Final ThoughtsI have to admit that Dragon Age II is not my kind of game, as I'm simply not a fan of the role-playing genre. However I must acknowledge this is still a very impressive looking game that makes good use of DirectX 11 features. The use of tessellation and soft shadows make a huge difference in graphics quality.
The added visual effects will take its toll on your machine though. Unless you have a serious GPU configuration, running this game in the DX11 mode with all the visual features enabled is going to be a choppy affair.
For now the best single-GPU graphics card for playing Dragon Age II is the Radeon HD 6970. With an average of just 39fps at 1920x1200 there will be moments of lag if you use the Very High preset. Take it down a notch and this GPU will pass the test with flying colors though. The newly released Radeon HD 6990 was able to showcase its Crossfire muscle, scaling extremely well in the Very High setting and essentially doubling the average frame rates versus a single GPU.
As has been widely publicized, all Nvidia graphics card were failing to perform as appropriate when using the DX11 rendering mode. Shortly after we posted this performance review, we received an updated set of Forceware drivers that have considerably improved performance across all GeForce models. This will certainly help to let you enjoy the game with all graphics options turned on, though we feel there's still some room for improvement as we saw the mighty GeForce GTX 580 falling behind the Radeon HD 5870 on numerous occasions when it should be going toe to toe with AMD's current top of the line offerings.
This zero-day issue no doubt had Dragon Age II fans that bought a GeForce GTX 400/500 series graphics card up in arms, but fortunately a fix has become available in less than a week. For now falling back to the high quality preset doesn't translate into sacrificing too much in the way of visual quality. In fact, most single GPU owners will want to use the high quality preset regardless of whether it’s an AMD or Nvidia card.
Owners of budget to mid-range graphics cards such as the Radeon HD 5750 or GeForce GTX 460 will find acceptable frame rates when using the medium quality preset. Those looking to improve their Dragon Age II gaming experience need not worry about their processor provided they have something along the lines of a Phenom II, Core 2 Quad, Core i3 or faster. For the most part the game only uses two cores while we saw very light usage on a third.
Summing it all up, Dragon Age II is surprisingly demanding on the GPU when using the highest possible in-game quality settings. However dialing the settings back slightly can significantly improve performance while having minimum impact on visuals.
Update: We've updated all benchmark scores for Nvidia graphics cards using the Forceware 267.59 drivers that fix performance issues in Dragon Age II when using the DirectX 11 rendering mode. Findings and remarks have also been made current accordingly.