Dragon Age 2 PC Performance Analysis Part1

By on February 23, 2011

Dragon Age: Origins was one of the best RPG’s of 2009. Yes, it wasn’t as good as, let’s say, Baldurs Gate but still, it was something different from most other RPG’s. And it featured our beloved pause button with which we could plan our strategies and order our units easier. It’s really sad that the console versions lacked it. BioWare decided to tweak the gameplay of its sequel but fear not you PC elitists, Dragon Age 2 remains as tactical as its predecessor. You may not be able to zoom out as much as you could in the first part, but still the camera and gameplay mechanics remain the same.

As with Bulletstorm, it’s time to see how Dragon Age 2 performs and scales in modern PC’s. We used a Q9650 @ 4.2Ghz with 4GB DDR2 and a GTX295. Our OS was Windows 7 64bit and were using the latest version of Nvidia’s ForceWare drivers. Dragon Age 2 supports DX9, DX10 and DX11. With the DX9 renderer you can select up to medium details. DX10 and DX11 users can select the DX11 renderer. If you have a DX10 card, the game will let you select the High details, whereas if you have a DX11 card, you will be able to select the Very High settings. The main difference between Medium and High details, is the dynamic lighting that is enabled in High settings. Very High on the other hand offers tessellation, soft shadows, advanced dynamic lighting and geometry displacement effects. It’s really funny though that some effects like soft shadows and POM seem to be DX11 exclusive features. Soft shadows are compatible even with DX9 API in some titles like Crysis or FEAR, whereas POM was compatible with a lot of DX10 games. We don’t know why BioWare locked them or if they are using some unique techniques for those features. And in case you’re wondering, you can’t enable AA if you have a DX10 card and run it with High details.

Dragon Age 2’s graphics are good and way better than those of the first game. Characters are highly detailed and the darkspawns look incredible. There are a lot of low-res textures, but hopefully Dragon Age 2 will be as moddable as Dragon Age: Origins was. If it is, expect some high-resolution textures packs to pop up after the game’s release. The landscapes are bland and luck a lot of detail. We are pretty sure that tessellation will make a difference in DX11, but let’s get one thing straight. You don’t need tessellation for detailed and polished landscapes. Combats are more frenetic and chaotic than before, with lots of blood, dismemberment, and better special effects for your magic abilities. Overall, Dragon Age 2 looks good. Sadly though, not as good as we were hoping to. Guess we better wait for The Witcher 2.

Performance is all over the place in DX11. BioWare stated that DX11 is bugged in the demo version, so we assume that things will get better in the final version. Framerate was averaging around 30-60fps at 1080p with High details. When we run the game in DX9, we were able to force 4xAA and got great performance, as we were averaging around 80-120fps. In DX11 our GPU usage in both cores was at 70-90%, whereas in DX9 it was 60-80%. Even though the first part was taking full advantage of quadcores, Dragon Age 2 runs excellent with dualcore systems. Our CPU usage in our quadcore was around 50-60% and when we tried to simulate a dualcore system, performance remained the same as before. Of course the CPU usage in our two cores was higher (around 80%) but still, it didn’t tax them as much as Dragon Age: Origins did.

That is why this is the first part of our Dragon Age 2 PC performance analysis. Add to this that 3D Vision is not properly supported and we have a lot to investigate in the final version of the game. Dragon Age: Origins was one of the best 3D games, even when we had a CRT monitor. So it will be a huge disappointment if its sequel is not as good in 3D. Nvidia doesn’t have any 3D profile for it, so we can only hope that they will include one in an upcoming driver. SLI owners should also edit the Dragon Age 2 profile to enable SLI for the demo. Although Nvidia has already an SLI profile for the game, it doesn’t support the filename of the demo version. You’ll have to download and run “Nvidia Inspector”, find the Dragon Age 2 Profile and add the demo’s filename.

Stay tuned for our second part when the game gets released. Till then, enjoy the following screenshots!

About David Scarpitta

I am a critical guy, and love to review and give my professional opinion on just about anything. Though have a love for tech/gaming and music alongside the cinema. You can catch me consulting and developing the net any day of the week.