Returnal Analysis for PC. This is how to play on Steam Deck and compatible

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I wish all the good in the world to Housemarque. It is a creative team faithful to what they like: shoot’em up, colored balls that light up the dark, ships and science fiction. That’s why, this Returnal has always seemed like a magnificent occurrence to me. Realizing that what they do is something for a niche niche, they took their DNA and injected it into a rogue base with some really cool storytelling.

I mean, it was like, “hey, PlayStation, so you’re into storytelling, gunplay adventures, huh? Well, here you go.” Every time I go back to Returnal I find it wonderful, and not only for the game itself, but for this creative twist that they have marked. Because this game is still one of the usual Housemarque martians, but prepared for players who would never enter a space shooter to do so.

I say all this because I am glad that Returnal has made the leap to PC. Now more people will be able to enjoy this wonderful and challenging title. Returnal is right in how it tells its story, in how it poses its challenges, and in how it scales its difficulty curve. Of course, finishing the game and even reaching the final levels is more difficult than finishing Bloodborne; warned you are

To learn more about the game itself, you can read the analysis published by boss Pareja in his day. What I come here to talk about today it’s how the game performsif it is well optimized, what options does it have and most importantly: is Returnal playable on Steam Deck?

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Can Returnal be played on Steam Deck?

Let’s start by answering this question. Returnal can be played on Steam Deck. That is, Valve’s laptop is capable of starting the game, letting you enter the settings and allowing you to start playing… But to think that you are going to go beyond the first phases is science fiction.

The reason is that not even putting everything in very low you will get a good performance. I have lowered everything to the most miserable characteristics possible. I have demanded so little of the game that I even accepted that the grass on the road was charged two meters from me, not before. Come on, that you laugh at Pokémon Scarlet.

But the problem is that, even doing this, a stable frame rate is not achieved. And here comes the big problem. As I said in the introduction, Returnal is a game about ships, it’s a demanding shooter. You have to know how to dodge, measure the energy you have left, aim and shoot well so that you do not overload your equipment, and doing all of that is impossible if you do not have rock-strong frames. In Steam Deck they go from 30 to 15 intermittently.

As of the release date, I cannot recommend that you buy Returnal to play it on a Steam Deck.

It is that the minimap that warns you through which door you have entered and through which you have to exit is not even clearly distinguishable. Maybe tomorrow there will be a patch or someone will post a magical way to make the experience good. But as of the game’s release date, I cannot recommend that you buy Returnal to play it on a Steam Deck. The laptop is wonderful, but it is not miraculous, and this is still a PlayStation 5 video game.

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And how is Returnal performing on PC?

Fortunately, things change when we play the video game on a computer. Mine is a laptop with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 and an 8 core Ryzen 5000 series. The game features four customization options: Low, Medium, High, and Epic. In epic, the frames oscillated between 80 and 35, almost always staying around 50. Things got better in high, with a rate that used to exceed 60 on a regular basis.

​Once we choose a preset we can alter the VSYNC, the maximum frames per second, if we want screen optimization or not, field of view bias, lighting and shadow quality, ray tracing, reflections and also the quality of modeling and environmental textures. Also many processing options including HDR on or off, cinematic grain, depth of field and Bloom.

I ended up going with the high setting, without touching it and just as it was determined by the game. It seemed like a great balance between frames and image quality, but I still had a lot to tinker with if I wanted to enhance one thing or the other. The truth is that as this preset is prepared, the gaming experience was totally optimal. No crashes or weird experiences.

Interestingly, the only thing that stunned me was the presentation of the game, the video cut from PlayStation Studios, and that’s it. The rest, perfect. Also, Returnal brings something very useful. Every time you change something in its configuration, you can do a benchmark. The game starts playing a set of situations that will be common during the game. It tests the use of lights, the presence of many enemies, how objects are destroyed… And you will be able to know what you are willing to sacrifice and what you are not.

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The Returnal port to PC is a great job

With all this, I can only say that the Returnal port to PC is great, versatile and prepared for a large number of machines. The truth is that I was quite sorry not to be able to play it on Steam Deck, since it is a perfect title for the machine. Also, thanks to popular requests, if we leave the game the cycle does not restart. Remember that when the game came out if you turned off the console it would mess up your game, but not now.

I have started playing, I have exited with Alt+F4 and my character was still in his cycle without restarting it. Anyway, I’m crossing my fingers that some internet engineer comes up on Reddit explaining how to configure this to work on my beloved laptop. Meanwhile, Hit it on your computer without any fear.