How I got a decent frame rate in Civilization V

The reason I don’t call this post “How to get a decent frame rate in Civilization V” is because there isn’t a solution that will make the game run smoothly on every PC. Chances are your PC is very different from mine, so this solution may or may not help you. Here are the specs for my rig:

  • Motherboard: Asus M4A78 Pro AM2+ 780G ATX
  • Processor: AMD Athlon 64-bit x2 7750 Black Edition
  • Power supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 Watt ATX 12V
  • Memory: OCZ Technology Titanium XTC 8GB PC-6400 DDR2
  • Video card: Sapphire 100283-3L Radeon HD 5770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16
  • Sound card: SoundBlaster Audigy
  • Hard drive: OCZ Agility 2 Solid State SATA II 240GB

Honestly, I don’t even know what all that stuff means. It’s obvious that I haven’t upgraded the processor since I bought it, but the video card is fairly new and still ranks highly in benchmark tests. The hard drive is also quite new and is one of the best solid state drives available on the market.

I can play almost any modern game with a solid frame rate. However, Civilization V has proven to be a challenge for my rig. In the spirit of Koroush Ghazi’s tweak guides, here are the results of my own tests with the various graphics settings in the game.

I started playing the game with all the graphics settings maxed out, aside from “Anti-Aliasing” and “VSync”, which breaks down like this:

  • Screen Resolution: 1920×1080 60 Hz
  • Anti-Aliasing: Off
  • Fullscreen: On
  • VSync: Off
  • High Detail Strategic View: On
  • Leader Scene Quality: High
  • Overlay Detail: High
  • Shadow Quality: High
  • Fog of War Quality: High
  • Terrain Detail Level: High
  • Terrain Tessellation Level: High
  • Terrain Shadow Quality: High
  • Water Quality: High
  • Texture Quality: High

I didn’t experience any issues early on in the game. But, as I accumulated more units and explored more of the map, the frame rate began to dip as low as 15 FPS when zoomed all the way out. Here is a screenshot of my civilization about half-way through the game:

Civilization V running in DirectX 11 with all graphics settings set to high, except for "Anti-Aliasing" (off) and "VSync" (off)

Truly, the game looks fantastic at this level of detail. Especially when “Anti-Aliasing” is turned on, which I couldn’t afford, it’s a visual stunner. Granted, I was loathe to turn any of the graphics settings down. Running the free Fraps utility in the background, I began experimenting by turning “Terrain Tessellation Level” down to medium. When I discovered that this had no effect, I tried turning “Terrain Detail Level” down instead. This had no effect, either. The only graphics setting that seemed to have any effect on the frame rate was “Fog of War Quality.” I cranked this down to minimum, which reduced the cloud layer to a plain, gray prism floating over the game world. At this point, the frame rate only dipped as low as 18 FPS when zoomed all the way out.

This improvement was noticeable, but still not what I would call playable. Next, I tried turning all of the graphics settings down to medium, except for “Fog of War Quality,” which I left at minimum, and “Texture Quality,” which has only low and high as options. Here is a screenshot of the result:

Civilization V running in DirectX 11 with all graphics settings turned down to medium, except for "Fog of War Quality" (minimum), "Texture Quality" (high), "Anti-Aliasing" (off) and "VSync" (off)

Try comparing this screenshot with the one above. I can’t see much of a difference. However, the frame rate still went as low as 18 FPS when zoomed out. In other words, there was no improvement in performance, but also no visible reduction in quality.

The next thing I tried was turning all of the graphics settings down to low, except for “Fog of War Quality,” which I left at minimum:

Civilization V running in DirectX 11 with all graphics settings turned down to low, except for "Fog of War Quality" (minimum), "Anti-Aliasing" (off) and "VSync" (off)

Comparing this screenshot with the one above, there is a significant reduction in quality. However, there was absolutely no improvement in performance. The frame rate stayed consistently between 18 FPS and 28 FPS, which was exactly the range I got when all the graphics settings were turned up to high.

The last thing I tried was running the game in DirectX 9. As before, I started with all the graphics settings maxed out, aside from “Anti-Aliasing” and “VSync.” Also, in DirectX 9, the highest possible setting for “Leader Scene Quality” is medium, although that is not depicted here:

Civilization V running in DirectX 9 with all graphics settings turned up to high, except for "Leader Scene Quality" (medium), "Anti-Aliasing" (off) and "VSync" (off)

Comparing this screenshot with the first one above, which shows the game running in DirectX 11 with all the graphics settings turned up to high, there is some reduction in quality. Most noticeably, the textures are somewhat blurrier in DirectX 9 than in DirectX 11.  However, this is significant improvement over the one immediately above, which shows what the game looks like in DirectX 11 with all graphics settings turned down to low.

Most importantly, running the game in DirectX 9 resulted in a tremendous improvement in performance. “Fog of War Quality” seems to have a significant effect no matter what mode the game is running in, so I kept this setting turned down to minimum, which gave me a frame rate between 26 FPS and 30 FPS when zoomed out.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the balance between quality and performance I found. Good luck!

NOTE: I should mention that “High Detail Strategic View” had no effect in any of my tests. From what I understand, it simply increases the resolution of the map in strategic view.

EDIT: Rowan Kaiser over at Ars Technica mentioned in his review that the Gods & Kings expansion fixes some performance issues.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s