Assassin’s Creed is back after a two year break, presumably getting the hood dry cleaned. It’s quite a change from Syndicate’s London slums to the sweeping sands of Assassin’s Creed Origins, but what (if anything) has the time off done for the PC version of this latest entry? Let’s find out, together.
For reference, I’ve been riding camels around the place on a PC that looks like this: i5-6600 / 16GB DDR4 RAM / 4GB 380X (17.10.2 Crimson drivers) / Windows 10 (Fall Creator Update). So, yes, that means I’ll be representing those of you in the crowd with GPUs on the older side.
Ubisoft’s own ‘Recommended’ specs for High settings and 1080p cite the 280X (and GTX 760 on the Nvidia side). However, they leave off any mention of what frame-rate that might result in. In the past, Ubisoft have had a tendency to aim their specs for 30fps.
Before we get into performance, though, let’s see some ever-exciting Display settings menus from Assassin’s Creed Origins. As usual, clicking any of these images will give you a larger version.
The option cut off at the top there is just screen calibration. Beyond that, there’s Fullscreen/Windowed/Borderless options. Aspect Ratio selections are plentiful in Assassin’s Creed Origins, with 4:3, 5:4, the usual 16:9 and 16:10 all present. 21:9 wasn’t included for me (probably because my monitor isn’t ultra widescreen), but I have seen some footage running at that ratio so I believe it is supported.
4K is supported natively, and, if you want (and have the PC for it), you can scale up from a lower resolution. The resolution modifier defaults to 100%, but can scale up to 200% and down to 50%. Saves you the trouble of having to downsample through Nvidia or AMD software.
Vsync can either be Off, On, or set to Adaptive, which will attempt to switch on Vsync at higher frame-rates, then turn it off at lower rates. For me, that just produced a lot of prolonged stuttering, but your machine may have better results. Speaking of frame-rates, you can cap at 30, 45, 60, 90, or opt not to cap at all.
There’s also an FOV slider of sorts, which goes from 85 (at minimum) to 115 (max). Here’s a comparison between the two of those. It’s quite apparent.
The graphics settings you’re seeing in those shots are a mix of medium and high. While we’re on that topic, we may as well take a peek at the Assassin’s Creed Origins graphics menu tab.
We’ll come back to ‘Performance Tools’ in a little bit. For now, here are your options for each setting (the game provides a handy, albeit small, image for each one to show you what the visual change will be). Altering most settings requires a restart of the game.
Graphic Quality (defaults): Very Low/Low/Medium/High/Very High/Ultra High/Custom
Adaptive Quality: Off/30fps/45fps/60fps (will attempt to scale down Anti-Aliasing to hit frame-rate)
Anti-Aliasing: Off/Low/Medium/High (it doesn’t say what type of AA is used)
Shadows: Very Low/Low/Medium/High/Very High/Ultra High
Environment Details: Very Low/Low/Medium/High/Very High/Ultra High
Texture Detail: Very Low/Low/Medium/High
Tessellation: Off/Medium/High/Very High
Clutter: Low/Medium/High/Very High
Fog: Medium/High/Very High
Water: Low/Medium/High/Very High
Screen Space Reflections: Off/Medium/High
Volumetric Clouds: On/Off
Texture Detail (Characters): Very Low/Low/Medium/High
Character Detail: Very Low/Low/Medium/High/Very High/Ultra High
Ambient Occlusion: Off/Medium/High (like AA, it doesn’t indicate what type of AO is being used here)
Depth of Field: On/Off
A bit oblique in parts, but otherwise a pretty decent spread of things to tweak. In terms of how that looks on screen, here’s a comparison between Assassin’s Creed Origins at Very Low default and Ultra High default. The difference is, uh, pretty clear. Particularly if you look at any part of the ground.
Now let’s return to the Performance Tools, because those are a first for an Assassin’s Creed game and pretty useful. Inside this sub-menu you can run a fairly standard benchmark, but you can also look at the game’s performance over the last 30 seconds.
Further to that, you can use F1 to bring up a little performance box (or toggle it to a larger performance box showing specifics about GPU and CPU usage) while in game. You can observe the little graphs as your GPU renders things (or, in my case, begins to weep).
Overall performance on my PC is … okay. I’ve mostly been testing in Sima, the first proper settlement area you come to in Assassin’s Creed Origins. It appears fairly typical, though I’m sure more demanding areas are ahead.
I guess if you were taking a positive spin on things, you could say it runs surprisingly well at Ultra High settings and 1080p; just about holding 30fps in most cases. The problem is, and this has been fairly consistent with recent Assassin’s Creed titles, the Anvil Engine really doesn’t seem to scale particularly well with lowered settings. Yes, if I bump everything to the Lowest level I get an fps boost, but it’s still nowhere near a consistent 60fps.
Using the Performance Tools and running around roughly the same area on both Ultra High and Very Low (several increments apart on the settings scale, remember), you can see that the results are not radically different. Here are the 30 second in-game performance trackers, Ultra High first.
So that’s a boost of 17 to the average fps (49 versus 32). Not bad, of course. But that seems a little conservative for whacking every single thing to low and making the ground texture look straight out of the 1990s. You can see from the performance graphs that even on Very Low, my GPU is having some weird dips and the CPU is still heavily taxed in parts, spiking all over the place. The latter, I think, is because Anvil is brutal on the CPU in general. It may be that my i5-6600 simply can’t overcome that.
Just brute forcing Assassin’s Creed Origins with a much better GPU may not work either. The footnotes from the most recent AMD driver release say this: “At 2560×1440, the Radeon RX Vega56 scored 44 FPS with Radeon Software 17.10.1 whereas the Radeon RX Vega56 scored 51 FPS with Radeon Software 17.10.2.” One would presume they tested this in conjunction with a high quality CPU.
The Vega56 trades blows with the 1070/1080 (depending on the game and so on). It is way, way ahead of my 380X. So the fact that it’s getting 51fps (well under 60) at 1440p is not reassuring for those hoping to just throw power at Assassin’s Creed Origins. This looks and feels like another in the series where 30fps is no big problem to achieve, but 60 remains out of reach unless you have a strong CPU and GPU combo. It may also suggest the game is not playing brilliantly with AMD GPUs right now.
As you can see from the images above, key bindings can be fully remapped. They’re separate binds too, so even though Crouch and Climb Down are on ‘C’ by default you can change one of those and leave the other as C. Controller inputs can be remapped too, though there’s obviously less choice and flexibility there due to a more limited number of inputs overall.
Mouse acceleration is there as an option but at 0 by default (hurrah), and you can change general mouse sensitivity and aim sensitivity separately. Controller sensitivity can be altered too.
In terms of breadth, the PC options available in Assassin’s Creed Origins are really pretty good. You can find some minor quibbles; it would be nice to know exactly what sort of Anti-Aliasing is being used to ‘Low’ or ‘High’ and so on, but I’m struggling to come up with any major complaints in terms of missing or botched settings (it does use Denuvo, if that’s a concern). The inclusion of Performance Tools is a neat advancement for Ubisoft, and I hope they continue to put something like that in their releases.
Performance, though, is where there’s some disappointment. Assassin’s Creed Origins seems very CPU intensive, which means if you don’t have the processing chops to keep the game happy (and even a recent i5 doesn’t seem sufficient for that), no amount of scaling the graphics options will get you to 60fps. Even scaling my 1080p resolution back to 70% couldn’t get me there. This is not a game where you’ll get by with some older hardware by turning down a few key options to squeeze out another 10-20fps.
Ubisoft have put in the effort to include an array of PC options in Assassin’s Creed Origins, but that Anvil Engine is still beating the hell out of processors.