Starfield Games RPG

Playing Starfield on Steam Deck: A Less-Than-Ideal Experience


When venturing into AAA gaming on handheld devices, it’s essential to manage expectations. Starfield, the expansive space exploration RPG by Bethesda, is now accessible on various platforms, including handheld gaming PCs like Valve’s Steam Deck and the Asus ROG Ally. Recent updates have made the game playable on these devices, but not without issues.

Starfield’s Arrival on Handheld Gaming PCs

Having tested the game on both the Steam Deck and the ROG Ally, I’ve noticed that while the game does run, the experience is far from optimal. Alternative streaming options like Game Pass, Moonlight, or Xbox Remote Play offer a better experience, assuming minimal input lag.

Limitations of Playing Starfield on Handheld Systems

Attempting to play Starfield on these handhelds results in subpar graphics and frame rates, significant battery drain, and a diminished sense of immersion in Bethesda’s open-world environments.

Settings, Battery Life, and Gameplay Experience

On the Steam Deck, the latest system update and selecting “Proton Experimental” in the game’s Compatibility settings are necessary steps for launching the game. However, even with these adjustments, the game may not always launch seamlessly. PC Gamer recommends medium settings, while Rock Paper Shotgun suggests the lowest settings for barely manageable performance.

Bethesda’s Recommendations and Steam’s Playability Rating

The battery life on the Steam Deck is notably short, dropping significantly during gameplay. Bethesda has advised against playing Starfield on the Steam Deck or ROG Ally due to performance issues. The game is currently rated as “Playable” on Steam, which indicates it may require manual adjustments. While future updates might enhance performance, the current state requires more effort than it’s worth.

Advantages of Streaming Starfield Over Local Play

Streaming the game from a gaming PC with an RTX 3070 to the Steam Deck offered a better experience, albeit limited by the Deck’s screen capabilities.

Assessing the Steam Deck’s Hardware Limitations

The ROG Ally performed better in “Turbo” mode, but still faced rapid battery depletion. Adjusting settings and resolution improved the visual experience compared to the Steam Deck, but the device’s battery life remained a significant limitation. Streaming to the Ally, with its superior screen, is a better option, though subject to network stability.

Considerations for Future Handheld Gaming Devices

For some ROG Ally users, staying plugged in might not be a problem. Those without access to a gaming PC or unwilling to pay for streaming services might find playing Starfield on handheld devices acceptable. However, the handheld experience compromises key aspects of the game, like exploration and combat in vast environments.

The Future of Handheld Gaming and Realistic Expectations

The Steam Deck’s struggle to play a major AAA title raises questions about its hardware capabilities. Valve’s claim of running the entire Steam library effectively is now under scrutiny, especially as we approach the limits of what handheld hardware can achieve. Future advancements in handheld gaming technology might offer solutions, but for now, it’s prudent to choose games that suit the current hardware’s capabilities while staying realistic about expectations.

Will Starfield run on Steam Deck?

Yes, Starfield can run on the Steam Deck, but it may require adjustments and updates for optimal performance, and the overall experience might be less than ideal due to hardware limitations.