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Total War: Three Kingdoms PC Performance Report
By Jon Sutton on May 20th, 2019 at 01:19pm - original article from game-debate

The grandaddy of strategy is back. After forays into the world of Warhammer, the Total War series returns to its historic roots for the mainline series. Total War: Three Kingdoms lets players become a ruling warlord in Ancient China, plotting, scheming, and engaging in all-out war.

As always, the system requirements for Total War: Three Kingdoms took a jump forward. Creative Assembly are the industry leaders for large-scale RTS battling and have historically been at the forefront of graphics tech. So what this does this mean for TW: 3 Kingdoms PC performance? Let's find out. 

Total War: Three Kingdoms Settings

Total War: 3 Kingdoms Graphics Settings

Total War: 3 Kingdoms Graphics Settings

Total War: Three Kingdoms Low vs Ultra Graphics Comparison

Here we can see an at-a-glance difference between the Low and Ultra graphics in Total War: Three Kingdoms so you can whether it's worth all the additional hardware grunt you'll need to crank the settings up. Simply slide the cursor over to compare the five scenes rendered in both Low and Ultra graphics presets.

(Slide mouse cursor over to compare)

Total War Three Kingdoms Ultra Total War Three Kingdoms Low

 

Total War Three Kingdoms Ultra 2

Total War Three Kingdoms Low

 

Total War Three Kingdoms Ultra Total War Three Kingdoms Low
Total War Three Kingdoms Ultra Total War Three Kingdoms Low
Total War Three Kingdoms Ultra Total War Three Kingdoms Low

 

Total War Three Kingdoms System Requirements

Total War: Three Kingdoms Minimum System Requirements (Integrated Graphics) - 720p / Low / 25-35FPS

  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8550U 1.8 GHz
  • RAM: 6 GB System Memory
  • GPU RAM: N/A
  • GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • HDD: 60GB Available Hard Drive Storage
  • DX: DirectX 11

Total War: Three Kingdoms Minimum System Requirements (Discrete Graphics) 720p / Low / 25-35FPS

  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0GHz or AMD Phenom 8750 Triple-Core 2.4GHz
  • RAM: 4 GB System Memory
  • GPU RAM: 1 GB Video Memory
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti or AMD Radeon HD 7850
  • HDD: 60GB Available Hard Drive Storage
  • DX: DirectX 11

Total War: Three Kingdoms Recommended System Requirements 1080p / High / 45-55FPS

  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-6600 3.3GHz or AMD Ryzen 5 2600 3.6GHz
  • RAM: 8 GB System Memory
  • GPU RAM: 4 GB Video Memory
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 Fury X
  • HDD: 60GB Available Hard Drive Storage
  • DX: DirectX 12

Total War: Three Kingdoms Ultra System Requirements 1080p / Ultra / 60FPS

  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8700K 3.7GHz or AMD Ryzen 7 1700X 3.4GHz
  • RAM: 8 GB System Memory
  • GPU RAM: 6GB Video Memory
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 or AMD Radeon RX Vega 56
  • HDD: 60GB Available Hard Drive Storage
  • DX: DirectX 12 

Total War: Three Kingdoms Benchmarks

Total War: Three Kingdoms benchmarks and frames per second analysis performed on GeForce GTX 1070 8GB | Intel i7-5820K | 16GB DDR4

TW:3K comes with its own benchmarking tool. Found in the video settings, Three Kingdom's benchmarking utility features two separate tests - one for a large battle sequence, the other stress-testing performance on the campaign map. They also have an Extreme Unit Size option which, while prohibitively expensive in terms of frame rates, greatly increases the size of the battles. We ran through these benchmarks on Total War: Three Kingdom's Low, Medium, High and Ultra graphics presets, taking the average frame rate at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions.

For this TW: Three Kingdoms benchmark, we used a GeForce GTX 1070 equipped with 8GB video memory. It’s backed up by 16GB DDR4 memory and an Intel Core i7-5820K CPU.

Total War Three Kingdoms GeForce GTX 1070 1080p, 1440p & 4K Benchmarks

(Click to expand)

Battles

 Total War Three Kingdoms GeForce GTX 1070 1080p, 1440p & 4K Benchmarks

Battles (Extreme Unit Size)

TW: 3 Kingdoms Benchmark GTX 1070 Battles (Extreme Unit Size)

Overall frame rates during the battles in Total War: Three Kingdoms are down around 10-20% when compared to Total Warhammer 2. This actually wasn't as big a hit as we were expecting, therefore delivering fairly comparable performance. The GeForce GTX 1070 did consistently lose about 10 frames per second though, depending on the resolution and graphics settings chosen.

Surprisingly, Extreme Unit Size doesn't actually have a massive impact on frame rates. It makes no difference in terms of gameplay, but this setting does make the battles themselves look more chaotic than ever. Frame rate dips with this setting were less than 5% so it was certainly worth it with this particular hardware setup.

However, at higher graphics settings, TW: 3 Kingdoms is undoubtedly a performance hog. The GTX 1070 is still a very capable mid to high-end GPU, even today, and yet it can't even achieve a locked 60 frames per second on 1080p / Ultra. This may come down to CPU bottlenecking so we'll need to some additional testing.

