Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: Graphics And CPU Performance

Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: Graphics And CPU Performance

As a long time fan of the series, our mobile editor Tim jumped at the opportunity to preview Dragon Age: Inquisition ahead of release last month. As with Kotaku‘s impression of the final release, Tim concluded that the fantasy RPG’s third iteration is a must-play.

Fortunately, that should be doable for most gamers with official recommended requirements including a GTX 660 or HD 7870 (R9 270), 8GB of RAM and a Core 2 Quad or Phenom II X6 — hardly a tall order, though we suspect extra firepower wouldn’t hurt.

After all, Dragon Age: Inquisition has been built with Frostbite 3, the same game engine used by Battlefield 4except BioWare also integrated a vegetation engine called ‘Speed Tree’ that has been used in many games and movies, from Avatar to Star Trek.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: Graphics And CPU Performance

The result is a stunning world that scales surprisingly well on older gear, with the game having been designed for consoles as well as PCs. Folks with high-end rigs can look forward to higher resolutions along with better textures, lighting and characters models.

Overall, PC gamers can expect a crisper, more detailed world, though precisely how crisp and detailed will depend on your setup. Before we jump to the benchmarks let’s review our testing method and system specs and discuss some bugs we’ve encountered.

Testing Methodology

As always, we used the latest AMD and Nvidia drivers for testing, which included 25 DirectX 11 graphics card configurations from both companies covering all prices. Our test rig was outfitted with the Intel Core i7-4770K to remove CPU bottlenecks that could influence high-end GPU scores.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: Graphics And CPU Performance

Although we usually rely on Fraps to record up to 90 seconds of gameplay for our benchmark data, BioWare has provided us with an easier method that is also more accurate. Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s built-in benchmark renders a short scene as fast as possible.

We tested the game at three common desktop display resolutions: 1680×1050, 1920×1200 and 2560×1600 using DX11.

The ‘Ultra’ quality pre-set was used which sets rendering features such as mesh, tessellation, texture, shadow, terrain, vegetation, water, post-process and effects to their maximum value. Meanwhile ambient occlusion is set to HBAO (horizon-based ambient occlusion) and multisampling anti-aliasing is set to 2xMSAA.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: Graphics And CPU Performance
Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: Graphics And CPU Performance
Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: Graphics And CPU Performance

Test System Specs

  • Intel Core i7-4770K (3.50GHz)
  • x2 8GB Crucial DDR3-2400 (CAS 11-13-13-28)
  • Asrock Z97 Extreme6 (Intel Z97)
  • Silverstone Strider Series (700w)
  • Samsung SSD 840 Pro 512GB (SATA 6Gb/s)
  • Gigabyte Radeon R9 290X (4096MB)
  • Gigabyte Radeon R9 290 (4096MB)
  • Gigabyte Radeon R9 285 (2048MB)
  • Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon R9 270X (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon R9 270 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon R7 265 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon R7 250 (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon R7 240 (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7970 GHz (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7970 (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7950 Boost (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7950 (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7870 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7850 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7750 (1024MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX Titan (6144MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 (4096MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 (4096MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Ti (3072MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 (3072MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 770 (2048MB)
  • Palit GeForce GTX 760 (2048MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 750 Ti (2048MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 680 (2048MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 660 Ti (2048MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 660 (2048MB)
  • Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
  • Nvidia GeForce 344.75 WHQL
  • AMD Catalyst 14.11.2 Beta

DRM Woes: We’re Sorry, An Error Has Occurred

To be honest, I’m not sure if this is a DRM issue or just a bug with Origin/ Dragon Age Inquisition, either way it nearly drove me crazy.

Having downloaded the twenty-five something gigabyte game I was excited to begin testing. Things were looking good, the game had a solid built-in benchmark that reflected in-game performance.

To start off with a reference point from each camp we began testing with the R9 290X and the GTX 780 Ti. Both runs went well and continued going well until our 9th GPU into testing.

Doing exactly as we had done with success many times prior, we clicked on Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s shortcut which opened up Origin and then the game.

However, this time we received an error message…

Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: Graphics And CPU Performance

“We’re sorry, an error has occurred”

“We are unable to connect to EA servers to activate Dragon Age Inquisition Digital Deluxe on this computer using your account. Please try again later.”

Thinking there must have been something wrong with either the network or Internet connection, I investigated. Both were fine and after seeing that other Origin games such as Titanfall were working, I assumed something was wrong with the Dragon Age servers.

