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Neverwinter: Lots Of Fun, Despite The CPU Bottleneck

A Free-To-Play MMO? Neverwinter Performance, Benchmarked
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In my opinion, Neverwinter is an enjoyable action-MMORPG, set in the most popular Dungeons And Dragons locale: the Forgotten Realms. The game has a lot of potential, so what do you need to run it?

When it comes to graphics horsepower, not much, actually. At the minimum graphics details and 100% render scale settings, a GeForce GT 630 GDDR5 or Radeon HD 6670 DDR3 generates about 40 FPS, at least. Increase details to the medium level with 2x AA, 8x AF, and character detail distance dialed down 50%, and a Radeon HD 7750 or GeForce GTX 650 gives you more than 30 FPS, minimum. Even with the details maxed out at 1920x1080, a Radeon HD 7790 or GeForce GTX 650 Ti kicks out at least 40 FPS when the going gets tough.

If gaming across three monitors is your thing, medium-level details are playable at more than 30 FPS on a Radeon HD 7950 Boost, GeForce GTX 690, or GeForce GTX Titan.

But the real limitation of those configurations isn't graphics performance; its the platform itself. Neverwinter likes fast CPUs, and to achieve a minimum of 40 FPS using medium-class details, you need a Core i5-3550, at least. A Phenom II X4 965, FX-4170, Core i3-3220, and FX-8350 give you a minimum frame rate around 30 FPS. But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that isn't Hyper-Threaded. This game doesn't like Athlon II X2s or Pentiums.

These frame rates are reasonable for standard MMOs. Having said that, we'd prefer to see minimums above 40 FPS in a twitchier title like Neverwinter. When your survival depends on reflexes, maintaining 60 FPS is ideal, so it's probably going to concern some folks that an Ivy Bridge-based Core i5 is necessary for greater-than 40 FPS at the game's higher-end quality settings.

To be fair, the game is in what the developers call "open beta," so performance issues might be addressed over time. We've mentioned our concerns and we're waiting for feedback; it'd be nice to know if the platform bottleneck is addressable. But when a game opens up to the public, it accepts real-world currency, and the developer makes it clear that characters are not going to be wiped, we aren't going to let it off the hook because of a beta label slapped on. It's too easy for that to become an excuse when things aren't quite right.

Lower-than-expected frame rates aside, the game plays smooth enough to enjoy with a decent CPU and graphics card. It's also quite a bit of fun, offering a lot of content for such a new MMO. If you're curious about Neverwinter, I'd recommend giving it a shot, which is easy since it doesn't cost anything, and no content is gated from players who choose not to pay.

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  • 2 Hide
    Yargnit , May 8, 2013 9:45 PM
    Although I play on my desktop normally, I've briefly tested logging in to Neverwinter on my Ultrabook, and it is actually surprisingly playable with settings turned down.

    It's running a 3317u w/HD4000 4GB RAM on Win8 @ 1600x900 & it runs w/o issues on minimum settings (100% scale, 50% hi-res character draw distance).

    No exact numbers to report, but I can run around the main city (which with it being the central congregation point for everyone tends to be one of the laggier spots) without issues. Sure it doesn't look the best my any stretch, but it's workable without a doubt in a pinch.
  • -3 Hide
    de5_Roy , May 9, 2013 12:15 AM
    i can't believe it...
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/neverwinter-performance-benchmark,3495-4.html
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/neverwinter-performance-benchmark,3495-5.html
    i could believe fx8350 sinking itself to core i3 level performance (it's kinda fx8350's routine) but hd4000 significantly outperforming radeon 7660g in min., avg., and frame time variance? with dual core i5 vs quadcore a10 even...
    how would an overclocked i5 3550 or 3570k or fx6300 would fare in this game?
  • -3 Hide
    rootheday , May 9, 2013 12:17 AM
    well... would you look at that. Intel HD 4000 soundly beats the top AMD mobile APU
  • 8 Hide
    silverblue , May 9, 2013 1:06 AM
    The 4600M is horribly limiting - it's that low clock speed. I can only hope that AMD have learned their lesson and gone for a much higher clock speed for Richland's mobile derivatives.

    A good measure of how badly the 4600M is limiting performance would be to give the 5800K a run with its integrated graphics - there's a significant clock speed difference.
  • 7 Hide
    Greg Williams , May 9, 2013 1:41 AM
    TheCapuletI don't want a Neverwinter MMO. I want a Neverwinter Nights 3, with a proper toolset and brilliant online/modding community. That's what Neverwinter is all about. Twitch action has never been what this IP was about. Thanks again for ruining everything, WotC.


    You obviously missed where they said it is unrelated to Neverwinter Nights - different studio, totally different game. Neverwinter is merely a place in the Forgotten Realms. So bringing up 'waaaahhh, I want NWN3' is rather pointless here.
  • 2 Hide
    Greg Williams , May 9, 2013 1:44 AM
    Greg WilliamsYou obviously missed where they said it is unrelated to Neverwinter Nights - different studio, totally different game. Neverwinter is merely a place in the Forgotten Realms. So bringing up 'waaaahhh, I want NWN3' is rather pointless here.


    And I don't see how an MMO based on the Forgotten Realms ruins everything. Why can't you have both this AND NWN3? Just don't play this one, and play what you want... :) 
  • -3 Hide
    DarkSable , May 9, 2013 1:54 AM
    Quote:
    Sure, you can use real money to buy in-game items, but you can also earn those items through by playing and trading in-game currency (Astral Diamonds) for paid currency (Zen, sold online through the game's publisher, Perfect World). This is an ideal way for a free-to-play game to operate: no restrictions on non-paying players, and everything in the cash store can be earned through play.


