Feature Article

How Graphically Demanding Is Mass Effect: Andromeda On PC?

Frostbite, spotlight.

Exploring uncharted territories, namely an entirely new galaxy, would be nothing without the visuals to complement grand space-faring. Mass Effect: Andromeda may come up short on some of its character models and animations, but each planet is beautiful and presents a tremendous sense of scale, it’s quite literally out of this world. The game is built with the Frostbite engine, as seen in previous EA titles like Battlefield 1 and Star Wars: Battlefront. It’s a strong foundation to build upon, but how does it perform on the latest graphics cards?

We have nine modern graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD and put them through our own benchmark test. Since Mass Effect: Andromeda does not have a built-in benchmark tool, we used FRAPS--a utility that records frame rate data. We carefully designed a repeatable sequence of events to obtain consistent data that’s indicative of actual gameplay.

Methodology

The benchmark sequence begins outside the Tempest on the starting planet Eos. We had Ryder run through Site 1: Promise, with the camera panning around the environment twice, to where our Nomad was parked. Then, we had Ryder hop into the Nomad to drive up a hill and off a ramp to a short firefight with three enemy Kett. The sequence spanned 90 seconds, after which FRAPS gave us the minimum, average, and maximum FPS during that time frame.

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We decided to repeat the process across three resolutions: 1920x1080 (1080p), 2560x1440 (1440p), and 3840x2160 (4K). Field of view was set to the halfway point on the slider and V-Sync was turned off. The “Ultra” preset in the graphics options was used across the board, which includes the following settings:

  • Temporal anti-aliasing
  • HBAO+ (horizon-based ambient occlusion)
  • “Ultra” texture filtering (anisotropic filtering)
  • “Ultra” texture, post-processing, shadow, and mesh quality
  • “High” effects and lighting quality
  • 1.00 resolution scale (resolution scale mode “off”)

The game allows resolution scaling if you need better performance; you can choose between 1080p, 900p, and 720p. This lets your display stay at its native resolution and keeps UI elements the same, but renders the game at which ever setting you choose to scale to.

To see a graphics comparison across all platforms--PC, PS4, and Xbox One--check out our video. And if you need a walkthrough or reminder of what some of these graphics options mean, don’t hesitate to read our PC graphics settings explainer.

Test Bench

As with our previous benchmark stories with For Honor and Ghost Recon: Wildlands, we used a system equipped with an Intel Core i7-6700K clocked at 4.0GHz on a Gigabyte G1 Z170 motherboard. The system also has 16GB of HyperX Savage DDR4 RAM (2133MHz) and a Western Digital Blue solid-state drive. The following is a list of the graphics cards we used for these tests:

Both Nvidia and AMD released new drivers the week of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s release, so we made sure to use the latest software--Nvidia’s GeForce 378.92 WHQL drivers and AMD’s Radeon Crimson ReLive 17.3.3 package.

Benchmark Results

1080p Results

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Nvidia’s top three graphics cards handle 1080p admirably with all graphics settings maxed out. Both mid-range cards--the GTX 1060 and RX 480--held up well through our benchmark by pumping out playable frame rates. The RX 480 even inched ahead of the GTX 1060 by hitting a 60 FPS average, despite dipping to a lower minimum frame rate. These two cards typically perform similarly, and Mass Effect: Andromeda is no exception.

Things get a little dicey as we go down the line to lower-end graphics cards. The RX 470 is able to uphold a 51 FPS average, but the GTX 1050 Ti struggles slightly by only getting out 35 FPS on average and dipping below 30 FPS at one instance. The RX 460 and GTX 1050 aren’t intended to run maximum settings on modern games, even at 1080p, and Andromeda is a clear example of that. Frame rates were understandably low, but the GTX 1050 had several hitches and stutters during the test, which could be attributed to its shortage of VRAM. We’d recommend going down to the “Medium” quality preset to attain playable frame rates.

1440p Results

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Both the GTX 1080 Ti and GTX 1080 have no problem handling Andromeda as we move up to 1440p. However, the GTX 1070 dipped under 60 FPS on a few occasions but largely performed well enough to generate a smooth experience.