While I was waiting for that issue to work itself out, I decided to load a copy of the game onto my work PC. To my surprise, it worked.

Figuring the servers were up again, I moved back to the test system but received the same error. I check my office PC again and the game was still working, so clearly there was no server issue.

In my attempts to resume testing I tried a repair on the game, completely reinstalling the game, and completely reinstalling Origin. Alas, I still received the same error.

Since Dragon Age was still working on my office PC I decided to clone the SSD then and throw the cloned version into my test system. That also failed… yet I was still able to connect on my office PC.

I wasted countless more hours trying various remedies to no avail and concluded that it was a hardware issue, so I built a completely new test system using a different platform, installed the test system drive and Dragon Age: Inquisition greeted me with same error.

After nearly losing it, I took the SSD out of my office PC, where Dragon Age has been functional all along, and stuck it in a test system. Naturally, I received the same error so I placed the SSD back in my office PC. This broke my game entirely and now all my computers were failing to connect.

Having only tested eight GPUs and then wasting a little over 24 hours, I gave up and walked away. Hours later EA delivered another key so I booted up the test system with the intention of creating a new Origin account.

Before I did that I tried executing Dragon Age one last time and to my amazement the game loaded perfectly — I nearly fell off my chair. I ran some tests quickly and then shut down to try another GPU.

Four GPU changes later, the same error taunted me. I was back in business after an hour for another two GPU tests before being locked out again. This carried on for three days of benching.

Benchmark: 1680×1050

Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: Graphics And CPU Performance

With the ultra-quality settings enabled, high-end GPUs such as the GTX 980 and R9 290X had no trouble breaking 60fps at 1680×1050. Interestingly, the GTX 980 was just 7% faster than the R9 290X.

For an average of 60fps, the GTX Titan, GTX 970 or HD 7970 GHz, R9 280X are required and if you can settle for just under that, the GTX 780 and HD 7970 will do the trick.

Dragon Age: Inquisition plays well with an average of 40fps and for that you’ll only need an R9 270X. Oddly, however, if you own a Nvidia GPU then a GTX 680 is required for just 42fps while the GTX 770 managed 47fps.

Other popular Nvidia cards such as the GTX 760 averaged just 38fps while the GTX 660 Ti delivered just 34fps, 1fps faster than the R7 265.

Benchmark: 1920×1200

Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: Graphics And CPU Performance

At 1920×1200 we were unable to achieve an average of 60fps on any of the GPUs tested, with the GTX 980 coming closest with an average of 59fps, 5% faster than the R9 290X.

We wouldn’t want to play with less than 30fps which will require folks with a HD 7870/R9 270 or GTX 660 to reduce the game’s quality settings. For the bare minimum 30fps on ultra, you’ll need a GTX 660 Ti, GTX 760 or R9 270X/HD 7950.

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Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.


  • Great article but I wish you had added something about SLI / Crossfire myself and a number of other people seem to be having issues with dual cards. Texture flickering & low cut scene fps.

    • Omg…. So it’s a known issue? I was getting very agitated that putting my 290xs on Crossfire did nothing to improve the performance. Since the game is one of those really slow to quit out of games, it makes graphic fiddling VERY annoying. From what I can tell, having one 290x runs better then 2. And yes, I’ve also had the weird lag in cut scenes, yet runs flawlessly out. IMMERSION BREAKING MUCH!!

    • Hey, you could try what I did. I went into Nvidia control panel>manage 3d setting,
      and I change:-
      -power management mode= prefer maximum performance
      -Maximum pre-rendered frames= 3

      and i’m getting about 70 fps and minimal texture flicker (so far only notice it happen in Haven )
      Hope this helps

    • That’s typical with multi gpu configurations. They create bugs and gain you fps as a side effect.
      I stopped doing this 4 years ago and found my experience to be much better with a single high end gpu.

    • After a lot of tweaking I have got it running at mostly ultra settings looks amazing especially the foliage, how does it look on 360? if you get up close to textures?

        • How does it go gameplay and story wise, I honestly don’t care about shiny graphics and haven’t updated to an new console yet but am craving this game. Is it worth going in now on 360 or waiting till I take the next gen plunge?

      • The foliage looks really awful on last gen, it really put me off. The textures are all quite blurry and the models for the trees are terrible.

