Duke cards. All the GPUs come with modest factory overclocks, which in most cases improve performance by around 5 percent over the reference models. My primary testbed uses MSI’s Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC with an overclocked Core i7-8700K processor running at 5GHz, and 16GB of DDR4-3200 CL14 memory from G.Skill. Ryzen processors use the MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC, also with DDR4-3200 CL14 RAM. The game is run from a Samsung 860 Evo 4TB SATA SSD on desktops, and from the NVMe OS drive on the laptops.

I’m using the latest Nvidia 416.16 and AMD 18.9.3 drivers for these tests. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey carries AMD branding showing the Ryzen and Radeon logos, and AMD’s drivers are game ready for Odyssey. Nvidia’s earlier 411.70 drivers are also listed as game ready, so the latest version should continue that status. Both of my testbeds have also been updated to the Windows 10 October 2018 update (which thankfully didn’t delete any files or documents in my case).

I’m also using an Acer Predator X27 display for testing, which includes support for 4k at 144Hz, G-Sync, and HDR output. I’ve disabled G-Sync for the testing and ran with a fixed 98Hz refresh rate using 10-bit HDR 4:4:4 RGB where available, which includes all the 10-series and later Nvidia GPUs and RX series AMD GPUs. Screenshots and videos are captured using the non-HDR mode, as HDR content doesn’t look correct on non-HDR displays.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey graphics card benchmarks

Let’s start off with a reality check: nothing can currently run a steady 60fps or more at 4k ultra in Odyssey. Even an RTX 2080 Ti comes up short. Dropping to high quality will improve performance by around 35 percent, which should get the 2080 Ti above 60fps, but the other GPUs will still struggle. Not that you really need 60fps to play the game, but it does make things nicer.

Medium quality at 4k should get the RTX 2080 to 60fps, and maybe the GTX 1080 Ti, but even at low quality cards like the RX Vega 64 and GTX 1080 and below aren’t going to deliver a smooth experience. At least not without some additional performance focused patching.

1440p ultra is still a beast to run, and only the 2080 and 2080 Ti clear 60fps average framerates—and due to the framerate inconsistencies, minimum fps is still well below that mark. The GTX 1080 and 1080 Ti should manage 60fps at 1440p high, while the RX Vega and GTX 1070 will need 1440p medium to get there. Also note that for an AMD branded game, Nvidia is pretty close—the 580 8GB beats the 1060 6GB, but not by much, and the Vega 56 and 1070 should be basically tied.

Even at 1080p, ultra quality is still very taxing. Three GPUs break the 60fps mark, often still with minimums falling below that, and the RX 580 and GTX 1060 swap places now. That will hold for the remainder of our lower detail testing. You really need at least 4GB VRAM to run the ultra preset as well, though as we’ll see in a moment the budget end of the spectrum should be okay for lower quality settings at 30fps or more.

The very high preset reduces the shadow quality a notch, but visually the differences are hard to pick out. Most cards perform about 10 percent faster compared to the ultra preset, though cards with only 2GB (ie, the GTX 1050) see a larger jump. GPU positioning continues to be a concern, as now the GTX 1070 rates higher than the RX Vega 64, and the 1060 is over 15 percent faster than the RX 580. At least the GTX 1070 and Vega 64 are both clearing 60fps now. Even with higher variability between benchmark runs, having tested each setting multiple times I’m sure these results are valid. I’m also equally sure that the game will end up with a patch that invalidates most of these earlier figures.

The high preset reduces shadow quality and a few other settings relative to the very high and ultra presets, though again the visual difference isn’t that noticable. Performance is also about 10 percent better once more, though in practice that doesn’t really help most GPUs. The GTX 1070 now easily clears 60fps while the GTX 1060 6GB falls just short.

The medium preset finally pushes most of the tested GPUs beyond 60fps averages, with RX Vega and GTX 1070 and above typically having minimum fps above 60 as well. Medium also introduces some obvious cases of texture and tessellation ‘pop’—where you can clearly see the level of detail change in the world. It’s a lot more obvious when running the built-in benchmark as opposed to playing the actual game, however, since the benchmark constantly moves forward from a relatively high perspective. For most people, medium to high quality will be the best target to aim for right now.

Last is the low preset (minimum quality), and even here budget cards like the GTX 1050 fail to come anywhere near 60fps. That 30fps target Ubisoft lists in the system requirements is very appropriate, at least given the current state of the game. The inconsistent frame pacing remains a problem on all the GPUs, and even with an overclocked i7-8700K, none of the GPUs can hit 144fps or more. Instances of popping become even more prevalent at the low preset, and distant tree models can stand out as rather blocky and ugly.

Overall, however, I have to say that Odyssey still looks quite good at the low preset. That would also explain why performance remains so low, unfortunately. For most graphics cards, going from ultra quality to low quality won’t even result in a doubling of framerate. Or put another way, if your system can’t hit at least 30fps at 1080p ultra, it’s unlikely to break 60fps at 1080p low. I can only hope Ubisoft can improve the situation in the near future with some additional updates.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey CPU performance

For CPU testing, I’ve decided to go all-in and use the 2080 Ti. Yes, it’s insanely expensive, but let’s see just how fast the various CPUs are when it comes to running Odyssey. This is the maximum difference in performance you’re likely to see from the CPU, and running with a slower graphics card would reduce the performance gap.

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Starting with the minimum quality setting, Odyssey benefits from both higher core and thread counts as well as higher clockspeeds. For the i7-8700K, a 16 percent overclock results in a six percent increase in performance. The extra cores and threads of the 8700K meanwhile give it a 13 percent advantage over the i5-8400. The Ryzen 7 2700X and Ryzen 5 2600X fall between those two CPUs, followed by the 2400G and i3-8300. The difference in performance between the i3-8300 and the i7-8700K at 5GHz is 69 percent, however, so while the engine does scale with more cores, threads, and clocks, it doesn’t scale perfectly.

Moving to higher quality settings reduces the gap between the fastest and slowest CPUs. At medium quality, there’s still a 66 percent spread, but high reduces that to 53 percent, and by 1080p ultra the overclocked 8700K is only 45 percent faster than an i3-8300. 1440p ultra further narrows the gap to 27 percent, while at 4k ultra the fastest tested CPU is only 9 percent faster than the slowest tested CPU. If you’ve ever wondered why I test CPUs at 1080p rather than 4k, hopefully this helps clarify that reasoning.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey needs a patch to smooth things out

Thanks once again to MSI for providing the hardware for testing. These results were collected in early October 2018, with the latest graphics drivers available at the time (Nvidia 416.16 and AMD 18.9.3). The tested version of the game is 1.0.2, and I strongly suspect—and hope—that future updates will improve the situation. As it stands right now, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is an extremely demanding game if you’re gunning for 60fps, and even lower targets can still require relatively potent hardware.

In short, it needs another month or two of optimizations before it will truly feel ‘finished.’ Which is pretty much in keeping with series tradition. The game is still a great experience, and as Steven discusses in our review, there are some good changes to this year’s release that help make it one of the better Assassin’s Creed games. Just don’t try running it on a potato PC, as you’re bound to end up frustrated and disappointed.

This is our first look at Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but it’s not likely to be the last. The built-in benchmarks is useful, and if (when) things improve, we’ll revisit the game and test with some additional GPUs.

More Info: pcgamer.com

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