It finally arrived, my Steam Deck! I’ve been talking about it for a while now on this blog but to finally have it in my hands is quite something. It’s only been just over a week, but I’ve spent a good chunk of it playing with it regularly. I wanted to share my thoughts on the thing. There are some aspects I like and there are others I wish were better.
The Steam Deck is huge
When I opened up the box containing my Steam Deck, I was surprised by just how large the unit was. I pictured in my head a slightly thicker Nintendo Switch. This thing is not only much thicker, but it’s also much wider. The extra inputs, specifically the two touchpads, are the reason why this it’s so much larger than I thought it would be.
Handling the unit isn’t too bad, but it still takes a bit of time to get used to. I spent some time walking around and trying out different seating positions. While I could play it without too many problems, I typically found that resting my forearms on something, like a desk or the arms of a chair, worked best.
Comparing its screen to the OLED Switch, it’s about the same width. The most notable difference is that the Steam Deck has a much thicker bezel. The screen’s height is much longer in comparison to the OLED Switch, but again, the bezels play a large part in why it’s larger. I’m guessing the larger bezels are meant to protect the screen. For future iterations, they probably want to address that and reduce it.
My Steam Library ain’t so big
As I am more of a console gamer, especially in recent years, my collection on Steam isn’t that fresh or large. To be honest, if I’m buying PC games, if it’s not a store exclusive, I’m buying them through the Epic Games Store. Otherwise, I’m playing PC games available through Xbox Game Pass for PC.
Currently, my Steam library consists of 220 games. Of those, only 36 are labeled as “Great on Deck”. These are games that Valve has tested and confirmed that they work on the unit without any problems. A good chunk of them have already been released on consoles or have proper controller support.
But that’s not always the case. There are a few console games, such as Spec-Ops: The Line and Max Payne 3 that are unsupported. Then there’s stuff like Inscryption, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Command & Conquer Remastered Collection that is “Playable”. These are games that have some sort of limitation. Sometimes the issue is that font size has not been adjusted to work on the smaller screen or some functionality requires using the unit’s on-screen keyboard.
The last group is the “Unknown” games, like Hitman: Absolution, Mark of the Ninja, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. These are games that Valve hasn’t been able to test. They could work but there isn’t enough information available to confirm either way. Strangely, there is no way to give feedback if you’ve sampled games in this category.
Some noticeable limitations
Surprisingly, there are even Valve-developed games like Team Fortress 2 that don’t have the “Great on Deck” tag. I suspect they will patch those out in the future but funny how they weren’t made ready at launch.
Of those games that have limits or haven’t been tested fully, I tried a few and had some very mixed results. For example, Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy, which is listed as “Unknown”, is unplayable. The game doesn’t recognize any inputs, so I couldn’t get past the “configure game controller” screen.
I played a bit of Dawn of War III, and while the game is playable, it needs a mouse to play it correctly. It also suffers from the text being incredibly small, making it hard to read sometimes. Another problem with that game is the initial pop-up to sign-up/sign in to Relic’s online account system. The Steam Deck is just not set up for those kinds of things, and trying to scroll with the touch screen is not fun.
Valve needs to encourage developers to patch their games. Sadly, I doubt Max Payne 3 gets a patch. However, smaller developers might see some value (sales) if they update their games. At the same time, if the Steam Deck is a huge success, then I expect more companies will work quickly to get their games playing properly.
Where’s that killer app?
Quietly, Valve released something for the launch of the Steam Deck, called Aperture Desk Job. It’s not a game, instead, it’s a tech demo that gets you familiar with the unit. This is a 30-minute story based in the Portal universe. I enjoyed myself, but I was kind of hoping for something more. What the Steam Deck is lacking is a game that you must play on it.
This was a missed opportunity to not have something from Valve or another major publisher that shows off why having a Steam Deck is a worthwhile investment. The unit is impressive, but I’ve been spending the last few days playing older games. Sure, Elden Ring is listed as a “Great on Deck”, but then there are still reports the performance on PC isn’t ideal.
I am looking at some other recent releases to see if there is anything I’d be tempted to play. Dune: Spice Wars has caught my eye, but it’s an unverified game. Considering it’s a real-time strategy game, it might not play that well. Then there’s Rogue Legacy 2. It’s got the “Great on Deck” classification, so it might be worth a shot. Other than that, there isn’t much new that gets me excited to play it on my Steam Deck.
I want to play more with my Steam Deck
It’s been just over a week, and although I’m satisfied with my purchase, I still feel like the Steam Deck has a lot more potential to unlock. It got me to play through Half-Life 2, which I’ll have something written up shortly. Hopefully, additional games in my collection get patched, so I have more reason to play them on my new handheld. If you have a decent collection of “Great on Deck” games, this is a no-brainer. For everyone else, I recommend searching around for other people’s opinions before dropping the money for any version of it.