Baldur’s Gate 3 is compatible with the Steam Deck handheld console. But is it the best way to experience Larian Studios’ masterpiece? There are some limitations to consider.
The third entry of the now-legendary Baldur’s Gate computer roleplaying game (CRPG) series made a mark on 2023’s Steam concurrent player records on launch day. Based on Wizards of the Coast's Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules with events taking place in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, Baldur’s Gate 3 is already a certified hit. But while most players are doing it from the comfort of home and their Windows PC gaming setup, some players want to take it on the go.
Valve’s handheld Steam Deck has become the go-to device for playing portable Steam games, but how does it fare with Baldur’s Gate?
Larian Studios confirmed that the hit Dungeons & Dragons CRPG Baldur’s Gate 3 is verified compatible with the Steam Deck via X (formerly Twitter).
— Baldur's Gate 3 (@baldursgate3) August 4, 2023
On the surface, this is great news for Baldur’s Gate 3 players who also happen to own a Steam Deck. Getting to play RPGs usually reserved for desktops on a portable device can be an enormous convenience for gamers on-the-go. However, there are some caveats and tweaks Steam Deck owners should consider before downloading and installing the nearly 150 GB roleplaying game.
On that note, your first consideration is having enough space. If you’re like many Steam Deck users, you may have already filled your microSD card with your games library. Regardless, if you have anything less than a 512 GB to 1 TB microSD, you might want to consider upgrading to a higher capacity, given the size Baldur’s Gate will take up.
Next, compared to playing it on a Windows PC, running Baldur’s Gate 3 via the Steam Deck OS requires some tweaking. Previously, BG3 required forcing it to select a Proton compatibility layer (Proton 8.0-3 or Proton Experimental). However, after the hotfix that was provided by Larian Studios after multiple reports of bugs and glitches, this is no longer required.
You will also need to disable the standard Baldur’s Gate 3 launcher. On Windows PC, the Larian launcher allows you to make a choice between DX11 or Vulkan APIs. Instead, BG3 should be defaulted to run via DX11, as the game has graphical problems and frame rate issues with Vulkan using the SteamOS.
To accomplish this, follow these steps:
- Go to Baldur’s Gate 3 in your Steam Library.
- Go to the Settings cog icon.
- Go to Properties.
- Go to the General Tab.
- Find the Launch Options tab.
- Enter this on the text box: "--skip-launcher" (without the quotation marks).
This will default BG3 to run under DX11.
Now, as should be expected, while the Steam Deck hardware can handle relatively high graphic settings, Baldur’s Gate 3 is likely not one of the games to push the limits with. So you may have to modify the settings a little bit to balance out the looks with the performance while adventuring in the Forgotten Realms.
Here are suggested graphics settings when playing BG3 on the Steam Deck:
- Overall Graphics Preset = Medium (or Low if you’re encountering issues)
- Maximum Frame Rate = 30 fps
- Frame Rate Cap = On
- FSR 1.0 = Ultra Quality
- Shadow Quality = Low
- Cloud Quality = Low
- Fog Quality = Low
These settings should make the most out of your Baldur’s Gate 3 playtime and performance while still looking fairly sharp on the Steam Deck’s screen. Choosing Low on the Graphics Preset should also extend your battery time to around 2 hours. As long as you keep the FSR 1.0 setting at Ultra Quality, the Steam Deck should look and play just fine.
With all that said, right now the best way to experience Baldur’s Gate 3 is really running it on the PC. There really is a notable difference in the look and feel on a proper desktop gaming rig with all the bells and whistles running around with your companions and hearing the boisterous voices of Wyll, Karlach, and Minsc with Boo. And you don’t have to squint when looking at the character or inventory UI (which in any D&D game is every 5 minutes).
Baldur’s Gate 3 is now available for the Windows PC platform. Plus, the Sony Playstation 5 release is targeted for September 6, 2023. The release of the macOS and Microsoft Xbox Series X/S versions currently in development are currently TBD.