Men of War 2 was provided by Fulqrum Publishing for review. Thank You!

I was pretty excited to get my hands on Men of War II. I had played the original games a long time ago and remember that I enjoyed my time with them before games like Company of Heroes (CoH) tended to take over the WW2 strategy era. But now that Men of War is back after a long absence, how does it stack up against the competition?

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Men of War II takes place on moderately sized maps, with 2 armies facing against each other.

Well, Men of War II plays a little differently. Whereas CoH plays somewhat similarly to Age of Empires, where you build a base and produce units, Men of War II adopts an approach far more centered on individual units and managing them well to preserve and make the best use. Rather than producing units in a barracks or tank factory, units come from off the map, with reinforcements gradually being unlocked as you play the map.

This means you're stuck with what you're currently stuck with, so you must protect your units. You can't just go and produce more because you wasted them all in a fruitless attack. If you run in and try to rush the enemy with your infantry, expect to lose the entire squad and potentially cause you to lose the battle.

Many game modes also require you to select a "Battalion" at the start of the game, which generally falls under Infantry, Armor, or Support, forcing you to adapt on the fly. Infantry relies heavily on the cover and is good for holding a position. Armor meanwhile, is capable of more brute force, and can drive into combat and route the enemy if you aim your shots well. While this idea is neat, playing on a team where everyone has selected a similar battalion can be tough. It could mean you are kept from having tanks until late in the game.

Men of War II largely based their success on ground control. Borders dictate how well your army is pushing against the enemies, giving you a visual representation of how well the battle is going. Holding key points on the map will also grant you points in certain game modes. Units in defensive positions or cover get a huge advantage over units in plain sight, so you'll need to think tactically and decide where to position units to defend a specific point.

Your borders also dictate where your "Frontline AI" will position themselves. Each team has a frontline AI that no humans can control and is sort of a defensive line that will attempt to hold your border while you're off managing an offensive move. Pushing the enemy back will result in their frontline AI retreating and yours advancing.

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Vehicles such as tanks can take modular damage to disable them. The tank is parked on the border between the 2 armies, denoted by red and blue lines.

The gameplay itself is solid. The cover system is great and forces you to think tactically. The enemy AI is quite competent. I'm not the best player in strategy games, but the AI on "Normal" difficulty puts up a fair fight, causing me around an 80% win percentage. There are 2 difficulties above Normal, which I likely would have lost.

There's also some controversy over the amount of single-player content available, but in my opinion, Men of War II offers quite a lot. There are 18 story missions spread across 3 campaigns. The missions vary in length, but in my experience, depending on your skill, each should take around 30 minutes or so. Then there are 20 Historical Missions, which tend to be larger conflicts and will take a fair chunk of time each. Finally, there are Conquest and Raid matches, which feature random generation.

Conquest battles occur on a map, where you have to progress, capture land, research technology, and get the latest equipment for your soldiers. Raids are probably the closest thing to "Quick Battles," which throw you into a match when you pick the type of units you want to control.

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There are 4 different single-player modes to enjoy in Men of War II.

But you may have heard by now that Men of War II requires a constant internet connection, at least for now. Weirdly, despite the plethora of single-player modes that would work just fine offline, the game still needs to be connected to be playable. Due to the community backlash, the developers have stated that they will offer an offline mode.

As for multiplayer, we have Battalions, a PvP or PvE game mode, where, much like the Single-player Raids, you are put in charge of a battalion of troops and have to lead them to victory, either with other humans against a team of AI or against other humans with AI fighting on both sides. These tend to take place on larger maps, and if you want a more casual time, it can be fun to do some PvE with human allies.

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Men of War II offers a variety of multiplayer modes, with more available if you host your lobby.

You also have "Classic." In this mode, you don't control a battalion; you simply control the entire army. You have a certain amount of points to spend, which you accrue as the game goes on, and you can spawn units from off the map by spending those points. This is probably my favorite mode to play and is more in tune with other games in the RTS genre, where you can decide the composition of your army.

There is a reasonably healthy player base right now, so you should be able to find matches without too much trouble. In my experience, there were around 8 games available to join at any point during peak time. I also played a match in off-peak hours, and the quick match option found me a match in about 30 seconds, so it's not terrible.

You can also access a "Mission" mode if you host your lobby. This mode lets up to 5 human players play the game's single-player missions in a cooperative mode, which is a nice touch and, if I remember correctly, one of the things that set the original Men of War games apart from other RTS games of the time.

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Men of War II on the lowest settings, as you would run on Steam Deck.

Visually, the game is fine. It's not ground-breaking, but it does the job. Regarding audio, some sounds got a little irritating in the game, like when bullets strike metal objects. The stories also have voice-acting, and I found most voice-acting to be pretty poor and distracting. I most noticed it in the Soviet missions, when 3 characters spoke back and forth, and all of them were quite difficult to listen to. The general battlefield ambiance is okay, though, and there's nothing egregious outside of the voice acting.

Sadly, the always-online nature of the game creeps into single-player. As mentioned before, the game needs a constant internet connection to play. Still, it must also connect to a server to play even single-player. If your internet connection or the game's servers are struggling, you may experience lag in single-player matches or get kicked from the game entirely if their servers or your internet goes down. This also means you cannot pause the game in certain single-player modes. It's quite bizarre.

Men of War II - Steam Deck Performance

Men of War II starts ok; it supports 16:10 resolutions, and although quite a bit of the text in the game is small, it is just about readable. The controls do the job once you get used to them. Some hotkeys are unavailable simply because you need a keyboard to manage everything properly. Still, the basics are here, such as moving troops, rotating them, and the essential camera movement.

Unfortunately, despite the developers' stating that they had tested the game on the Steam Deck and that it has a native Linux build, it just doesn't run well on the Steam Deck.

Recommended Settings - 30 FPS, That's the aim at least.

In your SteamOS settings, set an FPS Limit of 30 FPS / 60Hz, and you'll want no TDP limit here.

I played with everything on minimum, and I mean everything. CPU usage is set to low, and everything else is as low as possible. You can probably get away with Textures being in a higher setting. We just want to keep the GPU power draw low.

Men of War II eats the Steam Deck's CPU for breakfast. In-game, it pretty much always maxes out the CPU at 85-100%, and you'll constantly be drawing 10W+ from it; this means there's no room for the GPU to get any power, and therefore, it's best to run with low graphics so that the CPU can cope. Unfortunately, expect frequent stutters and poor frame times. The game often won't run at 30 FPS, and I experience lengthy stutters of close to a second.

The Steam Deck LCD's power draw tends to be around 20-25W, so the battery life will probably be 1.5 Hours, and Steam Deck OLED users could expect around 2 hours.

GPU temperatures aren't too bad at around 75C, but the CPU always stays above 80C, holding around 84-85C most of the time for me.

The Crashes

Unfortunately, the biggest issue with Men of War II is that it seems to crash fairly consistently on the Steam Deck. I played single-player first, and when playing the USA Western Front raid missions, the game crashed 3 times in 10 minutes on the first mission. Then, I played in Soviet historical missions. It crashed 15 minutes into the first mission. I then tried multiplayer, but the game crashed twice before I could move any units in the match.

Because of all these crashes, the content of this review was written based on my experience playing on an actual PC. The game is pretty much unplayable on the Steam Deck, and I have no idea why. The RAM or VRAM usage never gets abnormally high. The game seems to run fine on Linux desktops, so it doesn't seem to be an issue with the Linux build.

These crashes were also confirmed to happen on the Steam Deck OLED model.

Accessibility:

Despite having many options, Men of War II offers little accessibility. It has subtitles you can enable/disable, as well as changing things such as camera sensitivity and a couple of alternate control methods, but that's it.

There are no assists for colorblindness, which is a shame in a strategy game, as they often rely on colors to differentiate between friend and foe. No UI scaling is offered, which is a double shame as the UI is quite small on the Steam Deck.

Conclusion:

Men of War II probably doesn't deserve all the hate it gets, it dropped below 50% positive reviews on Steam at launch and has now crept back up to 60%, it's close to where I would rate it now. The gameplay has some solid ideas, and the execution isn't bad. Some very odd design choices have been made about the always-online nature of the game, the complete instability of the game on Steam Deck, and the lack of accessibility that put me off the game.

The always-online issue has already been confirmed as being addressed. If fixes were brought in for the stutters, crashes on the Steam Deck, and some UI scaling, Men of War II could be a tidy strategy game to play on the go. Still, I can't recommend this game right now unless you plan on playing it purely on a desktop PC with a stable internet connection.

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

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety of game reviews and news that are sure to help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back.

Final Factory was provided by Never Games Limited for review. Thank you!

This game was tested with a Steam Deck LCD. OLED testing is coming soon.

Final Factory is an interesting game. The closest thing I can relate it to is Factorio, but in space, with a fair few differences. The game aims to build up a factory to automate production processes, and just like Factorio, this can get incredibly complex and require lots of planning and reworking as you progress. There are parts I like about how the game handles certain aspects and parts that could be improved upon, so let's dive into the review of Final Factory!

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Much like Factorio, you start Final Factory with... well, basically nothing. You're just a lonesome ship floating in space with a couple of fighter drones for some basic protection.

