It's once more into the breach with Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. It's a little bit like Total War, but instead of clicking from atop the clouds, you're right down in the thick of it, dealing death and destruction to any Uruk-hai that may stand in your way. It's vast, it's gorgeous, but does Shadow of War run well on PC? Let's find out in our Middle Earth Shadow of War PC Performance Report.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Graphics Settings
SoW Graphics Settings
- Auto Config
- Graphical Quality
- Lighting Quality
- Mesh Quality
- Motion Blur
- Shadow Quality
- Texture Filtering
- Texture Quality
- Ambient Occlusion
- Vegetation Range
- Depth of Field
- Large Page Mode
These graphics settings for Shadow of War are actually pretty similar to Shadow of Mordor, running as it does on the same propriety LithTech game engine created in-house at Monolith.
Shadow of War Dynamic Resolution Graphic Option
There are plenty of neat graphics options to be found in Shadow of War's display settings, including frame rate caps but one option that particularly caught our interest was Shadow dynamic resolution. If turned on Shadow of War's Dynamic Resolution option enables your displayed resolution to temporarily adjust on the fly in-game, in order to provide a more stable frame rate.
So the best way to use this option is to find a graphics setting your PC hardware is good for, at your native resolution, let's say ultra graphics setting, and then under your Dynamic Resolution option you choose the frames per second you want the game to try and maintain. If, for example, you choose 60FPS on Dynamic Res (Dynamic Resolution goes up to 240FPS), now as you move around in Shadow of War the game adjusts the visual resolution automatically, constantly attempting to give you the best looking game at 60FPS.
The positives of using Dynamic Resolution is that this option will help you get the most out of your graphics card at all times during your playthrough of Middle Earth: Shadow of War. Every time Shadow of War detects that your GPU is starting to take it easy, the Dynamic Resolution places a demand for more pixels on the graphics card to deliver better visuals. This also works in reverse. Every time your hardware is struggling, the pixel request shifts down a notch, returning a worse looking game but can help combat annoying stuttering.
Now as you are probably thinking, the downside of SoW's Dynamic Res is that if you set the Dynamic Res FPS too high it can become visually jarring, as the graphics shift from good to crap all the time. But it does mean that people with less powerful PC's have another option, one which will often translate into better graphics up close, so when the player is inside, or in close quarters combat and while climbing walls, all of which you do a lot of in Shadow of War. And the game will look crap when you turn to shoot someone in the distance with your arrows or survey your landscape to choose what you want to do next or when you are sprinting fast through the terrain using Elven Parkour, or whatever it's called.
In the example graphics slider below, the target frame rate is 72fps on the GTX 1060, while the graphics settings are on Ultra. The resolution dynamically changes, lowering for graphically intensive vista, while turning around to look at the cage sees the resolution increase.
But really you are more likely to use Shadow of War's Dynamic Resolution in conjunction with a balance of all the other graphics options on offer, to help you find something that feels right to your particular game style and your particular hardware setup and your particular graphical requirements that you personally have for Shadow of War. And therefore find a suitable balance that doesn't jar but delivers a smooth and sometimes enhanced visual, helping you get more out of your graphics cards capabilities.
Dynamic Resolution certainly helps you feel like you are getting your graphical money's worth, as the game squeezes your graphics hardware for everything it has whenever your GPU shows signs of taking it easy. And that's quite nice because the resolution can go up to 8K.
Elsewhere there's full control over texture quality, shadows, various forms of antialiasing and lighting quality, all of which can contribute a great deal to ME: SOW's overall visuals.
Handily it also comes with its own (semi-reliable) benchmark tool so you can get a feel for Shadow of War's PC performance before playing the game.
Shadow of War Low vs Ultra Graphics Comparison
(Slide mouse cursor over to compare)
As you can see there's a clear difference in graphical quality between the lowest and the highest graphics settings in Shadow of War. This first image highlights character models. The Low graphics preset dramatically reduces the quality of the orc character model, looking more akin to an old game like Dragon Age: Origins than the modern graphical wizardry we expect today. The Ultra graphics orc features higher resolution textures, ambient occlusion around the armour and more realistic shadows.
The difference is less pronounced in the second screenshot showing the rooftop environment, although you can make out higher quality roof textures and a greater level of detail on the building on the left.
The third screenshot slider really helps highlight the difference in texture quality when you get up close to environmental objects. The wall in particular benefits from higher quality textures, and having a graphics card with plenty of VRAM will help run Shadow of War with better visuals.
Lastly, we've got this pair which shows the impact of draw distance, on vegetation, geometry and texture pop-in in Shadow of War. The top slider is taken while the character is stood still, while the second slider shows the impact of limited draw distance while moving rapidly. Textures and objects can take a while to pop in, and when they do they are of a much lesser quality on Low.
