Baldur’s Gate 3 a joy on the Steam Deck – even if sometimes I couldn’t figure out what was going on.
I doubt that will be the case. All that I saw Baldur’s Gate 3 before I downloaded it it promised a big, sprawling adventure, and all the gameplay streams I watched on Twitch showed incredibly detailed characters and worlds. I’m sure most streamers are running the game on top-of-the-line rigs. I suspect that Steam Deck, which recently had problems The Last of Us Part Iprobably not the best place for me to play Larian Studios’ new RPG.
That said, the game looks like a lot of fun, and since it doesn’t come to PS5 until September, I really want to find a way to play it as soon as possible. I was more intrigued when I read the beginner’s guide of my colleague Ash Parrish. And then, a few days later Baldur’s Gate 3 officially launched, I see it confirmed on Steam Deck. I know that doesn’t mean the game looks great, but it’s enough for me to jump. Baldur’s Gate 3 on my Steam Deck.
Here’s what I encountered after downloading the massive 122GB game:
- Characters often have a fuzzy glow, and when wandering around Faerûn, faces sometimes appear as amorphous, pixelated blobs.
- In battles, I sometimes had trouble distinguishing enemies from the environment.
- The fan on my Steam Deck blasts like a jet engine, and the back of the device gets very hot to the touch.
- Baldur’s Gate 3 battery talk in Steam Deck; from a full charge, my Deck projects that it will last about an hour and 40 minutes while playing the game. (Although I’m not mucking around with any settings to try and get more juice.)
- Sometimes, I play Steam Deck hooked up to my 55-inch TV, meaning any visual issues are magnified on the bigger screen.
- I even found a way to turn on local co-op in my Steam Deck game – something that Larian specifically interrupted on the platform — meaning the game has to work to manage two of our characters simultaneously. (And we always play on TV.)
You’ll notice that the screenshots in this article aren’t pretty, but for some reason, they are even worse than they deserve. I promise I didn’t go out of my way to make the game look as awesome as possible! After I first published this story, Sean Hollister and I may have encountered some inconsistencies. Baldur’s Gate 3 default Steam Deck settings, and we think something is going on that makes the game look worse to me. It’s likely to do with AMD FSR AI-powered upscaling that improves performance by running a game at a lower resolution before blowing it up.
- Sean and I initially started playing Steam Deck with the default graphics settings, and we both remember the images looking blurry and/or pixelated like the screenshots in this story right from the start.
- But when Sean did a clean install on Friday, he said the “default” game settings are now better than my screenshots.
- Sean noted that the default settings were made and still had AMD’s FSR 1.0 set to “Balance,” which his game claims is now the default. But when I use the “restore defaults” option now while testing things, the default for FSR is not there. But we are on the latest version, v184.108.40.20648072. (Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense – also my settings default to Ultra spec for some reason, while his defaults to Medium.)
- Despite Sean’s copy of the game claiming it was set to FSR 1.0 Balance by default, if he by hand switch the game from FSR 1.0 Balance and back again, the game looks blurrier than the first launch.
We’ve reached out to Larian to try and clarify a few things, including the default FSR mode for the Steam Deck, and we’ll update if we hear back.
Despite all this, I was very impressed Baldur’s Gate 3 on Steam Deck.
I just keep wondering how many games packed into a relatively small machine that I can hold in my hands. Although it clearly struggled on my Steam Deck – it’s a graphically demanding game, and we saw subpar results on lower specced desktops as well – I was impressed that it worked as well as it did.
I’ve played four different characters, and I find new places and conversations every time I go through the first sections of the game. Baldur’s Gate 3 full of life, so even though I sometimes had to squint to know where I was, the characters were really fun to talk to. To my surprise, I didn’t run into any major issues playing co-op, meaning my wife and I spent a lot of time howling at our ridiculous mishaps. (RIP, Barcus Wroot, the gnome who was accidentally thrown from the windmill.)
I also know that there is something more personal when playing on a handheld – this is one of the reasons I love the Nintendo Switch. Sure, it’s a lot of fun to share an adventure with everyone in the room on a TV. But some of my favorite time with Baldur’s Gate 3 sitting on the couch, Steam Deck resting on a pillow in my lap, and headphones plugged in, wandering Faerûn. (It helps that the game’s gamepad controls, while a little complicated, are starting to make some sense, though sometimes it’s hard to get things together.) I’m even thinking about bringing my Steam Deck in the future vacation so I can play Baldur’s Gate 3 — what better way to relax than a cold drink and a successful persuasion roll?
My feelings can change. With about 18 hours of play time, I barely scratched the surface of the Baldur’s Gate 3, and I don’t know if the latter areas will look or feel worse on the Steam Deck. (A colleague noted that some of the darker areas that appear later can be more difficult to parse.) Larian plans to implement FSR 2.2, which will make things look better. .
But overall, it’s been a surprisingly smooth ride so far. Although I’m looking forward to getting my PS5 adventure with cross-saves, I bet I’ll still be spending a lot of time on Baldur’s Gate 3 on Steam Deck.
Update August 18th, 7:41PM ET: Added details about Steam Deck graphical settings.