        • Aw that’s not good but too be expected I suppose. Playing on Ultra textures on the PC version is nothing short of stunning, you can clearly and crisply see each vane on every leaf. I literally stop and closely inspect every tree I come across.

          • Thats the frostbite engine for you :p

            The only downside is that i’m sure in the multiplayer people get killed by fireballs from other zones randomly.

        • It’s pretty much garbage on the 360. I have put off playing it until a patch. Textures pop in and out, sound drops, lots of slow down. I avoid portals where I can, I didn’t actually know they were portals because on 360 the look like pixel blobs. Also you know the inquisition puts it banner up everywhere, I assume it’s made of lego? All in all it looks worse than Dragon Age Origins. I don’t mine some graphical sacrifice, but keep in consistent. It feels like it was never tested.

  • I’ve got a EVGA GTX 780 Ti running at 1440p on ultra and this game takes a punch at my frames. Average 30-40 fps depending on combat.

    Still runs fine though 🙂

  • 1680×1050 a common resolution? o____O

    Also, I know wide screen monitors aren’t exactly super rare, but surely 1920×1080 and 2560×1440 are common resolutions than 1920×1200 and 2560×1600? Just seems like a slightly odd choice of resolutions to benchmark to me. *shrugs*

    As for the game, I’m definitely excited to pick this one up for PC. A shame to hear about the SLI woes, but at least I know I can still get reasonable framerates by just using one 780 and disabling the other.

    • 1680×1050 is the basic standard for 22-24 inch monitors. Most people change their PC multiple times but keep the same monitor for years on end,

      • Ah, fair enough. I suppose the group I play with may be uncommon then, as I haven’t seen any of them use that resolution.

  • Why you would use FRAPS in this day and age is beyond me. Shadowplay or Raptor guys. FRAPS is obsolete and has been for a while. Get with the times!

  • So i’m 1 of those guys that lands between the PC master race and the console majority. By that I mean I have a Gaming Laptop (about 18 months old). It contains a 3rd Gen i7, 16GB Ram, HD 7970M. Raptr’s ‘optimal’ settings puts most things on high with the odd ultra and a few mediums. I get a consistent 40fps, lowest i’ve seen in big fights was 28 but caused no dramas. What I DO get however, is a constant stutter every 30 secs to 1 min. It pauses for a split second then everything speeds up to get back to where it should be. Whilst I’m still able to play through this, even finding myself not noticing it too badly when in a very intense fight, it’s still a significant irritation I would like to get rid of.

    Things that didn’t help so far:
    -turning graphics down (even went all Low or off)
    -defragging HDD
    -clearing space on HDD
    -Malware scan

    I have no idea if i’m the only 1, but i’m really hoping for a patch to clear this up 🙁

  • Hmm, tobad they didn’t test with Mantle enabled also, on a single 290x it runs fine but with 2 in CFX it runs really good. on 1080p All settings Ultra and those that have ‘Fadetouched’ 4 x MSAA and averaging 100-120fps. I also noticed a difference when it’s put on SSD instead of HDD(more on that below).
    When switching to DX11 it goes down about 10-15 fps on average in CFX which is still really good and playable, on a single card you drop about 5-10 fps in average. I also tried it on a LG 21:9 3480/1440 screen and there i get an average of 85fps in 1 hour of gameplay in Hinterlands.

    A few side notes though, with CFX on and Vsync off the cutscenes show MASSIVE screen tearing, and when you turn Vsync on and ‘Perfoverlay drawfps 1’ you will see it go from 60 to 30 during cutscenes and sometimes you will see it ‘bug?’ and switch between 30 and 60.

    I tried the -GameTime.MaxSimFps 60 -GameTime.ForceSimRate 60+ but that doesn’t make it much better with Vsync off, with Vsync on however it’s a much smoother overall experience.

    Also the highest settings cause some texture flickering in some places, Hissing Wastes/Crestwood will have a flickering moon/stars and sometimes when loading in to a new zone causes textures to flicker but they seem to go away in most cases (or a simple fast travel)

    On SSD the low fps are almost non existent.
    On HDD you sometimes get low fps while it’s loading in textures, during this moment fps can drop and this effects your average fps quite a lot.

    This was tested on a i7 4770K @ 4.6Ghz, 16GB DDR3, Asus Z87 Deluxe, 2 x reference 290x and W7 x64. With latest Omega drivers.

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