Ashes of the Singularity is a futuristic real-time strategy game offering frenetic contests on a large-scale. The huge amount of units scattered across a number of varied environments creates an enthralling experience built around complex strategic decisions. Throughout the game, you will explore unique planets and engage in enthralling air battles. This bitter war revolves around an invaluable resource known as Turinium between the human race and masterful artificial intelligence. If you’re into the RTS genre, Ashes of the Singularity should provide hours of entertainment. While the game itself is worthy of widespread media attention, the engine’s support for DirectX 12 and asynchronous compute has become a hot topic among hardware enthusiasts.
DirectX 12 is a low-level API with reduced CPU overheads and has the potential to revolutionise the way games are optimised for numerous hardware configurations. In contrast to this, DirectX 11 isn’t that efficient and many mainstream titles suffered from poor scaling which didn’t properly utilise the potential of current graphics technology. On another note, DirectX 12 allows users to pair GPUs from competing vendors and utilise multi graphics solutions without relying on driver profiles. It’s theoretically possible to achieve widespread optimization and leverage extra performance using the latest version of DirectX 12.
Of course, Vulkan is another alternative which works on various operating systems and adopts an open-source ideology. Although, the focus will likely remain on DirectX 12 for the foreseeable future unless there’s a sudden reluctance from users to upgrade to Windows 10. Even though the adoption rate is impressive, there’s a large number of PC gamers currently using Windows 7, 8 and 8.1. Therefore, it seems prudent for developers to continue with DirectX 11 and offer a DirectX 12 render as an optional extra. Arguably, the real gains from DirectX 12 will occur when its predecessor is disregarded completely. This will probably take a considerable amount of time which suggests the first DirectX 12 games might have reduced performance benefits compared to later titles.
Asynchronous compute allows graphics cards to simultaneously calculate multiple workloads and reach extra performance figures. AMD’s GCN architecture has extensive support for this technology. In contrast to this, there’s a heated debate questioning if NVIDIA products can even utilise asynchronous compute in an effective manner. Technically, AMD GCN graphics cards contain 2-8 asynchronous compute cores with 8 queues per core which varies on the model to provide single cycle latencies. Maxwell revolves around two pipelines, one designed for high-priority workloads and another with 31 queues. Most importantly, NVIDIA cards can only “switch contexts at draw call boundaries”. This means the switching process is slower and gives AMD and a major advantage. NVIDIA has dismissed the early performance numbers from Ashes of the Singularity due to its current development phase. Finally, the game’s release has exited the beta stage which allows us to determine the performance numbers after optimizations were completed.
Test Systems and Procedures
Here is the test system used for graphics card reviews and game performance analysis:
- Motherboard – Gigabyte X99-Gaming G1 WiFi LGA 2011-3 Motherboard
- Processor – Intel Core i7 5820K at Stock 3.3GHz
- RAM – 16GB (4 X 4GB) Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR4 2400MHz
- CPU Cooler – Thermaltake Water 3.0 with Gelid GC-Extreme
- Power Supply – BeQuiet Dark Power Pro 11 1200w
- Main Storage Drive – Crucial M550 512GB
- Chassis – Lian Li T80 Test Bench
- Displays – AOC U2868PQU 4K
- Operating System – Windows 10 Pro 64 Bit
We always ensure the latest drivers are used at the time of testing to find each GPU’s current potential. Instead of benchmarking the game on launch without mature driver support, we believe it’s advantageous to wait until polished drivers from both AMD and NVIDIA are released to forge a more accurate picture.
- Ashes of the Singularity
Prior to completing each performance analysis, we clearly outline the game version to inform the reader of the benchmarks before or after any major patches were applied.
Ashes of the Singularity automatically defaults to the DirectX 11 render and you have to manually select DirectX 12 before loading the game. Additionally, every time you alter the resolution or any settings, the game requires a restart which can make the benchmarking process take longer than usual. As you can see, there’s an impressive array of settings to find a suitable balance between visual fidelity and a fluid frame-rate. Throughout the benchmarking procedure, I selected the ‘Crazy’ preset then disabled MSAA.
