Look, it's Elden Ring actually running on the Steam Deck

The great conjunction is upon us. Elden Ring was just last night raised from the Lands Between to grace us with its Darksouls-esque, morbid joy, and we figured those of you with Steam Deck reservations are going to want to see some Elden Ring gameplay on Valve's new gaming handheld.

Elden Ring is one game already on the steadily growing list of Steam Deck compatible games, but whether it plays well right now is another story. But still, holy hell, you can play Elden Ring on the Steam Deck!

First impressions are that it's a gorgeous game, but you know that already. I had no trouble with official controls and all the menus worked just fine. Of course, there is some pretty small text on screen in a lot of places, so I did end up hunched over, squinting. But there isn't masses of text to read, so I was able mostly to get on with slashing and casting to my heart's content.

What's a little odd is playing a game in which you need to do a lot of dexterous ducking and diving on something heavier than a standard controller. It's not a massively heavy device, but it made the experience feel much clunkier... and I'm blaming that for my incessant dying.

And on top of that, the game's been running into more than a few hurdles in terms of performance even on super high-end gaming PCs.

We found that stuttering in Elden Ring was pretty common in our initial testing on PC—in game version 1.01 Jacob was even convinced it was happening independently of what was showing on screen. Now, with the release version out in the wild, I took to Elden Ring on the Steam Deck to see if anything's changed, now this blessed double launch day is upon us. 

The game actually had some trouble starting up, the first couple of times I tried to run it. I clicked play and was met with a blank screen; didn't manage to get past the splash screens into the initial menu at all. After restarting a couple of times, it finally opened the gates and set my Tarnished loose.

On high settings, with the latest, stable version of Proton enabled, there was a little frame drop in certain areas, under specific circumstances. So at least we can say it correlates with whatever's going on in game.

I didn't encounter anything nearly as disastrous as Jacob's second-long stutter, but I did notice the odd 11-13fps drop, down from 35-40fps. Mostly, the slowing occurs where new areas are loading, masses of particle effects are present, or things are spawning in.

In other words this corroborates with a lot of theories that it's a problem with DX12. A lot of the issues lie in where the game's building up its shader cache. You'd hope there would be no new areas loading in mid-fight, but it can happen. Particle effects and spawning are certainly going to affect your battles, however, and in a game so reliant on accurate, timely movement, it's going to cause many an avoidable demise.

Thankfully, devs are on the case. 

Valve pointed me towards opting into Proton's bleeding-edge (untested dxvk, vkd3d-proton and wine) experimental version, which should be coming out as an update to the stable version later today. 

Jamming that onto our Steam Deck not only gave us access to the games online features, but it also seems like some work's been done to address the frame drops. I no longer ran into frame rate issues along the problem stretch of beach, beside that humongous waterfall. 

Steam in your hands

Steam Deck with an image from Elden Ring overlayed on the screen

(Image credit: Future, FromSoftware)

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Steam Deck - The emulation dream machine: Using Valve's handheld hardware as the ultimate emulator.

But there's certainly more work yet to be done; fighting the first Mounted Knight I came across saw some pretty nasty stuttering, for example.

Bandai Namco has made an official statement, too, in which they assure us, "We will be constantly working to improve the game so that it can be played comfortably on various PC environments and platforms."

The post also notes that, "For the PC version, updating your graphics card drivers to the latest version may significantly improve performance."

We're already on the latest updates for the Steam Deck, so I guess we just wait for this version of Proton to become stable and go from there. That's our advice if you end up experiencing frame drops in Elden Ring on Steam Deck, as running an experimental version of Proton can put your game files at risk. 

Patience, Tarnished. Your time will come.

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.