Drones do most things in Final Factory, and you'll utilize them for fighting, logistics, mining, and research. Fighting drones will man defense platforms or can be pulled into your fleet and follow around the main ship, while logistics drones come in a few varieties. Still, they all perform the same duty: moving items from one station to another. Stations you build require stability, power, and heat venting. This makes it more difficult to make one large station to handle your needs, so setting up logistics drones to carry items between stations is necessary.

Mining drones are simple. They mine nearby asteroids for a time and then despawn, requiring you to build more. Research drones also work identically, using an asteroid or planet for some research before despawning. Because they only last a short time, automating the production of mining and research drones is a must.

I do quite enjoy the way stations are handled. Like I said before, they have needs, meaning building a station is like a puzzle. You need to plan where every aspect of the station is situated, where the solar panels will be, where the cargo holds, and where the logistics hubs will be for logistics drones to take/deposit resources. Logistics drones are that they only move in a straight line, meaning you have to build your stations in a sort of "grid" of your own, making for it all to flow smoothly.

I'll admit that games like Final Factory can sometimes be a bit overwhelming for me once the tutorial ends after the first hour. The game gives you goals to aim for so you have some direction, but they can be lengthy and vague, such as "automate the production of planetary research bots." This was a several-step process requiring multiple production buildings and a bit of a logistics headache to ensure they all had the resources they needed.

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I feel the building and logistics side of things is pretty solid. It does get complicated, to the point where I feel like you need to dedicate some serious time to organizing your stations or at least read up on some third-party tutorials or guides before diving too far in, but whether that's a bad thing or not depends on what you want out of Final Factory, I guess.

If you aren't prepared to spend a decent chunk of time figuring out logic problems in your head about how to get resources between stations with the straight-line logistics drones and limited space you have to work with, Final Factory might not be for you. Eventually, you will have a headache and probably have to demolish parts of your stations and rework them to expand.

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Combat-wise, I wasn't sure what to expect from the game. When first booting, I wasn't sure that the game had combat, but it doesn't take long for you to run into your first enemy. The combat is fairly basic. As you might expect from a game about automation, your fighter drones will do most of the fighting with you. You can research better drones and better fleet tech, allowing you to have more drones with you, but they will essentially follow the player's ship and attack anything that gets close to you.

Enemy bases are mostly made up of fleets of enemy ships alongside spawners, which periodically spawn ships that can be destroyed. You do have some abilities you can use in your command ship, such as a fairly weak weapon that pales in comparison to the large number of drones you'll soon have and the ability to order your drones about a bit if you want them to be more focused in a particular place.

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The world map has some interesting mechanics. Nearly all of the map is covered in the "fog of war." Interestingly, once you explore an area, if you don't maintain an active presence there with yourself or an exploration station, the fog will gradually reclaim the area, making you lose sight. This means you need to place defense platforms and exploration stations periodically so you can keep an eye on your empire. The enemies can also rebuild if you let the fog creep in.

Enemy strength also increases the further from the center of the map you get, going from 20% near the center to 300% at the edges of the map. They also seem to get more frequent. There's a little indicator at the bottom right that lets you know how strong the enemies are in your area.

Exploration is rewarded in the form of ancient alien structures, these can be star gates, which allow fast travel, or giant obelisks which can be activated in return for Lumin Orbs. These Orbs can be spent at another alien structure in return for upgrading the player's ship. I put all my orbs into increasing the player ship's speed, as I soon found traveling any long distance to be painfully slow, and as I said, upgrading health and weapons was a bit pointless, as I mostly let my drones fight for me.

Final Factory - Steam Deck Performance

Final Factory looks okay at first glance, with full support for 16:10 aspect ratio resolution, including the Deck's native 1280x800. Unfortunately, things do fall off a bit after that. There's no native controller support, so a community layout is needed to control the game. That does mean controlling things lacks some polish and is much slower than just using a keyboard and mouse.

The UI is also a bit of an issue. I don't often find this a problem, even on games where Valve's testing supposedly says it is, but Final Factory has a small UI, and while it does offer UI scaling, it just doesn't do the job very well. It only offers to scale up to 110%, and any scaling beyond 105% results in UI elements clipping inside each other. You can check out the comparison screenshot below to see 105% vs. 110% scaling and notice how the 110% causes UI elements to overlap, making it unpleasant to play with and look at.

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Ultimately, we'd need 120% or 125% scaling to make the text easy to read on the Deck and a fix for those UI elements merging. The recommended community controller layout does map a magnifier to L1 on the Steam Deck, so you can zoom in to text if need be, but it's far from ideal.

We also don't have many graphics settings for Final Factory; it is just a simple "Quality" option with Low, Medium, and High options. The main difference between the options seems to be shadow quality, and some Anti-Aliasing also comes into play. But I prefer the "Medium" option for my recommended settings. It clears up some of the aliasing on the edges of stations and offers some shadows, instead of Low, which has pretty bad aliasing and no shadows.

Final Factory is more CPU intensive than GPU, so we can afford some graphical quality without sacrificing much performance.

Recommended Settings - 40 FPS

Note: Because of the sandbox nature of Final Factory, we can't account for every scenario in our testing. I didn't, for example, build a large factory covering the entire map, which would undoubtedly cause performance issues.

For Final Factory, we're locking our Framerate to 40 FPS/Hz in SteamOS and setting our TDP limit to 10W.

As I said before, we're just going to run the "Medium" quality setting, which helps ensure that the GPU doesn't take away any power that the CPU might need when things get more intensive. We're keeping the resolution at 1280x800, as it's difficult enough to see text as it is! We're also disabling Vertical Sync.

These settings are based on a factory made after a few hours of playtime. As you progress further into the game and get larger factories, your performance may well suffer. In that case, you can try increasing your TDP limit and lowering your framerate to 30 FPS.

The game does suffer from stutters at times. This is unavoidable, regardless of the TDP limit, and I imagine it's probably to do with a sudden CPU spike. However, as Final Factory isn't very action-oriented, I feel like the game still feels playable as far as performance goes.

Battery drain can vary quite a bit, Final Factory seems to quite effectively cull objects that are out of view, even cutting down on how CPU-intensive factories are when they are off-screen, therefore I generally found the battery drain to be about 11W when in quiet areas, and going up to 15W in busy areas. So, on a Steam Deck LCD, you should expect around 2.5 hours of battery life, maybe 3 hours in a pinch. Steam Deck OLED players can expect at least 3 hours of battery life, likely 3.5 hours.

Accessibility:

Final Factory offers subtitles, UI scaling, which we've already covered earlier in the article, and the ability to "disable skybox motion," which stops the background in the game from moving. The movement is very slow and almost imperceptible, but it must have bothered some for it to be an option. You can also remap the controls.

That's it as far as accessibility is concerned.

Conclusion:

Final Factory is for a specific set of people. Those who enjoy painstakingly planning out their stations so that they can have a smooth-running logistical operation will probably love Final Factory. Planning and logic are an absolute necessity rather than a nice-to-have here.

The gameplay outside of the factory building does fall a little flat. Combat is mostly non-interactive, with your defense platforms and your fleet taking care of it. So, as long as your factory automates the production of combat craft, you probably don't have to fight yourself actively ever. As you would expect, all mining, research, and crafting will eventually be automated.

Story-wise, I'm not sure how much is going on here. It's vague, although I think we're the bad guys, much like Factorio. We aim to exploit the system of its resources while the native inhabitants fight back. The ancient aliens who left the artifacts in space seem to be on your side, but again, it is hard to say if they were good or evil.

Final Factory will be enjoyable to those who love Factorio, as it plays very similarly in its gameplay mechanics, so if you want to dive into another game in a similar vein but with a different atmosphere and a few alterations, Final Factory might be the game for you. If you disliked Factorio and how much it taxed your brain, Final Factory is no different, so you might want to steer clear! I wasn't a huge fan of Factorio, so that's reflected in me giving the game 3.5/5, but I think there's a solid game here if you're into that kind of thing.

Performance on the Steam Deck is acceptable. Even with a fairly large factory, maintaining 30 FPS is attainable despite occasional stutters. The main issue is the UI scaling, as some text is genuinely hard to read, and the controls are also a little confusing to get used to at first.

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

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety of game reviews and news that are sure to help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back.

This game was tested with a Steam Deck LCD. OLED testing is coming soon.

Manor Lords was provided by Hooded Horse for review. Thank you!

I won't lie, I was very excited when I heard I'd be reviewing Manor Lords. It's been on my wishlist for months, which is probably the case for many of you, seeing as it was the #1 wishlisted game on Steam before its release. In case you're not familiar with the game, it's a medieval colony builder where you start with a small settlement and build it up into a large town while providing for its inhabitants' needs and desires.

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The main focus of Manor Lords is on your town's economy. Your citizens have needs, the most basic ones being food, shelter, and firewood. I didn't struggle with too much with firewood and shelter. As long as you have some woodcutters doing their job, you should be fine with both. Food, however, is a bit more in-depth, and I love that.

