Total War: Warhammer is the culmination of years of work and a tremendous effort on the part of Creative Assembly to painstakingly realize the traditional Warhammer series within the digital realm. It was not an easy task to import the RPG and technical data alone, not to mention the time it took to create the artwork and every other piece to make it wholly Warhammer in more than just appearance.

Total War: Warhammer

Total War: Warhammer is an almost perfect blend of everything, though it needs more DX12

Underneath the rather complex exterior is a custom engine built on top of DirectX 11. The Total War engine has been updated to it’s third iteration to better handle the vertical elements that’s being added. They also need to be able to have a proper backend to handle a much larger variety of units, and the artwork, textures and effects that comes along with such a varied universe. The graphics in the battles is rendered using an updated version of the Warscape rendering engine.

It isn’t so much the overall graphical quality that’s amazing with Total War: Warhammer, but the depth and breadth of the battles that you can command. The engine itself won’t win any awards for how it looks, but its very capable of rendering hundreds, or thousands, of units on screen in fairly great detail.

Shadows and lighting are key here, and they have dynamic realistic lighting and the use of screen space reflections to make for a good looking battlefield. You also have the option of changing the detail level of the various aspects of the game, including buildings, water, grass, the sky and of course shadows.

Total War: Warhammer Settings

What does this all mean?

Essentially the game runs fantastic on modern hardware already. Granted, a good CPU is needed and certainly 4K is quite resource intensive, though it doesn’t seem to use the maximum amount of VRAM available (which means it’s somewhat efficient as is).

Even with the older DirectX 11 API running underneath we see a startling amount of multi-threaded capability. Eight threads were being utilized to some degree or another with the first two exhibiting nearly 100%, an impressive metric in its own right. The actual graphical fidelity is better than Attila, though not terribly magnificent. The level of detail, and the small details at that, on the various characters and units is astounding, however. Creative Assembly and SEGA really did a great job capturing the little details that make Warhammer so engaging. More then that, they’re fun to look at in game too. Just don’t get too mesmerized.

At the moment we see that NVIDIA is the fastest single card solution with the Titan X  easily taking the lead. AMD’s cards do well, however, and Fiji is able to keep up despite the lack of total VRAM. Perhaps the way in which memory is used is far more efficient than is usual. Creative Assembly has said that a DirectX 12 patch, with asynchronous compute capability, is forthcoming and should arrive in the near future. This will see a distinct increase in FPS for every GCN-based card, and a slight decrease in performance for Kepler and Maxwell cards due to a lack of a hardware schedule and poor context switching. Pascal may change that, however our sample hasn’t arrived yet.

For now an R9 380X or GTX 970 and above are recommended at 1080P; a GTX 970 or R9 390X are recommended for 1440P and not much is recommended for 4K because it currently is unplayable on single cards. A Titan X or a Fury X will do it, though it won’t be the fastest battles you’ve ever seen.