With Dragon Age: Origins Bioware has scored another big hit. PC Games Hardware tests 16 CPUs for their performance in the new RPG.
Dragon Age: Origins - The Engine
For Dragon Age: Origins Bioware uses the newly developed Eclipse engine. This new architecture uses parts of the Aurora engine known from Neverwinter Nights or the dialog system from Mass Effect. In matters of visual features Dragon Age: Origins offers Ambient Occlusion, Bump Mapping and diverse Post effects like heat haze or bloom. Furthermore Face Morphing is used to make the characters look as realistic as possible. In contrast to that the game has weak textures and a plain environment. Besides Nvidia's Physx the game also makes use of the middleware Speedtree. According to the developers Dragon Age: Origins has been optimized for multithreading. Dragon Age: Origins - Benchmark and Results
In our benchmark scene our party walks over the market place in Denerim. Due to the amount of displays geometry and NPCs the CPU workload is quite high. In order to prevent a performance limitation by the graphics card we use a Radeon HD 5870 for our tests. The resolution is set to 1680 x 1050 pixels and we choose maximal details with 4x MSAA (in-game) and 16:1 AF (via the driver).
Dragon Age Origins (7) [Source: view picture gallery]
The multi-core optimizations Bioware integrated into the Eclipse Engine come into full effect: The Intel Q6600 is 75 percent faster than the E6600 (which runs at the same frequency) and the Q9650 beats the E8400 by about 70 percent. Furthermore Dragon age: Origins seems to be running smoother on a multi-core, too, and especially the streaming system seems to benefit. Even overclocked to 3.6 GHz the E8400 can't surpass the Q6600 while AMD's triple-core Phenom II X3 720 BE can do it. But more than three cores aren't used often by the game. The Phenom II X4 only benefits from its higher clock speed. Intel's Q9650 is slightly faster than AMD's top model, but is beaten by the smallest Nehalem, the Core i5-750. The Lynnfield is beaten by the Q6600 overclocked to 3.6 GHz (400x9 with DDR2-1200) and the Phenom II X4 965 BE with 3.95 GHz. At this frequency the latter one is about as fast as the Core i7-860 running at 2.4 GHz. A Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5 GHz dominates the competition. All in all Dragon Age: Origins seems to prefer Intel processors.
Regardless of the huge variations in the results a fast dual-core or a small triple-core is enough to play the game smoothly. Since the streaming works much better with three or four cores we nevertheless recommend a multi-core processor if you intend to buy a new CPU for Dragon Age: Origins. The screenshots in our gallery have originally been taken at a resolution of 2560 x 1600 with 4x SGSSAA on the Radeon HD 5870. In combination with the overclocked Phenom II X4 965 BE the framerate rarely dropped below 25 fps.
Don't forget to visit Dragon Age: Origins - System Requirements, Benchmarks and Graphics Tuning