Middle-Earth Shadow of War System Requirements
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Minimum System Requirements
- OS: Windows 7 64-bit
- CPU: Intel Core i5-2550K 3.4 GHz or AMD FX-8320 3.5 GHz
- RAM: 8 GB System Memory
- GPU RAM: 2GB Video Memory
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 or AMD Radeon HD 7950
- DX: DirectX 11
- HDD: 60 GB available space
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Recommended System Requirements
- OS: Windows 10 64-bit
- CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 3.40 GHz or AMD FX-8350 4.0 GHz
- RAM: 16 GB System Memory
- GPU RAM: 4GB Video Memory
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480 4GB
- DX: DirectX 11
- HDD: 100 GB available space
How Can I Avoid Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Microtransactions?
Shadow of War has microtransactions in the form of loot crates. Publisher WB Games seems pretty intent on rubbing them in your face at any given opportunity, but you can opt out of the online component of Shadow of War and remove microtransaction adverts from your game entirely. This may impact the end-game, which can rely on top-tier drops from loot crates to bolster your orc army, but if you never plan on buying any loot crates anyway then you can get rid of them by opting out of the EULA agreement upon booting Shadow of War.
When you load up Shadow of War you will be greeted by the following screen:
To avoid Shadow of War's always online, microtransaction, loot crate drops don't check the box that starts with "I agree to allow WB Games..." and then click the big "Accept" button that is below it.
A warning will come up saying "You will not be able to access any online features for Shadow of War until you agree to the data uses described on the prior screen. This includes access to the Market and online gameplay modes." Just press 'Yes' and Shadow of War will boot loot crate-free.
Warning: You will have to perform this Shdow of War EULA process each time you run Middle-Earth: Shadow of War if you keep declining their online invite.
Shadow of War Benchmarks
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War benchmarks and frames per second analysis performed on GeForce GTX 1060 6GB | Intel i7-5820K | 16GB DDR4
Shadow of War does include its own benchmarking tool but in the interests of analysing how it performs under a real load, I ran an average frame rate test in an open-world segment while invading an orc settlement.
For this Shadow of War benchmark, we used a GeForce GTX 1060 equipped with 6GB video memory. This is exactly in line with the recommended system requirements for Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. It’s backed up by 16GB DDR4 memory and an Intel Core i7-5820K CPU.
Shadow of War GeForce GTX 1060 6GB 720p, 1080p, 1440p and 4K Benchmarks
(Click to expand)
Unlike our other benchmark report yesterday for The Evil Within 2, the GeForce GTX 1060 manages to knock it out the park at 1080p resolution in Shadow of War. Playing on Ultra / 1080p is a very achievable goal, particularly for those prepared to overclock. The Very High graphics preset still looks fantastic in Shadow of War though, and it rewards GTX 1060 owners with close to 60 frames per second in Shadow of War.
Shadow of War benchmarks and frames per second analysis performed on GeForce GTX 1070 8GB | Intel i7-5820K | 16GB DDR4
For this Middle-Earth: SoW benchmark, we used a GeForce GTX 1070 equipped with 8GB video memory. It’s backed up by 16GB DDR4 memory and an Intel Core i7-5820K CPU.
4K gaming in Shadow of War with the GeForce GTX 1070 is possible, although you will have to make some big compromises to achieve a solid 60 frames per second. Still, a locked 30fps is very much possible, even on Very High, which is likely at least on par with what the Xbox One X will achieve.
Anything below 4K resolution and the GTX 1070 just steams through Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. A 1440p GPU at heart, Very High / 60 fps in Shadow of War is the way to go with the GTX 1070.
How Well Optimised is Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
Shadow of War CPU Core Usage and Multithreading Performance
Shadow of War CPU Usage during 1080p / Ultra Benchmark with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
Shadow of War GPU Usage during 1080p / Ultra Benchmark with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
Graphics Card VRAM Usage in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
This is exactly in line with what we like to see. The GPU is being used to its fullest potential in Shadow of War, returning close to 50 frames per second on 1080p Ultra settings with the GeForce GTX 1060. The graphics card is the bottleneck to performance in Shadow of War, while CPU demands are relatively light. Scaling across multiple CPU cores and threads is good but it isn't perfect, with some cores underutilised. Anyone with a quad-core processor and 3.5GHz+ clock speed shouldn't find their performance hindered by the CPU unless it's paired with an extremely high-end GPU.
We'll have more on Middle-Earth: Shadow of War shortly, including our graphics options performance breakdown to help you achieve that perfect balance between frame rates and graphical splendour.