It's been a while since my last article about the big craze that's the Valve Steam Deck! This is a ramble more than anything else, but I've owned the Steam Deck for just over six months now and loving it.
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Six Months On – My Time with the Steam Deck
I did not expect to take so long between articles on the Steam Deck! Q4 2022 was an extremely busy time for me and my coverage plans for the website, so much so that I had to put my Steam Deck plans on hold. I’ve owned my Steam Deck for over six months now, and it’s become my favourite gaming handheld. Valve made a massive gamble with this device, and it’s smashed the handheld PC market wide open. Hopefully, this means Valve will continue to support the Steam Deck for years to come. We’ve had some significant updates in the past year.
What I like most is that the Steam Deck’s success and competitive price are encouraging old rivals into stepping up their game. That’s a great thing, as it means more choice and hopefully better value for the consumers! With Aya, Ayn, and GPD making devices in the pipeline for 2023-24, the future of handheld PC gaming looks bright.
In previous Steam Deck articles, I’ve discussed my journey with my gaming handheld collection, as well as my experience with games on the device. I’ll be doing the same today. There’s no real structure to this installment; it’s just me enjoying a little ramble.
As someone who enjoys the odd mix of titles, it’s great to have a handheld PC capable of playing so many different games. I’ve got AAA giants such as Horizon Zero Dawn, Elden Ring, Fallout 4, and Cyberpunk 2077 installed, and it’s satisfying just lying back on my bed during the evening, propped up on a cushion, and playing these games. If you told me a couple of years ago I’d be able to play these intensive titles on a handheld machine for less than £500, I would have laughed. Such a great example of times changing!
As of writing today’s article, I’ve got eighty games installed on the Steam Deck, a mix of AAA, older generation hits, and indie games. I tend to mix things up and experiment with all sorts. Should I uninstall this game for now? Is there an unknown title worth trying out? The Steam Deck has been incredible for the terrifying gaming thing known as ‘The Backlog’. All it takes is a quick install, and I’m in the game experimenting. It’s fantastic.
Horizon Zero Dawn is one of those games I wish I played at launch. I didn’t get to play it until the PC port, and I waited a while for bugs and stuttering problems to be fixed. While the port is in a solid state now, it was a rough mess when it first launched on PC. While my laptop plays it fine, it came at the cost of making it as hot as the Sahara desert. This is another example where I prefer playing it on the Steam Deck as opposed to on my laptop! It’s been a few years since I touched Horizon, and so far I’m around ten hours into it on the Steam Deck. While it’s a solid game, it definitely meets the late 2010s model of every other open-world AAA game that exists. Aloy is a decent character at least in this; I really didn’t care for her when I played Forbidden West. Still, I enjoy Horizon’s world visuals, and combining the tribal clans with future robotic dinosaurs is something I can get behind.
With a 512GB microSD card backing up the 256GB internal storage, there’s plenty of space for games, although many AAA titles take up a ton of storage these days. Just Horizon Zero Dawn, Elden Ring and Cyberpunk 2077 take up nearly 200GB by themselves! Along with other titles like Persona 5 Royal and Psychonauts 2, that’s over half the space of my SD card taken up with just those five games. I might need to invest in a 1TB upgrade!
The Older Generation
The Deck really shines when I play the older generation of titles. Being able to play stuff like Fallout: New Vegas, Skyrim, Oblivion and Dishonored at high settings is a dream, and with some Desktop mode tinkering, you can unlock all the delicious Bethesda mod support as well. Yes, I’m still a sucker for Bethesda and Obsidian games even now. They don’t take up a huge amount of space and they play great on the Deck.
With Skyrim in particular, I was able to install the fantastic Enderal version from Steam. If you own Skyrim and haven’t played Enderal yet, I urge you to give it a try. While I haven’t been on an Elder Scrolls binge recently, Skyrim is still one of those comfort food games I play whenever I’m in the mood to vegetate. Sometimes we just need a cozy fantasy world to get lost in.
Going further back in the timeline, I have several Piranha Bytes RPGs running well too. While I’ve had mixed feelings about them in recent years, playing their old games reminds me of better times. Risen and Gothic 1 play great on the Steam Deck in their current configuration, although I needed to download a custom control scheme in order to play them properly.
The Murky Forests of my Steam Library
While the Deck doesn’t play everything out of the box, it’s impressive how much does. In my most recent experiment, I installed Kenshi. One of the most impressive indie games ever made, Kenshi is the sort of game people would dream up, yet it’s a reality. With its massive world, deep lore, and many different mechanics blending together, it’s no surprise that Kenshi is one of the games I’ve played most. While it’s classed as ‘Playable’, I had some concerns. Kenshi’s Ogre engine makes it chug worse than British trains on the best days, and it suffers from rough performance. The controls and small text were other considerations.
Despite these niggles, I was pleasantly surprised! While I needed a higher TDP to keep consistent framerates, having the performance mods installed and reducing texture settings boosted my average FPS by a considerable margin. Kenshi still struggles with long loading times and stutters as it maintains the massive world generation, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared, even running the game off the micro SD card. With its vast scope, being able to play Kenshi portably blows my mind.
Still to Come
I haven’t even looked into emulation yet. That’s surprising because of how much I enjoy emulating games on the go. I’ve got a large collection of gaming handhelds for that purpose, so friends and family have been taken aback by my lack of emulation on my Steam Deck. I picked up a second 512GB microSD card over Christmas, so what I’ll probably do is set that up for emulation purposes and swap them out when I’m in the mood.
Another game I plan on trying out is Marvel Spiderman Remastered. This was another game I never got to experience at launch due to not owning a Sony PS4/5, so it was great to see them port it to the PC last year. I received Spiderman as a gift over Christmas, and I’ve been enjoying my time with it on my laptop. It’s incredibly well-optimized and plays great, although I wish the open world had more things to do. It’s a big download, so installing it on my Steam Deck will take a while.
I hope you all enjoyed my little ramble today! I’ve wanted to write up something on the Steam Deck for months, and it feels refreshing to finally return to it. I’ve got more showcases planned, including the long-awaited battery life article I’ve been hinting at for months.
In the meantime as always, stay safe, and enjoy your games!