Before diving into the nitty gritty of this piece, I’d like to point out that this won’t be a full, in depth review of Rise Of The Tomb Raider; we already have one for the Xbox version, which you can see here. I’ll briefly go over my thoughts on the game as a whole, but I won’t go into much detail. This article is mostly to detail how the game performs on PC and my experience with the port. I don’t plan on giving it a score, either, because I’d only be reiterating Patrick Kennedy’s points in his review of the Xbox version. I’ll also mention that my PC runs with an EVGA Nvidia GTX 970 w/ACX 2.0, an Intel i7-4790k, and 16GB of RAM.
Tomb Raider is one of my favorite games of the last five years; it’s what got me into the series as a whole. Now I’ve been enjoying the classic titles which, though they’re dated, provided a nice distraction from my agony while waiting for Rise Of The Tomb Raider to come to PC. That agony was only heightened when I saw how good the game looked and how well it was received on Xbox One.
Unfortunately, accompanying my agony invoked by impatience, was also that creeping doubt about whether or not the game would even be up to snuff with its PC port. We live in a day and age where PC ports seem to get a backhanded treatment, with little to no respect or care from certain studios–I’m looking at you, Arkham Knight. I’m happy to report, however, that Rise Of The Tomb Raider is one of the better PC ports I’ve played in recent memory. After several hours of play over the last two days, I can assuredly say that the game is very stable and relatively bugless.
I suppose before I talk about my opinions on the game itself, I’ll talk about how it performs on PC because I assume that’s probably what you’re here for.
Rise Of The Tomb Raider is a much more refined and prettier game than the previous game from 2013, but with prettier visuals comes more demand on your precious hardware. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics recommend players have at least an Nvidia GTX 970 to play Rise Of The Tomb Raider, and from my own experience using one, I can definitely say it’s worth it. Hardware specific settings like Nvidia HBAO+ and PureHair make the game all that much more of a marvel to look at.
HBAO+ is a higher quality form of Ambient Occlusion, which adds smaller details and softer shadows to characters and environments. PureHair renders individual strands of hair on Lara–akin to an option available in The Witcher 3–which, while sometimes glitchy, looks wonderful. Seeing Lara’s hair flow in the wind, fall along her back, and even gather snow, adds so much to the visual experience to the game. It’s also the closest I’ve seen a game come to decent looking hair, something that appears hard to accomplish. However, be warned that both HBAO+ and PureHair can really put a strain on your GPU. They’re both very demanding and can make all the difference in your performance. I’m just barely able to play the game smoothly with them both on.
The PC port of Rise Of The Tomb Raider comes with quite a few different filters you can tinker with. These include screen-space reflections, tessellation, soft sun shadows; and the usual motion blur, bloom, and vignette effects. I found that I was able to run the game with all of the filters on–aside from the ones I personally detest–and most settings on the highest levels. The only exception to this was texture quality, which I could only run on High rather than Ultra. Even with more demanding settings maxed out such as level of detail, I found that my experience was 90% smooth. I would run into some trouble with my FPS (frames per second) rollercoastering here and there in more detailed areas, but it never dropped below 55 FPS.
Considering my stellar performance on the recommended GTX 970, I’m sure that Rise Of The Tomb Raider would be able to run on lower end cards (at least the 950/960) just fine. And hey, the game looks pretty great even on the lowest settings, so don’t fret if that’s what you have to resort to. I can’t, however, attest to how an AMD card would perform.
I actually ran into some severe FPS issues with the game initially. I had assumed it was some filters I had on or the texture\level of detail, but lowering them didn’t seem to help much. After much tinkering (read: obsessing over trying to get my PC to run it at the highest settings because I’m an idiot), I discovered that this game does not appear to handle being run in a borderless window that well. Switching to what the game calls “Exclusive fullscreen” fixed nearly all of my issues, and it proved to be worth the inconvenience of my dual monitors spazzing out when I minimized the game. So if you’re having some issues with FPS, maybe you should try switching to Exclusive Fullscreen. Other recommendations would be turning of HBAO+ and PureHair because even though they look so gawsh dern amazing, they’re very demanding.
Extra, Post-Publushing Note: After more tinkering with some of the settings, I came to the conclusion that setting Vsync to Triple Buffer also appears to help with performance. It doesn’t necessarily seem to increase the frames you get per second, but it does what the game refers to as “smoothing out frames.” This, in theory, makes the FPS drops you do get much less noticeable (At least they were to me). So if you’re still running into some problems, try setting Vsync to Triple Buffer and see if it makes your performance a little more tolerable.
So in short: Rise Of The Tomb Raider excels on PC–at least in my case. Though I can’t tell you how well it works on an AMD card, I’ve heard reports myself that it doesn’t do too bad at all. You’ll definitely get the best experience from a GTX 970/980, but as I said before, it’ll probably work just fine on lower end cards like the 950/960.
As for my actual opinion on the game; I love it. Rise Of The Tomb Raider is far better than its predecessor from 2013. The mechanics are much more refined, the locations are much more interesting, and it feels more like that of an Indiana Jones movie. Admittedly, I hated the story in Tomb Raider 2013. While the location and overall idea was a great origin story, I just found the characters forgettable (aside from Lara, who is definitely one of my favorites in gaming), the environments a little lacking in diversity, and the ending–ugh the ending–I found to be completely ridiculous. You couldn’t possibly say that “shooting up ancient samurai demon ghosts with an AK-47” is something anyone can take seriously. Now I can’t really say the story is all that great in this game, either, but the atmosphere and environments are so much better.
The story involves Lara following in her father’s footsteps to find something called “The Divine Source,” an artifact said to give its holder immortality. Her quest is impeded by a group of God fearing fanatics known as Trinity. As I said, the story is still pretty lackluster. The twists aren’t too surprising, the setup is pretty standard, and the characters are, once again, not that memorable save for Lara herself. But I still feel that this story is a lot stronger than Tomb Raider 2013‘s. While the previous game’s story worked as a very good origin tale for Lara, this game really sees her in top form. The game takes you to places like Syrian ruins, old Russian installations in Sibera, frigid mountain forests, and many more cool locations.
There’s also so much more to do in this game–it’s insane. I spent around two hours collecting stuff and exploring the Soviet Installation area alone. And even after that, I came back later and found a cave with a secret crypt inside that I hadn’t noticed before. The sense of exploration in Rise OF The Tomb Raider is incredible. The challenges in the game are also much more varied. Rather than simply “find and collect this item” or “shoot this object,” I’ve gotten some more interesting challenges like “Explore all the caves in this area” or “Stealth kill five bad guys.”
Rise Of The Tomb Raider includes a neat feature that involves learning different languages to decipher monoliths, which reveal hidden items on the map. By reading old documents and murals, Lara can increase her proficiency in each of the three languages (Greek, Russian, and Mongolian) to better understand the monoliths. This is an interesting mechanic that I feel could have great potential if it’s more fleshed out. Though I have to admit, I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically when the game told me “Your Greek level isn’t high enough to read this monolith.”
So in the end, Rise Of The Tomb Raider is an excellent game, and it’s one of the better PC ports I’ve seen lately. It has its hiccups now and then, but it’s far better than some other games out there. If you’re a fan of Tomb Raider 2013, I would wholeheartedly recommend this game for either platform. It took what the previous game established and refined it into an even greater adventure.
A PC code for Rise Of The Tomb Raider was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review