Stray is a platformer where you play as the greatest protagonist ever thought of, a stray cat. Solve puzzles and hop your way through a dystopian cyberpunk city that’s been abandoned and left to become ruins. Uncover memories and learn the truth about why this "paradise" has been forsaken by its former inhabitants. Stray has a more linear style to it, like you can’t jump on surfaces unless there’s a prompt, it is still enjoyable running around, knocking over paint cans, putting scratch marks on walls, and exploring this odd city.

The Optimization of Stray

Seeing Stray for myself before it came out, I imagined it wouldn't be a tough game to run on Deck. Though unfortunately, I was greeted by the main menu with an insane 25W battery drain and almost 80c temps. I was running a 60 FPS cap with no TDP limit, but even so, there should be no reason why the main menu of a game needs to get that hot.

Stray Main Menu

Main menu at default/max settings with no TDP limit and a 60 FPS cap.

This continued into the starting area of the game, where it was running 20W and 75c averages. While it did get a little easier to run after the starting area, it still suffered from high battery usage (around 23W) and similar temps.

The framerate would almost never be a stable 60 FPS, so I decided to change that first. It does hit 60 in smaller corridor areas, but the larger open areas had trouble keeping a consistent 40 FPS, so I decided to stick to a 30 FPS cap. This did cut down on battery usage and temps significantly, and although there were some drops here and there, it stayed relatively stable. This dropped battery and temps so much that I was actually able to keep the highest quality settings and still be very playable. I did bump down the resolution scale to 70% as well. It didn't feel like there was a massive change to the visual quality, but kept things more stable overall. This felt like the most solid way to play the game, and while it could be pushed further, it would increase everything else pretty heavily.

It is also possible to play Stray with a higher framerate without it being too overwhelming on the system. By pushing to 40 FPS and changing all settings to medium, the game can run decently well at around 14W - 16W with spikes going up to 19W and temps going up to 80c. This is a huge change from the recommended build and there are many more VERY noticeable framerate dips. This really impacted gameplay, especially in the wider open areas, and made traversing the buildings less enjoyable. Visual quality seemed to remain relatively the same, which is great, but there was too many fluctuations with framerate to keep me loving the 40 FPS build.

Left ImageRight Image

Recommended (30 FPS) build vs 40 FPS build. Almost no change to quality, but the temp and battery usage is massively increased.

There are a few noticeable bugs/glitches that occur, and while none of them affect gameplay, they were as clear as day. The biggest one is the graphics on the fur of the cat and the ghosting trails. This isn't as noticeable in the 40 FPS build, but it is very obvious when in any sort of lit up area. You can see black pixels hopping around along your stray and then as soon as you move, quickly goes into ghost mode. Since a chunk of the game takes place in the darkness, this isn't as bad, but it is definitely there. Otherwise, there were some physics issues with objects that would just stay floating in the air, but none of this prohibited my movement forward in the game.

Stray Fur Issues

Example of the graphical issues with the fur. Zoomed in, you can see the black spots all over the cat, which is not supposed to be there.

Honestly, I expected better from this game. It is a UE4 game, which means the stuttering makes some sense, but regardless, I expected more. This isn't a game that has many different complex systems or state of the art visuals. It is a beautiful game, but definitely have seen better. It is playable, and can be pushed to 40 FPS for smoother framerates, but the fluctuations and graphical issues stop me from really enjoying Stray on Deck.

Need some help understanding how we got to our score? Check out our Guide to Steam Deck HQ.

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

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