Wondering whether you can play Starfield on Steam Deck? We don’t blame you, as the sci-fi RPG feels like it’ll be a good fit for Valve’s handheld. Sure, you’ll be able to boost fps using a high-spec rig armed with expensive components. Yet, using a handheld to explore Bethesda’s sprawling means you’ll be able to reach orbit no matter where you are. That said, there are a few things to consider when it comes to Starfield Steam Deck compatibility, and we’re here to help you make sense of it all.
If Starfield system requirements are anything to go by, Bethesda's RPG may feel a little rough on Steam Deck. Minimum requirements aren’t always absolute, and dialing back settings is usually a given when it comes to Valve’s gaming handheld. However, you should still curb your expectations somewhat when it comes to frame rates, as even the Xbox Series S is locked to 30fps.
Thankfully, while you might have to wrestle with performance, there’s good news on the compatibility side of things. Leaked day-one patch notes suggest that Valve will class Starfield as ‘Playable’ on Steam Deck when it lands, and it should play nicely with the Asus ROG Ally too (via Insider Gaming). At the moment, the game’s storefront page lacks any indication of handheld compatibility, but the insider documents hint that a badge could pop up on September 4th.
Starfield review: "An expansive and beautifully crafted open world experience full of endless discovery and opportunities."
In case you’re unfamiliar with Valve’s compatibility checks, allow us to fill you in. The storefront giant uses its own Steam Deck Verified checklist to determine whether a PC game will work properly on the handheld. The system consists of three different categories, Unsupported, Playable, and Verified, with only the latter being branded to games the company considers to be ‘Great on Deck’.
Of course, the system is far from perfect, and there are many Unsupported games that seemingly work just fine on Valve’s handheld. At the same time, there are Steam Deck Verified releases that suffer from poor performance that some would deem unplayable, so it’s best to view the system as a helpful heads up than written law.
As for why Starfield won’t be Verified on Steam Deck, the leak offers some insight into Valve’s rumored verdict. The notes mention a ‘virtual keyboard’ meaning interface issues likely aren’t to blame. That suggests it’s performance that’s keeping the RPG from the ‘Great on Deck’ list, as while you can technically play Starfield on Steam Deck, you’ll probably experience some frame rate turbulence.
Starfield Steam Deck settings and performance tips
There are a few things you can do to encourage better Starfield Steam Deck performance, and we’ve got a few tips to share. Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to miraculously play at 60fps+ just by tweaking settings, but you’ll still be able to ensure everything is optimized for the handheld:
Select a ‘low’ graphics preset (you can always crank things back up later).
Turn on AMD FSR 2.0 upscaling in the settings menu.
Stick to the Steam Deck’s 800p native resolution.
Consider using ‘Half Rate Shading’ in the Deck’s settings.
You won’t necessarily have to do all of the above to boost fps in Starfield using the Steam Deck, but each step can facilitate higher frame rates. Half Rate Shading in particular can really take the load off, but it can result in pixelated visuals depending on the game. It’s worth noting that if you’d prefer to play using a Steam Deck dock, you’ll want to pay close attention to resolution, as while 1080p doesn’t sound like much in 2023, it could prove too much for the portable while running the sci-fi RPG.
Of course, if you’re looking for a handheld that’ll potentially offer better Starfield performance, there are more options than ever. Not only does the Asus ROG Ally wield an AMD Z1 Extreme APU that can handle demanding Steam games, but the Ayaneo 2S is also available for those looking for a premium punch.
Side note, but if you're eagerly waiting for Skyrim in space to finally arrive, you'll want to check out our Starfield launch live blog. We'll be keeping you up to speed with everything you need to know before the RPG arrives, including earlier access release times and other vital mission info.
You could also wait for the Lenovo Legion GO to land, as the laptop maker is reportedly cooking up its own Steam Deck rival. However, most alternative handhelds are a chunk more expensive than Valve’s portable powerhouse, so there’s no shame in using the heroic handheld we all know and love to play Starfield.