Hope you're not getting tired of these, because I'm having too much fun with the Steam Deck. Today, I talk about two games from 2015: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Fallout 4's experience on the Steam Deck.
Ballad to Madness - An Elden Ring "Poem"
Previous Gamedev Interview: Mikhail Sherstennikov (Regiments Developer, Microprose)
We are officially in September! This year has passed like wildfire, I don’t understand it.
It’s been a busy month for me. I’ve massively increased my activity on the website, as you can tell by the articles I published in August. There have been several game dev interviews and reviews, and I still have plenty of plans for the coming few months. My annual GOTY event will dominate December like always. I’ll discuss that series as the year winds down for 2022! It’s going to be one enormous challenge working out what games will make my Top 10 this year. That’s all I can say.
It’s been officially two months since I received my Steam Deck. First off, I want you all to know that my battery life article is in the works. It’s taking a lot longer than I expected, partially because I sometimes struggle with putting my thoughts down to paper! While the battery life of the Steam Deck can struggle with high-end games, there are ways to push it. I’ve been able to get several AAA titles going for 4-5 hours with tweaks, but that, of course, is a tale for another time. It’s great to see production increasing, so all those people who have reserved shouldn’t have to wait too much longer. The handheld PC market grows ever more interesting. It’s an amazing time for gamers.
Today, I’m here to chat about two more games I’ve been playing. While I own the 256GB model with a 512GB micro sd card to go with it, games can get pretty big. Many AAA titles can push upwards of 80-100Gb, with many hanging around 50-60. That adds up rather quickly! Fortunately, I play a lot of indie titles as well and those usually don’t take up much space, so it is pretty easy to have a nice, diverse mix of games on the Steam Deck.
I’ve been having a lot of fun playing older games on the Deck recently. It is a wonderful ‘backlog’ killer. Often I find a game isn’t something I want to play on my laptop or on the cloud but makes for a wonderful experience playing it on the Steam Deck.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Disclaimer: I sadly have few photos to share of MGSV on the Steam Deck at this time! My phone camera decided to kaput, so you’ll need to make do with my ramblings.
There are many games I haven’t played in years, and one of those is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. While I’ve played a few Metal Gear games during my childhood, I haven’t spent as much time with them as I liked. I didn’t have a Sony system during most of my kid days, so most of my experiences with them were during my high school years, playing Peace Walker on the PSP. I miss the days when Sony made handhelds. The PS Vita is still among my favorite gaming devices to this day.
Launching in 2015, Phantom Pain is a strange mess. Between Konami and Hideo Kojima’s messy breakup and the botched, unfinished state MGSV was left in, I was surprised by how enjoyable I found the game. I think it made No. 2 in my GOTY list for 2015, only losing out to The Witcher 3. While flawed, it’s an incredible stealth experience with a lot of freedom. True, good stealth games are few and far between, and Metal Gear Solid V is one of the strongest in its class. While it’s debatable how much the change to an open-world sandbox improves it, I find the gameplay incredibly satisfying. All the customization, different options and tools, and missions dominated my free time during 2016 and 2017.
Phantom Pain runs incredibly well on the Steam Deck. The Fox engine used to build the game is famous for its great optimization. I first played this on an ancient, GTX 660M laptop and it ran smoothly. Rest assured, this isn’t a game you need to worry about if it’ll run or not. The Steam Deck has it verified, and everything runs out of the box. The controls are beautiful, though it took me a few attempts to command Quiet to take out Soviet outposts.
Because of the game’s optimization, it’s fairly easy to maximize battery life. You can easily push this down to 3 TDP and still manage a 30FPS framerate. Even testing a 20FPS lock to push battery life to its limit gave me a fairly stable experience on medium settings, although I’d recommend keeping things at a 30FPS lock to keep things as smooth as possible because, on the absolute lowest setting, I found a few frame drops during heavy action. From my testing, you can expect between five and five and a half hours of playtime before a recharge, which is impressive for a AAA game from 2015.
I’ve talked about Fallout 4 already on the website from my article about more flawed games. Playing Fallout 4 again on the Steam Deck was a major inspiration for me to start writing that series. I don’t know why I wanted to play it again, but I’m glad I did. I was going through my Steam library for more games to try out on the Deck and Fallout 4 just leaped out to me. While it won’t win any awards for writing, story, or quest design, I enjoyed what I played of it back in 2016. It’s a competent open-world game with solid shooting and crafting mechanics, despite some strange design choices.
Sure, Bethesda games are always buggy, usually shallow and rough without mods, and aren’t really known for narrative genius, but it’s nice playing them again. I had a major Skyrim drought after I played it to death in 2015. It was one of the main reasons why I bought a ‘gaming laptop’ back in 2013. Ah Skyrim, never change. And yes, I have Skyrim installed on the Steam Deck as well. I think all the Bethesda games work fine on it, though I have yet to test everyone yet.
Despite not caring too much about Fallout 4 the first time, I found myself invested this time around. It’s classed as ‘Playable’ status on the Deck, with the only caveats being you’ll need to use the mouse/keyboard configuration to launch the game, as it has a separate launcher. It doesn’t take much tinkering to find a configuration that works with everything out of the box, but it’s something I wanted to mention.
Once you’re in the game, it plays smoothly. Once again I wanted to push the battery life to its absolute limit. I found that a 4TDP limit was the lowest I could give Fallout 4 without major performance issues, so I’d say keeping it around 5TDP on medium-high settings is the sweet spot for smooth sailing. Mods are available through Bethesda.net directly in-game, although it’s not the most effective way to mod these games. If you’re bored or lazy like I am though, having a small number of mods through it is easy to set up. Right now I just have the Unofficial Patch and Sim Settlements to make the settlement building more organic, and I’m enjoying myself a lot more than I expected. From my experiences, you can expect between four and five hours of playtime in Fallout 4: not bad!
I’ll be continuing my trip into the unknown. There are so many games on Steam that are in murky waters, so I’ll be running more tests in the future. Right now, I installed the new Way of the Hunter by THQ Nordic. I have no idea how this will work out, but I’ll be sure to update you with my findings in the next ‘Experimenting’ article. I also installed Enderal: Special Edition onto the Steam Deck, the critically acclaimed total conversion mod for Skyrim. My early tests show it working alright, but it requires more tests before I can make an update.
I’ll continue to work on the battery life article, as well as work on the next Indie Corner Episode. In a couple of weeks I’ll be going on holiday to Keswick for a few days, so expect a small amount of downtime in mid-September.
For now, I hope everyone stays safe! I shall return soon.