Middle-Earth Shadow of War Graphics Benchmark Review

We continue Talion and Celebrimbor’s journey on Middle Earth Shadow of War, the sequel to Shadow of Mordor that was released in 2014. The first Middle Earth game was fun and exciting but there are rooms for improvement, and we can see these improvements in the Shadow of War. Monolith Productions has added more game features with larger maps, different areas, more quests and activities. In Shadow of War, you could also build your own army with the help of Orcs serving under the Bright Lord, and conquer other fortresses. New characters are also introduced as well as Orc ranks, and then there are beasts you can dominate and mount on and many more. Shadow of War was released back in October 10, 2017 and within the first few weeks or month of its release, there were some bugs that needed attention. Today, most of those bugs were already ironed out or fixed and we’re just waiting for new DLCs to come out. In this review, we’ll focus on the graphics performance of the game and let’s see what graphics card is best suited to play Middle Earth Shadow of War. No spoilers in this review though, so go ahead and check our review if you haven’t get yourself a copy yet.

Middle Earth Shadow of War Graphics Performance Review

About this Game:
“Go behind enemy lines to forge your army, conquer fortresses and dominate Mordor from within. Experience how the award winning Nemesis System creates unique personal stories with every enemy and follower, and confront the full power of the Dark Lord Sauron and his Ringwraiths in this epic new story of Middle-earth. In Middle-earth™: Shadow of War™, nothing will be forgotten.”

We continue the story of Talion and Celebrimbor as they forge a new Ring of Power to build their own forces to defeat Sauron. The event took place between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The game also features an improved Nemesis System, where Talion can dominate and gain Orc followers, build your own army and conquer other fortresses, turning Sauron’s army against him.

The Middle Earth Shadow of War is available to download via Steam; it’s available in standard edition, Silver Edition (includes Slaughter Tribe Nemesis and Outlaw Tribe Nemesis Expansions and Silver War Chest) and Gold Edition (includes Slaughter Tribe Nemesis, Outlaw Tribe Nemesis, The Blade of Galadriel Story, Desolation of Mordor Story Expansions and Gold War Chest). You can also download the high resolution texture pack and 4K cinematic pack for free to further improve the “immersive-ness” and visual fidelity of the game, specially if you are using a 4K monitor.

Shadow of War System Requirements

OS: Windows 7 SP1 with Platform Update
Processor: AMD FX-4350, 4.2 GHz / Intel Core i5-2300, 2.80 GHz
Memory: 6 GB RAM
Graphics: AMD HD 7870, 2 GB / NVIDIA GTX 660, 2 GB
DirectX: Version 11
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 70 GB available space
Additional Notes: X64 required

OS: Windows 10 Creators Update
Processor: AMD FX-8350, 4.0 GHz / Intel Core i7-3770, 3.4 GHz
Memory: 12 GB RAM
Graphics: AMD RX 480, 4 GB or RX580, 4GB / NVIDIA GTX 970, 4GB or GTX1060, 6GB
DirectX: Version 11
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 70 GB available space
Additional Notes: X64 required

Shadow of War Display Settings

From the display settings, you can adjust the display mode, scaled resolution, game brightness, display area settings, V-sync, dynamic resolution and set the maximum FPS.

When you adjust the scaled resolution, you can see on the right side of the screen how much system and video memory is required to the drive that game at that resolution. The memory needed is also affected by the texture quality found on the advanced settings. However, we later find that a 3GB or 4GB of VRAM is sufficient to play this game. But driving more frames per second is another story and will depend on the processing power of the GPU.

Shadow of War (Graphics) Advanced Settings

Above are the following options for the advanced graphics settings. You can use the Auto Config that will depend on the current hardware installed on your system, or choose a graphics preset quality. You can also individually adjust some settings to further fine tune your game experience or in case you need to tone down some settings to achieve a more playable frame rate.

Enabling the Preload High Mips and Large Page Mode could give you a little bit more boost and stable frame rate, but these are really optional. We stick with the graphics preset when we tested and played the game.

Shadow of War offers six graphics quality preset: lowest, low, medium, high, very high, ultra. You definitely don’t want to play this game at lowest or low graphics quality unless you don’t care the details and graphics quality and you simply want to chop off some Orcs’ heads. Or perhaps your graphics card isn’t enough to drive this game at a playable frame rate at higher graphics quality.

Very High or Ultra is where you want to play this game. For me graphics quality is acceptable at high settings, but you get more visual fidelity at very high or ultra settings. There’s actually minor difference between very high and ultra and you can observe them on the screenshots.

Shadow of War Graphics Comparison

Below are six actual gameplay screenshots; starting with the lowest graphics quality, then low, medium, high, very high and finally ultra graphics quality. You can see the difference from one graphics quality to another. Theses screenshots are originally taken at 3840×2160 or 4K UHD. You can view the original size by clicking on the images below. It may take some time to load (depending on your internet connection) due to the file size.

Here’s another set of screenshots taken on another area. You can clearly see the difference on Talion’s armor, the lightning and quality of the fortress and the metal sticking out in front of Talion. Again the screenshots are arrange from lowest, low, medium, high, very high and ultra.