There’s also an integrated benchmarking tool which displays the average frame-rate in various sections. Unfortunately, this doesn’t provide any information on the minimum frame-rate and posed a significant problem due to the mainstream software currently being incompatible with DirectX 12. Initially, I tried to use MSI Afterburner, FRAPS and even the Steam FPS overlay but none of these worked. Eventually, I resorted to using Shadowplay on NVIDIA graphics cards and AMD’s Gaming Evolved application to monitor the lowest number. This worked surprisingly well, but it did take some time to find any software with DirectX 12 monitoring capabilities.
Ashes of the Singularity – 1080p, 1440p and 4K Benchmarks
During 1920×1080 testing, it’s evidently clear that AMD graphics cards have a very strong showing and exhibit impeccable performance numbers. The Fury X attains the top spot which is a remarkable achievement when you consider it’s pitted against one of the fastest GTX 980Ti cards on the market. Not only that, the compact R9 Nano almost defeats the Titan X’s average frame-rate and records an improved minimum figure. Once again, this is remarkable given the price difference. The R9 390X and 390 offer extremely similar performance and maintain smoother gameplay compared to the GTX 980 and GTX 970. Towards the lower end, we can see that the 380X is doing rather well and isn’t too far off the GTX 970.
Once the resolution is increased to 2560×1440, the Fury X extends its advantage and manages to exceed 40 frames-per-second. On another note, the minimum frame-rate is higher than the GTX 980Ti to create a less jarring experience during moments with hectic battles. This time, the R9 Nano finished ahead of the GTX Titan X in both average and minimum figures. Unbelievably, the R9 390 remained within touching distance of the GTX Titan X and manages to uphold a wonderful price to performance ratio. It might seem a little bizarre that the 390 outperformed the 390X but it’s within an acceptable margin of error. Even though the GTX 970 has an improved lead compared to the R9 380X, it’s still some way off the R9 390.
Setting the resolution to 4K while opting for such a demanding preset poses a significant problem for the majority of graphics card available today. The Fury X came out on top again and showcased its extraordinary performance at higher resolutions. Admittedly, the GTX 980Ti did score a slightly better minimum figure but it’s marginal. Even more impressive is the R9 Nano which manages to compete astonishingly well with an extreme grade factory overclocked GTX 980Ti. On another note, the 390X outclassed the GTX 980 and there’s a noticeable margin between the R9 390 and GTX 970. The 380X and 380 were able to complete the benchmark while the lower end NVIDIA solutions encountered huge performance problems.
Ashes of the Singularity is a resounding victory for AMD across numerous performance tiers and illustrates the staggering gains when using the DirectX 12 API. It’s important to reiterate that DirectX 12 is relatively new and we’ll have to test more titles in the future to see how much of an advantage AMD has. Evidently, AMD’s work on Mantle and the GCN’s exceptional support for asynchronous compute is a major turning point for the company. Of course, it greatly depends if future games will adopt this technology, but I’m fairly confident that AMD’s product lineup should become more competitive over time due to improved DirectX 12 adoption among developers. AMD has compiled an extensive framework around DirectX 12 and there’s a great deal of work to do from NVIDIA to catch up.
Throughout the testing procedure, AMD’s flagship remained on top by defeating the Titan X and one of the best GTX 980Ti cards around. This is a marvellous result and AMD deserves a great deal of credit for reaching the top position. Another highlight steams from the R9 Nano which consistently outperformed the Titan X at higher resolutions and was only a tiny amount behind during 1920×1080 testing. It’s astonishing when you consider the significantly cheaper price point and compact form factor. The R9 390 easily surpassed the GTX 980 and GTX 970 which makes it a stunning choice for users looking to find superb performance without spending too much. Even the lower end options from AMD including the R9 380 exceeded my expectations and trounced NVIDIA’s budget GPUs.
Of course, it’s not all terrible news for NVIDIA because they’ve still managed to offer good performance on the higher end cards. However, the mid-lower class of products do not fare very well compared to their AMD rivals. In an ideal world, I’d recommend opting for the R9 390 or above to maintain a fluid frame-rate with high details. If I had to suggest the best card right now for this particular title and taking any price to performance concerns into consideration, it would be the R9 390. To summarise, Ashes of the Singularity proves the notion that AMD cards are beautifully suited towards DirectX 12 and it’s highly likely that they’ll have a significant performance boost compared to NVIDIA’s current offerings. Well done AMD!
Thank you to all our partners who provided the hardware and software that made this performance analysis possible.