I’m not sure how to start this one!
Hope everyone is doing well lately. This past week I’ve been occupied by my latest addition to my already overflowing handheld collection, Valve’s Steam Deck. I picked up the 256gb version, and so far I’m feeling it is worth the expense! The orders are rolling out more quickly now, so it’s a decent time to back order if you’re willing to wait a little. By ‘little’, I still mean several months. It’s not a perfect device, but I’m enjoying it immensely.
This won’t be an all out review of the Steam Deck, not yet anyway. It’s going to take a while before I have a full impressions review. I want to spend a little today talking about what I’ve been playing and what to expect, though. Valve’s been making progress in getting more games on the system fully playable, while others may require some tinkering. Currently, I have over two hundred ‘Verified’ titles in my library, as well as over three hundred in the ‘Playable’ category. Many others are either untested or unsupported, but I’ve been tinkering plenty with these games. I hope to make a little series where I show my journey in making some more obscure titles playable on the Steam Deck. For now, I want to cover some I’ve installed this week. Even before it arrived, I made a long list of games I wanted to play on the device. As of now, I have 25 games installed, with more to come. I’m rapidly running out of space!
Probably the top priority on my list of games is FromSoftware’s most recent giant in gaming, Elden Ring. It runs relatively well on my laptop all things considered, but laptops being what they are, it runs very hot. Even with underclocking, fan controls and a fan cooling stand to assist, it runs warmer than I like my laptops to be. This was one major reason why I decided to invest in the Steam Deck: having a solid backup option to play some of my favourite games while reducing the risk of overheating my laptop. The Steam Deck does run hot still, but with the large form factor and comfortable controls, you hardly feel it while gaming.
I haven’t invested much time into Elden Ring, for reasons I covered in my previous article which you can find here:
In a nutshell, between health issues and technical shortcomings, I haven’t been able to play Elden Ring as much as I’ve wanted to. Yet another reason for my Steam Deck!
The controls run perfect out of the box for Elden Ring, and with some adjustments to the settings, I managed a steady 30FPS rate. It’s around how it plays on my laptop and runs cooler to boot, which was a pleasant surprise. Even on low settings, the game looks nice and it plays nicely. I took some photos on my phone to give some examples:
One major shortcoming of these devices is battery life. While the Steam Deck’s battery life isn’t terrible, it’s not amazing either. With no tweaks to the FPS and voltage, Elden Ring and other AAA games will probably suck the battery dry in a couple of hours at best. By locking the game to 40MHZ and a 30FPS cap, I’ve been able to double that time to around 4 hours: not bad for a handheld!
With the Steam Deck, I’m looking forward to finally playing more of this AAA giant. Hopefully, I’ll be able to enjoy it as much as many have been.
For all the controversy and bullshit Peter Molyneux has come out with throughout his career, I will appreciate two things. The first thing is he gave many of the UK gaming industry’s people a start, with plenty of people who worked at Bullfrog and Lionhead Studios still prominent in the industry. The second thing is that in spite of the media controversy and his tendency to over promise, many of the games he’s been part of have been good, or at least unique. With titles like Populous, Dungeon Keeper, Magic Carpet, Syndicate, Theme Hospital, Theme Park, Black and White, The Movies and Fable, there’s plenty to enjoy.
Fable is a weird one: it’s a charming and well-made action RPG with plenty of bells and whistles, but the first one suffered because of the big Molyneux promises. It’s almost a shame, because people focused on the promises rather than Fable itself; which has always been a great game in its own right. While it has some issues like balance, a few bugs and only a middling story, it’s still one of my favourite RPGs to date. Even now, very few games come close to Fable’s charm. With its quirky features, little minigames, customization and wacky quests, I’ve always liked this series. Even the panned Fable III had some bright spots, even if I prefer the first two.
Fable Anniversary is a remaster of the first game: Fable the Lost Chapters. While both run on the Steam Deck, Anniversary runs out of the box while the latter requires a bit of tinkering. The remaster looks nicer and has some improved UI and controls, so it’s probably the preferred choice for me. It runs perfectly well even on high settings, and you can probably get around 5 hours playtime on the Deck. Fable looks quite nice to this day and it’s one game I’ve wanted to return to for some time, so this was a high priority choice for me.
Come to think of it, I’ve been on a bit of a Bullfrog/Lionhead gaming binge recently. That’s a future article in the making!
Another big factor in me choosing the Steam Deck is to play a bunch of indie titles I otherwise haven’t had much time to play. One major advantage indie games tend to have over larger budget titles is install size. In a time where storage cost is decreasing over time, this isn’t as big an advantage as it used to be, but it’s still great to have. For the average storage requirements of a AAA title, you can have a dozen or more indie games.
This advantage is even better given the Steam Deck’s storage. Without an SD card, even a few AAA games will fill up the SSD quickly, but indies usually don’t require much space. I’ve played some Monster Sanctuary in the past, but it’s a game I’ve wanted to spend more time with. Recently the developers released a gigantic piece of free DLC for the game, adding more locations, items, missions, monsters, and three new game modes for added gameplay options. It’s a fairly inexpensive title, and a great blend of Pokemon and Metroid. The amount of stuff you can do in this game is staggering, and there’s plenty to enjoy.
It’s yet another title which runs perfectly on the Steam Deck. With its light footprint, it’ll take a long time before the battery runs out of juice with over six hours of playtime. I’ll write up a review of the game at some point, but for now, I’m just enjoying the possibilities.
This is more of a ramble from me today. I’m going to start a little series based on the Steam Deck and test out all the ‘untested’ titles Valve hasn’t gone round to trying on it yet and work out how they play. So far, the Steam Deck, while not perfect, more than meets my expectations.
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