Can a PC that is far below the Witcher 3 minimum system requirements run the game and still produce an ok experience? This is something we are going to explore with our aging AMD graphics card. That's right everybody, it’s time to bring out Jerry.
Dusting down the HD 6670 graphics card and running it in a machine with an equally old-school CPU, an AMD FX-6100, we put the old dog to the test with The Witcher 3. We know that sometimes people benchmarking against a modern graphical behemoth, like The Witcher 3, don’t always tell you if your lower-end machine can still deliver an enjoyable game for The Witcher 3. So we thought we would give you the info to make your choice.
Nowadays people often get fixated on games having to have frame rates over 30 or even 60 frames per second. Well, certain games still deliver gameplay that some people would consider acceptable, even if the game is running slower than 30 FPS.
We each get to make a choice. Do I mind if the game suffers in the looks department, in favour of getting the game to run smoothly, so that I can enjoy the story and mechanics the game offers?
Obviously the graphics and look of a title can significantly influence the enjoyability of a game for a person, but it's not the only factor to consider. So where one person might decide to wait until they can upgrade their machine, so they can enjoy the Witcher 3 experience in its full visual glory, another person may know that upgrading their machine is something that wont happen this year, or maybe even next year.
So instead, they choose to adjust the graphics settings on the Witcher 3 and play it today, and then when the eventual PC upgrade happens, it can be the first game you run through your new PC to enjoy it all over again, with whatever enhancement patches and DLC are available at that time in the future. Double win perhaps? Maybe for some. And that's the cool thing about PC gaming. It's customisable, it's forgiving and it's rewarding.
So this article is taking a look at the bottom-end PC and what advanced graphical adjustments you might make to get a playable experience in The Witcher 3, should you be pushed to the extreme when attempting to get your computer to run The Witcher 3. Then it will be up to you to judge whether it's worth playing it with these adjustments, or whether you should wait until your next PC upgrade.
So the question is, do you play The Witcher 3 now at low-end graphics, or wait until you upgrade your PC and graphics card?
Jerry is a four-year-old mid/low end machine, but, to my surprise, managed to run The Witcher 3, just.
This is how Jerry looks, an AMD FX 6100 with AMD Radeon HD 6670 and 8GB system memory, running at a screen resolution of 1024x768. Now one other thing to consider is that the HD 6670 in this machine is actually a really crap version of the normal gaming HD 6670. My GPU is the runt of the litter and bundled with the PC, almost as an afterthought, on the assumption that no one would really benchmark and check it. WRONG! But I don't mind, it means I can safely say that we are bottom-end gaming here.
In a nut shell this means that Jerry is around 20% worse than almost all other HD 6670 graphics cards. So consider that, while chewing through the following info.
If you have a bottom-end PC, like the 4 year old AMD 6670 we have here, then you can run The Witcher 3, but you have to drop all the graphics settings to Low and get that screen resolution down. The above frame rates are passable, from a 'can I play the Witcher 3?' stand point, if you are so inclined. Let me explain why.
I have played The Witcher 3 (and a lot of other games for that matter) on a handful of different machines. Acceptable game performance at a certain FPS can shift dramatically from one game, like the Witcher 3 to another game, let's say Wolfenstein: The New Order.
A computer I played The Witcher 3 on had a GTX 670 and at one point I set the graphics setting to Ultra. The machine returned around 17FPS on a 1080p resolution. But the player character, Geralt, moved like he was in treacle. Unresponsive, sluggish and offered minimum fun. And should you want to try and play the game for the story and fighting, regardless of the low frame rate, it was unplayable.
And yet I played The Witcher 3 on this much weaker HD 6670 graphics card, turned all graphics settings down to low, ran it at 1360x768, and got roughly the same FPS of around 17/18. This second attempt, in contrast to the Ultra setting at the same FPS, made for a passable gameplay experience.
So concluding, should I want to, playing TW3, regardless of low FPS and a downgraded look, is possible. As the control I had over Geralt was perfectly acceptable while on Low graphics setting and getting 17FPS, even during combat scenes. Geralt moved fairly smoothly around the low graphic landscape and if I could stomach the poor quality visuals I could certainly play through what the game had to offer with not too much interruption to my experience.
Take a look at the following graph to give a visual representation of what I am banging on about.
In short, if you are willing to lower the graphics setting then as a bonus the acceptable frame rate you require to play the Witcher 3 also goes down. So you don't need to lower the graphics setting too far to make a big performance change to your gameplay.
As always, use this as a guide, because of course you can tweak any number of settings to get a performance you personally are ok with.
There are other TW3 tweaks you can make to settings before you even load the game up. This is often done in desperation or by advanced users so make sure you always save a back up of the file you are editing. But if you know what you are doing, the results can gain you a significant boost in FPS, if you are willing to remove, lets say, the trees.
Take a look at the following screenshot, as it got an extra 5 FPS without trees (move the slider from left to right to check out difference)
Remember you can click on that image above to get a much bigger version to help you. Right, now the choice is over to you. Play TW3 with low graphics or wait for your next upgrade. Personally, my cut off point for a visual treat like The Witcher 3 is to play it on at least High graphics settings. I often find that the jump to the so called Ultra is just an exercise by the hardware backers (Nvidia in this case) to encourage more hardware units to be sold. They must see a significant spike in sales every time they invest in a game like this, which is why Ubisoft and Nvidia have formed a partnership. Watch Dogs anyone?