At the very start of the game, you'll likely use a forager to gather berries or a hunter to hunt wild animals. There are drawbacks to both. Berries only grow during the Spring and Summer, so while it may tide over a small population through Autumn and Winter, as you expand, it won't cut it anymore. Hunting is available year-round, but you have to be careful not to over-hunt and deplete the wild animal population, so it doesn't quite provide as much food as berry picking. This is where farming comes in.

Farming in Manor Lords has a fairly complex system. Not only do you have to pick a good spot to place your farm and fields, one with plenty of space, but you also need to make sure the soil is fertile for the type of crop you wish to grow. Not only that but as you grow crops, the soil fertility will fall, which means that for some years, you may have to forego growing crops and instead fallow your fields to restore fertility. This means you have to store food or at least run multiple fields on a rotation so you can keep a steady supply of food.

All of this just adds a bit of variety to the game's economy. You aren't just setting things up and then letting them run like in most colony builders; you have to actively manage your economy, shifting workers off berries in the cold months to other jobs and setting the crop rotation of your fields to ensure they stay healthy. This kind of depth and micromanagement is what I wanted from Manor Lords, and it delivers.

Beyond your citizens' immediate needs, they also have luxuries like clothing and access to a church and tavern. As you meet your citizens' needs and luxuries, you can level up their dwellings, which will, in turn, allow you to level up your settlement status, giving you access to perks and new unlocks. Be warned that higher-level citizens have more complicated demands, so make sure you can accommodate their demands before upgrading every dwelling you can. I made this mistake and almost starved my entire settlement due to the increased food demand.

This brings us to the "perks" of the game. Each time your settlement levels up, you gain a development point, which you can invest into a "perk." These are little advantages you can give yourself and your settlement. There's one that means your sheep can breed, which reduces the need to purchase them, or one that lets you place a food cart that constantly drains your gold but produces bread. All of this seems balanced fairly well.

There are also policies you can enact, such as fasting to reduce food consumption, but also drop your citizen's approval of you. These seem pretty work-in-progress, with many policies unavailable due to the game being in early access.

The economy in Manor Lords seems well-balanced. It balances between giving too much to your people or being unnecessarily brutal. If you struggle to provide for your citizens, you can probably pinpoint what you did wrong that caused it, not some anomaly in the game's simulation causing issues. Plus, there are plenty of options for the scenarios to adjust the difficulty to suit your preferred style of play.

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In early access, Manor Lords only has 1 map. However, it's made up of different regions, and each time you start, you'll be randomly placed in a region, so the game does have a slightly different feel with each playthrough. There are also 3 scenarios: one where the aim is to expand your settlement, with no combat, another that is pretty similar to the first, but there is now the threat of raiders and a rival AI that controls some regions, and finally one that has a more difficult economic situation and also the threat of raiders.

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There are also no on-map AI lords. This is planned for the future, but right now, your opponents are random bandit camps and regions controlled by an AI lord that isn't present on the game map.

Combat isn't hugely interactive, but it does have its own complexities. When enemies approach your settlement, you can choose rally points for your different types of units. Once in position, you can tell them their orders, which range from aggressive and pushing back to holding their ground or slowly retreating to draw the enemy in. There also appears to be a sort of morale system in place, improving or degrading the performance of units.

I did not fare so well when I received my first raid. I lost all 20 of my spearmen militia, and subsequently, the raiders pillaged and set my village alight. It wasn't great, but it did make for a pretty screenshot!

The building system of Manor Lords is also something to take note of. While some buildings are fairly standard in their construction and roads likewise, others use a different approach, with the closest comparison I can think of being the "zoning" method used in games like SimCity and Cities Skylines. Residential buildings, for example, allow you to draw a line along the road to denote the front of the "plot," then you can drag back from the road and place another point, deciding how far back from the road you want the plot to extend.

Depending on the size of the plot, there can be 1 or more houses present, and you can also get what I'd best describe as a "module" slot for each house if there's room around it. These slots allow you to modify a house to produce resources. For example, you can place a vegetable garden or a chicken coop in your house's backyard to provide a small amount of food, or you can turn a dwelling into a shoemaker if the plot is large enough. When struggling for food, I added vegetable gardens to many houses. It's a nifty system and is yet another thing that sets Manor Lords apart as a colony builder.

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But I can't finish this review of Manor Lords without talking about its presentation. The graphics of this game are just, quite frankly, beautiful. Thankfully, the developer chose to stick with Unreal Engine 4 and not upgrade to 5, which saved us some performance here. Still, Manor Lords has a gorgeous visual presentation, regardless. The game features a day/night cycle, along with seasons, all of which affect how the game looks, with trees turning color in the Autumn, snow appearing on the ground in the Winter, and rain coming down in the Spring.

Even with the settings we have to run the game at to keep things smooth on the Steam Deck, the game still looks great. I really would like to see it run at higher settings on a more powerful device to see how nice it looks.

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Manor Lords also boasts a "Visit" mode, an experimental mode that allows you to walk around your settlement in 3rd person with your Lord. While there's nothing you can do in this mode (yet) besides walk around, it's great to see your settlement from this perspective, and the graphics hold up even when this closes. I'd love to see what this mode eventually becomes, but even if it stays as-is, it's a great addition to add a little extra to the game.

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Manor Lords doesn't disappoint in the sound department, either. Ambient music occasionally plays in the background without being distracting, and sound effects aren't obnoxious but subtle. It really all adds to a relaxing gameplay experience.

So, I feel the economy of Manor Lords is spot on. It has a good progression system that allows you to progress at your own pace based on what you can manage, an interesting approach to building, and a beautiful presentation both visually and in terms of audio. The combat is on the simpler side, but it serves its purpose and adds some excitement to the game.

So that's some high praise, but does all of this work well on the Steam Deck? You might be surprised!

Manor Lords - Steam Deck Performance

Manor Lords greets us by defaulting to the Steam Deck's native 1280x800 resolution, a fantastic start. The game also uses a custom controller layout, as it doesn't have controller support. The developers have created a layout for Steam Decks, and in my time with the game, it works pretty well. I'd change a couple of things, such as mapping the right analog to control camera rotation, but besides that, it works.

Note: To make the right analog control camera rotation, set it so touching the right analog is a middle mouse click, and set the right analog to function as a mouse. You'll need to use the right touchpad for mouse controls, but you can now control the camera with your right analog.

The game's UI scaling is almost perfect. The only issue that I noticed is that your military strength gets cut off behind your character portrait, but it's not a huge deal. I found pretty much all the text and UI elements in the game to be legible. There is also a UI scaling option if you need it.

Manor Lords also offers upscaling methods, including FSR and various graphical options, so let's dive into the recommended settings for the game on Steam Deck.

Recommended Settings - 30 FPS

For this one, we're locking our framerate in SteamOS to 30 FPS / 60 Hz. We're also not setting a TDP limit, as Manor Lords does need quite a bit of power to run well.

For the most part, we'll be running Medium graphics settings, although we are lowering Shadows to Low, as they're just a bit too much for the Steam Deck on Medium, preventing us from reaching the 30 FPS target we're aiming for. Textures will stay on Ultra.

We're also taking advantage of FSR on Quality to give us a little performance boost.

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As you can see, most settings are on Medium. The in-game Framerate cap seems to be pretty poor at maintaining a stable framerate, so I opted to keep that on Unlimited. Volumetric clouds also didn't seem to affect FPS as much as you'd think, with them only costing me around 2 FPS in my testing, so I kept them on. With these settings, the game still has a beautiful presentation; you can check it out in the screenshots below.

With these settings, you can expect a fairly stable 30 FPS when playing from a normal perspective. If you rotate the camera and look out over the map, as you can see in the third image, then the FPS will drop, as it has to display a lot more than it would in normal play. The "Visit" mode shown earlier runs pretty well, though. I'm guessing being that close to the ground causes a lot of distant objects to be culled from rendering.

Ultimately, I found Manor Lords perfectly playable with these settings. There's the occasional stutter and the FPS can drop from 30 to the high 20s during specific times of day when shadows are long, but generally, the game stays at a good framerate. That's fine for this type of game.

Battery drain is high, however, with a power draw of 20-25W. This means that on a Steam Deck LCD, you'll likely only get 1.5 hours from a full charge. Steam Deck OLED users should expect around 2 hours from a full charge.

Temperatures do get strained, though, generally falling between 75-85C, depending on what you're looking at.

Battery Life Settings - 30 FPS

I wasn't going to offer a battery life setting for Manor Lords, but given that we do have some graphical options we can reduce and that I think this game deserves the extra time spent on it, here's a preset to preserve your battery for as long as possible.

For this, set your frame limit to 30 FPS / 60 Hz in SteamOS and a TDP limit of just 8W.

We're running the lowest settings here, except textures. We're also only running FSR on Balanced, not Performance. We have some standards here! Also, under the "Gameplay" tab, we're setting the Cosmetic Day & Night Cycle to "Off." This keeps the game permanently daytime but can reduce situations where sunset/sunrise causes additional strain on the GPU.

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The game does lose some graphical fidelity here. Notably, the shading is worse, but we still keep some shadows, and I think the game still looks better than many colony sims out there, so I'd be fine running these settings, given the battery life boost we can get from them.

