Do you remember that childlike glee of holding a new console or device in your hand? All you can think of is the hours upon hours of time you will be spending with it, like your newest and only best friend for life. You want to treat it perfectly, never dirtying it. It has literally become your life. Hell, that probably happens to you when you buy a new phone! Well, that’s an easy summary of what I’m here to talk about: my first week and some days with my Steam Deck. What originally started as a weekend with my Steam Deck opinions turned into a week and some days of opinions! During these days, all I did was test games out on my Steam Deck. Meaning, spoiler warning, it’s a long one, Captain. Don’t expect super in-depth details about specs, as although I understand some of it, I’m nowhere as knowledgeable about it as others.
Just How Comfy Is Such A Large Handheld?
Let’s begin class, just how were my first week and a few days with my Steam Deck? And how did it feel to hold it? As a Nintendo Switch (Switch here on out) owner, I was concerned, as I hate holding the Switch. Nonetheless, the Steam Deck has something the Switch doesn’t. Well, actually a lot, but in this case it has grips on the back that make it a blessing to hold. You may think this isn’t the biggest deal, but have you ever dropped your Switch on your face because you can’t get a good grip? Luckily you won’t have that with the Steam Deck, as these grips really grip! Going between the Deck and Switch is a huge difference in how comfortable and safe you feel. I can actually lay in bed and play games, whereas I don’t feel safe doing that with my Switch. I even had a coworker mention how I looked much more at ease and comfy holding my Steam Deck than my Switch.
Now, I know you’re probably looking at the picture of the handheld provided and thinking, “Boy golly, those buttons sure are high up.” Just trust me, you get used to them because even though they seem high, they feel phenomenal to play with. It surprisingly feels uncluttered, yet at the same time, the buttons are close enough that you don’t lose time when trying to quickly switch between what you’re pressing. And they aren’t small like the Switch’s buttons. On top of that, all the extra room is glorious for big-handed people such as me. When playing the Switch, my hands are cramped, and playing with it for a while is painful, but I can play the Steam Deck all night and barely have it hurt. I get it may look weird, but Valve really knocked it out of the park with how it feels to hold, especially for extended play. It helps that the charger and headphone jack is up top so you can rest your arms on a table and not bend cords.
Finally, you may see those two weird pad-like sections in the front. Those are touchpads. Once you personalize these, they are so fricking awesome. I’ll get into this in the customizing section. There are also four pads on the back. I love these, reminds me of the Xbox Elite controller, which I adore. Nonetheless, with all these buttons, what can you do? Honestly? A whole lot.
Making My Steam Deck Truly Mine!
The amount of customizing you can do is mind-blowing. It makes sense, though, as it’s literally a handheld PC. I won’t go into all the details, as there is a lot. However, I will go over my own game-changing ones! This first one may be a big one for people like me who HATE QTEs (Quick Time Events). So far, I haven’t found a way to make a macro that presses the button multiple times. Instead, I found two other methods. First, the one I started with, map the button; you need one of the touchpads as a touch motion (for the Batman: Arkham series I used A for opening vents). Now instead of mashing a button, you rapidly press the touchscreen, and it works great! But, after some more tinkering around, I found a better method. When creating buttons on any of the other Deck buttons, you can go into the settings and change even more than I thought. This is where I found the Turbo setting! With this Turbo setting on, it does the rapid pressing for you. The amount of customizing with just a single button is seriously insane!
This ease of QTE pressing is such a huge game changer, and I may go back and beat some old God of War games via emulation. Legal note: yes, I do already own those games. I even tested this out with Tomb Raider for the analog stick QTEs (honestly, the worst type,) and it works just fine with the touchpad. Seriously, this small setting makes a huge difference for older games.
As mentioned earlier, you also have four completely programmable back paddles. I use these already on my Elite controller as an L3/R3 button, as it’s hard to press in with my thumbs. But you can literally program these for whatever. You can program any button as anything. The possibilities are endless. You can have any button be normal controller buttons, PC commands, or something you made up. I found out you can map commands with multiple extra/subcommands, so I can have my four back paddles be the quick fires (LT Plus one of the face buttons) on the Batman: Arkham series so I can pull off sick combos. I will stress it again; the possibilities are ENDLESS, just play around with your Steam Deck, and you will see the wonders in store for you.
