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PC Report: Civilization: Beyond Earth on Linux
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth came to Windows on October 24, 2014, and only three months later on December 18, 2014 the game's Linux port saw light, thanks to the work of Aspyr Media.
Earlier this year we took a look at Civilization V's Linux release, seeing slightly degraded graphics and noticeable differences in load times. Is this month's release better?
Minimum - Linux
- CPU: Intel Core i3
- RAM: 4 GB
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce 260
- OS: SteamOS, Ubuntu 14.04
Minimum - Windows
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz
- RAM: 2 GB
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT, ATi Radeon HD 3650, Intel HD 3000
- OS: Vista SP2, 7
The following report is based on the performance of the game on a machine with an Intel Xeon E3-1241v3, 8 GB of RAM, 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, both fully updated. The GPU driver version used on Windows is 344.75 and on Linux 343.22. At the time of writing, these were the latest stable drivers available.
This time around, the Linux version largely matches the graphical capabilities of the Windows release. With every setting being present, including anti-aliasing, it seems like one could say there's 100% parity - however, taking a closer look, there are still some differences in place.
We've reached out for comment, but with it being the holidays, it seems unlikely we will receive an answer any time soon.
The most noticeable difference is in water quality. While graphics are never a priority in strategy games, they are nonetheless something to enjoy while waiting for others to finish their turn.
As demonstrated above, the impact is huge. The drop in quality is immediately apparent, with worsened lightning and effects. However, the "lower" quality water not only does not change the game's enjoyment one bit, and it may even be preferable to some - as the water seems to grow clearer and allows you to see the depths of the foreign oceans.
The difference in terrain detail seems to be the least visible. While on Linux, users will only get to see what's called Medium, and to the untrained eye the loss is negligible.
After spending a fair bit of time pouring over a fairly large number of images, I can only conclude with one opinion - this is of absolutely no loss to us. Most of your time will not be spent zoomed in looking at the unimportant details - and you'd have to spend quite a bit of time to find the differences here.
Unlike Civilization V before it, Beyond Earth features anti-aliasing on Linux. But just as we finally get a more fully-featured product, the game gets updated. Though the original release only featured EQAA on supported AMD cards, the latest patch brought in Nvidia's equivalent: CSAA. Linux and Intel users are limited to using only MSAA.
(click to view full sized)At a closer look, there are visible differences between MSAA and the higher quality CSAA. The game is left with less aliased edges and an overall softer tone. Looking at a scene from afar however will show that there are very few benefits to going over 2x MSAA in the game, and even without anti-aliasing the game still looks good.
In the past couple of days lots of reports about the game's performance appeared, complaining about poor and unacceptable performance. None have simultaneously compared to Windows however, so let's take a look at that - though our sample size is a lot smaller since I do have just that one card.
The benchmarks are based on the framerate over a 60 second period at "Ultra" settings while moving the camera, zooming in and out, and performing basic unit commands. The load times are based on performing multiple same start ups, starting games with the same settings, and loading the same late-game save file (map on massive, quick, turn 250) and averaging the results.
Let's start by taking a look at the game's performance on Windows compared to that of Linux. I omitted benchmarks for threaded optimizations as they resulted in severely worsened results, the game rarely reaching 60 frames per second.
From looking at the image I would say it isn't as bad as made out to be. While we're losing some performance and are unable to retain a stable 60 fps, the game's performance doesn't differ as wildly from Windows. There are a few notable differences, though: for example, zooming in/out looks a lot uglier on Linux than on Windows because of huge stuttering issues. Another problem - present on both systems - is the visibility of "black tiles" whilst the game loads textures. The performance hit is essentially identical between systems, but the game does recover and load textures on Windows faster than on Linux.
Looking at frametime, on Linux about 15% of frames took more than 16.7ms to render, whereas on Windows only under 2% did. This of course means that some visible stutters are present, and the experience isn't as great as it could be, but the game is far from unplayable. As seen from the framerates, neither version really hits it for 120Hz or better screens.
A big discrepancy in Civilization V's release were load times, with the game taking significantly less on Windows to start-up or load a game. This time around however, it is a lot better.
Linux performs as good or better than Windows in all cases. With only 15s spent on start-up, and almost 10s less when loading a game, the load times can only be described as great.
We should note that to even out the score we disabled intro videos - as the game doesn't start loading until after they finished playing, and the Linux version has a significant disadvantage in the additional 10s Aspyr video.
The biggest worry for Linux users are delayed patches. Any delays in this region lead to Linux users being unable to play with their Windows using friends. Though so far there's nothing we can speak about for this game, Aspyr's speed at delivering patches for Civilization V hopefully points to us not having to suffer delays.
Similarly, Steam Cloud is also not cross-platform. Though save games are fully compatible, to avoid any potential mistakes caused by version mismatch, Linux, OS X and Windows saves are all named differently and require manually moving if playing on multiple systems.
However, the biggest and most exciting change here is mod compatibility! This time, the Linux version features mod compatibility from the start, together with workshop support. For those that enjoy modding the game, or just seeing the creations of others, this is great news!
As a side note, unlike Civilization V's original release, the Linux port features support for all officially available languages.
Far from what a lot of people are saying, I would confidently state this is a solid port. While we should hope to see some improvements to performance still, as well as hopefully catching up in graphical fidelity, the game already works beautifully.
We hope to see more ports from Aspyr soon, as their Linux work is improving with each release.
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 Civilization: Beyond Earth fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.
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