With these settings, battery drain is about 13-15W, so you should get about 2.5 Hours of battery life from a full charge on a Steam Deck LCD and at least 3 hours from a Steam Deck OLED charge. Whether that's worth the graphical compromises and the day/night cycle loss is up to you! Either way, I'm delighted that Manor Lords has such flexible graphics settings.

Temperatures with these settings tended to fall around 60-65C, a big drop from the other preset.

Accessibility:

Manor Lords offers little accessibility, mainly UI scaling and rebindable controls. You can also make it pause automatically when an enemy is spotted and adjust things such as camera sensitivity.

Conclusion:

Manor Lords was everything I'd hoped it'd be. The construction system allows for the design of natural and genuine-looking settlements. It has beautiful visuals and a fitting selection of audio to immerse you in the world. It's all backed up by a solid economic simulation that demands your attention and the threat of raiding forces to keep you on your toes. The additions of perks, policies, and the "visit" mode are nice and unexpected, they add variety to the game that other games in the genre aren't guaranteed to have, and they're very much welcome here.

Performance on the Steam Deck was better than expected, with a stable 30 FPS possible with the right settings. Although Manor Lords has no controller support, the controller layout made for the game still allows you to have an enjoyable experience while playing on the Steam Deck.

I wholeheartedly recommend Manor Lords to anyone interested in this type of game. It's possibly the best game in the genre that I've played recently.

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

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety of game reviews and news that are sure to help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back.

Sons of Valhalla was provided by Hooded Horse for review. Thank you!

This game was tested with a Steam Deck LCD. OLED testing is coming soon.

I've seen games like Sons of Valhalla around over the years, all the way back in the Flash days, 2D side-scrolling action/strategy games where the aim is to build a base to produce resources and troops, create your troops, and then lead them against the enemy base that is doing exactly the same thing. Back in the Flash days, this was all automated, but Sons of Valhalla gives you more control over things than I expected.

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Sons of Valhalla puts you on a quest to conquer your way through England.

You control the protagonist, Thorald, on a quest through England to find his beloved, who has been kidnapped. The story is very generic, and I described the whole thing in that one sentence. It serves as a backstory to justify your character's invasion of England.

Setting the story aside, having control of your player character is something that Sons of Valhalla does reasonably well. You have a melee weapon and a ranged weapon equipped, which you can upgrade throughout the game, enhancing both their stats and adding new abilities to them. The combat isn't particularly fluid; you can't move when swinging your sword, for example, and setting up a ranged attack can take several seconds, so the action does feel rather "static" as you play, and that's a running theme, unfortunately.

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Units on both sides often bunch up, making it difficult to see how many units there are and how they are doing in terms of health/stamina

That "static" feeling brings us to the game's AI for both the enemies' troops and your own. In this regard, I'm afraid Sons of Valhalla does pretty much take a page straight out of the Flash games that came before it. If your or enemy troops are attacking a fortification, they'll all bunch up into one space and just merge into what looks like 1 unit, but in fact, there are about 20 swordsmen; they're just all standing in the same spot. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult to work out what's going on.

However, I understand why this is being done. If troops can occupy the same space, then it would cause issues with them getting in the way of each other when attacking. But it reduces the sense of scale and makes it confusing. When an enemy is attacking you, it's difficult to determine how many are attacking. When you're attacking the enemy, it becomes incredibly difficult to work out how your troops are doing. The only way to tell if you're losing troops is to look at the "unit" resource at the top and see if it has changed.

It all ends up creating an uninteresting picture, with your units standing at the bottom of a watchtower, poking it, your archers and siege weapons half a screen back, firing, and the enemy melee units standing on the other side of the tower doing nothing because they don't want to die.

This may be the only way to ideally handle troops in a game like this, but that might be why games like this have died out since the Flash era. The only comparable game to this in recent memory is Kingdom Two Crowns, and that feels slightly different as the enemies are much less bullet-spongey, so it kind of reduces the chance of bunching up when they're constantly being killed and replenished, that isn't the case with Sons of Valhalla, and battles are mostly made up of about 20 units on each side and can last quite some time.

The AI for some units also seems questionable. Siege weapons, for example, will always target the nearest enemy, whether that's fortifications or a unit. So if enemy swordsmen leave the gate, your siege weapons will stop attacking the fortifications they are strong against and instead try to hit the swordsmen. It's infuriating and an inexplicable design choice that needlessly makes the game more difficult.

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Sons of Valhalla lets you upgrade your buildings and troops at certain bases on each level.

The economic aspect of the game is passable but very basic. It is all about three resources: food, wood, and silver. Food and Wood are passively generated from buildings, so they're very much fire and forget, while Silver is gained from looting chests and defeating enemies. The economy serves its purpose, namely to extend the game by making you wait and defend as you upgrade or recruit new troops instead of always being on the attack.

It's also worth noting that AI doesn't seem to follow the rules of the economy. It looks like they produce units on a cycle, so if you can't kill their units fast enough, they'll just constantly produce 1 soldier every 5 seconds. This gets pretty tedious when attacking, as you must constantly deal with a steady trickle of troops until you break down the fortifications.

Base-building is simple, but like the economy, it does its job. Your central building is the "Mead Hall", which can be upgraded to provide more manpower and additional building slots. These building slots can be used for economic purposes, such as to gain wood or food, or for production purposes, such as barracks, archery ranges, etc. Each building in the game can be upgraded in exchange for resources, allowing it to produce faster and potentially unlock more advanced upgrades for your units.

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Buildings such as the Barracks let you build and upgrade melee units

This mix of "action" and "strategy" puts Sons of Valhalla in an odd position. For a game where you are controlling the player character, capable of combat, it feels strange to sit in your town and wait for several minutes while your resources build up. It feels like there's something else you could be doing. It's not like this is a strategy game where you can look around the map and manage things while your economy whirrs away. You have a player character, and you can't do much but... sit there...

It would have been better if it was just a strategy game, eliminating the player character and action elements entirely. Scrolling along the map and quickly ordering troops, managing your economy, and keeping an eye out for enemy attacks would have eased many of my issues with the game. As it is, you have to be next to your troops to issue any orders to them, which can be finicky and pretty much means all your troops will always be in one cluster, as it's the only way to manage them effectively.

Also, you can't freely order troops because everything is centered on the player. Any orders you give have to be to troops nearby, which means that you'll likely keep your army in one big cluster just for simplicity's sake. Otherwise, you'll have to run all over the map, gathering your troops and ordering them—think of a 2D Pikmin-type affair.

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You can order nearby troops by holding RB and pressing the face buttons.

I've been on a bit of a downer so far, but there are two parts that I think the developers got right with Sons of Valhalla.

Firstly, the visuals. The game is portrayed by nice quality pixel art, boosted by some visual effects. You can't complain about how Sons of Valhalla looks. It has pleasing and varied environments, although I'm unsure how "English" this all is. It even incorporates weather and a day/night system, which changes how the world looks and creates a nice bloom effect from the sun in the background. Certain attacks also have nice visual effects and particles for them.

Secondly, the game's "rune" system. Runes are little "perks" you can acquire as you play the game, allowing you to place one in a "socket" and give you, or your troops, a buff. These can be anything from dealing more damage, having a chance to cause a bleeding effect, having more health at night but losing health during the day, and so on. This makes the game more interesting, and you can only have a limited amount, so you'll need to swap and change the runes to serve your playstyle.

Upon death, you'll also need to sacrifice one of your runes to continue unless you're on the easiest difficulty. After that, you can return to the battlefield pretty much as-was.

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The game can look quite pretty, so at least there's that when you're waiting around for resources!

As for the difficulty, on easy, the game becomes mind-numbingly easy. There's no penalty for dying; troops on both sides are bullet spongey, and even though resource generation is quicker, you still have to wait for resources to come in. Higher difficulties present a challenge but also make the grind even longer, perhaps requiring you to build and make several attacks, whereas just 1 would have sufficed in easy mode.

Sons of Valhalla isn't a bad game, but some design choices are questionable. Too much time is spent waiting, and the game is quite short, with the campaign being less than 10 hours long, depending on difficulty and how often you die. On easy, the campaign is about 4-5 hours at most due to quicker resource gathering and easier enemies. The campaign comprises 5 levels, and they all play the same; even the boss battles at the end of each level are similar, and the same strategy can be employed on each. After the 1st level, the game quickly becomes repetitive.

Also, at the end of each level, all upgrades/bases are gone, so you start the next campaign level from scratch, aside from the runes and upgrades you gave your player character. It does feel weird upgrading all your units and then losing all those upgrades for the next level; it only adds to the game's repetitive nature, requiring you to research tech that you just researched 30 minutes ago at the previous level.

But let's move on to how Sons of Valhalla runs on the Steam Deck, and you might be in for a surprise...

Sons of Valhalla - Steam Deck Performance

Curiously, before you boot Sons of Valhalla, you must sit on a black screen for some time, probably 20-30 seconds, before anything happens. I thought it might be a one-time thing for the first boot, but it happens every time, so just give it some time to get through whatever it's doing.

Once the game has finally loaded, the initial impressions are decent. The game has full controller support for the menus and gameplay. It also supports the Steam Deck's native 1280x800 resolution. However, there are no graphical options besides resolution in the game, so I'm not offering any settings preset because there are no settings.

