Sometimes it feels like all I do is rant. I don't try to, honestly, but this week is definitely one of those weeks. The latest topic across my desk is the Steam Deck Verified program. This is important to anyone who buys a Steam Deck, because it tells you, in theory, the best games to spend your money on.
The trouble is I'm losing faith in it, and the most recent cause is Remnant 2. Proudly declared as Steam Deck Verified a couple of days prior to its initial launch in early access, I've been playing the game already on the Deck without having known this. This isn't a dig specifically at Remnant 2, though I do have my issues with the game, especially on my desktop PC. But it's a glaring example of what I think is missing from getting the Steam Deck Verified badge.
At bare minimum we should be getting consistent 30 FPS gameplay. Except, as Remnant 2 very much shows, we are not. Yet this is a title that will be worthy of the "Great on Deck" category in the Steam Store. I've already written separately that I think early adopters need to hold off for some fixes. That's because it just isn't playable enough, Verified badge or not.
What is Steam Deck Verification?
To get the coveted Steam Deck Verified badge a game must hit four key criteria set out and reviewed by Valve. These are as follows:
- Input: The title should have full controller support, use appropriate controller input icons, and automatically bring up the on-screen keyboard when needed.
- Display: The game should support the default resolution of Steam Deck (1280x800 or 1280x720), have good default settings, and text should be legible.
- Seamlessness: The title shouldn’t display any compatibility warnings, and if there’s a launcher it should be navigable with a controller.
- System Support: If running through Proton, the game and all its middleware should be supported by Proton. This includes anti-cheat support.
All of these are important criteria. And, again, using Remnant 2 as an example, it does indeed tick all of these boxes. There are no issues with compatibility with Proton, everything works, it does support both 720p and 1280 x 800, and the Steam Deck controller input works right out of the box.
But all of these categories being achieved still doesn't make the game playable enough to warrant someone buying it. At least, not right now. I'm sure fixes will come to the game and likely something in Proton as well. But that's not the point.
30 FPS frame rate needs to be part of the program
The Steam Deck Verified program desperately needs to add a criterion that along with all of these, the game needs to be playable consistently at 30 FPS. It doesn't matter if this is on the lowest graphics settings, but it needs to be part of the program.
There are a lot of games with the Verified badge that do hit 30 FPS consistently, and even exceed it, but it still needs to be the bare minimum. Playing a game below 30 FPS just isn't enjoyable at all.
Good default settings can absolutely mean the lowest graphics. That isn't a problem, nobody is asking or expecting for games to run at ultra on the Steam Deck. There are fine examples that do this, like Spider-Man Remastered. It still looks good on the Deck on low settings, and it can sit at 30 FPS all day aside from some rare, minor dips. I love playing Spider-Man on the Steam Deck.
But Remnant 2 doesn't get close to 30 FPS far too often. The main hub of the game, Ward 13, even below 720p struggles, even with FSR doing the legwork. In some of the worlds where you're actually fighting enemies, the same, sometimes worse.
It does hit all of the currently stipulated criteria, but you aren't going to play the game at 720p as it currently sits and have a good time. Not remotely. We recently saw with The Last of Us, hints at being Steam Deck Verified as it came towards launch, and we all know how that went. Even now it has achieved the badge, I'd question whether it's truly worthy.
Steam has a lot of games, but this is important
I get it, Steam has a HUGE catalog of games, and this is a lot of work for Valve to undertake. But it's also really important. Verified games are supposed to be the best the Steam Deck has to offer, but I have a number of titles in my own library without the badge that I've had more fun playing. Because outside of a few issues, the core gameplay was good, and the frame rates were solid. Godfall, for example, is only rated as playable, not Verified, but I'd happily say it plays better on the Deck than Remnant 2.
Sure, it would require more man hours and much more testing, but it's starting to feel like the Verified program is little more than a box ticking exercise. And that's not how it should be. The Steam Deck is essentially a games console, and we've come to expect certain things from consoles. And it shouldn't require installing tweaks like custom Proton in some cases to make these games play better. And if a game is meant to support the native Deck resolution, for the love of god it should actually play at that resolution.
I doubt this will ever get added to the program, but we can always hope. I've had a Steam Deck for over a year, and it genuinely keeps getting better, proving that you don't need massive hardware to have a good time. But I'm certainly starting to think more carefully about the games that are supposed to be the best for it. I'm positive I'm not alone.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine