Update 2016/03/07: Well so much for that. Fable Legends has been canceled. So it will ultimately be another game that gets to claim the right as the first Unreal Engine 4 based DX12 game.

DirectX 12 is now out in the wild as a part of Windows 10 and the updated driver model WDDM 2.0 that comes with it. Unlike DX11, there are no major gaming titles at launch - we are now waiting for games to take advantage of DX12 and what difference it will make for the game playing experience. One of the main focal points of DX12 is draw calls, leveraging multiple processor cores to dispatch GPU workloads, rather than the previous model of a single core doing most of the work. DX12 brings about a lot of changes with the goal of increasing performance, offering an even more immersive experience, but it does shift some of the support requirements to the engine developers such as SLI or Crossfire. We tackled two synthetic tests earlier this year, Star Swarm and 3DMark, but due to timing and other industry events, we are waiting for a better time to test the Ashes of the Singularity benchmark as the game nears completion. Until that point, a PR team got in contact with us regarding the upcoming Fable Legends title using the Unreal 4 engine, and an early access preview benchmark that came with it. Here are our results so far.

Fable Legends

Fable Legends is an Xbox One/Windows 10 exclusive free to play title built by Lionhead Studios in Unreal Engine 4. The game, styled as a ‘cooperative action RPG’, consists of asymmetrical multiplayer matches with attackers trying to raid a base and the defender playing more of a tower defense position.

The benchmark provided is more of a graphics showpiece than a representation of the gameplay, in order to show off the capabilities of the engine and the DX12 implementation. Unfortunately we didn't get to see any gameplay in this benchmark as a result, which would seem to focus more on combat. This is the one of the first DirectX 12 benchmarks available - Ashes of the Singularity by Stardock was released just before IDF, but due to scheduling we have not had a chance to dig into that one yet. This will be our first look at a DirectX 12 game engine with a game attached as a result.

Official Trailer

This benchmark pans through several outdoor scenes in a fashion similar to the Unigene Valley benchmark, focusing more on landscapes, distance drawing and tessellation rather than an upfront first-person perspective. Graphical effects such as dynamic global illumination are computed on the fly, making subtle differences in the lighting and it  shows the day/night cycle being accelerated, similar to the large Grand Theft Auto benchmark.  The engine itself draws on DX12 explicit features such as ‘asynchronous compute, manual resource barrier tracking, and explicit memory management’ that either allow the application to better take advantage of available hardware or open up options that allow developers to better manage multi-threaded applications and GPU memory resources respectively. The updated engine has had several additions to implement these visual effects and has promised that use of DirectX 12 will help to improve both the experience and performance.

The Test

The software provided to us is a prerelease version of Fable Legends, with early drivers, so ultimately the performance at this point is most likely not representative of the game at launch and should improve before release. What we will see here is more of a broad picture painting how different GPUs will scale when DX12 features are thrown into the mix. In fact, AMD sent us a note that there is a new driver available specifically for this benchmark which should improve the scores on the Fury X, although it arrived too late for this pre-release look at Fable Legends (Ryan did the testing but is covering Samsung’s 950 Pro launch in Korea at this time). It can underscore just how early in the game and driver development cycle DirectX 12 is for all players. But as with most important titles, we expect drivers and software updates to continue to drive performance forward as developers and engineers come to understand how the new version of DirectX works.

With that being said, there does not appear to be any stability issues with the benchmark as it stands, and we have had time to test graphics cards going back a few generations for both AMD and NVIDIA. Our pre-release package came with three test standards at 1280x720, 1920x1080 and 4K. We also attempted to test a number of these combinations multiple CPU core and thread count simulations in order to emulate a number of popular CPUs in the market.

CPU: Intel Core i7-4960X in 3 modes:

'Core i7' - 6 Cores, 12 Threads at 4.2 GHz
'Core i5' - 4 Cores, 4 Threads at 3.8 GHz
'Core i3' - 2 Cores, 4 Threads at 3.8 GHz
Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200i
Hard Disk: Samsung SSD 840 EVO (750GB)
Memory: G.Skill RipjawZ DDR3-1866 4 x 8GB (9-10-9-26)
Case: NZXT Phantom 630 Windowed Edition
Monitor: Asus PQ321
Video Cards: AMD Radeon R9 Fury X
AMD Radeon R9 290X
AMD Radeon R9 285
AMD Radeon HD 7970

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
Video Drivers: NVIDIA Release 355.82
AMD Catalyst Cat 15.201.1102
OS: Windows 10

This Test

All the results in this piece are on discrete GPUs. The benchmark outputs a score, which is merely the average frame rate multiplied by a hundred, but it also dumps an extensive data log where it tracks over 186 different elements of the system every frame, such as compute time for various effects for each frame. Our testing takes on three roles – direct GPU comparison of average frame rates at 1080p and 720p in our i7-4960X mode, CPU scaling at each resolution with the GTX 980 Ti and AMD Fury, X and then a deep analysis of the percentile data of these two graphics cards at each resolution and each CPU configuration. 

