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, I find the single-player campaigns well-designed, and always a worthy starting point. Rather than using our existing Wings of Liberty multiplayer map, I jumped into the Heart of the Swarm expansion and discovered that the "Harvest of Screams” mission was the first one capable of taxing my Core i5 gaming rig. This 60-second benchmark takes place as Kerrigan leads approximately 150 Zerg forces in to destroy the mission’s final Protoss base.
I purposely delayed my attack a couple of extra 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 and more units come into view, joining the battle. This may be considered overly brutal for your own style of play. After all, Core 2 Duo E6600 is the recommended processor requirement. But without a doubt, too little processor performance requires that you make compromises, whether you alter your strategy, zoom the camera in on fewer units, or totally avoid large-scale multiplayer maps.
StarCraft II is CPU-intensive, but unfortunately isn’t optimized for quad-core processors. Largely dependent on the amount of cache you can throw at it, Ivy Bridge-based processors appear to scale roughly 500-800 MHz ahead of the Core 2 architecture, leaving the Core 2 Quad Q9550 and Core 2 Duo E8400 at the bottom of our stack.
Cranking up graphics and texture quality for this second set of results yields frame rates close to how we'd expect to play this game with beefy graphics. Even so, it's clearly still CPU-limited.