The best settings for Elden Ring on the Steam Deck

Elden Ring is not only one of the best games of all time. It’s also one of the most graphically intensive games, even over a year after it launched in early 2022. Despite that, the game is officially verified for the Steam Deck and has an official controller layout made by FromSoftware. Even so, getting Elden Ring to run well on the Deck can be challenging, to the point where you might just be tempted to pick the lowest graphics settings and leave it at that.

But don’t resign yourself to the world of minimum graphics settings. I’ve combed the presets and individual options in Elden Ring to find the best combination of eye candy, framerate, and battery life so that you don’t have to.

What you can expect using Elden Ring‘s presets

Elden Ring comes with four graphical presets: Low, Medium, High, and Maximum. In order to find the best possible framerate we could expect from the Deck, I benchmarked the game in the Limgrave area using the Low preset and lowered the resolution from 800p to 720p.

Obviously, choosing these settings won’t result in the prettiest graphics, but it’s important to get an idea of what framerate we should be targeting. I was hoping to achieve a little over 40 FPS, which would allow lowering the refresh rate to 40Hz, locking the framerate to 40 FPS, and ensuring a decently smooth gaming experience.

Unfortunately, the Low preset combined with a 720p resolution could only achieve 37.5 FPS on average, and although the 99th percentile was 30 FPS and is good on paper, the game felt pretty jittery in reality. In the chart below you can see the frame time over the course of the run, and there were a few seconds where it was more than 33ms (marked with the purple line), which is lower than 30 FPS. This is only a minute-long run, so dropping below 30 FPS three times isn’t great.

Performance in Elden Ring on the Steam Deck using the Low preset at 720p.

I strongly suspect the Deck can’t consistently hit 40 FPS in Elden Ring because it’s a CPU-intensive game. The CPU can only hit about 2.8GHz before it gets too hot at 80 degrees Celsius. With a lower temperature and more power, perhaps it would be a different story. Setting everything to a minimum didn’t help because graphics settings largely only affect the graphics hardware, as the name implies. Not being able to hit 40 FPS means we have to settle for 30 FPS since the refresh rate can’t go lower than 40Hz.

Plus, the Low preset at such a low resolution looks awful. The assets with the most visible detail look very pixelated, and anything even a little far away is just a smeary mess. It’s not the kind of experience you really want in a game like this.

Elden Ring on the Steam Deck using the Low Preset at 720p.

On the other hand, this means we have a lot of wiggle room to increase the graphics settings without dipping below 30 FPS, so let’s take a look at the kind of performance you can expect with the High preset. While the average framerate was 32 FPS, the 99th percentile was just 25 FPS. If you take a close look at the chart below, you can see how the pacing of the frames varies even more than with the Low preset and the frametime was frequently above 33ms. It wasn’t a smooth 30 FPS, and it wasn’t a good gaming experience.

The performance of Elden Ring on the Steam Deck using the High preset.

However, the graphical quality is noticeably better using the High preset than the Low preset, despite the performance hit being relatively minor. Bumping the resolution to 800p definitely helps the game look clearer, not to mention pretty much every feature in the scene looks better, from the trees to the player character to the NPC in the image below.

Elden Ring on the Steam Deck using the High preset.

Finally, we also have to consider battery life, which is determined by total system power consumption. Owing to the CPU-intensive nature of the game, total power consumption using either the High or Low 720p preset with the screen brightness set to 50% resulted in power consumption of roughly 24W when observing the forest in front of the grace site at Limgrave, a very graphically intensive area. That means battery life is less than two hours, according to the Deck’s internal estimate, which isn’t very long. We’re going to want to reduce power and increase battery life when tweaking the settings.

The best settings for performance, graphics, and battery life

Elden Ring on the Steam Deck using custom settings.

The data from benchmarking the presets gives us lots of useful insight, and the basic conclusion is that we should limit the framerate to 30 FPS, which kills a lot of birds with one stone. Firstly, limiting the framerate reduces all that frametime variation we see at High and Low 720p, and a smooth 30 FPS is much better than a jittery 35 FPS. Secondly, in order to avoid screen tearing, we have to cap the framerate at 30 FPS anyway, since there’s no middle ground between 30 and 40 FPS on the Deck. And finally, it helps battery life to cap the framerate, because it prevents the hardware from running at full bore at all times.

