Stellaris is a slow paced grand strategy game in space where you start with your own empire against various factions with many different ways to win. You mostly see space combat, while unit ground movement is just told to you through text if you click on the unit. Similar to Elder Scrolls or some other 4X grand strategy games, it requires mods to hit its true potential. But when all the stars align, this game is out of this world.
When it comes to graphics presets they all run around the same, but I found that medium works the best out of them all. For some reason, low settings had more issues late game though. The average temps throughout the game were in the mid 70s for both CPU and GPU, while slowly increasing as more factions were found.
Luckily, even all the way to the end of the game, the highest temps I was able to reach were 82C for CPU and 80C for GPU, but this would usually only be for 1-3 minutes thanks to multiple battles happening at the same time. The battery would last around 5 hours initially but depending on how many factions you have it can go down to 3.5 hours.
Capping wattage is pointless thanks to the late-game stutters so I would keep it on a TDP limit of 15W to prevent any battery spikes. Unfortunately, the game will stutter down to as low as 45 FPS. This happens even on desktop, so I wouldn’t limit the framerate to less than 60 because either way, the FPS drops/stuttering will happen. For example, if you are on a 30 FPS cap, it will drop to 14 FPS, but with a 60 FPS cap, it will drop to around 45 FPS.
I was also playing the game with 3 workshop mods, which actually helped the game run better with lower temps. This is quite unique since I tested without any mods and with specific performance enhancement mods, but these ones helped more than either of those tests. The link to all 3 of these mods will be below the review.
The Steam Deck itself handles this game perfectly since CPU and GPU don’t go over 40% usage, but the problem is the optimization of the original game itself. It bottlenecks late game, forcing stuttering. This is due to processing too many decisions being made in-game by other AI, which could be from too many enemies on the field or some that grew way too large on a huge map.
I was able to confirm this by doing a comparison on the AMD 5700u Onexplayer, and Windows 10 desktop, and came across the exact same stutters even though it is on Windows 10 & 11. If stuttering bothers you, then you should use small galaxies with no more than 5 factions in all.
Stellaris runs fine most of the time thankfully, though I once had the game crash on launch. I recommend lowering the UI scaling to either 90% or 80%. At 80%, you will not have to move anything and be able to click and close everything easily, while at 90%, there may be a few windows to move around, but everything will be easily clickable.
The only glitches I came across were some graphical issues that arose on locations the game calls “Suns” or in combat, but if I hadn’t tested it on a Onexplayer for comparisons, I’d have had no idea that wasn’t unoptimization due to the game itself.
In the end I was saddened that the stutters were a regular occurrence late-game, but I’m glad that the issue isn’t with the steam deck but instead the game itself. Personally, it ran well enough to play and satisfy my cravings for a grand strategy space game. I would recommend playing with a smaller amount of factions or a smaller map, especially if you are a more peaceful player, but be prepared for the late-game stuttering.
Need some help understanding how we got to our score? Check out our Guide to Steam Deck HQ.