Horizon Zero Dawn is an open-world action game taking place on an Earth recovering from a terminator-like event. Developed by Guerilla Games, you play as Aloy, the girl wonder with no parents, who has been tasked to save the world from a corruption taking over the rampant machines roaming the wildlands.

Throughout the journey, you will have to fight, craft, and explore your way to saving this world and figuring out who you are. With a beautiful setting, enjoyable combat, and a unique story, this game is definitely worth your time. I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic settings and open-world games in general, so this already checked so many of my boxes before playing. Just based on the game’s content, I would say it is a worthwhile purchase, but what about the performance on deck?

Horizon Zero Dawn on Steam Deck

After my initial testing, I ended up feeling that 30 FPS was the way to go. While it’s possible to increase it, I felt a much more stable 30 still plays really well and keeps temps and battery further down than I expected. There were some drops still, but they were few and didn’t impact gameplay. Game settings wise, I ended up feeling a slightly lower than native resolution with low settings, shadows at medium, and FSR turned on in-game to Ultra Quality, was the best medium for stable performance and quality visuals. This also kept battery life around 2.5-3 hours with around 14W - 16W usage.

I did see some performance and battery spikes under certain situations though. The biggest one that spiked both was when traveling around the world fast. When running, the world would render more and this would cause spikes in battery, usually up to 17.5W, and some performance hiccups. The only other one I really noticed was when walking around crowded cities, but leaving the immediate area remedied that.

There thankfully wasn’t too many game-breaking bugs that I encountered, though there were two that stick with me. First, when loading into the game, I opened my quick access menu, the button with the ellipses, and it froze on that screen. The game kept playing in the background and I had to power cycle the device since no buttons worked to close it. Second, there was one time I was running around and fighting robots, but my right analog stick randomly stopped working.

I could still press down on it and it responded in game, but I could not move it around. I had to close and re-open the game to fix that one, and luckily, I had just saved the game. Both of these only happened once though and I don’t expect it to be a huge issue. There was some minor audio stuttering at a few points, but that could have been the speakers and wasn’t anything of significance.

Overall, Horizon Zero Dawn ended up running better than I anticipated. Getting around 2.5 - 3 hours of battery life while temps staying around 70c. Framerate was stable 95% of the time at 30 FPS and still looked wonderful with FSR on and resolution slightly under native. It was a blast to play this game as much as I did on the Steam Deck and I cannot wait to see how Horizon Forbidden West and even Marvel’s Spider-Man will fare!

Side Note: For those who have Power Tools installed through the plugin manager, make sure CPU Boost is turned off. When it is turned on, temps and W usage jump a lot due to the CPU overclocking. This is not necessary for the game though and just adds unnecessary temp and battery usage.

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

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