Tomb Raider 2013: One-One-One Patch

Since the release of the last Tomb Raider patch by Feral, I have been playing Tomb Raider 2013 from about 25% of the game till completion (not all side quests, but at least till the end of the story mode), and here’s my take on how the game fares on my SteamOS machine (2.70), equipped with a i5 + nVidia GTX970 card. I am playing using Ultimate settings while turning two options off:

  • TressFX, since it seems to have a strong negative impact on performance.
  • Depth of Field, because this is not supported by the current SteamOS 2.70 nVidia drivers (not recent enough). This may be automatically turned off for you, but I had to disable it by myself.

With such settings the game looks very nice and definitely one of the most beautiful games we can play on Linux at this stage – all the screenshots are from my Linux sessions with the above settings.

The frame rate is still somewhat disappointing at times. In closed environments, in places where the numbers of objects/landscape is within a reasonable range, it’s smooth as butter and the game is definitely around 60 fps or more there. No issue. But…

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But there are times where there’s a lot going on on screen, or very long distance environments to render, and you that’s precisely when performance drops significantly – I did not measure it, but I’m used to seeing games at 30 fps on console, and it was way lower than that, probably between 15 and 20 fps in the worse situations.

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Note that the game remains playable even in such circumstances – sometimes such scenes are like cinematics, when you go down a rope from one place to another – so it’s not a deal breaker, but as I played the very same game on Windows in Ultimate settings as well, about 6 months ago as well, the difference is still light and day and such frame-rate drops are nowhere to be seen on the very same hardware.

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t port games for a living, so I don’t know if there’s anything that makes Tomb Raider 2013 a lot more difficult to get right compared to other DX11 games out there. Other DX11 ports from Feral (for example F1 2015) do not seem to introduce major performance gaps (losing 20~30% performance is understandable, more than that it starts to matter…), so there must be something going on (CPU bottleneck?).

Of course, we need to keep in mind that Linux games don’t play tricks with drivers either. It’s a common practice on Windows to see new AAA titles released with new drivers providing significant gains for said titles, simply because developers and GPU manufacturers work hand in hand to take shortcuts by tailoring the drivers accordingly. That’s why you get “The Way it’s Made to Be Played” splash screens for nVidia and “Gaming Evolved” from AMD. On Linux, as far as I know, such tricks are not a thing right now, so as long as such practices continue it’s going to be difficult to get parity performance anyway. API closer to the hardware like Vulkan and DX12 are likely to make a positive change to overcome the black box current drivers constitute, so not all hope is lost.

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Performance issues aside, the port is extremely solid. No crashes, no random bugs. The only kind of issue I ever had was a quick time event that did not work very well with the Steam Controller pad (somehow it did not register my left and right movements fast enough) so I had to switch to a Xbox360 controller just to go through that scene. It happened once, so no big deal.

Talking about the Steam Controller, it’s almost a flawless experience with Tomb Raider. Once again the haptic pads make it really easy to aim with high accuracy the heads of your foes. Not as good as a mouse, but so much better than a regular console pad. This is where this controller truly shines (and obviously you can further tweak the trackpad’s sensitivity to fit your needs).

If you are still on the fence whether or not to buy the game on Linux, I’d recommend you check out our previous review. Note that even if you use inferior hardware, you can probably still get a very decent framerate by going slightly down in graphic settings.

I’m still hoping for a later patch with additional performance gains, but in the meantime, I had good fun on Linux too. This game is certainly nothing like the original Tomb Raider from the early 90s, but it’s still spectacular in its own way. And don’t forget to check the concept art that served as a basis for all the artwork. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

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Even better than the game.

And that’s saying a lot.


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