A spiritual successor to the Baldur's Gate series, Dragon Age: Origins was the first game of its franchise. Unlike many others, BioWare was wildly successful in bringing this role-playing game to realization as a true multi-platform endeavor, spanning releases on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac, and of course, the PC.
Fans of the original game are no doubt excited about the recent release of Dragon Age II. Whereas many games these days are designed for console gaming and then ported to PC, Dragon Age II was initially designed for the PC platform. At the same time, BioWare has been adamant to assert the console versions of the title are not simply ports of the PC version, either.
Given our ability to fit out PCs with vastly superior hardware, it pays off when playing Dragon Age II. Right off the bat BioWare released a free high-resolution texture pack download designed exclusively for the PC version. Just as important, the game exclusively supports DirectX 11 on the PC providing cutting edge rendering features such as tessellation, additional dynamic lighting, depth of field and ambient occlusion (SSAO). When compared to DX9 we can confirm that Dragon Age II looks considerably better using the more advanced renderer.
The developer recommends at least a Core 2 Quad Q6600 or AMD Phenom II X3 processor suggesting that Dragon Age II will take advantage of more than two cores. For those happy to play the game using the older DX9 rendering technology BioWare recommends either a Radeon HD 3850 or Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS which are both very old graphics cards now.
Given the visual enhancements that DirectX 11 provides we suspect that most of our readers are going to want to take advantage of this rendering mode. BioWare recommends at least a Radeon HD 5850 or GeForce GTX 460 for those wanting to enjoy the DX11 features. These are powerful graphics cards leading us to believe that the game is very visually demanding.
With this in mind, we'll solely focus on DirectX 11 performance using over a dozen graphics cards capable of rendering Dragon Age II on all its visual glory. As usual we'll also be looking at CPU performance to see what kind of processor gamers are going to require to take full advantage of Dragon Age II.
As a side note we should point out that last month a playable demo of the game was released, which will allow you to get a feel of the game before investing your money. In the demo, players can venture through the game's prologue, choosing from three different character classes. Upon completion of the demo, players will unlock a special weapon, Hayder's Razor, an ancient dwarven blade which increases health, mana, and combat abilities, in the full release of Dragon Age II.
Already at 1680x1050 it becomes clear that Dragon Age II is a very demanding game when using the Very High quality in-game preset. This is a game that will be truly enjoyed by multi-GPU owners as made evident by the dual-GPU Radeon HD 6990 that was capable of rendering 80fps.
A single Radeon HD 6970 averaged just 44fps at this relatively low resolution, while the HD 6950 was only slightly slower with 40fps, both cards provided very playable performance. The older Radeon HD 5870 also held its own with 37fps.
With the latest drivers Nvidia has overcome any initial issues and the GeForce GTX 580 now performs as expected, leading the pack just below the dual-GPU Radeon HD 6990, scoring 45fps. We recommend an average of 30fps as the minimum you want for an enjoyable lag free gaming experience with Dragon Age II and the Radeon HD 6870 just managed this with 30fps.
The performance trends at 1920x1200 remained much the same. That said, fewer cards were able to provide an average frame rate of 30fps or greater. The Crossfire-enabled Radeon HD 6990 averaged 74fps compared to the 39fps of the Radeon HD 6970. The Radeon HD 6950 averaged 35fps making it slightly faster than the HD 5870 and the GeForce GTX 570.
At the extreme resolution of 2560x1600 we found that gamers will require multi-GPU setups to play Dragon Age II. Whereas the Radeon HD 6970 and the GeForce GTX 580 dipped below 30fps, the HD 6990 provided a very playable (and astounding) 52fps.
Dragon Age II doesn't seem to require the power of a Core i7 processor as we found exactly the same performance regardless of the clock speed. Let's move on to see how different processor architectures handle this game.
Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.
Republished with permission.