Mar 15, 2017 Written by: Geoff_Gasior

For Honor graphics performance analysis

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For-Honor-Graphics-Performance-1ROG forum guru has been playing For Honor on a stack of ROG Strix graphics cards. Here’s what he learned about how the game performs.

Vikings, Knights, and Samurais have one thing in common. They were all great warriors of their time. Too bad they never got the opportunity to meet each other on the battlefield. So, Ubisoft decided to turn the impossible into reality, and For Honor was born. The game puts you in the middle of medieval bloodshed where your sole objective is survival. But it takes a lot more than fast button mashing to win battles. If you want to dominate your enemies, you’re also going to need the right graphics card for the job. We tested For Honor with the ROG Strix GTX 1080, 1070, 1060, and 1050 Ti to see how it performs.

Graphics options and image quality

If you’re an avid fan of Ubisoft titles, the world in For Honor will look graphically familiar. That’s because the game uses the all-so-popular AnvilNext 2.0 game engine which is the same game engine used in previous Ubisoft games like Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, and the more recent Steep.

You can customize the display mode, screen resolution, refresh rate, V-Sync, and other settings in the Display menu. The more advanced graphics options are located in the Graphics menu, which contains four default presets: Low, Medium, High, and Extreme. There’s also a custom preset that lets you make manual changes. In total, you have access to 12 graphics options.

It’s difficult to distinguish the Extreme preset from the High preset. You have to look really closely at the foliage to notice that the shadows are less pronounced. The visual fidelity of the High preset remains pretty much untouched, but there is a noticeable blue tint to the image.

The changes are also very subtle when dropping down to the Medium preset, where there's a slight reduction in the level of detail. The Low preset brings major visual changes to the table. The jagged edges stand out too much due to the lack of anti-aliasing, and the shadows are less detailed.

Test system and methods

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Processor: Intel Core i7-7700K
Cooler: EKWB Predator 360
Motherboard: ASUS Maximus IX Formula
Memory: HyperX Fury 16GB (2x8GB) 2666MHz
Graphics Card: ASUS Strix GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 1060, GTX 1070 & GTX 1080
Storage: Kingston Savage 480GB
Power Supply: In Win SIII-1065W
Case: In Win D-Frame 2.0
Operating System: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit Anniversary Edition
Drivers: NVIDIA 378.49 WHQL
Display: ASUS PG27AQ

The game client was updated to the latest version available. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve used the graphic presets as they are without any modifications. The only option I’ve disabled is V-Sync, for obvious reasons. I used Fraps to capture individual frame times during a custom sequence and then converted the data to FPS for easy interpretation. The system was restarted before each benchmark run.

Graphics settings analysis

First, lets’ look at how individual graphics settings affect performance. These tests were conducted at 3840 x 2160 resolution with the Extreme preset using the Strix GTX 1080. The results are presented in average frames per second (FPS).

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The first customizable option in the Graphics menu is Texture Filtering, which basically improves the sharpness of textures when viewed at a distance or angle. The results show that the difference between anisotropic x16 and trilinear filtering is a meager 1.3 FPS. You can leave this on the maximum setting for the best image quality with cards like the Strix 1080.

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Next up is the Anti-Aliasing option that helps smooth jagged edges. You can gain 2.3 FPS using SMAA or FXAA instead of TAA—and 4.1 FPs if you disable this option entirely, which I wouldn’t recommend. Personally, I find that TAA works the best.

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The Render Scaling option allows you to render the game at a different resolution than your native resolution. Using a lower percentage helps increase performance at the cost of image quality and vice versa. Ultimately, this option is a double-edge sword; only consider using it if the game is really taxing your graphics card. Try to keep the value around 70% to 80% to avoid sacrificing too much image quality.

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The Geometric Detail option is responsible for controlling the level of detail of distant objects in your view. The impact on performance is negligible on the GTX 1080, which means you can safely leave this option on the Extreme setting. Lowering this setting can help if you have an older or weaker CPU.

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The Texture Quality option dictates the sharpness and quality of the in-game textures. On the Strix GTX 1080, using the High setting costs just 1.4 FPS compared to the Low setting, so it makes sense turn up the quality. Do note that texture quality is directly link to VRAM consumption. The higher the texture resolution, the more VRAM is required. The best method to see how this option will affect you is by looking at the top of the graphics setting menu, which has a VRAM meter that displays the maximum amount of memory that will be consumed. The GTX 1080 has 8GB of memory onboard, so there’s plenty of space for high-quality textures.

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As the name suggests, the Dynamic Shadows option regulates the quality of the shadows created by moving objects. The performance cost of running the Extreme setting is insignificant on the Strix 1080, so it should be the only setting you use with this card.