There’s a significant drop-off in performance once we get to the GTX 1060 and RX 480, but an average of 41 FPS is still considered playable. And again, both cards perform nearly identical here. The RX 470 continues to impress for a lower mid-range card and puts up over 30 FPS on average. At 1440p, it essentially performs just like the 1050 Ti does at 1080p.

The rest of the lower end cards aren’t going to give you smooth framerates at 1440p, and that’s okay considering their price and the demand of Andromeda’s visuals. If you happen to run 1440p natively and you’re equipped with these cards, we’d recommend turning down settings to medium and turning off some special effects. You can also have the game downscale to to 1080p or 900p.

4K Results

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It’s not much of a surprise to see nearly every card falter at 4K on “Ultra” settings, though the GTX 1080 Ti can provide a very playable experience by never dipping under 40 FPS through our entire benchmark. The GTX 1080 is no slouch either by staying above 30 FPS. If you’re hoping to do 4K with a GTX 1070, we’d recommend turning down anti-aliasing and setting the quality to “High” instead.

Again, the RX 480 and GTX 1060 are indistinguishable, though it doesn’t matter much at these settings as they both yield unplayable results. Turning off anti-aliasing and going down to “High” or “Medium” settings could make for playable frame rates at 4K.

All the other cards made gameplay near impossible, and therefore benchmarking difficult. However, keep in mind that these cards are not intended to run games at 4K, let alone maximum settings. For instance, the GTX 1050 could not run at all.

Conclusion

Based on our own benchmarks for Mass Effect: Andromeda, performance across our nine graphics cards was not out of the ordinary. Considering all the graphics settings that encompass the “Ultra” preset, the game runs exceptionally well. It shouldn’t come as a surprise since Battlefield 1 and Star Wars: Battlefront used the Frostbite engine; both look incredible and don’t ask too much of your hardware.

If you plan on unraveling the Andromeda galaxy in 4K, you’ll at least want a GTX 1070 in your system. Mid-range cards like the GTX 1060 and RX 480 had a relatively strong showing in 1080p and 1440p, though there’s still plenty of eye candy if you turn down some settings in exchange for better frame rates. Thankfully, the breadth of graphics options lets you tweak the game to find the best balance between performance and visual fidelity.

Regardless of what you think of the animation and character models, the Mass Effect: Andromeda looks stunning, and it has some of the best looking environments and backdrops to date.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

highammichael

Michael Higham

Associate Editor at GameSpot. Southeast San Diego to the Bay. Salamat sa iyong suporta!
Mass Effect: Andromeda

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Avatar image for fieryermine
fieryermine

I haven't actually benchmarked mine, but it seems to run fine on Ultra+ on a GTX970 and an i5 at 1680x1050 (older Viewsonic 16x10 monitor). There are weird, massive, drops in performance from time to time, but these disappear if I restart the game. I think they have something to do with changing the graphics settings during a game session.

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Pax_Augusta

I just finished an Insanity run at around 111 hours invested on a GTX 770. I could run the game at ultra and on average maintain around 30 fps at full HD, but there were drops in performance specifically for cinematics.

Going to upgrade this year to either the Volta series or a 1080 Ti when they go on sale and buy a 4K HDR G-Sync monitor as well. Do another playthrough of MEA in 4K at max settings.

Avatar image for lukasr
lukasr

A benchmark on PC at this point isn't very viable. The game fluctuates in FPS so much. During real gameplay I get a solid 60 with 2x GTX 1080's, but during conversations I plummet to about 25 fps

Avatar image for pax_augusta
Pax_Augusta

@lukasr: The problem isn't MEA. The problem is you are doing SLI. NOBODY truly supports SLI or Crossfire. It's a waste of money and any knowledgeable PC gamer won't waste their money on more than one GPU. Do yourself a favor and sell one of those GTX 1080s. Your performance will likely increase using one card.

I don't even want to think about how much money you threw away building your PC.

Avatar image for lukasr
lukasr

@pax_augusta: That's rubbish.

During actual gameplay I see a _huge_ improvement in fps. SLI is god-like, and if you want to believe it's rubbish just to save yourself a few bucks, that's your decision.

