Results: StarCraft II: Heart Of The Swarm
While the lasting appeal of Blizzard’s popular StarCraft franchise is no doubt found within the multiplayer experience, the single-player campaigns are also a lot of fun, making them a worthy starting point for testing. Rather than using our existing Wings of Liberty map, I found that the “Harvest of Screams” mission from the Heart of the Swarm expansion really taxed my Core i5-based gaming rig. Our 60-second benchmark takes place as Kerrigan leads approximately 150 Zerg units in to destroy the mission’s final Protoss base.
I purposely delayed my attack a couple of minutes to build up more Zergling than the mission required. Plus, I kept the game camera zoomed out and centered over the action. As a result, frame rates drop substantially as more units come into view and join the battle. This may be more brutal than your own play style. After all, a Core 2 Duo E6600 is Blizzard's recommended processor. But without question, too little compute power will force you to rethink your strategy, zoom the camera in to involve fewer units, or avoid large-scale maps altogether.
StarCraft II is CPU-intensive, but unfortunately isn’t optimized for quad-core processors. Operating at the lowest clock frequencies, AMD's Athlon II X4 640 struggles the most. Its frame rates are pinned in the mid-teens once all of the units join the battle. A lack of L3 cache must be hurting it as well. Despite a 200 MHz overclocked advantage over the stock Phenom II, it still trails by about 12%.
Cranking up graphics and texture quality for this second set of numbers gets us closer to how we'd play the game with a fast GPU under the hood. Even so, our results remain CPU-limited. Overclocking is pretty much imperative with the Athlon II, since its stock-frequency frame rates hovered between 12 and 16 throughout the battle. Even then, it's barely adequate at 3.6 GHz, stuck below 20 FPS during intense action.
The Athlon X4 750K is a nice step up, competing with the Phenom II and matching AMD's FX processors once it gets overclocked. For some reason, the FX-4350 suffers a strange performance drop as the fog of war lifts. This didn't seem to be a result of textures loading, and it was repeatable on subsequent runs. More important is that, during intense action, the FX-4350 tops our chart with the highest frame rates.