System Shock

Posted:  May 29, 2023
SDHQ BUILD SCORE: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Cloud Saves
Some Small Text

Review

System Shock was provided by Prime Matter for review. Thank you!

Update 5/30/23: Added note about difficulty setting that can enable waypoints and show your objective on the map!

A psychotic AI (SHODAN) has taken control of a space station and has set its sights on earth. Now, it is up to you to stop her. System Shock is an immersive RPG where you will fight and hack your way through a dark space station to avert humanity's destruction. With multiple routes and corridors, you will experience a non-linear story that goes at your pace. Will you be able to stop SHODAN and save Earth or will you become one of her cyborg army?

System Shock is a remake of the 1994 game of the same name and the team pulled out all the stops for this one. Fully updated visuals, overhauled interface and controls, new sounds and music, but still retaining the charm the original had. The blend of modern 3D set pieces mixed with the pixelated details gives it that overall gorgeous look while retaining its fantastic charm. Having the original voice actor for SHODAN come back was awesome and paired with the iconic enemies that have been re-imagined, I felt a sense of nostalgia rush back over as I played.

The game doesn't hold your hand one bit either, which can be frustrating and exciting at times. While you can find vague clues about where you should go and what to do, System Shock will largely leave you on your own to figure it out through audio logs and documents picked up. I love this kind of gameplay personally, even though it did take me an hour to figure out where a specific key card was, but I did accidentally overlook it, so that is mostly on me.

The game does stick very close to its source material, and while it was heavily influential in a plethora of games released after it, some of the more tedious aspects could have been done away with. System Shock does have some of those glaring issues still, like lack of markers or objectives, backtracking when you die, and non-linear direction, but the overall end result is a wonderfully recreation of the source material that I had a ton of fun playing. And I was extremely impressed by how well the game runs on the Steam Deck.

System Shock - Steam Deck Performance

Personally, I was blown away by how well System Shock was able to run. After getting a slew of new AAA releases that required so many compromises, it was nice to have a gorgeous looking game that really didn't need many at all. This is more than likely possible due to its smaller levels, narrow areas, and combination visuals, but I am still overjoyed about it.

Recommended Build

Finding my recommended build was hard though. I contemplated going back and forth from a framerate 40 FPS focus or a quality/battery 30 FPS, but I ended up choosing the quality/battery focus for one reason: Shadows. Shadows play a large part in creating System Shock's atmosphere and while playing on lower shadow options are okay, it was a night and day difference for an overall look compared to the setting being on at least high.

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Other than Shadows, the other settings didn't have the same impact that Shadows did. So, keeping Shadows and Effects on High, and everything else on Ultra, I was able to get a solid 30 FPS with a TDP limit of 11. I know it seems high, but this was purely for 1-2 heavy shadow areas that would need the boost, like on the level 5 Flight Deck which would slightly drop to 26 - 27 FPS when running through one section of it. If you are okay with this drop, you can easily set TDP to 9 as the majority of the game will stick to 12W - 16W drain, except for Cyberspaces which will be around 10W - 11W.

Framerate Build

From there, I decided to go to push framerate and I was, again, quite impressed! With a couple changes to settings, and a TDP limit increased to 12, I was able to get a solid 45 FPS, which feels wonderfully smooth. I did have to put Shadow settings to medium, as well as reducing other settings to High or Medium, but it still looked phenomenal overall and kept that stability.

Battery Build

I wanted to see if I could push everything to the highest setting and an ultra quality build, but I ran into big drops in the problem areas without any caps, so the recommended settings is also our quality build. Moving towards a battery build, I played around with the settings and wanted to see Shadows set to Low to save on battery. Unfortunately, this made the game look extremely ugly multiple areas, so keeping at Medium was the way to go.

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But with 30 FPS and reduced settings, the game can handle a TDP limit of 7 and still look quite nice.

I am also happy to say that System Shock supports 16:10 resolutions, so no black bars above and below the game, and it has full controller support, as well as cloud saves. Navigation in the menus can be a little tricky sometimes, especially when moving the map around (you can use your finger to drag the map too), but it does work. The biggest glaring issue that I found is text size.

Difficulty Changes

As a quick aside, it is possible to change the mission difficulty that, if set to easy, will show waypoints and tell you where to go for objectives. This is helpful for newcomers and those who want some direction. Part of the System Shock experience is figuring it out yourself, so I chose to play without it, but it is a nice option for those who may want to experience the game but want a little hand-holding.

The Plague of Ridiculously Small Text and Cyberspace Controls

Now this isn't apparent throughout all text in the game, a lot of it is very readable, but there are some spots of text that are almost completely illegible. You will see this primarily at the bottom left corner of your screen depicting which floor and section you are in, on the full map when showing the section, and descriptions of items in your inventory. All other text, including subtitles, is big enough to be easily seen, but these areas will make you squint.

SystemShockSmallText

Cyberspace controls, on the other hand, can feel a bit clunky at times with the gamepad. The default has the aiming/looking around extremely slow, so I needed to increase the sensitivity for Cyberspace aiming to the max, and it still felt a bit on the slow side. It was improved, and sits into what I would expect for this kind of free-floating 3D gameplay, but it still felt a bit odd.

Conclusion

System Shock is the remake I was hoping to get from Nightdive Studios. It expertly crafts an updated experience and mixes it with new visuals and overhauled systems. It sticks close to the source material, for good and for bad, but that doesn't stop it from being an enjoyable experience that I would highly recommend fans of immersive RPGs try. On top of that, playing on the Steam Deck is phenomenal and exceeded my expectations in terms of performance. Even with some text being small, being able to play this way so easily is a joy and I can't wait to see others dive into the world too.


Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

System Shock is a beautiful recreation of the 1994 classic that, even with faults, holds up today in its gameplay and performance on Steam Deck!

Build Score

Performance: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
VISUALS: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Stability: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Controls: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Battery: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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Steam Deck Compatibility
Current Price: 
$17.99
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Proton DB Rating

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Other Builds
Framerate Build
SteamOS

Limit

45

Refresh Rate

45

HRS

NO

TDP Limit

12

Scaling Filter

Linear

GPU Clock

Disabled

Proton Version

No Forced Compatibility

Game Settings

Graphics:

Ambient Occlusion: Medium

Fog Quality: Medium

Post Processing Quality: High

Texture Quality: High

Shader Quality: High

Shadow Quality: Medium

Effects Quality: Medium

Foliage Quality: Medium

Projected Battery Usage and Temperature

14W - 19W

65c - 73c

2 - 2.5 hours

Battery Build
SteamOS

Limit

30

Refresh Rate

60

HRS

NO

TDP Limit

7

Scaling Filter

Linear

GPU Clock

Disabled

Proton Version

No Forced Compatibility

Game Settings

Graphics:

Ambient Occlusion: Off

Fog Quality: Low

Post Processing Quality: Medium

Texture Quality: Low

Shader Quality: Medium

Shadow Quality: Medium

Effects Quality: Low

Foliage Quality: Low

Projected Battery Usage and Temperature

9W - 12W

60c - 65c

3 - 3.5 hours

related Settings

2 comments on “System Shock”

  1. Great review! One thing worth bringing up is that the Deck is totally capable of doing a full 60fps with this game, with most settings on Medium and no TDP settings. While it inevitably will wear on the battery more, the game is very smooth, and looks amazing.

    1. That's true! Though I will say 45 is a great compromise, 60 is achievable without any TDP limits. All of this points to System Shock being such an incredibly optimized game!

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