Based on the current results set, 1440p / High or 1080p / High appear to be the preferred settings for the GTX 1070. Higher frame rates would be nice, but considering Total War's relatively slow pace the 49 frames per second achievable on 1440p/Ultra doesn't really impact the gameplay experience

Campaign

Total War_ Three Kingdoms GeForce GTX 1070 Benchmarks - Campaign Map @ 1080p, 1440p & 4K (1)

 TW 3 Kingdoms has an interesting new approach to its visuals. In the campaign mode there are more overlays than previous TW titles. These overlays are used to enhance the depth of the campaign experience by using high-end imagery to give a sense of quality. The overlays are also used to guide the user on any given subject matter or box of data on the core screen. At risk of falling into their trap, while describing these multiple layers of tooltips and visual stimulus through a multi-series of descriptive passages, let's just say that at times, having a 4 layer deep game control system can be somewhat overwhelming even to a veteran Total War gamer.

While often confusing the campaign overview window art design and extra character art are certainly pleasing. They add a sense of presence to this latest historic Total war. The campaign map on the whole though is not significantly any more beautiful than the ones offered up by Total Warhammer 2, but they have included varied height terrain, which gives a nice new sense of geography across ancient China.

Total War: Three Kingdoms benchmarks and frames per second analysis performed on PNY XLR8 GeForce RTX 2060 6GB | Intel i7-5820K @ 4.2GHz | 16GB DDR4

Total War Three Kingdoms PNY XLR8 GeForce RTX 2060 1080p, 1440p & 4K Benchmarks

Next up is Nvidia's latest-and-not-quite-greatest, the GeForce RTx 2060. We've got the PNY XLR8 flavour of the GeForce RTX 2060, and it should understandably be well-equipped to handle whatever Total War: Three Kingdoms can throw at it.

Battles

Total War Three Kingdoms PNY XLR8 GeForce RTX 2060 1080p, 1440p & 4K Benchmarks Battles

  Low Medium High Ultra
1080p 214.2 134.4 93.4 69.9
1440p 157.8 92.9 59 45.4
4K 82.6 45.8 29 18.8

 

A strong showing for the GeForce RTX 2060 in Total War: Three Kingdoms, handily outperforming the GeForce GTX 1070 in almost every test. The only slight advantage the previous-gen chip can muster is at 4K/Ultra; the additional 2GB video memory making itself apparent. It's fine margins though and, overall, the GeForce RTX 2060 comes out on top in the battle benchmarks. 

Anyone planning to play Three Kingdoms Total War at 1080p resolution with an RTX 2060 shouldn't encounter any issues whatsoever. 1440p at High seems like the ideal sweet spot though, while the graphical drop-off required to play TW:3K at 4K with an RTX 2060 doesn't strike us as worthwhile. It's 1080p and 1440p where this mid-ranger excels, although you will no doubt need a capable CPU in order to take advanced of this.

Total War: Three Kingdoms benchmarks and frames per second analysis performed on XFX Radeon R7 370 2GB | Intel i7-5820K @ 4.2GHz | 16GB DDR4

Total War Three Kingdoms XFX Radeon R7 370 2GB 720p, 1080p & 1440p Benchmarks

Just to add a little balance to proceedings, we also took a look at how a low-end video card could handle TW: Three Kingdoms. We used a Radeon R7 370, a graphics card which is actually a fair bit faster than the minimum spec GTX 650 Ti or Radeon HD 7850 suggested by Creative Assembly. Those lower-spec graphics cards are recommended for running Total War: 3 Kingdoms at 720p/30fps, so let's see how the R7 370 holds up.

Battles

Total War Three Kingdoms XFX Radeon R7 370 2GB 720p, 1080p & 1440p Benchmarks Battles

  Low Medium High Ultra
720p 108.6 55.9 36.2 25.5
1080p 58.2 30.2 19.9 14.4
1440p 34.9 22.3 12.8 8.8

And, as expected, the Radeon really does begin to struggle at anything about 720p. Even at 720p, it can be brought down to a crippling 25fps average in Three Kingdoms. It's the battles themselves, rather than the campaign map, where frame rates will be more crucial, so a locked 30 frames per second should be your achievable minimum. In the case of the Radeon R7 370, the genuinely bottom-tier visuals at Low cause us to recommend 720p/High as the suggested graphics setting in Total War: Three Kingdoms.

Campaign

Total War three Kingdoms Radeon R7 370 campaign map benchmarks 1080p, 1440p and 720p

  Low Medium High Ultra
720p 71.8 49.4 36.3 24.3
1080p 58.2 30.2 19.9 14.4
1440p 25.2 16.5 16.4 10.6

Here we have further evidence, if needed, that the campaign map in Total War: Three Kingdoms is actually more demanding in terms of frame rates than the battles themselves. This is a Total War first, to the best of our knowledge. The painterly style to the campaign map in Three Kingdoms certainly looks lovely, but it can also chug like nobody's business too, particularly with a low to mid-range GPU such as the Radeon R7 370.

Frame rates aren't particularly important for this turn-based component in Total War, although you probably don't want to be bringing up your lunch every time you scroll about the map. 30 frames per second are less necessary in the campaign, but it's still recommended you take a resolution or graphical hit in order to achieve this. We'd probably suggest 720p/High or 1080p/Medium as a nice middle ground for Radeon R7 370 here.