Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Raytracing provides some fine tuning to the shadows

Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Raytracing sorgt für etwas Feintuning an den Schatten

tl; dr: Shadow of the Tomb Raider now supports raytracing and DLSS with the latest patch. ComputerBase has taken a closer look at both Turing techniques. Raytracing takes care of the shadows in the game and costs a few to many FPS depending on the scene. However, the optical benefits are limited.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider can now raytracing and DLSS

Shadow of the Tomb Raider raytracing has already been announced at Gamescom for the launch of Nvidia's Turing graphics cards. However, the patch has just appeared. In addition to raytracing, the update adds the AI-based upsampling method DLSS, which should provide better performance at comparable image quality for higher resolution.

Both features currently only work on Nvidia's Turing graphics cards. Raytracing will soon be released via a new driver for the Pascal predecessor and the Turing models without special ray tracing cores. AMD has still not announced, if and when, when DXR on the Radeon accelerators will be released.

SotTR uses raytracing for the shadows

Back to integration in the game: Battlefield V uses ray tracing for the reflections, Metro Exodus for the global lighting and Shadow of the Tomb Raider (short SotTR) uses the rays for the shadows, and thus another raytracing option for better graphics to use.

ComputerBase has looked at both raytracing and DLSS in image quality and performance on the GeForce RTX 2060, GeForce RTX 2070, GeForce RTX 2080 and GeForce RTX 2080 Ti.

Test system and test results

The following benchmarks have been performed with an Intel Core i9-9900K without further modifications, which can access a total of 32 gigabytes of RAM at a speed of DDR4-3200 (16-16-16-38, dual-rank). “Windows 10 October Update” (1809) including all currently available patches is installed. The GeForce 419.35 was used as Nvidia driver.

The test scene differs from the sequence otherwise used by ComputerBase at SotTR. Because depending on the scene, the performance costs of raytracing are very different. The normal test sequence only places little demand on raytracing. Instead, a new, equally 25-second benchmark in Paititi (marketplace) is used, which makes much greater demands on the graphics card when using raytracing.

All resolutions are tested on all graphics cards in the maximum detail level. As antialiasing SMAA T2x is activated throughout.

Raytracing effect varies greatly

Shadow of the Tomb Raider offers three different levels of raytracing quality. The first step is the “middle” level, which uses raytracing for the shadows on selected point sources of light. The level “high” then uses for both (further) selected point and directional light sources including the sun ray tracing, replacing the classic shadow mapping. “Ultra” and thus the maximum then uses primarily more rays than “high” and represents more shadows with ray tracing. What setting uses how many rays per pixel, the developers do not reveal.

The ray tracing options
The ray tracing options

In Metro Exodus and especially in Battlefield V, it is immediately obvious that Raytracing is being used. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the effect is much more subtle. There are scenes in which the shadows with Raytracing look much better, because only then they are really soft and then some objects throw even a shadow or leave out a false shadow. For example, light sources outside the field of view only cast a correct shadow in the ray tracing variant.

The corresponding scenes also look better with raytracing. Unlike in the two previous Raytracing games, however, it is almost always difficult to tell immediately whether Raytracing is being used or not. Only in a direct comparison, the effect becomes clear. In addition, the visual benefit is marginal in most scenes. Then, for example, only a small image area looks better. In other scenes, on the other hand, there is almost no difference. On a positive note, noise was noisy – caused by denoising.

At the various quality levels, the choice is made quickly. The medium setting only brings a visible effect in individual scenes and most of the time, optically nothing changes. Raytracing in SotTR starts with the high setting and “Ultra” brings more of the same. The shadows then have a more pronounced effect on further distance, but there are no major differences. “High” is therefore the minimum setting that should be used for RT in the game. If you have enough power, switch to “Ultra”. “Medium”, however, does not even have to be tried.

The visual benefit of raytracing in Shadow of the Tomb Raider varies so much, as do the performance requirements. In some sequences Raytracing costs only 10 to 20 percent performance, in others the performance is halved – and sometimes a little more. The good thing is that most of the optical benefits are relatively large when Raytracing costs a lot. But that is not always the case. The test scene, for example, profits graphically only occasionally from raytracing. However, the requirements are almost high by the bank. More in the next section.

Benchmarks with raytracing

If you want to enjoy Raytracing with the highest quality, you have to be prepared for a big performance loss. For example, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti loses 34 percent of the FPS in 1,920 × 1,080, the GeForce RTX 2080 36 percent, the GeForce RTX 2070 36 percent, and the GeForce RTX 2060 46 percent. The frametimes suffer equally clearly. Nvidia's flagship is 27 percent worse off. It is 29 percent for the GeForce RTX 2080, 41 percent for the GeForce RTX 2070 and 67 percent for the GeForce RTX 2060.

This shows two different aspects: The frame times are limited in Full HD by the processor. In higher resolutions, even the two fastest GeForce accelerators lose significantly more performance. And with Raytracing at the Ultra level, the GeForce RTX 2070's 6GB of memory is no longer enough. Although the test scene is demanding for raytracing, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is good at raytracing to Ultra even on a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti or GeForce RTX 2080 in Full HD.

Raytracing to High has a bug in Full HD

Even the RT stage “high” brings a decent boost and delivers depending on the model between 9 and 14 percent more FPS. With the GeForce RTX 2060 it is even plus 29 percent, because for the setting “high” the 6 GB memory are sufficient. However, there are problems with the frametimes, because apart from just this entry-level model into the raytracing world, all measured values ​​in 1,920 × 1,080 are worse than with the full RT details under “Ultra”. This has the reason that regardless of the graphics card, the level “high” hooks again and again. Hardly, sometimes well and sometimes very often. You can be lucky and come through a sequence with almost no stuttering, but in the next level it suddenly hooks up again. Even if “high” brings a good performance boost – the GeForce RTX 2070 would be sufficient for Full HD – then the setting is still not playable. The game has a disturbing bug with the second highest raytracing details.

The other levels do not have this error and so does the middle RT detail. These cost little performance and reduce the frame rate only between 4 and 5 percent, the frame rates between 1 and 7 percent. The performance is very good with “medium”, but the stage brings visually hardly any advantages.

WQHD is hardly affected by the problems

If you want to use Raytracing without DLSS in higher resolutions, you need a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti or GeForce RTX 2080. The latter is quite fast enough for WQHD with Raytracing to “High”, even if it occasionally comes to light stuttering. In addition, the “high-bug” in 2,560 × 1,440 barely occurs unlike in Full HD. If it does, it helps to reload the level once.

Striking in the higher resolution is that the loss of the frame rate hardly differs to Full HD, but the frame times are much slower. Because in the resolution, the CPU is no longer limited. For example, the frametimes on a GeForce RX 2080 Ti are 6% slower to RT with RT, 29% for high, and 41% for ultra. For the GeForce RTX 2080, the values ​​are 4 percent, 33 percent and 49 percent.

Raytracing to Ultra costs a lot of memory

The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti loses only 16 percent when switching from “high” to “ultra”, while the GeForce RTX 2080 loses 25 percent and the GeForce RTX 2070 29 percent. The GeForce RTX 2060 breaks even with the middle stage completely (by 33 percent), the two higher settings then cost not much power. This suggests that when switching from “High” to “Ultra”, the 8GB of GeForce RTX 2080 and GeForce RTX 2070 memory are no longer enough for WQHD.

For Raytracing in Ultra HD, a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is too slow. But maybe DLSS will remedy this situation.

On the next page: DLSS has its strengths and weaknesses

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