Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia Mac review: Can you run it?

by | May 27, 2018 | Strategy

The last Total War game released on MacOS was Total War: Warhammer, an exquisite game with impressive real-time battles and deep turn-based campaigns. So exquisite, it easily earned a spot among the Best Strategy games for Mac.

And although Warhammer 2 for MacOS is still missing a year later, the brand-new Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia for Mac was just released.

While we’re extremely happy to get such a fast MacOS release, we can’t help but wonder: Is it as good as Warhammer? Is it as demanding? Will your Mac be able to handle it?

Developed by The Creative Assembly and ported by Feral Interactive, Thrones of Britannia should be a safe bet for fans of the Total War series or strategy games in general. The game includes all the key elements you would expect and even introduces a couple of new features. It isn’t groundbreaking in any way, but it’s still a solid package:


User Reviews

Steam users are, as usual, much more challenging. Going through some of the most popular user reviews, most unhappy gamers accuse Thrones of Britannia of not having as much depth as previous Total War entries. For the record, Total War Saga games are supposed to be shorter than the normal entries. That’s why they’re cheaper too ($39.99 instead of $59.99). But does that mean they’re not worth it?

Total War Thrones of Britannia Mac featured

The general consensus is that Thrones of Britannia is an exciting game that experiments a lot and tries new things. But to achieve that, it has to forego some of the integral parts of the Total War series, such as city planning or specific building customization. IGN summarizes the feeling perfectly:

The first Total War Saga game tries a lot of new things, succeeding at about half of them. It improves on a few areas historical Total War games have struggled with, but at the same time falls back into some bad, old habits that other games in the series were able to rise above. The overall tapestry reads as more than competent, and I could watch hardened huskarls with their massive axes crash into a Saxon shield wall all day.

Or, in fewer words, Thrones of Britannia is not one of the greatest Total Wars ever,  but it’s still good. Let’s say you decided you want this game. You’re probably asking yourself one thing now:

Can my Mac run it?

The test

As always, we tested the game on several machines to see what it takes to run it on MacOS:

iMac 27-Inch (5K, Late 2014)

3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)

2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2013)

2.4 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)
Notice the 2013 MacBook Pro is not officially supported. We test it anyway because we like living dangerously 😉 but you shouldn’t if your Mac isn’t officially supported!
Why these machines? To make these reviews as useful as possible, we strive to test a wide variety of machines, including high-end iMacs, recent but entry-level MacBooks and older models too. These are the settings we used on each machine:

  • 1280×800 or equivalent resolution
  • Medium Graphics Settings
  • VSync: Off
  • SSAO: Off

Every machine was tested using the game’s internal benchmarking tool.

Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia Mac review: Can you run it? 2
Our test settings are sometimes higher than what Feral recommends. We chose to test the game using the same settings (Medium) on every machine for the sake of making fair comparisons. The game automatically uses custom settings defined by Feral based on hours of in-house tests and you should stick to those for the best experience.

Thrones of Britannia Mac Specificities

This MacOS version includes all the features, graphics and bells and whistles as the Windows version. Plus, it’s powered by Metal 2, so you can expect the best possible performance on a Mac. These are Thrones of Britannia’s Mac system requirements:

OS OS 10.13.4
Processor 1.8 GHz Intel Core i3
Memory 8 GB RAM
Video 1GB Nvidia 650M, 2GB AMD Radeon M290, Intel Iris Pro 5200
Hard Drive 15 GB

The game is supported on the following Macs:

  • All 13″ MacBook Pros released since 2016
  • All 15” Retina MacBook Pros released since Mid 2012
  • All 15″ MacBook Pros released since Mid 2012 with a 1GB Graphics Card
  • All 21.5” iMacs released since Late 2013 with a 1.8GHz i3 processor or better
  • All 27” iMacs released since Late 2013 (or a 2012 iMac with Nvidia 675MX or Nvidia 680MX graphics)
  • All 27″ iMac Pros
  • All Mac Pros released since Late 2013

The following Macs are capable of running the game but are not officially supported:

  • All Mac Mini’s since Late 2012
  • All 12″ MacBooks released since Early 2015
  • All 13″ MacBook Airs released since Mid 2012
  • All 13″ MacBook Pros released since Mid 2012
  • All 13” Retina MacBook Pros released since Mid 2012
  • All 21.5” iMacs released since Early 2013

As always, if your machine does not meet these requirements, it would be safer to skip this one…

The Results

This is how each and every one of our machines runs the game:

Thrones of Britannia results

Let’s dig a little deeper into the results.

