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PC Report: Tropico 5 on Linux

  • PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Soeb. For an up to date account of Tropico 5 fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.


    Tropico 5 first came out on Windows on May 23, 2014, developed by Haemimont Games and published by Kalypso Media. Originally, the Linux version was announced to come out when Steam Machines become available, and it saw release on September 19, 2014.


    We will be taking a look at how the recent Linux release compares to Windows.


System requirements

Minimum - Linux

  • CPU: 2 GHz Dual core
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • HDD: 4 GB
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce 400, AMD Radeon HD 4000, Intel HD 4000
  • OS: Ubuntu, SteamOS

Minimum - Windows

  • CPU: 2 GHz Dual core
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • HDD: 4 GB
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce 400, AMD Radeon HD 4000, Intel HD 4000
  • OS: Vista SP2, 7, 8

The system requirements between Windows and Linux are comparable. The expectation from this should be that the game runs equally well on all supported systems. We look into whether that's the case further in the report.


An interesting thing to note is that the Linux version requires only OpenGL 3.3. While the Windows release requires full hardware support for Direct3D 10.1, which only became available in some 200 series and later Nvidia graphics cards, the Linux release could theoretically work on cards from the 8 series onwards. Whether it's practical to run the game on such ancient GPUs, and whether the game will be playable in other terms is a different issue, but the possibility remains.


The following report is based on the performance of the game on a machine with an Intel Xeon E3-1241v3, 8 GB of RAM, an nVidia GTX 770 with 2 GB of VRAM and a Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB SSD. The game was running on Windows 7 64-bit and Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit. The driver version used on Windows is 344.11 and on Linux 343.22. At the time of writing, these were the latest stable drivers available.


Graphical comparison

The game matches the Windows version in its graphics featureset, not omitting anything. This is a pleasant surprise, though not entirely unexpected.




While the game may not be the one of the prettiest out there, there's still a lot of enjoyment that can be taken away from what was achieved. Looking at your island from afar shows the island in the best light, but zooming in makes the low resolution textures painfully obvious. Thankfully, the looks aren't downgraded just for Linux, but equal across all three systems.




On Linux, the game does seem to occasionally experience some problems still. From time to time, texture load times may prove themselves an annoyance and flickering shadows during movement may become a distraction when playing for longer times. These are however minor issues, and rather infrequent, thus not being a major detractor from enjoyment of the game.



In many areas, the game is on par with Windows. Starting the game, loading, and saving all perform equally well or with nearly indistinguishable differences.


The Linux version seems to degrade in performance far more over time - while initially, you'll not notice much of a difference between systems, with Windows easily getting a stable rate over 120 frames per second, and Linux close behind at about 90-100, as you progress through the game, you will find a much more noticeable drop leading to very visible stuttering. This is a major cause for worry, as if you intend to keep your tropical paradise working throughout the times, the experience towards the end may lose some enjoyment.


Chart - moving


The above averages are based on a 60 second period of camera movement, following a road around the island and having the game run at normal speed. As noted above, on Windows, during the whole period the framerate stayed above 60, with less than 0.1% of frames taking more than 16.7ms to render. No perceptible drops could be experienced while observing the lives and construction going on around the place. On Linux, this situation was not so ideal. While the average framerate was close to 60, more than 50% of frames took more than 16.7ms to render, leading to frequent stuttering.


Chart - static


For this measurement, the camera was focused for 60 seconds on a single busy part of the island, with building and fighting going on around the place. While not that much time in the game is spent observing those events, it's likely you're going to follow the fights, in case the rebels, or maybe the Nobel committee, are starting to overwhelm your forces.


As noted in the chart, Windows still stayed with an average over 60, though this time a lot lower, only achieving 78 frames per second and occasionally dipping below 60. 3% of frames took more than 16.7ms to render, meaning that the player would be more likely to notice some minor freezes this time. Unfortunately on Linux, the situation was a lot worse. With the average only being 45 frames per second, less than 5% of frames were rendered in under 16.7ms. As expected from a low framerate with high fluctuations, the stutter is persistent and hard to ignore.


Linux perspective

One of the most satisfying features of this port, is the lack of a "Windows-exclusive" bonus. In this, I do mean the Kalypso launcher. Before running the game on Linux, you never have to register a second account, log into any secondary services, or do any extra work. You can just download the game, press play, and start oppressing your trusting Tropicans, with no additional fuss!


Along with the Linux port, came great controller support. This feature is not exclusive to the Linux version, as the improvements have made their way back to the Windows release. In addition to this, the SteamOS release also brought a default configuration for the Steam Controller.


The save games are already compatible between all three systems, as is online multiplayer. While Steam Cloud support is missing at present, the developers have stated that they're working on adding support for the Linux and OS X versions of the game soon.



Despite the lower over-all performance, I think it's safe to say this is a very solid port. With graphical parity, improved experience in places, and what is after-all the first foray into Linux and OpenGL development by the developer, the game still behaves very well.


Hopefully with time, we may see some improvements to the rendering performance. Optimistically, the response to Tropico 5's Linux release will prove the support worthwhile, and lead the developers to give higher priority to Linux performance and support in future titles.


PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Soeb. For an up to date account of Tropico 5 fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

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