Graphics Performance Comparison
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  • sr1030nx - Friday, September 25, 2015 - link

    Any chance you could run a few tests on the i7 + i5 with hyperthreading off?
  • WaltC - Saturday, September 26, 2015 - link

    (I pasted this comment I made in another forum--didn't feel like repeating myself...;))

    Exactly how many "DX12" features are we looking at here...?

    Was async-compute turned on/off for the AMD cards--we know it's off for Maxwell, so that goes without saying. Does this game even use async compute? AnandTech says, "The engine itself draws on DX12 explicit features such as ‘asynchronous compute, manual resource barrier tracking, and explicit memory management’ that either allow the application to better take advantage of available hardware or open up options that allow developers to better manage multi-threaded applications and GPU memory resources respectively. "

    If that's true then the nVidia drivers for this bench must turn it off--since nVidia admits to not supporting it.

    But sadly, not even that description is very informative at all. Uh, I'm not too convinced here about the DX12 part--more like Dx11...this looks suspiciously like nVidia's behind-the-scenes "revenge" setup for their embarrassing admission that Maxwell doesn't support async compute...! (What a setup... It's really cutthroat isn't it?)

    Nvidia says its Maxwell chips can support async compute in hardware—"it's just not enabled yet."

    Come on... nVidia's pulled this before...;) I remember when they pulled it with 8-bit palletized texture support with the TNT versus 3dfx years ago...they said it was there but not turned on. The product came and went and finally nVidia said, "OOOOps! We tried, but couldn't do it. We feel real bad about that." Yea...;)

    Sure thing. Seriously, you don't actually believe that at this late date if Maxwell had async compute that nVidia would have turned it *off* in the drivers, do you? If so, why? They don't say, of course. The denial does not compute, especially since BBurke has been loudly representing that Maxwell supports 100% of d3d12--(except for async compute we know now--and what else, I wonder?)

    I've looked at these supposed "DX12" Fable benchmark results on a variety of sites, and unfortunately none of them seem very informative as to what "DX12" features we're actually looking at. Indeed, the whole thing looks like a dog & pony PR frame-rate show for nVidia's benefit. There's almost nothing about DX12 apparent.

    We seem to be approaching new lows in the industry...:/
  • TheJian - Saturday, September 26, 2015 - link

    "but both are above the bare minimum of 30 FPS no matter what the CPU."

    You're kidding right? 30fps AVERAGE is not above the min of 30fps. If you are averaging 30fps, your gaming will suck. While I HOPE they will improve things over time, the point is NEITHER is currently where any of us would like to play at 4K...LOL.

    At least we can now stop blabbing about stardock proving AMD wins in DX12 now...ROFL. At best we now have "more work needs to be done before a victor is decided", which everyone should have known already.
  • ruthan - Sunday, September 27, 2015 - link

    Where is mighty DX12 promise about both different GPU with different architecture together? Where is DX11 comparison, maybe numbers are so nice?

    If it will be not delivered real soon, we could easily stay with OpenGL and hope in Vulkan destiny.. and there is also no reason to upgrade to Windows 10, we could probably survive with Win7 64b. before Android x86 or maybe, maybe other Linux take a lead.
  • Mugur - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    I see some people complaining because there wasn't a DX11 vs. DX12 comparison, like in the Ashes benchmark. I hope everybody realizes that this is completely useless. Why should AMD optimize its cards for DX11 in a DX12 enabled game when the cards are supporting DX12 and DX12 will definitely be better for AMD in an apples to apples comparison?

    Even in Ashes, it's stupid to compare the DX11 path with the DX12 one for a AMD card, since AMD only optimized for DX12 there.

    Also, generally speaking, DX11 and DX12 visuals in a game may not be the same and that's another reason why you cannot draw any conclusion from such comparison (besides a sanity check maybe). That's why, we will definitely see, on some games, that in DX12 the cards will perform poorer that in DX11, unless the target graphics is exactly the same.