UI is scaled well, and I found all the text and UI elements in the game perfectly readable on the Steam Deck's display.

Game Performance:

We are running a 30 FPS frame limit in SteamOS and a 15W TDP limit. I know, that's setting this up well, huh?

Amazingly, Sons of Valhalla decimates the Steam Deck's CPU. The GPU is almost untouched; in fact, I don't think I ever recorded the GPU using more than 2W while playing. But the CPU is often varying between 6 and 9W of usage, which is pretty much its limit.

All I can imagine is that the entire game is single-threaded, or at least that one CPU thread must be heavily relied upon, which is not good for a Steam Deck.

While the game initially runs at 60 FPS, once you build a few troops, say 10, for the starting level, the FPS drops to around 50 FPS. Going into battle against 10 enemy troops, the FPS regularly dropped into the 40s. By the time I reached level 3/5 in the campaign, I had around 30 troops going up against a similar number of enemy troops. By this point, Sons of Valhalla was regularly running in the 20s, a shocking disappointment.

I had similar issues with other games when running Proton 8.0-5, so I tried Proton Experimental, the Proton 9 beta, and Proton GE, but alas, the issue persists regardless, meaning that it's almost certainly how the game is coded that's the issue.

Power draw from the battery varies wildly depending on what's happening in the game and how many troops are on the field. When things are quiet, expect about a 10W power drain, but this goes up to around 19W in combat with many troops. So expect around 2-2.5 hours of battery life from a Steam Deck LCD and about 3 Hours from a Steam Deck OLED. Temperatures also varied greatly, from about 55C up to 75C, depending on the action on screen.

Accessibility:

There are rebindable controls; the only option that could be considered "accessibility."

Conclusion:

Sons of Valhalla has some decent ideas up its sleeve. Merging strategy and action genres doesn't happen too often. Still, it feels like the developers took their idea and ran without considering whether it worked well. It's almost like there are 2 decent games here have been merged into 1 not-so-decent game.

I could definitely see myself enjoying Sons of Valhalla more if it were a straight-up strategy game or a straight-up action game with the elements of management toned down, but just mushing the two together creates an awkward mix of an uninteresting action game and a difficult-to-manage strategy game, the worst things these two genres can be.

The performance on the Steam Deck is just unacceptably poor. I can only presume the game runs on a single thread, which explains why the situation is so dire. Because of that, I can't really recommend that anyone play this game on the Steam Deck. Once you get to level 3 onwards, you'll regularly be playing at 20-25 FPS at the most pivotal moments of the game, and it makes the experience quite unpleasant.

Hopefully, the performance can be improved with patches, but even then, the game is average at best, so I would still be in two minds as to whether or not to recommend this one to you.

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

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety of game reviews and news that are sure to help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back.

Classified: France '44 was provided by Team17 for review. Thank you!

This game was tested with a Steam Deck LCD. OLED testing is coming soon.

Classified: France '44 is an XCOM-like strategy game set during World War 2. You command a group of allied soldiers from various countries to aid the French Resistance and try to cause as much disruption as possible so the D-Day landings are a success. The game will end in different ways depending on how successful you are with the limited time you have.

You can also do side missions, known as "Special Ops," which are one-off scenarios crafted to give you a specific experience. You can even create your own Special Ops missions or download community-made ones, so that's a bit of fun for those so inclined.

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Between missions, Classified: France '44 allows you to view a map of France, showing available missions and your progress.

It's an interesting concept, encouraging players to try multiple playthroughs to achieve better outcomes each time. I didn't opt for the higher difficulty option as I'm not great at these tactical strategy games, but even the middle difficulty caused me to fail missions when I made an egregious mistake.

Stealth is a huge factor in Classified: France '44. You are almost always outnumbered in missions, so going in all guns blazing is a surefire way to lose your team. Instead, you are encouraged to remove as many enemies as possible through stealth-like melee kills without alerting other soldiers nearby in most missions.

In addition to health, each character, including enemies, has a "morale" meter. Every time a soldier is shot at, their morale decreases. If it's below 50%, they will become "suppressed" and receive a 50% penalty for their action points. If their morale is depleted, they become "broken" and can't take any action at all next turn. There are actions that you can take to improve morale, however.

This ties back to being as stealthy as possible. If you are a squad of four and suddenly 10 enemies are alerted to you, the sheer amount of fire heading your way will likely deplete your squad's morale in a single turn, quickly leading into a death spiral with the constant enemy fire keeping your squad's morale low. It's frustrating but accurate to how the situation would go.

Your troops aren't magically better than the enemies, and you must use strategy and tactics to keep the upper hand. If you lose the element of surprise early on, it's very easy to lose your squad unless you are positioned well to take cover from enemy fire.

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Both Allied soldiers in this example are suppressed, meaning their next turn will be penalized.

Aside from that, combat is very similar to XCOM. You have a list of abilities along the bottom of the screen, such as firing your weapon, a melee attack, a grenade, and often some kind of support ability to heal or improve an ally's morale. Choosing to attack an enemy will give you a percentage chance to hit, a chance to critical hit, and the respective damage you might do.

The game even adopts a different "cinematic" camera angle when you attack on occasion, just like XCOM. You still get that satisfying moment when your shot hits or you manage to pull off that critical hit you needed to kill an enemy in one blow.

Several different types of enemies are introduced as you play throughout the game. Some resist stealth takedowns, forcing you to alert the enemy if you wish to kill them, adding additional strategy components to each mission. Some enemies behave like the player's troops, where they can be "downed" rather than immediately killed and revived after a few turns. You'll need to keep an eye on all the different enemy types and remember their strengths so you can play tactically.

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Classified: France '44 goes into a "cinematic" camera when you execute certain actions.

Story-wise, I was a little conflicted. The game tries to portray a realistic depiction of the French Resistance forces during the end of World War 2, even using ethnic slurs for the Germans commonly used by the Allies. But at the same time, the game does like to use witty one-liners. I have no idea how soldiers would have spoken back then, but it does seem strange to let out a "humorous" one-liner as you stealthily cut someone's neck.

It tries to tackle a heavy subject matter, and the gameplay and art style of the game are serious and tactical. Still, the voice-acting can be a little stilted, and every time a character speaks in a scripted way, and not just battle chatter, they just seem so nonchalant about the whole thing, like the war is a bit of fun with "About time I got to blow something up" and "I think I'm going to like it here." The latter, I feel like no one said in France during World War 2. It makes the game feel a bit "Hollywood."

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The game's mission briefing screen shows you how well you did against your objectives and any new unlocks.

Ultimately, I do quite enjoy Classified: France '44. The missions have a decent variety and design, giving you a chance to shine but punished if you make mistakes. The decisions extend beyond combat, too. When presented with gaining a new squad member, you often have to choose which squad member you take, with the other being lost. Likewise, when your soldiers level up, or you gain new equipment, you will have to pick the right skills and equipment for them that best suit your style of play.

Translating a game like XCOM into a World War 2 scenario, Classified: France '44 does a pretty good job of capturing the sense of being outnumbered and outgunned, which would indeed be the case. Emphasis is put on outplaying the enemy, and you are rewarded for doing so.

Classified: France '44 - Steam Deck Performance

Note: You need to use Proton Experimental to play the game. Using the default Proton causes severe performance issues when the camera is moved.

I had some issues with the default controller layout that Steam selected for me, so I would make sure you double-check that you have the "Gamepad with Joystick Trackpad" template selected and applied as your controller layout.

Aside from that, the game gets things right. The controls work fine with the right layout selected, the game supports 16:10 aspect ratio resolution, including the Deck's native 1280x800, and most of the text is readable. However, I did find the text for accuracy, and the text for AP remaining on the character portraits at the bottom left difficult to read on the Steam Deck, and there are no scaling options.

The game does have some flexibility performance-wise. Therefore, I can offer two presets for today: one focused on graphical quality and the other, my recommended preset, which sacrifices graphical quality for extra battery life.

Recommended Settings - 30 FPS

For my recommended settings, you should set SteamOS's FPS lock to 30 FPS / 60 Hz and set a TDP Limit of 7W.

We will sacrifice graphical quality for battery life, so in the in-game settings, we will set the quality to "Very Low," disable V-Sync, disable Anti-Aliasing, and disable Motion Blur. We will also enable FSR and set the Render Scale to 75%. Blood and Gore and FSR Sharpness can be adjusted to your preference.

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With these settings, the game generally runs at 30 FPS. We do drop frames when the AI is taking turns or when we initiate an action, but the frame drops are fairly momentary, and given the fact that the game is turn-based, it doesn't affect playability whatsoever. It's fairly difficult to eliminate the frame drops, as there are times when the game is CPU-hungry, so in the end, I decided it was best to just accept the frame drops and have a low TDP limit rather than increase the TDP limit just to make the drops slightly less noticeable.

The low TDP limit means we see a power draw that ranges from 11W to around 14W. The game becomes surprisingly easy on the battery, so it wouldn't be unusual to get 3 hours of battery life with these settings, perhaps up to 4 hours on the Steam Deck OLED.

Honestly, the lower graphics settings are barely noticeable to me. The main time I notice the lower graphical quality is if the game uses a cinematic camera for action. Then, it becomes apparent that the textures are quite degraded compared to higher-quality settings.