Expand to see the different levels of performance
For your reference, this is how we describe the different levels of performance (in frames per second):

Below 20 FPS Unplayable Laggy gameplay, full of stutters and slowdowns.
20-30 FPS Borderline Can be Ok in slow paced games. Still, not optimal.
30-45 FPS Playable Acceptable for most (most gaming consoles do this).
45-60 FPS Smooth Fluid gameplay, with no perceivable stutters.
60+ FPS Very Smooth For hardcore and professional players, a luxury for most.

High-end gaming: pushing the limits

As can be expected from a high-end iMac with a beefy graphics card, Thrones of Britannia runs great on Medium settings. Running at a Smooth 68.8 Frames Per Second (FPS) on our 2014 27-inch iMac, you can clearly increase the settings and/or the resolution to enjoy better graphics. We decided to test several graphics levels and resolutions to find the sweet spot between performance and looks. Testing the game on that same iMac and 1344×756 resolution, we get:

  • Medium: 68.8 FPS
  • High: 53.7 FPS
  • Ultra: 39.8 FPS
  • Extreme: 27.1 FPS (Borderline)

All acceptable, but less than 30 FPS on Extreme settings is probably not worth it. Notice each increase of settings results in slightly better graphics in exchange for 20-30% lost performance. That’s a tough bargain. But what if we increase the resolution instead? Testing the game on Medium settings, we get:

  • 1344×756: 68.8 FPS
  • 1920×1080: 40.5 FPS
  • 2560×1440: 27.9 FPS

What settings and resolution to chose will be a matter of personal preferences. Some prefer great graphics at 30 FPS while others prefer good graphics at 60 FPS. That said… If you have the choice between increasing the quality settings or the resolution, opt for higher resolutions. 1080p (1920×1080 resolution) looks so much better than Ultra settings, especially on a machine with a huge 27-inch 5K screen.

Can a Mac with integrated graphics run it?

Our 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro is officially supported but just barely. That isn’t surprising though, because we all know machines with integrated graphics have limited gaming capabilities. Still, that doesn’t mean they can’t play games at all. And sometimes, when a demanding game is properly optimized, even a 13-inch MacBook Pro can run it. Turns out, Thrones of Britannia was beautifully optimized. Our MacBook Pro runs this game at a Borderline 25.8 FPS. Nothing to impress your friends with, but more than enough to enjoy yourself. And if you prefer more fluid gameplay in exchange of bells and whistles, the game runs at 43.5 FPS on Low settings.

But what if you have an older Mac?

As expected, our 2013 13-MacBook Pro didn’t quite cut it. It’s well below the official requirements and it usually struggles with somewhat demanding games. On Medium settings, it ran this game at Unplayable 13.5 FPS. On Low settings, it did a little better, at Borderline 20.8 FPS. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend you to buy this game if you have a similar machine but if you really want it, or already have it for some reason, know that it can be done.

Still unsure?

Remember, you can always run the free Unigine Heaven Benchmark using the Basic Preset and compare your results with ours: Thrones of Britannia results Vs Heaven If your machine had a better/worst Heaven score, expect a higher/lower FPS score accordingly. The correlation between in-game performance and a standard benchmark is far from perfect, but it can still be a good comparison point.

Final thoughts

I have to say, I am impressed with Thrones of Britannia’s Mac quality. Feral always does a great job, sure, but they outdid themselves with Thrones of Britannia. It runs even better than Total War: Warhammer.

This is one smooth and well-optimized port and the fact it was released barely a few weeks after the Windows version makes it even more impressive.

Combines great looks with great performance.
Runs at more than acceptable levels on a 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia Mac review: Can you run it? 3
Demand level: Medium
Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission (this is how we pay the bills). This commission comes at no additional cost to you

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  1. Phil Enslin

    Well done – very nice review

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