Let’s see some more gameplay screenshots and check out what quests awaits you on Shadow of War.

Shadow of War Quests

Like I said before, there are actually a lot of things to do in Middle Earth Shadow of War. Honestly, I haven’t finished the game yet. I’m only at 55% and I have already invested 40++ hours playing this game. I haven’t finished the main story line yet and there are many side quests and other tasks that need to be done. Hopefully the upcoming DCLs would be exciting as well. I personally want to see more of Eltariel in action.

Shadow of War Gameplay Screenshots

Below are some in-game screenshots at 3840×2160 resolution with ultra graphics quality.

Let’s proceed to the test system we used to benchmark and play Shadow of War.

Middle Earth Shadow of War Test Setup

While playing and benchmarking the Middle Earth Shadow of War, I am using a Gigabyte X370 Gaming 5 motherboard powered with an AMD Ryzen 7 1700. The CPU is overclocked to 4GHz so we can get better frames per second specially at 1080p. Below are the rest of the system specifications:

Operating System: Windows 10 Pro 64bit
Motherboard: Aorus X370 Gaming 5
Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 1700 @ 4GHz
CPU Cooler: Thermaltake Pacific RL360 LCS with Pacific W4 RGB CPU Block.
Memory: Galax Hall-Of-Fame DDR4-3600MHz 16GB
Storage Drives: Patriot HellFire M.2 NVMe SSD, WD Blue SSD
Power Supply: Seasonic 850W Prime Titanium
Chassis: Thermaltake Core P5

The graphics card used in benchmarking Shadow of War are the following:

For the graphics drivers, I used the NVIDIA GeForce 388.13 WHQL driver for the GeForce graphics cards, while for the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, I used the AMD Crimson ReLive 17.11.1 Win 10 64-bit driver. I used Fraps to capture the frame rate and I also used the built-in benchmark tool to record the frame rate for consistency.

Note that I find a difference on the FPS numbers displayed on the built-in game benchmark compared to the numbers I got with Fraps. You can see what I mean on the benchmark video I included in the next page. However, the numbers I reflected in the graphs are the results I got using Fraps.

Shadow of War Benchmark Results

Again, I used FRAPS to get the FPS and also used the in-game benchmark tool. Unfortunately, at the time I tested Shadow of War, I don’t have the GTX 1060, GTX 1050 Ti and RX 580 on hand. Also note that we used an AMD Ryzen system to test and play this game; so expect a bit of performance drop compared to Intel-powered system with higher clock speeds. We’ll do a comparison between AMD Ryzen vs Intel Coffe Lake powered gaming machines very soon.

In the meantime, below are the results I got with the system I used:

Middle Earth Shadow of War Review: Conclusion

Based on our testing, it seems that you really need at least a GTX 1060 or an RX 580 to have a smooth and playable frame rate at 1080p at Very High or Ultra settings. Moving up to 1440p resolution, you’ll need at least a GTX 1070 (Ti) or an RX Vega 56 to maintain a playable 60 fps at Very High or Ultra settings. If you have a 4K UHD monitor or if you plan to play this at 4K UHD, you’ll really need a powerful graphics card, like the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. A GTX 1080, GTX 1070 Ti, or the RX VEGA 64/56 could drive this game at 4K UHD, but you’ll have to tone down the graphics quality if you wish to hit an average of 60 fps. By the way, the game is still “playable” between 30 fps to 50fps. But it’s not as smooth as compared to 60 fps.

How about if you have a high refresh rate monitor? If you plan to play Shadow of War on a high refresh rate monitor (120Hz or 144Hz), you’ll really need a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti to push all those frames on a G-Sync-enabled monitor. As for FreeSync-enabled monitors, the fastest that AMD has is the Radeon RX VEGA 64 Liquid Edition.

For those who are using a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or an RX 560, do not worry because you can still play Shadow of War at 1080p. But you’ll have to sacrifice some graphic details and lower the quality to achieve a playable frame rate. However, it may not be as visually stimulating as compared to playing the game at ultra graphics quality.

Like I said in the previous pages, I haven’t finished or beat the game yet. I’m still at 55%, still a long way to go and I’ll need lots of hours to complete this game. So far, I personally find Shadow of War much better compared to Shadow of Mordor. There are many things you can do with this game that you can’t do in the first one. I can’t comment on how good the story is yet, because like I said I haven’t finished the game. But in terms of gameplay, level of action and quests, I pretty much enjoyed playing Shadow of War. Dominating the orcs, hunting captains and the hack and slash action are some of the things that lets me enjoy this game.

Finally, if you like Shadow of Mordor, I think you’ll enjoy Middle Earth Shadow of War more; just like how I find Shadow of War to be more action-packed and exciting. If you haven’t tried Shadow of War yet and if you enjoy games like this, I suggest you check out some gameplay videos first. You may find yourself getting a copy.

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Peter Paul
Peter is a PC enthusiast and avid gamer with several years of hands-on experience in testing and reviewing PC components, audio equipment, and various tech devices. He offers a genuine, no-nonsense perspective, helping consumers make informed choices in the ever-changing world of technology.

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