Friday, November 25

Valve’s Steam Deck is a weird gaming machine, and I love everything about it

When I first saw the Valve Steam Deck I thought it was a joke; My initial reaction was, “Oh, it’s another small company’s attempt to launch a handheld PC gaming device that will never be made or will produce mediocre hardware.” But then I saw that it is actually official Valve hardware, so it piqued my interest.

Now Valve has a mixed reputation when it comes to hardware. Steam Machine and Steam Controller were largely failures, but the HTC Vive, which Valve was involved in, and the Valve index They both managed to get a spot on our best VR headset list. So after chewing it, I decided that I am quite curious about the Steam Deck; heck, she might even love him for his ambitious nature.

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While the console itself isn’t going to win any industrial design awards, seeing IGNHands-on experience with the Steam Deck has convinced me of the concept of portable PC gaming, especially when other devices that have tried to do the same have failed.

All hands on the deck

(Image credit: Valve)

It would be easy to compare Steam Deck with Nintendo Switch, or the next Nintendo interruptor OLED – not just in terms of the form factor, but also the fact that they both aim to deliver a portable gaming experience of around 720p. They can both run Doom Eternal, for example, so have some crossovers; Divinity Original Sin 2 on Switch even syncs with the Steam version on PC.

However, the Switch is more than its hardware, as the Nintendo console has great appeal due to its stellar exclusive games, more so with Breath of the Wild 2 and Metroid Dread. Whereas the Steam Deck is more of an open ecosystem with support for games that you will normally see running on one of our best clearly intraportable gaming PCs. The pair of gaming machines effectively target two mostly very different gaming areas.

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That said, they both present a vision for portable gaming. And as someone who primarily uses their Switch in its portable mode, I see the appeal of portable PC gaming.

I have a healthy collection of Steam games that I play predominantly on my desktop PC; occasionally I can use my less powerful gaming laptop. But there are times when I would love to be able to lay back on my couch and play games like Warhammer 2 Total War, Team Fortress 2, and a host of games that aren’t available or don’t play well on other platforms.

This is possible with some streaming services, but my internet is slower than molasses coming out of a glitter pad and the whole experience can be pretty crazy. Even Xbox Cloud Gaming via Xbox Game Pass is not solid on a 5G connection, in my experience. So game streaming is not the panacea for my lazy PC gaming problem.

But as much as the Steam Deck sounds like a weird mutated Switch, it might just be the answer. That’s because it will have the power to run games natively; It sure isn’t likely that the graphics are fully on and you wouldn’t expect screaming frame rates. But IGN reported that gaming performance is pretty solid even on demanding titles like Control.

And the Steam Deck controls are apparently quite responsive. So the idea of ​​playing a bigger strategy game like the aforementioned Warhammer 2 Total War without a mouse and keyboard doesn’t seem entirely ridiculous.

Hardcore PC gamers might be horrified at the idea of ​​playing PC games on a machine with about two teraflops of graphics power. However, I don’t see Steam Deck as a standalone machine. In my opinion, it is more of a device to extend my PC games beyond my main platform.

Like many others, I have a backlog of Steam games, thanks to Steam sales seeing me buy more games than I have time to play. But being able to access my Steam library on the go with the Steam Deck is one way to go through a lot of games; If it also helps me financially to forget the hell of the London Underground central line, then even better.

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Adorned with games

(Image credit: Valve)

Not only does Steam Deck promise to give me access to a large portion of my PC game library on a handheld device, but the open nature of the platform means that it has the potential to be a wonderful standalone gaming machine.

Steam is arguably a developer-friendly platform: as much as it requires a share of game sales from developers, it provides the software and distribution to get their games out to people. As such, if the Steam Deck sells well, it could encourage more indie developers to create games specifically for it. Or at least offer custom controls for the Steam Deck, without the need to effectively tweak the game for non-PC platforms.

Then there is the access to the Steam Workshop. Skyrim can run on Switch, but you don’t have access to the myriad of mods that the PC version has on Steam. But since it’s basically a compact PC, the Steam Deck should allow you to play Skyrim with all the mods in place. And with Steam Cloud saves, someone like me who has spent hundreds of hours in Skyrim can simply continue in handheld mode rather than starting a completely new game.

And there are a host of classic games that aren’t available on other platforms that can suddenly be enjoyed on the go with the Steam Deck. I’m thinking of Thief 2, Deus Ex, Planescape Torment, and more. Looking at Steam Deck as a machine that can run modern games reasonably, as well as offering access to hundreds of classic PC games, its appeal becomes more apparent.

Gateway to PC gaming

(Image credit: Valve)

I also see Steam Deck as a good way to partially democratize PC gaming. Often seen as a more hardcore gaming rig versus the likes of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, PC games aren’t very accessible. Sure, you can build a gaming rig for less than $ 1,000, but it’s not likely to give you the best modern and future gaming experience.

With prices starting at $ 399, the Steam Deck is arguably one of the cheapest ways to get into PC gaming. Die-hard PC gamers may scoff at this, but dropping a large chunk of cash on a desktop gaming platform isn’t easy for everyone. Also, there is a degree of familiarity with games in what is basically a gamepad divided in two by a screen and a small computer, rather than having to learn the key combinations and adjust the mouse sensitivity as you would in games. of traditional PCs.

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And once again, the Steam Deck could be one of the most affordable ways to access a host of older games without needing the space or expense of a capable desktop or laptop.

A stealth laptop replacement?

(Image credit: Valve)

The final element of the Steam Deck that caught my eye is that it is not just a handheld PC. Potentially it could be a casual productivity device and laptop replacement.

Thanks to a docking accessory, the Steam Deck can be connected to an external monitor, Ethernet, mouse and keyboard. And while the default operating system is SteamOS, you can apparently install Windows or Linux on the Steam Deck, potentially turning it into a mini desktop PC with Zen 2 Ryzen processors and RDNA 2 graphics that provide enough power for some everyday tasks.

Also, it appears that the Chrome browser is compatible with SteamOS, which means that you can access the G Suite of productivity tools without the need to install any applications or programs. This should also allow access to Xbox Cloud Streaming through Chrome, opening up yet another game service for the Steam Deck; the Switch can’t dream of doing that … yet.

So for people who don’t want one of our best cheap laptops or just don’t want to carry a laptop between home and office, the Steam Deck could be a novel alternative device.

Steam Deck can seem a bit strange with the position of its joysticks and the location of the buttons. And no one has specifically asked for such a device.

But having thought through the points above, I am strangely excited about the Steam Deck and can’t wait to give it a try. It may not revolutionize PC gaming, but it could open it up in a variety of clever and interesting ways.

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