The issue is cutscenes and conversations specifically. The amount of lag I experience sometimes only in cut scenes and conversations is just evidence of lazy development.

Avatar image for pax_augusta
Pax_Augusta

@tecnogaming: Believe what you want! I used to run Crossfire/SLI and it was an absolute WASTE of money! I'll never do that again. One incredibly powerful GPU will always be better than two for the simple fact that 95% of games are optimized for one GPU and not two. Feel free to continue throwing away your money though if you'd like!

Avatar image for bluesunmerc
bluesunmerc

Something seems off in your test. I have a

i7 4790k @4.6 ghz

Gtx 980ti with a slight over clock

16gb of ram.

I am getting 100fps on ultra same settings as your bench and I could be getting closer to 130 but it's runs the card at 100% which get it a little to hot for my taste so I locked the frame at 100fps. On a 144hz monitor. Anyways as its seems my 980ti is beating your 1080ti on 1080p which I know can't be right.

Avatar image for jimmythang
jimmythang

@bluesunmerc:It could be due to a number of things. The settings could be slightly different (did you enable the same level of AA?) Also, if you read my GTX 1080 Ti review: https://www.gamespot.com/articles/nvidia-geforce-gtx-1080-ti-review/1100-6448559/ (sorry for the plug), you'll notice that the 1080 Ti actually isn't a great 1080p card. In some instances, the GTX 1080 can beat it. The card doesn't really awaken until you take it to higher resolutions.

Staff
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bluesunmerc

@jimmythang: Didn't know that about the 1080ti and yea I actually checked the settings earlier just for my own curiosity. While roaming around Eos I generally avg around 115 to 120 maxing around 130 frames even in combat but this ends up running the 980ti (windforce edition if anyone is curious) up to 100% and after about 20 minutes of game play the card hits 91c which is to warm for my tastes so I lock frames to 100 just cause its still looks super smooth and honestly from 100 to 144fps I cant see a huge difference.

Still think Ill wait for another generation of cards to come out to see how the handle 4k cause right now this 980ti is handling the games I play really well for 1080p. Thanks for the info though I didn't know that in some cases the 1080ti wasn't handling 1080p that well.

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bluesunmerc

@pasullica: oh very true but it seems as if their 1080ti is performing fairly bad on 1080p. But if this is how a1080ti runs I may wait for another round of graphic cards to come out before making the jump to 4K.

Avatar image for Myg0ticA
Myg0ticA

Just finished the game on normal difficulty with 70 hours played. I used a gtx 970 & i5 2500k with 8gb of ddr3 memory. I have a 120hz 1080p monitor but getting a consistent 120 frames per second required extreme low graphics detail settings including 75% render scale. I finally decided to achieve a steady smooth 60 FPS @ 1080p 60hz this was easily made by settings of medium with temporal aa enabled and shader high being the outliers. Finished the game with these settings and about 75% of the playthrough was an enjoyable experience. Don't feel I missed out on any eye candy and some of the levels where stunning and very pleasing visually. I don't agree with the score this game received from gamespot now having completed it. I think 6 is really low and even with it's flaws MEA gets a solid 8.5 from me. Immersive game just lose yourself to it.

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pyro1245

Nice bench.

Would really like to see a 980 Ti included in your tests.

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johnlewis107

These results seem low, I get 50+ average fps with my R9 390 (2560x1440 Ultra)

I was expecting it to be much more graphically impressive, but it pretty much matches DA:I.

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jonparkes84

Wish you'd do the 900 series rather than those useless 1050, rx470 type cards.

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Iamkalell

@jonparkes84: I can't speak for the other 900 series cards, but I have a 980 and know that its performance is on par with the 1060 (which sucks considering what I paid for it). That's how I gauge in benchmarks how well a game will run on my system. GS isn't the only place that doesn't use the 900 series cards in their benchmarks, in fact I can't think of one that still does. That honestly doesn't make sense to me considering that a lot of people are still using them (they're not even that old).

Avatar image for pax_augusta
Pax_Augusta

@Iamkalell: Two years is actually really old for PC gaming hardware. Also, no graphics card (even a Ti or Titan) will ever stay on top for long. It doesn't matter what you invest in. That card will be obsolete in six months as there is always something better over the horizon.