Finally, if you are having problems with a game that has horrible controls or is Keyboard and Mouse only (looking at you Witcher 1,) you can download community profiles that have already been built, and others have reviewed. This isn’t something you can only do on the Steam Deck, as it’s been a feature for a while on Steam that I never knew about.
The crazy part is this isn’t even going into all the things you can do. You can add gyro aiming (motion aiming) to any game, even if they don’t support it. This is phenomenal for those shooters that need that extra little aiming help. Even better, you can regulate the gyro to a button. Meaning if you only want to use gyro when aiming, you can have it only activate when holding down the aim button. I absolutely hate when the gyro is always on, so mapping it to a button is a fantastic feature, especially for those that don’t already have it so you can use this on Resident Evil 4 to make it even better!
I could go on and on here, but when I say that, the first thing you will want to do is tinker with your Steam Deck, I mean it. I hate to repeat myself unless it’s important – YOU HAVE THE CAPABILITY TO CHANGE EVERYTHING AND PLAY HOW YOU WANT!
For A Handheld, Just How Portable Is It?
The Steam Deck is BIG. Like bigger than you first think. Do you remember the Sega Gamegear? I wouldn’t fault you if you don’t remember or know about it. Most people try to forget those rough times. However, I am reminded of that monster handheld when holding the Deck. When walking around with the case I feel like a suit-wearing businessnon-binary. It could literally be mistaken for a suitcase. Talking about cases; yes I have dropped my Steam Deck, only once though! I try my best to be careful, but my hands have motor problems and tend to lose grip. Which is one of many reasons I don’t hold babies. That said, I dropped it, cried a little, then checked and all was good! My Steam Deck was no worse for wear, however, I was still a little traumatized.
Yet on the subject of being out and about, as a handheld, how does it handle battery life, and without the internet (offline mode)? Sadly, these are actually my few negatives. A PC takes a lot of power, especially depending on what you’re doing. Most indie games honestly don’t drain your battery, or small less demanding games like Batman: Arkham Origins: Blackgate. Your battery usage will vary a lot, play a big AAA newish game running a solid 60FPS? Bye-bye battery. That’s honestly just how it goes. I wish it wasn’t but the Switch has the same problem. What these mean are a few things. Always have your charger (40 W and above, Switch charger works!) and pack an external battery that you can use. Luckily you receive a small mesh bag for your charger and a place on the bottom of the case to store it.
For most older gen games running at 40FPS, I got at least 4 hours of playtime (you can see this info displayed in a few places, seen in the pic below). However playing God of War 2018, and Elden Ring I was averaging about an hour and a half. So be ready to have your Steam Deck plugged in, a lot. Finally, the Offline Mode has a lot to desire. This is due to some Valve stuff, and developers. The good thing is Valve knows about some of the problems (and other problems) and has been fixing them. Some games need you to log into the company’s service to actually play the game, even if it’s single-player, like Ubisoft and Assassin’s Creed. You can get around this by loading it up when you have internet and then just putting your Steam Deck in sleep mode and resuming. However the need to log in for even single-player stuff is asinine, sadly, and I don’t think Valve can do much on that part.
What Valve can fix is, when playing offline mode it seems to not track your time in-game. There were multiple games I played for a while offline and when I got back online it said I only had 30 minutes and it had been days since I played, so this scared me, but doesn’t seem “game-breaking”. However, this worried me about their cloud-saving service. Luckily it looks like once you are back it updates your cloud save correctly, so no need to stress about that. But it would be nice if Valve worked on their offline mode more, as this is a handheld, and offline is a big deal. Lastly, some games do take a while to load up in offline mode compared to when online, plus if your game needs an update you need to be online.
So, What Did I Actually Play?
Much like my first night in an Airbnb in France, I was scared of my new environment. What did my first gaming experience on the Steam Deck have in store for me? Now, what we all have been waiting for; what games I played! However, before we get into my first games, the actual first thing I did was play with the settings. Since it is a new console (in this case a handheld) I do what I always do and mess with the settings for about a day or more, then I finally got into the game playing.
When testing games, I wanted to test multiple eras, genres, and all that, I’ll list the games below and give my quick thoughts. These aren’t full reviews and in most cases, I only played for 2 or more hours. I will also include what Valve clarifies them as. Finally, the Steam Deck has a 40 Hz and 40 FPS mode that works amazingly and actually feels better than 30 FPS, but not as good as 60 FPS. The upside is most games run smoothly on the 40 Hz/FPS setting and saves a lot of battery life. I also did not download Proton or any other program to help these run, just played “out of the box” and will note when changed settings.