    I'm sorry, but this comparison is ABSOLUTELY WRONG. Yes, it's easier to trade for pay-to-play content in neverwinter, but you then say that this is far better to DDO, where you can't...

    Except that you can. Playing even a little bit will give you favor with certain patrons. As you get more of this favor, you are AUTOMATICALLY given "turbine points" which is the currency you buy with money. You can earn everything in the game just by playing; sure, it'll take a little while, but I'm sure that neverwinters' solution will too.

    So don't make a claim that's completely wrong, please. The "review" parts on the game felt so biased it's not even funny.
  • 1 Hide
    digiex , May 9, 2013 4:03 AM
    That a lot of specs for an MMORPG.
  • -8 Hide
    Cryio , May 9, 2013 4:36 AM
    This joke "the price tag is free-ninety-nine" looses its importance when you realise that it accumultes to 1 dollar and therefore isn't free anymore.
  • 0 Hide
    alidan , May 9, 2013 5:03 AM
    wow... whats with the couboundness of this game...
  • 2 Hide
    Traciatim , May 9, 2013 5:26 AM
    Yet again we see any game that requires a descent amount of CPU power that AMD falls flat on it's face.

    I sure wish AMD was still in this competition so that we wouldn't have things like Haswell being essentially the same CPU as Ivy Bridge with a few tweaks and a better useless section that gets instantly disabled if you want to actually play games.
  • 2 Hide
    jacobdrj , May 9, 2013 5:39 AM
    "But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that Hyper-Threaded. "
    Should read:
    "But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that is Hyper-Threaded."
    or
    "But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that has Hyper-Threading."
    or
    "But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that uses Hyper-Threading."

    Thanks ;) 
  • -1 Hide
    kettu , May 9, 2013 5:45 AM
    Why are you not giving out the CPU framelatency results anymore? Sometime ago you had an article about it and I got the impression that it was going to be incorporated to your future articles. What's going on with that?
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , May 9, 2013 6:15 AM
    I'll probably try this, if only because it's free, but I really hope it isn't too twitchy. I've got an uncoordinated left hand, which really limits my enjoyment of twitch games.
  • 5 Hide
    maddogfargo , May 9, 2013 6:55 AM
    Ok thats better...

    My 1090t @ 4.0GHz on max detail and a single 7950 gives 60+ FPS in explorable areas and mid 40's in populated towns. Happy to say it performs well, much better than the APU in this test.

    This game, like Guild Wars 2, seems to rely heavily on a single core render pipe. 2-3 other supporting cores will get used, but at a reduced level. So the intel CPUs will do better thanks to stronger single core performance.

    The problem is, single-core development is 5 years old. No matter what CPU you use, modern games will bottleneck there when developed this way. Optimizing to take *FULL* advantage of 4+ cores will greatly improve performance for everyone, intel or AMD.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , May 9, 2013 6:55 AM
    kettuWhy are you not giving out the CPU framelatency results anymore? Sometime ago you had an article about it and I got the impression that it was going to be incorporated to your future articles. What's going on with that?


    Because CPU frame latency results are so consistently low (well below 15 milliseconds) they're insignificant. The only time I've seen them be an issue is with APUs, and that's covered.
  • 0 Hide
    xelliz , May 9, 2013 6:58 AM
    Definitely a fun game and even more enjoyable as I've spent more time with it. The gateway page is an awesome addition, imo.

    I know its getting a little long in the tooth, but I would have loved to see an I7-920 included in the test. I am now very interested to see how my system compares as far as numbers go. Playing I haven't felt like the game was running slow at all, but I haven't actually looked at fps numbers, nor have I changed any of the graphics settings from default.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , May 9, 2013 7:03 AM
    jacobdrj"But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that Hyper-Threaded. "Should read:"But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that is Hyper-Threaded." or"But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that has Hyper-Threading."or"But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that uses Hyper-Threading."Thanks


    Actually, *all* of those are incorrect due to our omission. :p 

    Fixed to:

    "But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that isn't Hyper-Threaded. "
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , May 9, 2013 7:09 AM
    DarkSableI'm sorry, but this comparison is ABSOLUTELY WRONG. Yes, it's easier to trade for pay-to-play content in neverwinter, but you then say that this is far better to DDO, where you can't...Except that you can. Playing even a little bit will give you favor with certain patrons. As you get more of this favor, you are AUTOMATICALLY given "turbine points" which is the currency you buy with money.


    You're absolutely right, we neglected to mention Turbine points. That was an oversight that's been fixed with the following edit:

    [edit: we should clarify that DDO does allow you to earn Turbine Points in game, but they're relatively difficult to accumulate. More importantly, DDO requires players to purchase access to game content, but all of the content is free in Neverwinter]

    Having said that, if you've played DDO you know that it's not viable to expect to have all access to all the content simply by playing and accumulating Turbine points "a little while". They're much, much harder to come by than Astral Diamonds.

    DarkSableYou can earn everything in the game just by playing; sure, it'll take a little while, but I'm sure that neverwinters' solution will too.


    Astral Diamonds are much easier to accumulate, but the real point here is that you don't need them at all to access every mission in the game. That's a huge distinction.

    I've played DDO for years with friends who won't play anything else, so I'm not without experience. It's just not realistic to suggest you can have access to all content in DDO without using actual cash. In Neverwinter, it's not an issue.


    DarkSableThe "review" parts on the game felt so biased it's not even funny.


    I would disagree. Your accusation seems a bit vague, aside from the Turbine Point mistake that we fixed, what "review" parts are you referring to?
  • 3 Hide
    Wisecracker , May 9, 2013 7:39 AM

    Geezzz ... what a horribly coded game. 5% difference between a 650ti and an HD 7970?

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