The Steam Deck is one of the best ways to play Elden Ring, and now Shadow of the Erdtree too

Update: Whelp, spoke too soon. Apparently some Steam Deck players are seeing an “Innapropriate activity detected” message upon launching Elden Ring, blocking them from playing online. I haven’t had this myself, and some have reported the issue fixing itself after they installed the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC, but hopefully there’s a proper patch in the works.

Elden Ring on the Steam Deck has long enjoyed a smoothness that desktop play has lacked. Not so much in simple framerate terms – the handheld spends far more time around the 30fps mark than it does bumping into Elden Ring’s 60fps cap – but thanks to a Proton compatibility update back in 2022, it’s drastically less prone to the flow-breaking stutter that still plagues the RPG in 2024. That now goes for Shadow Of The Erdtree as well, judging from my portable time in the new expansion.

There are a few spots that will stretch the Steam Deck’s unassuming internals, and I’d recommend the settings guide below if you want to keep that steady 30fps. But by and large, Shadow of the Erdtree gets a clean bill of handheld hardware health, with continued benefitting from that anti-stuttering patch and improved battery life on the newer, more efficient Steam Deck OLED. It’s like Crowded House once said: everywhere you go, always take Messmer with you.

Resting at a grace site in Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, on a Steam Deck.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

We’ve know for years that Elden Ring’s controls suit the Deck just fine, so let’s skip straight ahead to performance. Shadow of the Erdtree is neither more easygoing nor much more demanding than the base game, so while super-slick framerates were never on the cards, it’s easy to achieve a stable 30fps base – with occasional rises into the forties. Sometimes even the fifties, in a few of the Realm of Shadows’ tighter interiors.

That might not sound like much when even the game’s minimum-spec graphics cards can near 60fps on desktop, But it’s enough. Besides, I swear on my pet ghost horse’s life: anyone who’s played on both PC and Steam Deck will notice the lack of stuttering on the latter. Yes, FromSoftware improved on yet never actually fixed Elden Ring’s choppiness, and the various quality-of-life improvements that Shadow of the Erdtree makes do not include such a remedy. On the Steam Deck, however, there’s been one in place for ages. Valve themselves stepped in to update Proton – the compatibility layer that lets Windows games run on the Linux-based SteamOS – so that on the Deck, and ultimately only on the Deck, this stuttering wouldn’t be so prevalent. As of right now, you might still see the occasional stumble, but generally it’s a more stable and consistent runner than what you’d get on even the most bankrupting of high-end PCs.

Approaching the stairs to the Belurat Tower Settlement in Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

Shadow of the Erdtree also only adds a hair over 15GB to Elden Ring’s storage footprint, so both it and the base game will still fit on almost every Steam Deck model’s SSD (64GB owners, hope you’ve got a microSD card). On battery life, though, the Steam Deck OLED claims a thoroughly expected win. I’d previously clocked an original Deck lasting for 1h 33m when running Elden Ring at 50% screen brightness; a retest in Shadow of the Erdtree came in a tad shorter, at 1h 25m. Both of these pale next to the OLED’s 2h 14m, also in SOTE. Obviously that result isn’t eons-long either, though it is pretty much down-the-middle among big, 3D open-world games.

Fighting an angry plant in Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, on a Steam Deck.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Steam Deck settings guide

For the preset-inclined, I’d argue Medium is the best bet for Steam Decks. Low can roll a few frames-per-second faster but visually suffers from inferior lighting, a lack of anti-aliasing, and a nasty flickering effect inflicted by low-quality shadows. But! You can actually keep a few of the individuals on High or even Maximum, without them noticeably impeding performance.

Here’s the full settings combination I’d recommend. It consistently produces 30fps around most of the expansion’s open world, with higher (and visibly smoother) performance in caves and castles.

  • Ray tracing quality: Off
  • Texture quality: Medium
  • Antialiasing quality: High
  • SSAO: Maximum
  • Depth of field: High
  • Motion blur: Off
  • Shadow quality: High
  • Lighting quality: Medium
  • Effects quality: Medium
  • Volumetric quality: High
  • Reflection quality: Maximum
  • Water surface quality: High
  • Shader quality: High
  • Global illumination quality: Medium
  • Grass quality: Medium

I’ve opinion-blabbed elsewhere that you ideally shouldn’t drop below Maximum shadow quality, just to avoid that distracting flickering, but it’s actually a lot less noticeable on the Steam Deck’s smaller, lower-res display than it is on a big monitor. Maximum also seems to cost more frames than it does on desktop hardware, so High ends up as a viable compromise.

Since you’re probably not going to be hitting 50fps-plus, outside of a handful of spots, you may also want to lower your Deck’s refresh rate/FPS cap (via the slider in the SteamOS overlay’s Performance menu) to something like 45Hz. This won’t make Elden Ring run slower itself; you’re basically just stopping the display from refreshing more often than it needs to, which could add a few minutes to battery life.

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