Total War: Three Kingdoms has become the main strategy game of 2019. This is another epic canvas from Creative Assembly with large-scale battles, this time dedicated to the struggle for power in China in the 3rd century AD. And once again, the new part of Total War pleases with a beautiful modern picture, for which you have to pay for high system requirements. In this review, let’s talk about performance and choosing the best graphics card for Three Kingdoms.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

In turn-based mode, we operate on a large detailed map, playing a tactical game for control of provinces, developing the economy and diplomacy. If it comes to a skirmish with the enemy army, we go to a separate location, where we lead the troops in real time. Each such location pleases with pleasant pastoral landscapes, and thanks to the excellent study of units, the battle can be enjoyed from the closest angles. The latter is also facilitated by the fights between military leaders that have appeared, when the heads of the opposing armies sort things out among themselves with fencing and steep pirouettes.

Total War: Three KingdomsTotal War: Three Kingdoms

At the same time, it must be admitted that visually the game does not differ much from previous games, although the detail has certainly grown. Also, this part is distinguished by a special stylization, where the emphasis is not on realism, but not on picturesqueness.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

In Total War: Three Kingdoms, the developers abandoned DirectX 12, although they experimented with the new API in the Warhammer dilogy with mixed success. Now only DirectX 11 is supported. There are several quality profiles and the ability to fine-tune manual settings. There are two built-in tests to measure performance in different game modes.

In our testing, we will focus on comparing video cards at maximum quality, touching on the topic of different anti-aliasing modes along the way.

Test participants

The testing will involve solutions from the top, middle and budget segments, including new generation models and old video cards. All of them were brought to standard frequencies to match the reference versions. Overclocking is not involved in this test.

NVIDIA’s flagship model is the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition reference graphics card. Recall that for older Turing, the Founders Edition option implies a slight boost in Boost.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

The ASUS ROG-STRIX-RTX2080-8G-GAMING graphics card replaces the regular GeForce RTX 2080.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

There is the flagship of the old generation — GeForce GTX 1080 Ti in the reference version.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

The GeForce RTX 2070 Super series of video cards is represented by the ASUS DUAL-RTX2070S-O8G-EVO model, the frequencies are lowered to the standard level.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

There is also a simple version of the GeForce RTX 2070 in the form of ASUS ROG-STRIX-RTX2070-O8G-GAMING with adjusted frequencies.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

The MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Super Gaming X closes the list of high-end models. The frequencies are lowered to the standard level.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

AMD’s flagship graphics accelerator is currently the Radeon VII.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

New Navi solutions added to comparison. This is the MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT reference model.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

And the junior reference video card MSI Radeon RX 5700.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

The full list of participants is below:

  • GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB Founders Edition;
  • GeForce RTX 2080 8GB;
  • GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB;
  • GeForce RTX 2070 Super 8GB;
  • GeForce RTX 2060 Super 8GB;
  • GeForce RTX 2060 6GB;
  • GeForce GTX 1060 6GB;
  • GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB;
  • GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB;
  • Radeon VII 16GB;
  • Radeon RX 5700 XT 8GB;
  • Radeon RX 5700 8GB;
  • Radeon RX Vega 64 8GB;
  • Radeon RX 580 8GB;
  • Radeon RX 480 8GB;
  • Radeon RX 570 4GB;
  • Radeon RX 470 4GB.

Characteristics of test participants

Video adapter GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE GeForce RTX 2080 GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GeForce RTX 2070 Super GeForce RTX 2070 GeForce RTX 2060 Super GeForce RTX 2060 GeForce GTX 1060 GeForce GTX 780 Ti GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Radeon VII Radeon RX 5700 XT Radeon RX 5700 Radeon RX Vega 64 Radeon RX 580 Radeon RX 480
Core TU102 TU104 GP102 TU104 TU106 TU106 TU106 GP106 GK110 GP107 Vega 20 Navi 10 Navi 10 Vega 10 Polaris 20 Polaris 10
Number of transistors, million pieces 18600 13600 12000 13600 10800 10800 10800 4400 7100 3300 13200 10300 10300 12500 5700 5700
Process technology, nm 12 12 16 12 12 12 12 16 28 14 7 7 7 14 14 14
Core area, sq. mm 754 545 471 545 445 445 445 200 561 132 331 251 251 486 232 232
Number of CUDA Stream Processors 4352 2944 3584 2560 2304 2176 1920 1280 2880 768 3840 2560 2304 4096 2304 2304
Number of texture blocks 272 184 224 160 144 136 120 80 240 48 240 160 144 256 144 144
Number of render units 88 64 88 64 64 64 48 48 48 32 64 64 64 64 32 32
Core frequency, MHz: Base-Boost 1350–1635 1515–1710 1480–1582 1605–1770 1410–1620 1470–1650 1365–1680 1506–1708 875–926 1290–1392 1400–1750 1605–1905 1465–1725 1274–1546 1257–1340 1120–1266
Memory bus, bit 352 256 352 256 256 256 192 192 384 128 4096 256 256 2048 256 256
Memory type GDDR6 GDDR6 GDDR5X GDDR6 GDDR6 GDDR6 GDDR6 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 HBM2 GDDR6 GDDR6 HBM2 GDDR5 GDDR5
Memory frequency, MHz 14000 14000 11008 14000 14000 14000 14000 8000 7000 7012 2000 14000 14000 1890 8000 8000
Memory size, GB 11 8 11 8 8 8 6 6 3 4 16 8 8 8 8 8
Supported version of DirectX 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 12 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1) 12 (12_1)
Interface PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 4.0 PCI-E 4.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0
Power, W 260 215 250 215 175 175 160 120 250 75 300 225 180 295 185 150

