Over the last couple of years, I’ve been adhering to a policy when it comes to games:
- $60 cap if it supports Win/Mac/Linux
- $40 cap if it supports Win/Mac
- $20 cap if it supports Windows only
This is modified a bit: I’ll spend more on solid games that aren’t DLC driven (think Sins of a Solar Empire, or the epic masterpiece Dragon Age Origins which had huge value in the base game).
On the other hand, games that are heavier with DLC (everything EA, Civilization, etc) get the budget pushed down.
Sometimes it’s a tough wait (Mass Effect Andromeda had to drop below $20), but the policy has served me well thus far.
In any case, Steam sales finally brought Civ 6 to the right price ballpark. Since I’d recently picked up the ASUS X541NA I’ve written about previously, I figured I’ve give both Ubuntu and Windows a go.
I’ll start with the benchmarks built into Civilization VI:
(average seconds per turn)
|Win 10 DX11|
|Win 10 DX12|
|Win 10 DX11|
Right off the top, things look bad for the Linux version. Playing at 10fps in Windows is a hard sell. Playing at FIVE fps… man… But here goes:
The benchmark is generally considered a “worst case scenario”. As you can see in the image, a fresh game on Ubuntu was 15.8 fps. For reference, a fresh game in Windows 10 was 22.6 fps.
Sure, that wouldn’t cut it for an first-person shooter, but for a game like Civilization it’s actually fairly playable.
I played through to just over 1000 AD in Windows, standard settings, map with 8 Civs, on a separate monitor at 1080p (hence that 1-off test) and while the UI always has a laggy feel to it, it’s quite playable. Not snappy by any means, but the frustration level is low.
Immediately after, I played through the first chunk of turns in Ubuntu. Despite only having about 70% of the frame rate, it was hard to tell the difference when it came to responsiveness. It was enough that I *could* tell (especially just having played in Windows), but probably not enough that I’d notice if I had waited a day in between.
Ubuntu (Linux) Issues
Unfortunately, some hiccups present when running the Linux version on this laptop.
It’s worth noting that the laptop doesn’t meet the minimum requirements listed for Linux. So don’t take this as a complaint or as a slight against Aspyr. Just take it for what it is: a result.
Issue #1 (solvable): Blue+missing textures
The Mesa drivers that come with Ubuntu 17.10 result in some odd looking visuals. Manually upgrading to the latest Mesa version fixes it.
The good news is that when the latest Mesa drivers are pulled into Ubuntu, possibly in 18.04 and possibly backported too, Aspyr might actually be able to list certain Intel graphics as being supported (right now only nVidia is supported).
Bad news is that right now if your distro doesn’t use cutting-edge Mesa drivers you’ll either need to manually update or wait until your distro pulls the new stuff.
Issue #2 (solvable… kinda…): 6GB RAM minimum
I’m not aware of any of these Pentium N4200 laptops that come with more than 4GB of RAM by default. The ASUS X541NA I used has 4GB but it’s soldered.
While I had a 2GB swap file (4GB RAM + 2GB swap), it wasn’t enough. At best, Civ 6 would be fine in the main menu, but would crash (or Linux OOM killer killed it) on the leader screen when creating the game/map.
The good news here is that increasing the swap file from 2GB to 8GB resulted in the game playing and loading fine.
Bad news is that you probably won’t get away with this if you’re on some of the 2GB notebooks with the Celeron/Pentium chips. 4GB is probably the realistic minimum here.
Issue #3 (not solvable?): Choppy audio
Partway through the game load (leader) screen, the audio starts stuttering badly. Once in play, there’s constant audo stutter too. Guesses at possible causes here:
- The game isn’t super well threaded or anything (19%, 13%, 77%, 0% as Core0,Core1,Core2,Core3 from the Civ6 process when I checked). If the audio’s not on it’s own non-blocked thread, that could explain it.
- I mentioned the game was hitting swap during the load screen. If it’s constantly swapping during play or having to push the audio out of memory repeatedly, that could do it.
- Other Linux or pulseaudio issue? Who knows.
Note that audio was fine in Ubuntu on my desktop machine (i3-6300 with Intel HD 530 and a chunkier 32GB of RAM).
Sadly, this issue is bad enough on this Pentium N4200 machine with 4GB RAM that you’ll probably want to disable audio before playing. You can potentially try this in the config file at:
~/.local/share/aspyr-media/Sid Meier's Civilization VI/AppOptions.txt
Issue #4 (solvable): positioning bugs in full-screen
If you set the game to full-screen in a previous playthough, when you start the game from Steam again, the dock and title bar frequently trip up the game engine. The renderer ends up shifted down, so your mouse is “actually” higher than the cursor.
This is resolved by going into the settings (move the mouse and see which menu buttons highlight), and either swapping from Fullscreen->Window->Fullscreen or swapping the resolution back and forth some other way to reset the renderer.
Summing it all up
I suppose I’ll end with this:
Civ 6 is playable on the Pentium N4200 / Intel HD 505 provided you’ve got at least 4GB of RAM (assuming your laptop manufacturer didn’t impose harsh TDP limits on your machine or anything else that might throw a wrench into things).
It’s not superb, it does feel sluggish, but it’s usable and you can definitely get through a game.
Windows works “OOB”, whereas Linux can need a little tweaking on this hardware. Neither have stellar performance, though Windows has a slight edge here.
Suggestions if on Linux:
- If you generally swap to Windows for a day (or hours) of gaming (ie Windows is set up as your gaming OS and WindowsTime = GameTime), that’s probably still the option you’ll want to use for Civ 6.
- If you spend most of your time in Linux, play sporadically, and/or hate rebooting into Windows, you’ll probably do just fine playing in Linux (once you resolve the kinks and assuming you don’t mind turning off audio). Performance difference isn’t night-and-day, and you won’t be missing out on much.
- If you’re Linux-only, this game is definitely not a reason to install a separate Windows partition.