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Baldur’s Gate 3 is a delight on Steam Deck — even though I sometimes can’t tell what’s going on.

I suspected that might be the case going in. Everything I had seen about Baldur’s Gate 3 before I downloaded it promised a vast, sprawling adventure, and all the streams of the game I watched on Twitch featured incredibly detailed characters and worlds. I’m sure most of those streamers were running the game on top-of-the-line rigs. I suspected that the Steam Deck, which recently had some troubles with The Last of Us Part I, might not be the best place for me to play Larian Studios’ new RPG.

That said, the game just looked like so much fun, and since it won’t be coming to PS5 until September, I really wanted to find a way to play it sooner. I was even more intrigued after reading my colleague Ash Parrish’s beginner’s guide. And then, a few days after Baldur’s Gate 3 officially launched, I saw that it was Steam Deck verified. I knew that wouldn’t necessarily mean the game would be beautiful to look at, but it was enough for me to jump into Baldur’s Gate 3 on my Steam Deck.

These were nonlethal knockouts, I promise.
Screenshot by Jay Peters / The Verge

If you also want to take the plunge, you should know a few things upfront. The game will render at a relatively low resolution of 1280 x 720. You’ll need a minimum of 150GB free just to be able to install it. You won’t need a mouse and keyboard thanks to Larian’s official controller layout (though, if you don’t like Larian’s layout, there are a bunch of community layouts you can pick from as well). And if you’re interested in mods, some intrepid players report that they’ve gotten them working but with some legwork.

While playing Baldur’s Gate 3 on Steam Deck, my suspicions were proven exactly right. Technically, things are fine, but not great.

My screenshot (left) compared to a promotional image from Larian (right).

I’m absolutely fascinated with Baldur’s Gate 3 on Steam Deck.

I just keep marveling at how much game is packed onto a relatively small machine that I can hold in my hands. Even though it clearly struggles on my Steam Deck — it’s a graphically demanding game, and we’ve seen subpar results on lower-specced desktops as well — I’m impressed that it works as well as it does.

I’ve rolled four different characters already, and I’ve found new areas and conversations each time I go through the game’s early sections. Baldur’s Gate 3 is full of life, so even though I sometimes have to squint to figure out where I am, the characters are incredibly fun to talk to. To my surprise, I haven’t run into any major issues playing co-op, meaning my wife and I have spent hours howling at our ridiculous mishaps. (RIP, Barcus Wroot, the gnome we accidentally flung from a windmill.)

I also find that there’s something more personal when playing a game on a handheld — it’s one of the reasons I love the Nintendo Switch. Sure, it’s a lot of fun to share an adventure with everyone in the room on a TV. But some of my favorite time with Baldur’s Gate 3 has been sitting on the couch, Steam Deck resting on a pillow on my lap, and headphones plugged in, wandering through Faerûn. (It helps that the game’s gamepad controls, while a bit complex, have started to make some sense, though it’s sometimes hard to pick up objects that are close together.) I’m even thinking about bringing my Steam Deck on an upcoming vacation so I can play Baldur’s Gate 3 — what better way to relax than a cold drink and a successful persuasion roll?

My feelings could all change. With about 18 hours of playtime, I’ve barely scratched the surface of Baldur’s Gate 3, and I don’t know if later areas will look or feel worse on Steam Deck. (One colleague says some darker areas that show up later can be particularly hard to parse.) But it’s been a surprisingly smooth ride so far. Even though I’m looking forward to picking up my adventure on PS5 with cross-saves, I bet I’ll still spend a lot of time with Baldur’s Gate 3 on Steam Deck.

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