The table shows the official specifications for GPU frequencies. The graphs show the full frequency range, including the maximum Boost values ​​that are not indicated in the specifications. This notation is used both for NVIDIA solutions and for new AMD models.

test stand

The test bench configuration is as follows:

  • processor: Intel Core i7-6950X (3.0@4.2 GHz);
  • cooler: Noctua NH-D15 (two NF-A15 PWM fans, 140 mm, 1300 rpm);
  • motherboard: MSI X99S MPower;
  • memory: G.Skill F4-3200C14Q-32GTZ (4×8 GB, DDR4-3200, CL14-14-14-35);
  • system disk: Kingston SSDNow KC400 (512 GB, SATA 6Gb/s);
  • secondary drive: WD Red 3TB WD30EFRX (3 TB, SATA 6Gb/s, 5400 rpm);
  • power supply: Raidmax Cobra RX-800AE;
  • monitor: ASUS PB278Q (2560×1440, 27″);
  • operating system: Windows 10 Pro x64;
  • Radeon driver: AMD Adrenalin Edition 19.9.1/19.7.2;
  • GeForce driver: NVIDIA GeForce 436.15/431.36.

The game offers two benchmarks to evaluate performance in different game modes. One test reproduces a military clash, and in the second we are shown a tactical global map.

To get a complete picture of the ratio between video cards, both tests are involved. Based on the standard Ultra graphics mode, which provides for high-level TAA anti-aliasing. But, as it turned out, such anti-aliasing is quite resource-intensive, so tests with simple FXAA anti-aliasing were carried out in some modes.

Total War: Three KingdomsTotal War: Three Kingdoms

Test results

Let’s start by comparing the younger participants at 1920×1080 with simple FXAA.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Total War: Three Kingdoms

The performance in different tests is slightly different, and in the campaign mode it is lower. NVIDIA solutions have a serious advantage, and the younger GeForce GTX 1060 3GB confidently outperforms the Radeon RX 580. The latter produces results on the verge of an acceptable range of 30-40 fps. The general conclusion is that the minimum solution for a comfortable gaming experience is the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB. The video memory load may exceed 4 GB.

Now let’s compare video cards with a standard Ultra settings profile with TAA. The younger members are dropped, the older video adapters are added.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Immediately you need to identify a serious difference with the previous results. Activating high quality TAA instead of FXAA results in a performance drop of 15-20% in battle mode and up to 10% in campaign mode. In such conditions, even the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB barely reaches 40 fps. For more comfortable performance, more powerful solutions are needed. The Radeon RX Vega 64 delivers about 60 frames, the Radeon RX 5700 and GeForce RTX 2060 get better results. The GeForce RTX 2060 Super loses slightly to the Radeon RX 5700 XT in battle mode, but faster in campaign mode.

Moving on to a higher resolution of 2560×1440.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Total War: Three Kingdoms

At maximum settings, the ratio between video adapters depends on the specific mode. NVIDIA solutions have a slightly higher frame rate in the campaign, while AMD solutions have performance drops in the second mode. The Radeon RX 5700 XT, GeForce RTX 2060 Super, and GeForce RTX 2070 are as close as possible. The old version of the GeForce RTX 2060 will provide normal fps with a decrease in the level of anti-aliasing. More than 60 fps is produced by the GeForce RTX 2080, slightly inferior to the GeForce RTX 2070 Super and GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.

As additional visual material, below is a video comparing the GeForce RTX 2060 Super, GeForce RTX 2070 Super, GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and Radeon VII at 1440p:

Let’s finish testing by comparing top-end video cards in 4K mode. For clarity, two options for smoothing are used.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Total War: Three Kingdoms

With normal Ultra settings, even the flagship GeForce RTX 2080 Ti produces a little over 40 fps, and the results of the rest of the participants are very low. Radeon VII is expectedly weaker than the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and GeForce RTX 2080.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Total War: Three Kingdoms

With FXAA, the main increase in performance is noticeable in the battle mode. The leader has this acceleration by 15-24%, and the maximum falls on the minimum fps. The average frame rate is approaching 50 fps, which will already suit the demanding gamer. The GeForce RTX 2080 is 29% weaker, while the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is up to 39% or more inferior.

If you further reduce individual parameters, then 4K will also be pulled out by the GeForce RTX 2080. But the Radeon VII cannot afford such a resolution, except at medium or low settings. 4K video memory loading may exceed 6 GB.

conclusions

Total War: Three Kingdoms has very high requirements for the graphics accelerator, not to mention the fact that the game also needs a system with a powerful processor. Based on the test results, it is clear that Full HD requires a video card no weaker than the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, and this is with simple FXAA anti-aliasing. However, we personally consider this anti-aliasing mode to be the best, it is justified not only by higher performance, but also by a clearer picture. TAA blurs the image in motion and worsens the overall perception of all the detailed images that the game demonstrates. If we talk about AMD solutions, then under Full HD we need to recommend the Radeon RX 590, since the Radeon RX 580 copes extremely poorly with Ultra-graphics.

The optimal graphics cards for 1440p are the GeForce RTX 2060 Super and Radeon RX 5700 XT, which show similar performance. The old version of the GeForce RTX 2060 is also capable of such a resolution, but only with FXAA anti-aliasing. The GeForce RTX 2070 Super no longer has a direct competitor from AMD, since all Radeons are weaker. At the same level, the performance of the reference version of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.

If you are a fan of playing 4K, you will have to think about upgrading and switching to the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti — only this video adapter produces an acceptable frame rate in such a high resolution. GeForce RTX 2080 will be able to master this format only with a decrease in graphics quality. Eight gigabytes of video memory is enough even for the maximum resolution.

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