You can set that level in the advanced options area.
Oh I knew that, it's the workaround I use now, it was a suggestion to other people with similar issues. I wasn't clear
You can also turn off pedestrians, that helps as well.
Pedestrians are only shown when zoomed in close to a city, they disappear when zoom out, and the FPS drops when zoomed out, when pedestrians are not shown anyway. But it's good that they disappear at an appropriate zoom level, less stuff to render.
If there are any more advanced tips you can provide, we'll be grateful. Disabling the obvious, shadows and HDR, has little effect. AA and outlines do have an impact on FPS, and I recommend disabling them, but I don't have any more ideas beyond this. However if in fact, the issue are units and buildings, because of their fixed LOD, then there's simply a need for more graphical processing power. And I've squeezed everything I can from my GPU...
EDIT: I was able to find a combination of settings that does improve my FPS from ~11 in the worst areas to ~21:
- AA set to 0
- Outlines disabled
- Pedestrians disabled (it does indeed affect performance, my apologies Brad)
- Shadows disabled (small effect, but they all add up)
- Using the camera setting 4, by pressing the '4' key on the keyboard, which gives a smaller view angle, hence less stuff to render
- Cloth map zoom level 91
Particle effects also have a small effect on FPS, but I really like them. Stylized lighting might too, but it looks too ugly without for me. You guys give these settings a try, maybe we can further refine them.