Skip to main content

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: PC Performance, Benchmarked

Image Quality And Settings

As mentioned, Skyrim runs on Bethesda’s Creation Engine, which is based on the Gamebryo engine used in Oblivion and all of the Fallout 3 games. It’s updated with a lot of features its predecessors didn't have, such as a greater draw distance, new wind and weather effects, and better character animations. According to Todd Howard (Skyrim’s director) the game supports DirectX 11, but only in a performance-enhancing capacity, similar to Civilization V. Effects like tessellation are not currently exposed in the engine.

Although it can be quite demanding at high detail levels, the Creation Engine's visuals remain attractive, even scaled down to less taxing settings:

As you can see, higher detail levels push foliage, effects, and lighting detail. However, Ultra detail isn't required to have an enjoyable experience.  

One of the Creation Engine's weaknesses is aliasing artifacts on transparent textures, such as the ones used on foliage. This can be distracting, especially since multi-sample anti-aliasing does not correct it. The game does include Nvidia’s FXAA code to smooth out jaggy edges using a post-processing shader (which, incidentally, works on both Nvidia and AMD hardware). It does a decent job mitigating some of the aliasing, but does tend to blur sharper details. So, the best solution is to force texture transparency anti-aliasing within your graphics driver. AMD’s Adaptive AA and Nvidia’s Transparent AA do a great job improving the output, but at a quantifiable performance hit compared to FXAA, as we’ll demonstrate in the benchmarks.

There’s not much more to say about Skyrim’s visuals, so let’s move on to performance.

  • xx12amanxx
    Ive been a fan of the Elderscroll series for years i look forward to playing this!
    Reply
  • Jarmo
    A bit disappointing to see the 2 threads thing, no doubt the console versions are much better optimized.
    Looks like I'm both CPU and GPU limited with Phenom x4 and ATI 4870.
    Reply
  • lunyone
    A bit disappointing to see the 2 threads thing, no doubt the console versions are much better optimized.
    Looks like I'm both CPU and GPU limited with Phenom x4 and ATI 4870.
    Well with a Athlon II x3 450 and an AMD 4850 512mb GPU w/6 gb's of DDR2 it seems to work fine. The game has picked "Ultra" settings when launching the game the first time. I haven't seen all of the settings that the game has selected, but the game looks pretty good and is running quite well. I haven't run any FRAPS on it, but it seems to be about 30-40 FPS, from what I can tell, which is good enough for me :)
    Reply
  • lunyone
    Oh and forgot to mention that the game is running at 1920 x 1080 resolution (unless the game adjusted to something different). I'm trying to play and post, so I'm a bit distracted to say the least. I'll post back if something changes :)
    Reply
  • computadoro
    O well, was hoping to see the 560ti and 6950 tested as those are the two cards I was going to choose between.
    Reply
  • cleeve
    9522636 said:
    O well, was hoping to see the 560ti and 6950 tested as those are the two cards I was going to choose between.

    Just look at 6850/GTX460 and 6970/GTX 570. The 560 Ti and 6950 will be in the middle of those, closer to the higher end though.
    Reply
  • Swolern
    Bethesda disappoints PC gamers again! It's very sad that Bethesda chooses to optimize the consoles and leaves PC with a basic port with a little extra detail. I'm not saying it's not a great game because it is, but the thought of what it could have been if Bethesda put a little extra effort into the PC makes me sick!
    Reply
  • Swolern
    Bethesda=Activision. Dice blows em both away!
    Reply
  • koogco
    I havent played this yet, due to a pending CPU upgrade (somehow i doubt my athlon x2 5600+ (2,8ghz) is enough for much.
    But even if this game doesn't quite push the top cards, you gotta commend them for the great scaling! Some of the worst console ports doesn't even HAVE graphics settings, in other games the settings make little difference in the hardware needed, and based on these screenshots (if rather small, larger ones please!) the game looks almost as good if you turn the settings down some.
    Reply
  • Man looks really castrated so it can work on xbox/ps3. Too bad, 5 year old graphics are lame.
    Reply