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DecapitatedOrc

Useless article. What about including a mix of older and newer graphics cards? Not everyone splurges out on a flippin' GTX 1080 as soon as it gets released.....

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DEVILTAZ35

@DecapitatedOrc: Good point , i wanted to see how it performs on a 980ti for instance.

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BassMan

@deviltaz35: Should be similar to the 1070 benchmarks, but slightly lower fps.

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DEVILTAZ35

@BassMan: Yeah i thought it might be cheers. It has been a good card. Very quiet. It's an Asus DC so not the fastest around but i never hear it.

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BassMan

@deviltaz35: Yup, 980 Ti is still a very good card. I had one too, but upgraded to the 1080 when it came out. I am seriously considering the 1080 Ti right now. Waiting for most of the custom cards to release. 1440p/144fps Ultra is demanding. I try to get as close to it as possible. G-Sync helps when I fall short. hehe :)

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DEVILTAZ35

@BassMan: Yeah i am too . Was just reading a 1080ti was clocked at over 3GHZ on Liquid Nitrogen so it looks like this one could be an impressive overclocker.

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BassMan

@deviltaz35: I just pre-ordered the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Ti Aorus Xtreme. Gonna put my 1080 Xtreme up for sale. :)

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DEVILTAZ35

@BassMan: Nice , i haven't even heard of that one in Australia but it would be about 1300-1400 here at least at first. Base TI is 1200 in oz.

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BassMan

@deviltaz35: Yeah, they are all expensive. Mine is $1040 CAD. Founders Edition is $1000 CAD. The Xtreme is a much better card though.

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DEVILTAZ35

@BassMan: Is that Canadian dollar? USA get these things dirt cheap lol.

Yeah for that price difference go the extreme for sure.

I think i'll hold off for now. Interested to see where Nvidia goes from here with Volta tech too and AMD Vega looks interesting if it can match 1080ti which they are claming apparently.

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BassMan

@deviltaz35: Yes, Canadian dollar. I want AMD to do well, but I have a G-Sync monitor and I am kind of an Nvidia guy due to bad experiences with ATI in the past. I also like the GameWorks extras, even though I don't like that it is proprietary.

Avatar image for deactivated-5d04c6ddb5adc

This game looks fantastic at medium settings with ultra textures and temporal AA (much better AA then any of the Xbox 360 era games). The first level at ultra is too demanding to give a clear picture, and the rest of the game gets more and more beautiful with higher frame rates.

Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

@alistairbrogan: 360 rarely used AA :) . It would have brought the framerates crashing down on that hardware. The biggest advantage with PC and newer consoles is post processing effects which the older consoles couldn't do though amazingly some skilled programmers could still work wonders on those old machines. Look at the work Dice was doing on the original Xbox with Rally Sport Challenge 2 for instance?

Avatar image for bbq_R0ADK1LL
bbq_R0ADK1LL

SLI scales well. I set it to Ultra with shadows down one step because I know that would give me a solid boost. At 1440P two 970s give me 70+fps most of the time running around in the open world. Cutscenes sometimes drop down to 55 when there's a lot of depth of field blurring going on.

Facial animations aside, this is a beautiful game with nice textures & great lighting. Any open world will always have some framerate variance depending what you're looking at & the game is a little slow with closing menus but the game runs smoothly when it needs to.

Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

@bbq_R0ADK1LL: Not bad out of 970 sli .

Avatar image for BassMan
BassMan

They need to fix the hitching/stutter when streaming data/loading assets. It is very distracting and annoying. Also, why do the dialogue scenes drop the frame rate so much? There is barely anything happening and minimal graphics to render. This game was rushed and needs more polish and optimization.

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Random_Matt

Guess Scorpio is fucked then.

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SingletreeAve

@Random_Matt: No. It's targeted at the "serious" gamer with shallow pockets.

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xhawk27

@Random_Matt: Nope it's using Vega.

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Random_Matt

Bloody cheap console port, still buying eventually for 60fps.

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ALLIAMOS

4k without SLI , look like snow without rain