Temperatures tended to stay in the 65-70C range, so not too hot at all.

Quality Settings - 30 FPS

If you need that extra visual fidelity, you can push things further and increase your graphics settings, but this will cost you some battery life.

Here, you should set your FPS lock in SteamOS to 30 FPS / 60 Hz again, but this time set a TDP Limit of 11W.

Then, in the in-game settings, we'll set the quality to "Very High," disable V-Sync, set Anti-Aliasing to FXAA, disable Motion Blur, keep FSR off, and set the Render Scale to 100%. Blood and Gore can be adjusted to your preference.

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Performance with these settings is very similar to the recommended settings above. We will still experience some frame drops during AI turns when we give our troops actions, but the experience is perfectly playable and smooth when observing the map and making decisions.

The power draw is quite a bit higher, generally around 16-18W, but it can go up to 20W in intensive areas. I expect around 2 hours of battery life on a Steam Deck LCD and about 2.5 hours on the Steam Deck OLED.

Temperatures increase slightly, mostly within the 70-75C range, so the Steam Deck doesn't get overly hot again. This is likely because the game tends to have bursts of intensity and then calms down when players are making decisions, giving the Deck time to cool.

Accessibility:

There aren't any accessibility options in Classified: France '44 besides enabling "Extra Subtitles," which shows subtitles for all dialogue in the game. Most of the game's voiced lines have subtitles always enabled. Sadly, there's no option for UI Scaling as the game could use a 10-20% boost in UI scale to make certain elements more visible on the Steam Deck.

Conclusion:

Classified: France '44 achieves what it sets out to do. It aims to bring a story to life of the French Resistance fighting against Nazi occupiers, I'm not entirely sure it portrays things quite how they were, but the basics are there. The gameplay that accompanies the story is solid.

I believe there are plans to expand the game with DLC, so it will be interesting to see if periods earlier in World War 2 are covered, such as the beginning of the French Resistance. The developers confirmed they would never do DLC to allow you to play on the Axis side.

If you're after a game that follows the premise of XCOM but with a few little twists of its own and is set in a slightly more grounded setting, then Classified: France '44 could be the game for you. The game requires genuine planning and tactics and should keep any tactical strategy buff entertained for hours.

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

If you enjoyed this review, check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety of game reviews and news that will help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back.

SteamWorld Build was provided by Thunderful Publishing for review. Thank you!

This game was tested with a Steam Deck LCD. OLED testing is coming soon.

I hadn't had much experience with the SteamWorld franchise before reviewing this game besides playing SteamWorld Dig on the PlayStation Vita many years ago. As it turns out, playing SteamWorld Dig did not prepare me in any way for SteamWorld Build, because whereas "Dig" is a 2D platforming adventure, "Build" is a 3D city builder. And I love city builders!

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The game challenges players to build a functioning economy in the desert

SteamWorld Build takes many cues from other games in the city-building genre, namely the Anno series. It has the same citizen "class" mechanic as Anno, where you start with Workers with fairly basic needs. Once those basic needs are fulfilled, you can upgrade them to Engineers, with more complex needs requiring more production lines and economical management, and you can keep upgrading them further. It also uses an identical "warehouse and road" system as Anno, where your warehouses will store all your economic goods, and production buildings need access to one to work.

As you upgrade your citizens, new buildings and production lines will unlock, creating a satisfying loop with rewards of new opportunities and the ability to progress further to create more complex production lines.

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One of the first production lines you'll tackle in SteamWorld Build is logging.

It's not just the surface you need to worry about in SteamWorld Build, as you must watch out for the underground. As you might expect with a SteamWorld game, mining plays a large part in the economy. This means you will have a complete underground section of the game, utilizing miners, prospectors, and mechanics to excavate and harvest any resources your town may need.

The transition between the surface and the mines is seamless, and it's a cool addition to the game. Creating your mine network is both satisfying and rewarding.

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A lot of the game takes place underground, where enemy threats and resources await

Speaking of "satisfying" and "rewarding," those two words sum up my time with SteamWorld Build. It's a game that rewards the effort you put into it, and the rewards you receive are suitably satisfying. The constant unlocking of new production lines and economic requirements keeps you trying out new things and forces you to push the limits of your logistical network. The visuals are both pleasing and charming despite the world being in a desert that could often be seen as a bland environment.

SteamWorld Build - Steam Deck Performance

My first impressions of SteamWorld Build are good. The game boots with a 16:10 resolution, 1280x800 to be precise, and you can fully navigate the menus with a controller.

In the game itself, the controls are just as good. Rather than making you use a touchpad to move a cursor around the screen, you instead use the "X" button to switch between managing UI elements and "cursor" mode, where the cursor is locked to the middle of the screen, and you can move the camera with the analog stick to select buildings. This works well and is much more preferable than using a touchpad to move a cursor around the screen.

There are also a few UI scaling options for tooltips and more. I recommend sliding all of the "scale" options to the max, as that makes them perfectly readable on the Deck's display, and they still don't take up an obnoxious amount of space on the max either.

We don't have too many graphical options to choose from, but there are a few, and they do offer some scalability, so I have two different preset settings that you can choose from, depending on your preference.

Recommended Settings - 30 FPS

First, we'll set a 30 FPS / 60Hz lock in our SteamOS settings, then put a 7W TDP limit on. This 7W Limit holds a pretty constant 30 FPS for us, and we get to set some pretty nice visuals because of the lower framerate.

For these settings, we keep our resolution at 1280x800, turn off V-Sync, and set our Shadow Quality, Texture Quality, Bloom Effect, and Ambient Occlusion all to "High." I'm disabling Motion Blur and Depth of Field out of personal preference, and it also saves some performance. Enable Soft Particles and keep Lod Quality at 50%.

30FPSSettings

This creates a nice-looking game, with the bloom effect looking especially nice when all the lights on the buildings are lit up. Plus, with our low TDP limit, we still get a decent battery life of just over 3 hours. I can't complain about that!

Framerate Settings - 60 FPS

Given the slower-paced nature of this game, I'm recommending the 30 FPS settings that save battery life and allow higher visual quality, but if you're all about that smooth life, here's how you can achieve it.

First set a 60 FPS/Hz lock in SteamOS, and set a TDP Limit of 10W.

We're keeping our resolution at 1280x800, disabling V-Sync, setting Shadow Quality to "Off", Texture Quality to "High", Bloom Effect and Ambient Occlusion to "Off". We're then disabling Motion Blur, Depth of Field, and Soft Particles, and we're keeping Lod Quality at 50%.

60FPSSettings

We can just about hold 60 FPS in a fairly large city using these settings. In my experience, FPS increases when underground, so if your city runs well, your underground areas should be fine. Our battery life does take a hit for trying to hold 60 FPS, though, and you shouldn't expect much more than 2 hours out of a full charge.

Accessibility:

SteamWorld Build has an accessibility menu that has a few options for you. It allows the disabling of screen shaking, changing between Xbox and PlayStation buttons, camera movement speed, and the UI scaling settings that we recommend you set to 100% for Steam Deck. You can see how I had my settings set below.

SteamWorldBuildAccessibility

Conclusion:

SteamWorld Build doesn't revolutionize the City-Builder genre, but it does put another feather in its cap. This isn't the best game in the genre, but it's worth checking out if you want a city builder that's perhaps not as complex as Anno or as performance-intensive as Cities Skylines. This game is a treat to play on the Deck. The controls work well, the graphics look good, and the gameplay loop is satisfying.

As of writing this review, it holds "Mostly Positive" user reviews on Steam and has a Steam Deck compatibility rating of "Playable". The only reason it isn't "Verified" is because of small in-game text. However, I think the text is pretty readable with the UI scaling set to 100%.

So, if you're looking for a city builder to sit back and relax with on the Deck, give SteamWorld Build a spot on your list!

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

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety of game reviews and news that are sure to help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back.

RAILGRADE was provided by the publisher for review. Thank you!

I haven't played many Logistics management games recently, but I fondly remember Transport Tycoon in the 90s. Sadly, the genre seems to have slipped into a bit of a lull since the early 00s. Fortunately, RAILGRADE is here to bring back some of that logistical goodness, and I couldn't be happier.

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You're greeted with a rather surprising electronic soundtrack when first booting the game. It fits the theme of greasy/oily trains working hard, and although I was surprised, I quite enjoyed the energetic music encouraging me to build the best rail network the land has ever seen.

RAILGRADE runs on tried-and-true gameplay mechanics, conforming to a simple supply and demand system, with a few changes here and there. A basic example of this is the Oil production chain. Oil Wells produce Oil, which should then be taken to an Oil Power Plant. The Power Plant will then produce Energy, which can be taken to the "Zeppelin" and exported for money. While this is a standard loop for this type of game, RAILGRADE switches it up with Catalysts and Upgrades.

Catalysts are secondary goods that industries can provide to boost their performance. For example, Oil Wells and Oil Power Plants can deliver Water to them. This isn't necessary for them to run, but if you supply them with water, they'll work faster and produce more resources. Upgrades can be obtained by paying in-game money to improve an industry's production and storage capacity, meaning it can supply more or larger trains. These spiced up the experience and made it feel much more unique with my playthroughs.

