It's been in the works for a while, and as of tomorrow the latest iteration of the Total War series. (Let's all just agree to call it Total Warhammer to save everyone time.) And because Creative Assembly went to the effort of leveraging the classic Games Workshop franchise, it's not hard to say that Warhammer might be the most anticipated Total War game yet.
But it's also highly intriguing from a technical perspective. Total War games feature a lot of units and they're pretty damn good at pushing your computer to the limit. Unfortunately, they don't seem terribly great at pushing SLI setups to the limit.
With the embargo finally lifted, coverage about Total Warhammer's campaign, multiplayer, aspirations as a Warhammer game and technical capabilities are starting to flow around the internet. I've been playing it for a week or so, and while I'll have more to say later my initial impressions: the game hasn't crashed once, is reasonably well-optimised and is probably one of the best launches a Total War game has had in years.
But there a few question marks over the game's performance. Creative Assembly said Total Warhammer would support DirectX 12, but they were doing so as an exclusive partner of AMD. DirectX 12 support hasn't been officially added as of yet, although a patch is expected very soon.
In the meantime, AMD has supplied some sites with an automated DX12 benchmark. That raises issues of fairness when it comes to real-world conditions and with NVIDIA cards, however. So until the new render is fully patched in, a fairer alternative is to run through a battle or a replay multiple times with varying hardware, which is what the technophiles at Russian site GameGPU have done.
The site used a multitude of cards to put Total Warhammer through its paces at 1080p, 2K and 4K resolutions. But not only did they find that the game is pretty taxing on the older DirectX 11 render, it also doesn't support SLI at all:
You can read the rest of the benchmarks over here, if you want to see how the game handles higher resolutions. (The 4K results are very interesting, for DX11 benchmarks at least.)
The real interesting element is how, as fans had begun to suspect, Total Warhammer doesn't have any SLI support. I even noticed on my own GTX 780 SLI system that having SLI enabled caused loading times to increase significantly, with no tangible performance benefit whatsoever.
Creative Assembly has spoken a lot about the power of DX12 and the optimisations made by moving the engine from 32-bit to 64-bit, but they've been eerily quiet when it comes to multi-GPU systems.
One of the advantages touted by DX12, however, has been multi-GPU support — along with better multithreading. It's something CA developers spoke very warmly about in a AMD promotional video, stringing off a range of jargon that will sound like utter mumbo-jumbo to a large chunk of gamers.
It sounds good — provided you're running Windows 10. For those still playing on Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, it's a trickier question. Total Warhammer doesn't currently support SLI (or presumably Crossfire) and if the only multi-GPU support is patched in through DX12, it probably won't arrive for a while.
It's becoming harder for gamers to justify not upgrading to Windows 10. Total Warhammer's performance at 1080p is an indication of what the next year or two might look like for those stubbornly hitching their wagon to the Windows 7, DX11 train. Whether you want to or not, you'll be tempted to upgrade. And if you want your multi-GPU system to get the most out of Total Warhammer, chances are you're going to have to.