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The Environmental Detail option controls the graphical complexity of the environment, particularly the sky and grass. The results speak for themselves: the difference between one setting and the next is less than a single FPS. In fact, the High setting has slightly better performance than Medium, which suggests the variance between tests is greater than the difference between settings. At least on the GTX 1080, the High setting is the logical pick.

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The Ambient Occlusion option adds contact shadows to surfaces or objects that are in close proximity. For Honor provides MHBAO and HBAO+ techniques for this task. The performance difference between them is less than one frame per second, so whichever one looks the best to you. Disabling the Ambient Occlusion option can net you an extra 6.3 FPS on the Strix GTX 1080, but in-game scenes will look flat and boring.

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The Dynamic Reflections option lets you enable and disable the reflections of moving objects in water or shiny surfaces. Turning reflections off increases the framerate by 15.1 FPS on the Strix 1080, an improvement of approximately 29%.

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The Motion Blur option adds a blur effect to objects that are moving rapidly. The performance impact is only 1.8 FPS on the high-end Strix card we tested, which is pretty low. There really is no reason to disable this option unless you get motion sickness.

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The last option in the Graphics menu is Supersampling Anti-Aliasing. This option renders the game at twice the resolution, requiring substantially more graphics power. It’s disabled by default, but if you turn it on, you’re going to lose 18.8 FPS. Ubisoft recommends configuring the Render Scaling option to 50% to mitigate the performance impact of supersampling. If you do as Ubisoft instructs, you will only lose 2.9 FPS. Whether you notice the improvement in image quality is subjective.

GPU performance analysis

Now, we’ll look at how the game performs with different GPUs. The following graphs show FPS over time. Since the data has been converted from individual frame times, cards with higher performance produce more frames—and longer plots.

1920 x 1080 – GTX 1060 and 1050 Ti

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As expected, For Honor doesn’t require a whole lot of graphics power if you’re running the game at a resolution of 1920 x 1080. With the High preset, mid-range graphics cards like the Strix GTX 1050 Ti and Strix GTX 1060 do just fine. Both delivered frame rates above the 60 FPS standard throughout the benchmark run, without any problems.

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Cranking the graphics up with the Extreme preset did cause a performance hit on both cards. But it wasn’t significant enough to affect the gameplay. Given the nature of For Honor, gameplay remains fluid even if the framerates are in the 40-FPS range.

In this case, the frame rates on the Strix GTX 1050 Ti hover around 50 FPS. making the gameplay even more enjoyable. Do note that if you own a 1920 x 1080 display with a higher refresh rate, it is wise to invest in a Strix GTX 1060 or better.

2560 x 1440 – GTX 1070 and 1080

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Playing For Honor at 2560 x 1440 forces us to look further up the graphics card hierarchy for more powerful models. With the High preset, even the Strix GTX 1070 is overkill, boasting framerates that never dip below 80 FPS during our test sequence. So, what’s the point in even benchmarking a Strix GTX 1080 at this resolution, you may ask yourself? There are lots of 2560 x 1440 monitors with crazy refresh rates—like the ROG Swift PG279Q, which maxes out at 165Hz. You’re going to want a Strix GTX 1080 for monitors like that.

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Given its amazing performance with the Extreme preset—with frame rates consistently above 60 FPS—the Strix GTX 1070 is the better pick if you’re rolling with a conventional 60Hz display. High-refresh displays are better paired with the Strix GTX 1080.

3840 x 2160 – GTX 1070 and 1080

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Moving up the resolution ladder to 3840 x 2160 brings the Strix GTX 1070 back down to earth. Even though the frame rates no longer remain above 60 FPS, the game is still very much playable. Performance seekers should opt for the Strix GTX 1080, since it’s the only one capable of pushing over 60 FPS with the High preset at 4K.

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We see both graphics cards struggling to produce over 60 FPS with the game’s Extreme preset at this resolution. Strix GTX 1070 owners—or to-be-owners—can opt for the High preset for better performance, since the compromise in quality isn’t significant at first glance. But if playing For Honor at its full glory is your goal, you’re looking at nothing less than a Strix GTX 1080 to get the best experience.

Conclusion

For Honor is a good-looking game that doesn’t require major graphics power to play at lower resolutions. The Strix GTX 1050 Ti is more than capable of producing good frame rates for a smooth gameplay at 1920 x 1080 with the Extreme preset. Bumping the resolution up to 2560 x 1440 demands a graphics card with more firepower, and the Strix GTX 1070 is more than adequate for maintaining excellent framerates with the Extreme quality preset. However, For Honor at 3860 x 2140 warrants at least a Strix GTX 1080 to produce playable frame rates with maximum graphics details.

Check out Chino's post in the ROG forums to discuss this article.

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