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The game also features a "voucher" system. Vouchers are rewards for doing well in the game's missions. Each mission has a ranking system from C to S. Getting a good rank means you get rewarded with vouchers, which can be exchanged for new train engines, new industry upgrades, new songs, and more! The exciting progression offers new ways to create a better rail network. You can also replay missions, giving you another chance to craft a better track and a higher score.

I had a great time playing RAILGRADE, and it's a competent management experience. And with more updates promised by the developer, the game will keep giving in the future!

RAILGRADE - Steam Deck Performance

RAILGRADE runs and looks excellent on the Steam Deck. Even on low settings, the game looks appealing and returns fantastic battery life results. We can reach 60 FPS on higher settings if we run at a higher TDP and sacrifice some battery life.

The menu layout is simple and practically designed for a gamepad, and the controls work beautifully with the Deck; you shouldn't have any trouble controlling the game with the default controls.

16:10 resolutions are also supported, so there are no black bars for you to worry about above and below the screen. We can change many graphics settings and scale the UI, although I found the default UI scale to be just fine for the Deck's display.

Recommended Settings - 40 FPS

RAILGRADE is a strategy game where 60 FPS isn't strictly necessary to have a good time. 40 FPS is a perfect target to aim for, and in my experience, I barely noticed the lower framerate when playing.

This means we can save some battery life, but first, we'll need to drop settings down to compensate. We'll want everything on the low setting except Texture Quality, which we'll keep at Supreme.

RAILGRADESettings40FPS

In SteamOS, you'll want to set a refresh rate and Frame Lock of 40FPS/Hz. We can lower our TDP down to 5W now, which gives us a significant saving on battery life for not much visual sacrifice, in my opinion.

I much prefer to lose the graphical niceties and drop to 40 FPS to gain close to 2 extra hours of battery life. With these settings, you can run the game for around 4 hours.

Performance Settings - 60 FPS

Since the game isn't too demanding of a title, we can avoid having pretty high settings while maintaining 60 FPS. We don't even need to hammer the battery that hard. Here, we're disabling Dynamic Resolution, Enabling VSync, Disabling the in-game FPS cap, and setting AA to Low and Terrain Detail to 0x0. Everything else should be set to Supreme quality. Here's an image for you to copy the settings if you wish.

RAILGRADESettings60FPS

You'll also want to put a Frame Rate limit of 60 in SteamOS and a TDP Limit of 10W.

With these settings, we get a good-looking game, and we can still hit 60 FPS most of the time, with occasional dips to 57 or 58 FPS if we zoom out and spin the map. I expect around 2 and a half hours of battery life at these settings, which is pretty good.

Accessibility

There are a couple of excellent accessibility features included in the game. You can adjust the UI Scale between 70-150%. However, I found 100% to be just fine on the Steam Deck, with the UI already being a pretty generous size. You can also disable the Day/Night effect, which may help some people with impaired vision. We also have a streamer mode for disabling copyrighted music and remappable controls, although the preset controls worked well for me.

Conclusion:

RAILGRADE is a fantastic little strategy game. The story mode is enjoyable, with a great progression system. I would have loved to select an environment type and generate a random map with a few customizable settings, and a free-play mode would be great. Still, the developer has stated they plan to add a sandbox mode to the game with procedurally generated maps. There are no details on when this will be.

The gameplay loop in RAILGRADE is satisfying, allowing you to gradually unlock better and more capable trains, improve your facilities/industries, and keep aiming for that best rank on each mission. It's all about creating efficient rail networks; if you have the mind for it, it will be a blast. The missions feel designed so that achieving the best rank on the first try will be difficult, encouraging you to go back with better trains and aim for that high score... or maybe I'm just not very good at it? Who's to say? Regardless, sitting back and seeing your complicated rail network just work is a great feeling.

Ultimately, this is a solid game and one well worth checking out if you like logistics management games, and it runs great on the Deck!

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

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety of game reviews and news that are sure to help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back.

Old World was provided by Hooded Horse for review. Thank you!

Some of the most popular strategy games in the PC space are of the 4X genre, which stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit & eXterminate. These were the principles that many popular strategy games rely on, such as Sid Meier's Civilization and Humankind, all of which take place on a hexagonal-grid map. Old World is no different. The game was released on Steam last year, but the support is ongoing! It has even got a new DLC, adding Egypt as an empire to select. As a strategy fan, I was so excited to check it out, and I am glad I did.

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While on the surface, Old World may look like another Civilization clone, and the base game mechanics function very similarly, it has a few tricks up its sleeve that help separate it from the 4X pack.

While Civilization is a fairly straightforward strategy game, largely relying on managing the economy and military, Old World goes deeper. It presents choices you can make during your reign to influence your empire. You'll be familiar with these choices if you've played Crusader Kings, Stellaris, or other games in that ilk. For example, you can choose who to marry and how you might respond to certain happenings in your empire; you can set "ambitions" for yourself, giving you a target you must aim for. These elements give you bonuses (or penalties) depending on your choice. This adds another layer to the game and helps break up what sometimes could feel like a monotonous experience.

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The economy also has some depth to it, requiring you to control workers and cut down forests or mine quarries to expand your cities. This makes the world feel somewhat interactive and dynamic, rather than just placing a building in a spot and forgetting about it.

In single-player, you can play a game on a randomly generated map or in the historical scenarios that the game offers, featuring famous battles and empires from bygone years. In multiplayer, you can play via hot-seat, LAN, online multiplayer, or through the cloud in asynchronous play, which is similar to mobile games or the old "Play-By-Email" that Civilization games used to offer. AI is also supported in multiplayer.

And for the most part, playing Old World on the Steam Deck is possible and enjoyable!

Old World - Steam Deck Performance

While Old World doesn't support controllers, there is a preset controller layout for Steam Decks, and this works just fine in my experience. You can navigate the menus with the touchpad and use the analog and face buttons to do most of the in-game actions.

1280x800 is a supported resolution so we can play without black bars. We also have UI scaling in the "Accessibility" menu in Options, which lets you change the UI from tiny to unusably large so you can find the right scale for you.

Recommended Settings - 40 FPS

In my experience, the graphics don't seem to change much in Old World with the different settings options. Upgrading the "Render Quality" setting adds shadows to the units, and terrain quality adds some extra detail to the tiles, but once you do that, you introduce quite a bit of slowdown. The other settings might be visible on a larger screen, but on the Steam Deck, you just can't see any minor details they might add.

Because of this, I'm recommending that you keep the settings as shown in the following screenshot with a refresh rate of 40hz and a TDP Limit of 10W.

OldWorldSettings
Click to enlarge the image

This produces fairly clean and nice-looking visuals while allowing you to maintain 40FPS and an OK battery life of just over 2 hours. Sadly, we can't do much else to improve the battery life, as the game is largely CPU-bound. Lowering the TDP further introduces somewhat annoying stuttering. If you can live with that, by all means, you can lower the TDP to perhaps 6W - 7W and maintain 30FPS. However, the stuttering will be fairly constant.

Regardless of what you decide, one setting that is an absolute MUST is setting the Fog of War (FOW) quality to Low. The visual difference is negligible, but there is a huge performance hit associated with the Fog of War on an unexplored world, and the Low setting largely eliminates the performance losses.

Accessibility

Old World offers a few accessibility options, like the aforementioned UI scale, which is very useful for handheld users. There is also a colorblind filter, scaling for the font size of pop-up text, the ability to disable the scrolling background on the main menu, and the ability to remove flashing effects in the Fog of War.

The game does support 16:10 resolutions like 1280x800, so it won't have any black bars, and it does support cloud saves. Unfortunately, there is no native controller support, but there is a controller preset that works well automatically selected.

Conclusion:

As someone who has played every Civilization game since the first release, I enjoyed the new elements that Old World has brought to the table. I love that the game took elements from larger-scale strategy games and integrated them into the 4X formula. This additional layer of depth helps you keep focused on the game, and there are a few other differences that help its replayability. If you're into strategy games and want a new one to play on your Steam Deck, give Old World a look!

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

If you enjoyed this review, check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety of game reviews and news that are sure to help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back!

Highrise City was provided by Deck13 for review. Thank you!

A brand new city builder has just been released on Steam, after a lengthy period of early access. Highrise City hopes to bring something new to the city-building genre by introducing more of the "economy" side of things, somewhat like the Anno games. So let's check it out, shall we?

Regarding city builders, Highrise City keeps most of the basics you're familiar with. You have to provide power, water, health services, fire, and police protection to your citizens. If you've played Cities Skylines or any of the Sim City games, you'll know how this works.

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The game starts off fairly gently and introduces you to a few basic production lines, as well as the usual basics of a city builder, like your Residential, Commercial, and Industrial buildings. It soon ramps up, with more demands and requiring more complex planning needed. This is pretty much when things started to go wrong, as I encountered the issue with buildings disconnecting and reconnecting to utilities.

One area where Highrise City does step outside the convention is that you must harvest and process resources. For example, you need to provide planks to place zones for residential areas. This means you need to have a logging camp and a sawmill constructed so you can produce building materials. This provides a nice added level of depth and a greater variety of buildings than other city builders. I did have some issues with the power and water network system, though. Even when things seemed to be constructed correctly, there were still complaints from buildings about not being connected to the grid, which then disappeared and reappeared constantly, I'm unsure what caused this to happen, but it caused quite a bit of confusion.

