I have had the privilege to run the game on several computers to test things out and see what gives better performance. Contrary to popular believe, you don’t need a high end system to run AOE2DE. You do need to run a well oiled system so to speak, where the most important thing is not so much hardware specs, but removing bottlenecks between the hardware.
Note that developers are still working on optimizations. Even if you have tried everything with your current hardware and still get low performance, chances might be a future update brings solace. I can’t promise that, I am not a developer but an enthousiast, but rest assured the developer team is trying to bring the best experience to everyone.
I advice if you are applying these tips, to always run the game with Fraps. This way you’ll get an objective representation if what you did made an improvement.
The CPU is rather straight forward. The game runs off a single core. So whether your CPU is a Core2duo or a 9900K is not immediately a performance differentiator, because the game will run off a single core. That being said, having 4 cores is somewhat advisable. Your PC allocates resources to your cores. More cores means it can offload workload of other programes the core the game runs on, and move it to different cores. Even though the game only runs on one core, the workload can shift to a different core on a snap.
Usually core #0 is the most used core, but windows can be smart about this and allocate a relative unused core for the game. but you can also designate manually a specific core to the game. It’s not immediately advisable to do so as it most likely will drop FPS. In some cases it can lead to better performance should you have a core that is unusually low on workload. If so, go to task manager, go to details, locate AOE2DE_s.exe, right click on it, set affinity and uncheck all cores except the one you want to run it off. This will tell windows to only run the game on core#. This will make windows unable to move the workload to a different core (again, it cannot use multiple cores at the same time for the game, but it can and normally will move the workload around the cores depending on the least stressed core). You can even try to exclude all other processes from a particular core and allocate that one core to the game only.
So we determined that more cores don’t help in a direct way, but does indirectly help what spreading all none-AOE2DE processes to different cores. Windows10 has a lot of background processes and if you run your browser also on the background, it can help in that regard.
More helpful in a very direct way is your cpu clock speed. This determines single core performance, directly affecting the game. Your game will run faster on a 3Ghz Core2duo than a random 8 core 1.5Ghz CPU, provided the other processes don’t eat up too much CPU. If you are being bogged down by clock speed, then I very carefully and in a none-responsible way (I mean it; if you damage your hardware, it’s on you. Do not hold me accountable for it) advice to check if you can overclock your CPU. There are enough guides on the internet to check for your specific cpu how to do it, should you be able to. If you are not able to, tough luck. If you are able to, note that especially older (+8 years!) intel cpu’s can be extremely well overclocked. I had my own Xeon X5675 (not my current PC) overclocked from 3.06Ghz to 4.0Ghz, on a 30 euro air cooler. That is correct: a 2011 CPU, albeit a server one, can run this game mighty fine!
I tested this game on 1080p Ultra settings with a 1050Ti, a 1060 6GB and finally a 1070. There’s no difference in FPS. The truth is, alteast on 1080p, the game uses very little GPU power. It is the CPU and RAM doing the heavy lifting. It is possible the developers might, and this is pure speculation from me, be able to shift workload to the VRAM in the future. But for now, please do not think your game requires a 2080 Ti. It absolutely does not. Given the GPU is barely used, there’s little to say in this department.
General rule here: more is better. The game is extremely RAM intensive. While the minimum spec requirements state 4GB, I just can’t advice that. You need 8GB at a minimum. Please do not use less. Also note your RAM is directly related to your “pagefile”, which we will get to below.
Secondly, you want preferable high speed RAM. Now you can absolutely get away with DDR3 RAM. Do know lower RAM speed will get you more hickups in the game. Overall, a higher amount of RAM is more important than RAM speed, but RAM speed will give a smoother experience.
What kind of RAM you can run is determined by your CPU and Motherboard. On this PC, I have a i5-6500 and a MSI H110. That means RAM speed is limited to 2133Mhz. I have 2400Mhz RAM installed. That RAM will run just fine, but the speed will be limited to 2133Mhz normally. However, in the UEFI/BIOS you usually can activate XMP, which will allow the RAM speed to go higher. Be sure to use XMP if you have a similar case.
Other tips are to preferable not to combine random sticks of RAM. If you for instance combine a 2400Mhz dual channel RAM with a 1800Mhz single RAM, not only will your RAM speed of all your modules drop to 1800Mhz, but all modules will also run in single channel, which is slower. This is not a disaster, and there’s a payoff in having overall more RAM, but your game can actually run slower due to it.
So in short: a lot of RAM, high speed RAM and make sure your RAM configuration is optimized.
I touched this beforehand, but your pagefile is an important of your performance.Let me explain what the pagefile is: the pagefile is a file sitting usually on your C:\ drive. When your RAM gets fully used, windows will allocate storage space on your drive to be used as additional RAM. This allocation is the pagefile. The pagefile can be up to 4 times your amount of RAM. You have 16GB of RAM? The pagefile can (but not necessarily so) be 64GB.
Especially in multiplayer with a lot of players and units, which the official benchmark represents, the pagefile becomes very important. This is also true for the Enhanced Graphics DLC. Your RAM will be fully used and your system will use the storage for as additional RAM. But, storage is not made to be used like RAM. It is therefore slower. A lot slower. In a best case scenario for storage, the speed is 64x slower than DDR3 RAM.
It is therefore important to realize the hardware you use for storage. 2 factors are important: storage of the game, and storage of the pagefile. If your game and pagefile reside on different drives, this will slow the game down in a taxed environment such as a 8 player online game. More important however, is the type of storage: HDD, SATA SSD or M.2 nvme drive. If the game relies heavily on the pagefile, a HDD will cause massive slowdown. A SATA SSD will provide a very significant boost! And a M.2 nvme drive will reduce the bottleneck even more by magnitude.
Also very important: make sure you leave ample empty storage on the pagefile drive. If your drive is full, the pagefile can’t get bigger and then you will again hamper the game.
It is quite rare that a game’s FPS is influenced by the storage, but AOE2DE has this. If you turn off UHD and if you don’t bother about online gaming, just run the game from a HDD. You will have a very pleasant experience. If you like massive online battles, get the game on your C drive. Make sure the C drive is alteast on a SATAIII SSD drive and make sure there’s 4x your ram available space on that drive.
I hope I helped some people with this.