I’ve been holding off on reviewing Scars Above on Steam Deck for one simple reason: It doesn’t work.
What’s going on exactly? It’s hard to say. At the time of writing, it’s not possible to play Scars Above on Steam Deck through SteamOS. The game itself will boot without any issue, but the moment you hit the main title screen, the options menu simply doesn’t materialize.
Normally when a game won’t boot there are several steps you can take. The main option, which boasts the highest likelihood of success, is to switch Proton versions. This didn’t work either. I’ve tested out Proton experimental and different variants of Proton GE and nothing is able to make any difference. The game boots, but the main title menu isn’t visible or accessible.
Without a working Proton version, that’s where any chance of getting it to work on SteamOS ends.
Booting Through Windows
The next option, and the one most will grumble at, is to try booting it through Windows on Steam Deck. This instantly solved the problem of the main title options not showing, but that newfound hope wasn’t to last.
I was able to access all the options on the main menu and even tweak the graphical configuration to something more Deck-friendly. The opening section of Scars Above, which takes place on an enclosed ship, worked brilliantly and ran at a mostly smooth 60 frames per second. It looked great, too. Excluding the usual Steam Deck anti-aliasing problems, everything looked as it should. Even the main character’s hair wasn’t a jagged mess, as is often the case on Steam Deck.
But the moment you leave the ship and venture into the true world of Scars Above, the game falls apart on Steam Deck. You can drop all the settings down to a minimum to turn Scars Above into a moving soup, but even then it can’t maintain a stable framerate.
The stats overlay told me it was running between 25 and 30 frames per second but this wasn’t remotely accurate. Slightly turning the right stick would cause the screen to completely shift in the direction it’s pressed, with no frames in between to smooth the motion. Not fun!
Scars Above is essentially an indie version of Sony’s Returnal, and without a smooth – or at least consistent – framerate there’s zero joy to be had in playing it like that.
In short, if you’re thinking of picking up Scars Above on Steam Deck, don’t. It’s not in a playable state right now, regardless of the hoops you attempt to jump through.
Cause of the Problem
I need to stress here, this isn’t the fault of the developers, and it’d be remiss to blame Valve here either.
The fact of the matter is the Steam Deck is an extra platform devs need to optimize for. If the developers don’t have the capacity for that, then it falls to Valve to work its magic through Proton to get it working. But then Valve can only work on so many games at a time. Given that the Steam Store houses over 50,000 games, it’s impossible to fix up everything that gets released.
Does this mean Scars Above will never work on the Steam Deck? No, there’s every chance the developer, Valve, or Glorious Egroll of Proton GE fame, could come back to it and get it working to a playable standard. But until that happens, it’s simply not worth picking up Scars Above if your main platform to play it on is the Steam Deck.