- Cyberpunk 2077 (Playable): I had to mess around with the settings A LOT. Once I got the frames stable and locked down it ran well, but looked bad. I mean, if you played on the last gen consoles it looks a little worse but runs better.
- Batman: Arkham Origins (Unsupported): Surprisingly didn’t have to mess with anything settings-wise. I had an endgame save and it ran great. Had a solid 40 FPS.
- Batman: Arkham City (Unsupported): I also had an endgame save here and like Origins, City runs great with a constant 40 FPS. I did have to change to windowed instead of fullscreen when setting up though.
- Final Fantasy XV (Verified): Now this really surprised me. My PC can barely run this, plus it’s notorious for being demanding of the PC running it. I was able to play a lot in the open world and small areas with 40 FPS most of the time. It would dip to 30 FPS in busy cities. Here goes my fourth playthrough of my favorite and the best Final Fantasy game…
- Mad Max (Verified): Not surprisingly this runs great even when being a speed demon in a car. However, I suck at driving in games so I won’t be playing.
- Doom 2016 (Verified): I’ve kept Doom 2016 on my PC and Switch since I bought it. Looks like I’ll be doing it on my Steam Deck as well. Between the gyro aiming and running everything at a solid 40 fps on ultra this is the way to go. Didn’t have to change any settings.
- Crystal Project (Verified): Not too demanding of a game and had to change no settings. However, I did have a problem with buildings disappearing. Nonetheless, a great game in general especially on the Deck.
- Assassin’s Creed Unity (Playable): Much like FFXV I’m surprised this runs so well whereas my PC can’t handle it! I had to change some settings, but I got it running at a smooth 30FPS even after stress testing in the stupidly busy and packed streets of Paris.
- Witcher 1 (Unsupported): I really wanted this to work, because it’s my favorite in the series (fun fact, I dislike the third), but no luck. This is primarily due to it being a Keyboard, and Keyboard/Mouse game. Now I found out you can download controller settings others have created and that’s awesome! But I don’t have the time or energy to mess around with that at the moment, especially with so many other games to play. But I may go back later.
- Elden Ring (Verified): I had to change a few settings, but once I did it ran a solid 30fps. No surprise as this was one of the games in all the ADs and Valve literally updated some stuff on the Steam Deck to make it run better.
- Vampire Survivor (Verified): Two words – Perfect for the Steam Deck. Fantastic to pickup and play for bursts or a long time, just like Doom 2016, and will always stay on my Steam Deck. No settings changed.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Playable): Ran just perfectly on the first boot-up and was able to resume a previous save. All I had to change was the controller layout to the one I prefer.
- God of War 2018 (Verified): There’s a somewhat hilarious story with this one. I literally had beaten New Game Plus of GoW on PS5 and wanted to play again so badly that I bought it on Steam. How was it? Fucking godly. Insanely epic. Earthshattering. Words cannot explain how well this works on the Deck. That is until you reach Alfheim. Sadly once you’re walking around the realm the FPS drops HARD. I was thoroughly enjoying myself but once in the elf’s realm, I found it hard to do anything. Hell, I spent a while messing around with the settings to no avail. Sadly I had to drop it there, but it was fun while it lasted.
So after doing all this testing, what am I gonna actually play? Fuck if I know, I mean, first world problem but I just have too much I wanna play. But if you kidnapped me and I had to give you a list or I’d be killed….. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Elden Ring, and The Batman Arkham Series. The Deck could literally be nicknamed the handheld Arkham player. Let’s hope Gotham Knights runs on this.
A side note in this section, “most” older games will run fine, with minor or no tweaks. Also, here is the website for what Verified and such means for Valve. Almost everyday games get added or shifted on this rating, and Valve has recently added why they are only playable and stuff on the games store page (if it has small text it’ll say so).
Some Random Bullet Points That Really Didn’t Fit Elsewhere!
I couldn’t find places where these bits of information fit, so I’ll make it quick and dirty with bullet points! One of my favorite things It turns out!
- Some users had problems with putting some games into sleep mode or coming back from it. So far I’ve been lucky and haven’t had this.
- I may use emulation in the future, but as of now have too many games on Steam I need/want to play.
- Much like the Switch a lot of games have hard-to-read small text. In some cases, Steam tells you this in the verified section. Luckily there is a button combo you can use for a magnifier glass.
