Rise of the Tomb Raider has finally made its way to the PC after enjoying a fair bit of critical acclaim as a timed exclusive on the Xbox One.
Like almost every PC game, the Crystal Dynamics title offers a wide variety of graphic options for gamers to tweak to get the ideal balance between performance and quality.
The game is fairly performance intensive, but it has every right to be for its fantastic visuals and some of the best sceneries in recent times. This guide will help you determine which settings you’d want to adjust to get the right balance of performance and quality and maximize your experience.
Rise of the Tomb Raider uses Microsoft and Crystal Dynamic’s custom Broad Temporal Ambient Obscurance (BTAO) as well as Nvidia’s HBAO+ rendering techniques.
The default ‘On’ will result in the use of BTAO. However, HBAO+ tends to provide better image quality. The cost of AO can vary from scene to scene. In the most intensive seasons, expect a performance drop of 3-4 fps between HBAO+ and ‘Off’.
Given the massive improvement to image quality, HBAO+ is highly recommended for all non-archaic systems.
Texture filtering adjust the sharpness of textures applied to the polygons that make up the world. RotTR offers Trilinear filtering as well as four different options of Anisotropic filtering (up to 16x).
Most modern GPUs can easily handle Anisotropic 16x filtering. The performance difference between the various Anisotropic filtering modes is negligible.
Antialiasing removed jagged edges from polygons. There are lots of rendering techniques available nowadays to apply this effect. The main option in RotTR is FXAA. FXAA usually tends to blur texture slightly.
The second option is the SSAA, which renders the game at an increased resolution before downsampling the result. This gives an extremely sharp and detailed image without any aliasing.
Because SSAA renders the game at an increased resolution to the one you’ve designated, the performance impact is immense. Different between FXAA and SSAA 2x can be up to 14 frames per second, and up to 25 frames per second between FXAA and SSAA 4x!
Only go for SSAA if you have a monstrous GPU (or multiple GPUs).
Bloom increases light bleed on light sources and also on reflection surfaces.
It is integral to the art of RotTR, which is why it should always be kept on. The performance impact is negligible (on average 1 fps).
Depth of Field
Depth of Field is a cinematic effect that blurs the out-of-focus parts of the scenery. It is mostly visible in cutscenes and adds to the experience.
The performance impacting with DoF varies according to the complexity of the cutscene. It’s recommended to keep it on ‘ON’, but if you have performance to space, Very High will greatly increase the fidelity of the game’s stunning cutscenes.
Foliage in RotTR is more advanced than in most games, as it is affected by Lara’s movements and interaction. This option controls the level of detail of foliage and how it interacts with the surroundings.
The options available are High, Medium, and Low. Medium is ideal for most as it doesn’t influence the foliage density. High can reduce frame-rates by up to 5, but the fidelity and realism is greatly increased.
Numerous parts of the game feature bright lights and direct sunlight. Enabling lens flare adds visual quality to such scenes.
It has a negligible performance impact.
Level of Detail
Level of Detail adjusts the quality and visibility of game elements at medium and long ranges. On lower settings (Medium and Low), LoD also influences shadows, lights, and other rendering effects at a distance.
The recommended setting for LoD is High for most medium-to-high-end PCs. Most systems that or on par or beyond the recommended specs should be able to play on Very High as well. At lower settings, the game’s scenery and art loses noticeable loss of quality and can reduce immersion.
PureHair is the hair rendering technique implemented by Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics. Up to 30,000 strands of hair are applied solely on Lara. These are grouped into different segmenets, each with unique individual movements and response to environmental effects like wind.
The performance impact of this effect is fairly large, especially during cutscenes. In-game, the different between Very High and Off can be around 8 frame per second. During cutscenes however, this can go up to 14 to 20 fps!
If you can afford the cost, PureHair on Very High certainly adds a lot to the cutscenes and game experience.
Screen Effects include miscellaneouseffects like Blood, film grain, hexagonal flares, dirt, snow, and others that appear on-screen. These effects act like ‘splashes’ on the screen, and fade fairly quickly.
There is absolutely no reason to turn these off as their impact on performance is nearly non-existent.
Screen Space Reflections
Many surfaces in RotTR reflect the surroundings around them. This adds realism to the game, especially in areas where reflecting surfaces such as water and ice are present.
Crystal Dynamics and Nixxes have done a fantastic job in implementing SSR, which is why it has a very small impact on performance (3 fps on average). Keeping this on will certainly make multiple scenes more realistic.
This is a self-explanatory setting. Shadow Quality adjusts the shadow map size and shadow resolution of the game.
The game has highly detailed shadows, which is why Very High can have a massive impact on performance, though the image quality is greatly increased. There is a massive difference in fidelity between Very High and High.
The recommended setting for good PCs is High. Very High should be limited to enthusiast systems only.
Sun Soft Shadows
This is a supplementary shadow setting that goes hand-in-hand with Shadow Quality. Sun Soft Shadows naturally softens shadows as a result of sunlight. This typically has the most noticeable influence on foliage shadows.
The difference between the various settings is negligible. Irrespective of what setting you are running Shadow Quality on, having SS Shadows on Very High will always improve your shadows.
Tesellation adds a lot of geometric detail to the surroundings, and is extremely important in generating the best possible experience during Lara’s adventures.
On PC, just about every geometery is influenced by tessellation, making it an unavoidable option to turn on. It’s performance impact on most modern GPUs isn’t high either – expect a drop of around 4-5 frames.
As the name suggests, Texture Quality adjusts the clarity and quality of textures in the entire game. There are four options on offer in RotTR, and very little difference between the top three.
If you’re not keeping your Texture Quality on Low, then you might as well keep it on Very High, as the difference between Very High and Medium is just 2 fps.
Vignette Blur is an extremely subtle effect that blurs the corners of the screen in select scenes. This is often to show that Lara is hurt, or to depict the high temperatures of the surroundings.
Given the subtlety of this effect, its performance impact is virtually non-existent.