    All in all, I'm happy that DX12 brings at least a low cpu overhead. The fact that AMD benefits more from this is obvious, but that's just a "collateral" effect IMHO. I doubt that it's only because their DX11 drivers were poor, it must be also a consequence of their architecture (the high cpu overhead, I mean).

    I also hope that Windows 10 adoption will be good, because, at this point, that's the only reason for a developer not to go full DX12 for a triple A title.
  • Oxford Guy - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    "According to Kollock, the idea that there’s some break between Oxide Games and Nvidia is fundamentally incorrect. He (or she) describes the situation as follows: 'I believe the initial confusion was because Nvidia PR was putting pressure on us to disable certain settings in the benchmark, when we refused, I think they took it a little too personally.' 

    Kollock goes on to state that Oxide has been working quite closely with Nvidia, particularly over this past summer. According to them, Nvidia was 'actually a far more active collaborator over the summer then AMD was, if you judged from email traffic and code-checkins, you’d draw the conclusion we were working closer with Nvidia rather than AMD ;)'

    According to Kollock, the only vendor-specific code in Ashes was implemented for Nvidia, because attempting to use asynchronous compute under DX12 with an Nvidia card currently causes tremendous performance problems."

    "Oxide has published a lengthy blog explaining its position, and dismissing Nvidia's implication that the current build of Ashes of the Singularity is alpha code, likely to receive significant optimisations before release:

    'It should not be considered that because the game is not yet publicly out, it's not a legitimate test,' Oxide's Dan Baker said. 'While there are still optimisations to be had, the Ashes of the Singularity in its pre-beta stage is as or more optimised as most released games.'"
  • joshjaks - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    I really like the CPU scaling tests that are done, even though it looks like multiple cores aren't hugely beneficial at the moment. I'm wondering though, do you think there could be the possibility of a DirectX 12 test that focuses on FX CPUs versus i3, i5, and i7s? Being an 8350 owner myself, it'd be nice to know if FX made any improvements in DirectX 12 as well. (Not holding my breath though)
  • Oxford Guy - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    "Being an 8350 owner myself, it'd be nice to know if FX made any improvements in DirectX 12 as well. (Not holding my breath though)."

    PCPER made the effort to actually do this testing:

    With the FX 8370 in Ashes: "NVIDIA’s GTX 980 sees consistent DX11 to DX12 scaling of about 13-16% while AMD’s R9 390X scales by 50%. This puts the R9 390X ahead of the GTX 980, a much more expensive GPU based on today’s sale prices."

    FX 8370 and 1600p (in frames per second)

    R9 390X DX 12 high: 36.4
    GTX 980 DX 12 high: 34.3

    R9 390X DX 11 high: 23.8
    GTX 980 DX 11 high: 31.1

    with i7 6700K and 1600p

    R9 390X DX 12 high: 48.7
    GTX 980 DX 12 high: 42.3

    R9 390X DX 11 high: 38.1
    GTX 980 DX 11 high: 48.1
  • Oxford Guy - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    So, with typical 4.5 GHz overclocking that chip should be able to match the i7 6700K's performance with a 390X at 1600p under DX11 — using a 390X with DX12.

    That's quite a value gain, considering the price difference. I got an 8320E with an 8 phase motherboard for a total of $133.75 from Microcenter. Coupled with a $20 cooler (Zalman sale via slickdeals) which needed some extra fans, I was able to get it comfortably to 4.5 GHz.

    The drawback in the PCPER results is that an i3 4330 is actually faster under DX12 with Ashes and the 390X than the 8370 is. It made much bigger gains under DX12 than the 8370 did.

    i3 DX 12: 40.6
    DX 11: 28.0

    Ashes is a real-time strategy which tends to be CPU-heavy so it seems odd that an i3 could outperform an 8 core chip.
  • Iamthebeast - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    The game is probably not utilizing all cores. The funny thing with the fable benchmark is once you hit 1080p the two core CPUs perform on par with their larger core counterparts and beat them in 4k. Makes me wonder if this trend is going to continue. The funny thing for me is I thought dx12 was going to make using more cores easier but from the two test we have so far it actually looks like GPU it taking a lot more of the load away from the CPU, like cutting it out of the loop.

    If this trend continues it actually looks like the best processor for gaming might be the Pentium g3580

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