I’m obsessed with my Steam Deck. I received Valve’s portable gaming computer in May of this year, and it quickly became my all-time favorite console. After a period of serious media burnout, it made me fall in love with games all over again, and I’ve finished more games in the past six months than in previous years. As you’d expect, the rest of my consoles have been gathering dust since.
To illustrate the depth of the rabbit hole, even when there is an exclusive PlayStation or Xbox game to discover, I use remote play services like Chiaki and Greenlight to be able to play it on my Steam Deck. God of War: Ragnarok sings on the big screen, sure, but what if you could play it from the comfort of your bed, without compromise? In a world driven by the attention economy, this is a bet that interests me.
The bespoke nature of the Steam Deck, with its user-friendly Linux base and easy desktop access, means it’s capable of playing more games than you can fit between your palms. Even complex PC-only games like Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlords will run on this thing, thanks to its fully remappable inputs and access to layouts created by savvy community members.
And therein lies the Steam Deck’s secret superpower. I wiped out a lot of my backlog with this device, but also expanded my palette with so many cult classics that never had the privilege of portability.
Revive old games for a new era
I find nothing more annoying than when games are lost in time due to backwards compatibility, licensing issues, clunky control schemes, or just plain old commercial unpopularity. The Steam Deck feels like a great equalizer in this regard – it’ll play just about anything you throw at it, including a list of underrated gems from my childhood.
2011’s Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a game no one talks about, mainly because it was released the same year as Dark Souls and Skyrim. But it’s also a fantastic third-person cooperative action game with innovative RPG systems, a stellar voice cast, and killer license. It feels like a continuation of the (fantastic) Lord of the Rings movie tie-in games from the early 2000s, and it’s a piece of history that led to the Middle-earth series of Monolith. But history has not been kind to him. War in the North was delisted from most digital storefronts and was never backwards compatible. Still, it works like a dream on my Steam Deck.
The novelty of this process, and indeed the quaintness of playing console-only games on the go has yet to dispel me. My weekly rotation includes your typical favorites, but also games like Lost Planet, Max Payne 3, Gun, Kane and Lynch, Condemned: Criminal Origins, Killer7 and Project Snowblind
The Steam Deck is a goldmine if you’re feeling nostalgic for the many eras of experimental IP. It was so refreshing to dig into this aspect of the library, given how safe and nostalgic the industry can feel these days. One of my absolute favorite games of the 2010s was Digital Extreme’s The Darkness 2, a franchise that is now (what feels like) in perpetual stasis, for some reason.
In the darkness
A nice relic from the past, I was so surprised to find that it works perfectly on the Steam Deck in 2022, better than it ever did at launch. I was able to find a new appreciation for aspects of the game that stuck with me as a teenager, like the game’s unmistakable cel-shaded art style, evoking the same graphic novels The Darkness 2 is based on.
“It took a lot of work to create a game where the stage lighting could be affected by the gameplay and, at the same time, affect the gameplay itself. It was not easy to manage because each setting and scenario game was meant to work in light and shadow. Even now, if we can avoid it, we tend to avoid such systems in our games,” said Mat Tremblay, Art Director of The Darkness 2.
“There were other games at the time, like Borderlands, that did something similar, but I think we managed to make our game stand out among the crowd. The subject matter, the roots of the novel graphics. We wanted to embrace that visual style like so many games at the time focused on desaturated realism”
There’s also unique combat, which mixes first-person shooter with hack ‘n’ slash, as you wield the proverbial darkness to cut and juggle mobsters, or pin them to the wall with poles. lobed metal. This “play with your food” approach to combat found success in later games such as Sony Santa Monica’s God Of War: Ragnarok.
“I mean wielding those demonic weapons! It’s so visceral,” Tremblay said. platforms like the Steam Deck… Too many great games are made and then forgotten as the shiny new game is announced and released.”
What was it about this period that led to so many cult classics? Tremblay notes that in 2012 they were still making games “like a boxed product”, which allowed for fierce competition. “When people have little money to spend on gambling, they may opt for the safe bet more often than not.”
Tremblay was interested in the idea of working on another game in the series, but noted that right now Digital Extremes is working on its giant free-to-play Warframe and the upcoming Soulframe. “If we were to have the opportunity to do Darkness 3, it would be interesting to see how Jackie Estacado’s story could be developed,” Tremblay said. “We’ve matured as developers and would suggest that we would be able to develop this story in ways that we may not have been equipped for at the time.
Back to the island
Another game that has found a new home on the Steam Deck is Curse of Monkey Island, the 1997 LucasArts classic. After reviewing Return to Monkey Island, I thought now would be a good time to check out the foundation of the series that is missing the redo the treatment of the first two games received.
I know what you’re thinking. A point-and-click? On a portable device? But the Steam Deck’s trackpads make it the best way to play this genre. All you have to do is change the layout so that the right touchpad thinks it’s a computer mouse, and you’ve got a portable point-and-click interface ready to play a 90s classic. with a timeless artistic style.
“We looked at much of the art development and production process used by Disney and other traditional studios, as well as the art styles of classic book illustrators,” said Larry Ahern, Co-Project Lead on Curse of Monkey. Island. “I think Curse was in a unique place in terms of design and production values. The game features a long and complex design that looks a lot like older games that had to rely on this element to entertain their audience because they couldn’t do much with art and animation,” he said. he continued. “But then, with Curse, we had a higher resolution and took a team of traditional, classically trained animators, a digital ink and paint system used mostly in movies, and mixed the two together.”
Curse of Monkey Island looked like a rare treat on the Steam Deck, with its gorgeous assets upscaled to the 800p screen. It’s hard to come across a really funny video game, but Curse always made me laugh, with its warm characters and biting wit. A full sail remake would be nice to have, but instead of that reality it’s a wonderful option for modern gamers.
“A few years ago, it seemed like the company was working on special editions for a lot of older games, so we were hoping they would be heading to Curse, but things kind of stalled,” Ahern said. “I’m definitely in favor of game portability and playing in small chunks or chapters. I think it opens up games to a wider audience if gamers don’t feel the need to buy expensive hardware and dedicate an entire day to making a dent in the game they’re playing.
After Curse of Monkey Island, Ahern continued work on Insecticide, another underrated gem from LucasArts alumni that blends action-adventure, combat, and exploration with confusing inventory in 3D space, Grim Fandango-style. Part 1 of the action-adventure detective game landed in 2008, with great animated cutscenes and fun puzzles, but Part 2 was canceled and never officially materialized. It’s another underrated gem that’s remarkably plug-and-play on the Steam Deck.
“I would love another take on the world of Insecticide. I think we were a bit too early on the indie scene with that one. A few years later, development would have been so much easier with game engines ready to go. employment, and other tools to support remote teams,” Ahern said. “It would be fun to make another game like this, but I think a lot of my original game concepts might not be commercial enough to justify the budgets I’d like to work with. So never say never , but it would take a great idea and a very supportive editor to get me back.
As we move through its life cycle, the future of the Steam Deck only seems to get better. It’s a force to be reckoned with, both as a powerful portable equalizer and as a way to preserve video game history. This cutting-edge device brings with it the added privilege of a window to the past, and hopefully, as more and more games gain community support and deck verification, the library unprecedented will grow, bringing countless cult classics with it, so they can get the appreciation they deserve.
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