So, with that out of the way, here are the settings I’ve selected as offering the best balance between visual fidelity and battery life, while also offering a solid 30 FPS.

Resolution 1200×800
Textures Maximum
Anti-aliasing High
SSAO Medium
Depth of Field Quality High
Motion Blur Off
Shadow Quality Medium
Lighting Quality Medium
Effects Quality Low
Volumetric Quality Low
Reflection Quality High
Water Surface Quality High
Shader Quality High
Global Illumination High
Grass Quality Medium

With this combination of settings, I was able to achieve a consistent 30 FPS and 33.3ms frametime. Although 30 FPS isn’t as good as 60 FPS, it still felt smooth enough since the frametime variation was minimal. If you’re curious about what performance is like without the 30 FPS cap though, the average framerate was 35 FPS with a 99th percentile of 28 FPS. In the frametime graph below, you can see the game is still a bit inconsistent, but since it’s almost always running above 30 FPS, all that inconsistency is eliminated with a 30 FPS cap.

Performance in Elden Ring on the Steam Deck using custom settings.

I also have a graph (below) that combines both the High preset and my recommended settings, and while both lines seem to have a similar shape, you can clearly see how the High preset (in blue) crosses the 33ms line far more frequently than the custom settings (in orange). You can’t just run the High preset with a 30 FPS cap and expect the performance problems to be solved.

A performance comparison between the High preset and custom settings in Elden Ring on the Steam Deck.

Additionally, the visual difference between this spread of settings and the High preset was very minimal, as you can see in the comparison below, with my custom settings on the left and the High preset on the right. The only things that look demonstrably better on the High preset are trees, but it’s not a night and day difference.

Elden Ring on the Steam-Deck, customs settings vs High preset.

Even at 800p, you’ll want to turn on Anti-aliasing

One setting you should pay attention to is anti-aliasing, which makes things look much better even if you’re running the game at 800p. I recommend setting anti-aliasing to High because the performance impact is minor, and the visual quality is definitely noticeable. The comparison below shows the difference between anti-aliasing at High (left) and disabling it (right). You can see how some trees without anti-aliasing are very pixelated, but when anti-aliasing is set to High, the pixelation is almost entirely gone.

Elden Ring on the Steam Deck with AA set to High vs. AA disabled.

SSAO and Shadow Quality set to Medium makes trees look much better

SSAO and Shadow Quality were also important in making the trees look better in general. With SSAO set to Off, trees tend to look very flat when viewed at a distance, and SSAO at Medium helps mitigate that. Shadow Quality at Low causes a weird shimmering effect on trees when in motion, which is difficult to capture in a single image, but bumping Shadow Quality to Medium made trees look the way they ought to. The image on the left is with SSAO and Shadow Quality at Medium, and on the right is SSAO disabled and Shadow Quality at Low.

Elden Ring on the Steam Deck comparing Shadows and SSAO Quality.

Battery life improved by 50%

Additionally, power consumption was lowered from 24W to 18 in the most intensive scene in the benchmark, which is a big improvement. In other scenes, the power difference was much more minor. For example, in the swampy area down the cliff by the grace site, the High preset consumed 17W, only a tad higher than the 15W achieved using this spread of settings. In terms of battery life, you can expect roughly 3 hours with these settings, a significant improvement from the 2 hours that you would likely get with the High preset.

Although reducing some settings certainly helped increase battery life, capping the framerate at 30 FPS is what actually does the trick, whether you play at Low, High, or with my recommended settings. Preventing the Deck from rendering more frames is a very simple way to make it consume less power, and since we can’t get 40 FPS, there’s no reason to not cap the framerate to 30 to improve both frametime consistency and battery life at the same time.

There are other things you can do to try and improve performance as well using software like PowerTools, a Decky plugin, but those are for enthusiasts and can break games too. While you won’t get the best performance on the Steam Deck as opposed to a dedicated gaming PC, you can still get decent framerates and graphics in Elden Ring.