Detail Presets: Five Options From Which To Choose
Most of our benchmarks employ the Ultra quality preset in Cataclysm's Video menu. This is because we're consummate PC gamers, always looking to max out the experience versus what you might find on a console. To that end, we want to see what Blizzard meant this game to look like, rather than distilling it down to work with less-powerful hardware.
At the same time, we understand that not everyone is going to play Cataclysm at its most demanding settings. Sometimes it's necessary to scale back a bit in the interest of improving performance (that's why we tested at the Good preset as well). So we're going to cover the five available preset options and determine what you give up as you dial down from Ultra.
If you're not sure what it means to turn Liquid Detail from Ultra to Good or to disable Projected Textures, the following pages will illustrate each step of every setting that Blizzard exposes. You'll know exactly what you're getting into.
Not surprisingly, the Ultra graphics preset cranks every feature up as high as it'll go, letting the player pick resolution and multi-sample anti-aliasing settings. As you go through the next several pages, bear in mind that Ultra represents the top set of display options in Cataclysm.
Taking a step down to High means making a couple of small sacrifices. First, Texture Filtering drops from 16x anisotropic to 8x anisotropic. All of the Environment sub-features scale from Ultra to High quality, and Shadow Quality, Liquid Detail, and Particle Density take one step back.
The Good quality setting steps you back to 4x anisotropic texture filtering. Again, all three Environment features take a step back (from High to Good). Liquid Detail persists at Good, but Shadow Quality, Sunshafts, and Particle Density pull back one slider position.
Knowing that mainstream cards like AMD's older Radeon HD 4770 and Nvidia's GeForce 9800 GTX can play this game using Good quality settings makes us a little hesitant to recommend running anything lower. After all, even a $100 graphics card upgrade could get you a Radeon HD 4850 or GeForce GTS 250.
Nevertheless, if there is no hardware purchase in your future, or if you're stuck with integrated graphics, stepping back to Fair quality drops texture resolution, limits you to trilinear texture filtering, disables projected textures, and cuts every other setting by one slider position (including disabling sunshafts).
As an example of what gaming on a netbook or several generations of Intel's integrated graphics platforms will get you, Blizzard added the Low quality setting to Cataclysm. Don't use it, though. It's dismally ugly.