9W - 12W
Persona 3 Reload was provided by SEGA/ATLUS for review. Thank you!
When it comes to JRPGs, two games will immediately come to my mind. Final Fantasy, which had defined JRPG standards in the beginning, and Persona. There is something so engaging about Persona: going through daily school life, learning about your classmates, and finding different ways to expand your social links to unlock new ways to grow your own strength while fighting. With Persona 3 Reload, this feeling has continued and I loved every moment.
Persona 3 Reload is a full remake of Persona 3, which came out in 2006 for the PS2. Now, with Reload, we have a complete remake that re-tells the incredible story of the original, but with modern visuals, enhancements, new gameplay additions, and quality-of-life improvements that found their way into the newer releases in the series. From objective descriptions and map improvements to the ability to strike up new conversations with residents, garden/cook items, and even the new in-class questions, this is a new way to experience Persona 3, and I recommend it.
As the protagonist who has returned to his hometown after ten years, you must balance school life, extracurricular activities, and social events with your job: exterminating shadows. Each event will benefit you somehow, improving your social stats and rankings, which will either unlock more events or improve your fighting capabilities through your Personas. Developer ATLUS has found a great way to balance these, making them feel rewarding in combat and extremely enjoyable to watch and experience in an emotional and meaningful tale. It is easy to get sucked into these and follow along the side stories, and I found myself shipping the protagonist with someone from my team.
The combat itself takes the form of turn-based battles. With yourself and three others on your team, you will climb the randomly generated floors of Tartarus, battling shadows, finding treasure, and trying to discover the secrets behind the ever-changing tower and the Dark Hour. Each person on your team has a main weapon and will wield a Persona, which has different abilities and stats to determine its strength. There are many different Personas with varying abilities, and you can level them up and fuse them to create stronger variations of each to cater to your needs. While you can wield multiple, your teammates will only be able to use one each.
Every enemy has its weaknesses and strengths, and once you determine them, you can figure out how to power through them quickly. Hitting a weakness will allow you to take one more turn, and if you use each enemy's weakness before they take a turn, you can use an all-out attack to make a large attack against everyone. Strategizing and figuring out the best way to quickly disperse the shadows is extremely fun and quite rewarding as you, your team, and your personas will level up, and you can gain new ones or items or even more money.
Now, this is all very time-consuming, and Persona is known for being an extremely long game. The earlier release is noted to have around 60 - 100 hours of content, which is on par for the series. This can sometimes feel a bit draining, especially with the battling and social features, but the entertainment value overtakes this. The incredible visual style and UI make the combat loop interesting, while the social events are filled with memorable, engaging stories that keep you coming back for more. And all of that is enveloped in an incredible soundtrack and some great voice acting.
After playing Persona 4 Golden and Persona 5 Royal on the Steam Deck, I was extremely excited to get into Persona 3 Reload. And for the most important parts of the game, I am not disappointed! All the battles were performed admirably, and most contained areas didn't have any issues, but we did have some minor problems in the open and on some of the floors of Tartarus.
It seems there are spots where the GPU will bottleneck a bit, causing some massive framerate drops. I have found these in some areas during social events, bigger battles, the Velvet Room, and on some of Tartarus's floors. After changing settings, proton layers, and even forcing resolution down, nothing completely fixed this. You can get better performance by turning down render resolution to 50%, but it looks so blurry, and there are still some minor areas that experience this.
Unlocking the TDP limit didn't improve much, and Persona 3 Reload never pushes all the TDP, so the bottleneck is a weird one.
Thankfully, due to the game not needing any real-time inputs for important parts, this doesn't affect the flow too much. It can feel a little weird when running around due to the slowdowns, but overall, it doesn't hurt the experience. I did turn off reflections, as some areas will improve significantly with them off, and it doesn't hurt the game's visual style.
Now, after all that is said and done, I still prefer to deal with the drops for one simple reason: 40 FPS. I tried 30 FPS, and while it is a lot more stable in the areas that drop, nothing beats the smoothness that the increased framerate brings to the table. I would generally choose the more stable and battery-saving build, but the fluid feeling during battles and most events and running around can't be beaten. Some of these areas could hold closer to 60, but because more areas with drops went down to 44 FPS, I felt 40 was the perfect balance.
I would set a TDP limit of 9 with this to keep the battery from draining too much. It does slow down the game more in these moments, but it isn't much different than the uncapped framerate, so I felt it was justified.
To get the most stable experience possible, I would recommend a 30 FPS limit with high graphical settings and a TDP limit of 7. With this, most areas that slow down aren't as noticeable, and the game still looks immaculate. This will also keep the battery drain down, which is wonderful as this is a very long game.
As for accessibility, we do have a plethora of toggles to change, including vibration, subtitles, auto text, sound bars, and anime movie audio. We can also change the voice language from English to Japanese whenever you'd like. There is also a nifty rewind feature to go back to a day or two ago if you want to do something else with your free time in-game.
Persona 3 Reload doesn't support 16:10 resolutions, so there will be a black bar at the top and bottom of the screen, but it does have full cloud save and gamepad support! There is no HDR support in the game, either.
Persona 3 Reload is an amazing re-telling of the original game, and I loved every moment of it. The improvements made to the original game are not only obvious but incredibly welcome. The story still holds up today, and with the quality of life changes and minor UI/map improvements, this becomes the ultimate way to experience an amazing entry in this series. Even though there are some shortcomings on the Steam Deck side, all of the important moments have no issues, and the way the game is made makes this a non-issue.
If you are a JRPG fan or a big story-driven enjoyer, do not skip Persona 3 Reload.
Our review is based on the PC version of this game.
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Persona 3 Reload is a fantastic remake of one of my favorite games in the series and it runs well on the Steam Deck where it really needs to.
No Forced Compatibility
Rendering Scale: 100%
Shadow Quality: High
Framerate Limit: 60
No Forced Compatibility
Rendering Scale: 100%
Shadow Quality: High
Framerate Limit: 30
9W - 12W
55c - 62c
4.5 - 5 hours