- If you can’t run a highly demanding game on the Deck but you can on your PC, you can stream it/remote play the game! It works…if you have good internet.
- The Steam store can be a pain in the ass to navigate, this is the same with the phone app, but they have been actively updating on both ends.
- The case opens up at the bottom, but the charger port is on the top of the Steam Deck, so you can’t close the case and charge at the same time.
- Just because a game runs fine for a little bit doesn’t mean it won’t mess up. Sadly that’s just technology.
- If a game isn’t loading correctly, try a few times. When I booted up a game (FFXV) it took me 3 times of booting up.
- I found out about making your own radial menus and using the trackpads with it, and it’s life-changing. I can make a boxed menu with icons, or a circle mine with icons and map to ANYTHING. For the Batman Arkham Series, it’s amazing for all the gadgets. Now to see if I can add my own picons.
Before I give my final approval, I would like some stuff updated for the Deck, however, Valve is constantly supporting this, literally is sending an update as I type (just got a notification), and has announced they will have a sequel. Plus the model from 6 months ago (original release) is different than now which has seen improvements. AKA: More bullet points baby!
- The ability to download while in sleep mode. I get this may not be possible with it being a computer and all, but maybe make a download mode that is part sleep mode and not?
- Better battery life.
- OLED screen. Honestly, after getting the Switch OLED I completely see the big deal! And having swapped between the two handhelds, the OLED difference is noticeable.
- A case with an opening at the top so I can charge more safely.
- Better Steam Shop interface. I have had countless problems with this and seriously stopped using it on the Steam Deck.
- Better WiFi chip.
- The ability to have macros. I looked everywhere to no avail.
- Better shipping boxes that hide the fact that it’s a Steam Deck. A lot have gotten stolen.
- Have a trial period for games on the Deck. I barely return games, but I returned some for not running well and got an email saying I shouldn’t do that so often. I understand but would love demos specifically for the Steam Deck.
Can My Steam Deck Handle It?
Honestly, that’s all I ask now. I’ve even got so drawn in by it that I have been looking at getting games I already own on other systems! I want to play every game I love and already have from the comfort of anywhere, it’s insane! If only I was rich. However, stuff goes on sale on Steam quite often, so RIP my wallet. And RIP free time because of how much gaming I’ll be doing with my Steam Deck. Nonetheless, as someone who plays games and is a gamer girl, I have multiple consoles I can’t name here for legal reasons and a somewhat up-to-date PC. But, I find myself asking if this ever-powerful magical handheld can run games that I’m looking forward to. Because, why wouldn’t I wanna play a game where I’m a teenager in high school fighting god in the comfort of my hands at work? JRPGS are 100 percent better on the Deck, especially 100 plus hour ones. A side note: I have been using the Steam Deck when biking, and using my Cubii Fitness Pedal and have literally done cardio for hours because of it. It’s a great workout motivator!
Now, although the wait for my Steam Deck was long and stressful, was it worth it, and can I work it? Yes, and yes Missy Elliot, thanks for asking. However, the better question is who is this for, and is it good for the general public that doesn’t play PC games? Now, I believe anyone can play PC games, but they need to understand, most times it’s not just downloading and playing, sometimes you need to tinker with it. So, do you need to tinker with it? Yes, be that as it may, it’s fairly easy, and there are more than enough people making videos and write-ups about it. Hell, sometimes I even have problems and have to scour the internet looking for fixes. Luckily I found new websites that actually help you with the setting. These sites are SteamDeckHQ and Sharedeck and finally, ProtonDB. These (and more) are very heavy community driven so it’s likely if you ask questions you will get answers. But please, don’t be afraid of how technical all this can be, as the Steam Deck is for lovers of video games and you can customize as much or as little as possible. Plus Valve is very much pro fixing your own stuff, and you can damn near strip the Steam Deck and change almost everything, which is nice for fixing or updating. It’s also really easy with a lot of walkthroughs, so I myself plan on messing around with it.
Therefore, HELL YES BUY THE DECK SO OTHER COMPANIES TRY THEIR HAND AT THE HANDHELD MARKET. Plus the more companies see people wanting/playing their games on the Deck the more likely they will update/create games to run better on it!
Now, I’ll disappear into my new life with my Steam Deck and finally make a dent in my backlog. I say backlog, but I literally just bought Nioh 2 for the fourth time…