There are no scenarios in the game, so you're just stuck with the sandbox mode where you build a city with the resources/funds you have, but you have the choice between multiple different maps. Usually, Sandbox is the mode I expect in a city-builder like this.

Interestingly, the game also has a "Building Editor", which allows you to create custom buildings that can appear in your city. This mostly seems to consist of placing pre-made buildings together in order to make a new one. However, there are smaller individual pieces you can place to create a new building. It isn't super user-friendly, especially when using a Steam Deck, so unless you really want to, I don't recommend trying to make entirely new buildings. Regardless, it is a cool feature to have if you can stomach it.

Highrise City - Steam Deck Performance

Unfortunately, things are a bit rocky as soon as we start the game. We get asked to install some "Unreal Engine 4 Prerequisites". Basically Visual C++ things. This is a Windows interface, and we must use the touchscreen to get through this installation.

Once we get to the main menu, we get a warning pop-up to say that we don't have enough RAM and larger cities may cause instability and crashes. While the Steam Deck has Highrise City's 16GB of RAM requirement, we do have an integrated GPU, so we have to share some of that RAM, meaning we don't have 16GB freely available, which the game desires.

I tried running with the UMA Buffer set to 1G and 4G, as well as using CryoUtilities, but performance remained unchanged, and I wasn't able to hold 30FPS in a larger city.

We also have no resolution settings in the game, but, the game will run at a 16:10 aspect ratio. We actually have to use a Resolution Scale slider to determine our actual resolution, as a percentage of 1280x800. There is a UI scale option, which I set to 110% to make some text and icons a little easier to read on the Steam Deck's display.

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The Settings

Barely Playable - 20 FPS

Sadly, Highrise City is an absolute killer on CPUs. There are reports of Ryzen 9's running at 90C to cope with the game, and we can confirm that all 8 of the Steam Deck's CPU threads will max to 100% when moving around a medium-sized city. The GPU also struggles to maintain 30FPS, possibly because the CPU takes so much of the available wattage.

Essentially, I set everything as low as I could, except resolution, which we kept at what is presumably 1280x800 (the game has no resolution select). Ticking the "Very Low Video Quality" tickbox did not help the situation either.

Because of how much the Deck struggles with this game, to get any semblance of a smooth experience, we recommend you lower the Refresh Rate to 40 and then the Frame Rate Limit to 20 in your SteamOS settings. The game will still experience drops as the city grows, but you will hold 20 a fair amount of the time.

Controller Layout

The default controls aren't ideal, as there is no way to rotate the camera. You can find a community layout made by SDHQ on Steam. This lets you control the camera with the right analog and close windows with the B button.

Highrise City Controller Layout

I also experienced crashes, once when entering the Editor from the main menu and another time when editing the power lines in my small city, and consistent crashes when loading a large city, likely due to RAM constraints. There are also reports of crashing on Desktop computers, so it may be a more widespread problem than just on Deck.

Accessibility

There isn't much in the way of accessibility in Highrise City, but as a city builder, there's probably not too much that you need accessibility for. You have options to increase and decrease the size of various UI elements, including the UI as a whole, so this should help those with poor eyesight or who perhaps struggle to click on smaller buttons.

You also can turn on and off icons, adjust auto-savegames and interval, speed up some animations, change size of symbols, change different audio sliders, and configure camera zoom, step count, and sensitivity.

Conclusion:

Ultimately, I feel Highrise City is a really fun game. It brings something new to the table with its resource production system, which can add extra depth to the genre. But the seeming lack of optimization hurts the game, especially on the Steam Deck, where the experience once you reach the mid-game begins to lose its joy due to the poor performance.

I'd have to say that Steam Deck owners might want to avoid this one.

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

If you enjoyed this review, check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety of game reviews and news that are sure to help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back!

Xenonauts 2 was provided by Hooded Horse for review. Thank you! The game is in early access and could change massively throughout development. This review is strictly regarding the initial early access release.

Aliens are invading and it is up to you to defend Earth and resist the invaders. Xenonauts 2 puts you in the role of a commander who sets up covert bases throughout the world and takes on invaders from another planet. Customize your bases, outfit your aircrafts, research new technologies, and recruit/train your soldiers to get them ready for turn-based battles where a wrong move could mean the death of your units. Your foe may be stronger and more technologically advanced, but with your control and the right decisions, you can be victorious.

I have been playing a chunk of turn-based strategy games like Xenonauts 2 lately, but the intricacies of the base building, along with aircraft customization and soldier outfitting, make this game feel a couple steps ahead. I love the amount of customization and control I have over my buildings and units, it makes me a bit excited to dive in and really take the time. I also like how my choices really feel like they make a difference, making me really think about what guns my units had, balancing it out, and what research I went into next.

This is not a forgiving game either. Yes it does have a lot of auto saves and you can go back, but one wrong move that puts a unit in crosshairs accidentally can kill them. Especially with alien tech being more advanced, I had 3 of my units one-shot due to poor planning and it was devastating. To me, this just means the developers have done a great job so far with developing a challenging, engaging experience that I kept wanting to come back to. And for the most part, it can play quite well on the Steam Deck.

Xenonauts 2 - Steam Deck Performance

When it comes to Xenonauts 2, there are two very peculiar things I discovered that directly impacted performance. First, the graphics quality. There are 6 different graphics presets: Fantastic, Beautiful, Good, Simple, Fast, Fastest with "Fantastic" being the highest setting and "Fastest" being the lowest. Oddly though, the top 4 all looked and behaved almost identically, while the "Fast" and "Fastest" preset behaved similarly to each other. These two groups were wildly different though with shadows and other details being affected, but they carried massive changes in power draw.

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Higher Quality Settings
Lower Quality Settings
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Lower Quality Settings
Higher Quality Settings

In one heavy scene, the higher quality group had around a 17W draw, but on the lower group, the same scene had a 10.8W draw. It is also more stable, which leads us into the next spot I noticed: framerate draw. Generally, higher framerates use more power, which makes sense, but the push of 60 FPS feels significantly larger here than in other games. I am used to seeing a 2W - 3W difference when going from 50 FPS to 60 FPS. But in Xenonauts 2, it is closer to a 5W difference and some instability, regardless of settings. Though outside of fighting, the game will rest around 7W - 8W for both builds.

Other than that, there is going to be some slowdowns when enemies take their turns and when moving around the map too quickly, but this doesn't detract from the game. Overall, it is definitely playable and with the previous issues noted, there are two builds that can be provided for this early access review:

Recommended/Battery Build

After testing, I decided the recommended build will utilize the "Fast" graphics preset to save on battery and keep as much stability as possible. The downgrades of the game's visuals were minimal compared to the massive savings in harder areas of the game, which increased battery life by an average of 1.5 - 2 hours and kept temps low thanks to being able to handle a TDP limit of 7. With the aesthetic the game is going for, this is what I would expect from battery life.

Quality Build

With the quality build, there wasn't much I could effectively change other than TDP limit to maximize the battery I could get. On some simple maps, I was getting as low as 10W drain, but on others, it could bounce to 21W. With a 50 FPS limit, this was reduced to 18W and kept as much smoothness as possible. It also allowed me to set a 10W TDP limit without there being any issues.

Xenonauts 2 does support 16:10 resolutions and does have cloud saves, but the text can be a little on the small side and controller support doesn't exist at this stage. We can mitigate some smaller parts of it to make playing with a gamepad a bit easier.

Community Control Scheme

To make tactical combat a bit easier, I made a couple small changes to the controls to make it a bit easier for me. The first, and most important, changes I made was to make the B button end your turn and RB and LB to swap to different soldiers. Then, I made the Dpad completely control the camera, making the left and right buttons rotate the scene while up and down went up a floor and down a floor respectively. Lastly, I made the Y button open up a selected soldiers inventory. You can find this layout in the community schemes for the game and it is called "Simple Steam Deck Layout".

Xenonauts2ConrolScheme

I decided against going into something more intricate for a couple reasons, but the main one is that I just ended up using mouse controls way more often. It is the only way to select where your soldiers will go and navigate the map and aerial combat easily, so I ended up just using the trackpads and left and right triggers for mouse clicks. I might do a more intricate control scheme once the game has a couple early access updates, but this worked well for me for now!

As I did just play Jagged Alliance 3, which is a similar turn-based strategic game, I would love to see full controller support be implemented in a similar fashion. There is no confirmation of this, just something I would like to see.

Conclusion

Xenonauts 2 is a fantastic start to a game that could easily take up hours of my time. Being able to configure so many aspects of my station, all of which feel meaningful and can help to some degree, is such a wonderful feeling and holds my attention more than I expected. I feel like there are many ways to head into each battle and campaign, but if you take your time and think about your strategy, you can be victorious. It works well on the Steam Deck with some controller compromises and minor stutters here and there, but these can be ironed out through early access. Personally, I am willing to stick on the optimistic side as this is a game I would love to have more support on handheld devices!

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

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety game reviews and news that are sure to help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back.

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