We take a look at how the 2023 version of Layers of Fear runs on the Steam Deck and how to optimize it for Valve's handheld.
By now, 2016s ‘Layers of Fear’ by Bloober Team is easily considered an all-time classic in the realm of atmospheric, psychological horror games.
Their recent 2023 release of the same name may feel like a remake to some, and on the surface, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that — but it’s more than that.
The latest Layers of Fear is not just a collection of all the main stories (including new DLCs and additional content), but it also acts as an overarching experience of the entire cult franchise. Moreover, it’s reimagined as an Unreal Engine 5 release.
This means, depending on where you’re playing, native 4K visuals, ray-traced features, HDR, and more. Of course, you can’t expect these features to trickle down to a handheld — whether it’s a Steam Deck or any of the current Windows counterparts. Still, some features, such as improved global illumination and temporal upscaling, are definitely a good fit for a more portable format. The latter, in particular, is a vast improvement that we’re happy to take advantage of. But first things first.
Once started, you’ll quickly notice that the main menu is a good in-engine representation of the currently set graphics. Therefore, it was easy to benchmark various tweaks and confirm their results later on during the game itself. We’ve tested the game on both the Steam Deck, and the recently released AYANEO 2S (look out for that soon).
How Layers of Fear runs on Steam Deck
Right off the bat on Steam Deck, we, unfortunately, have to resort to using Proton Experimental as the compatibility layer. Attempting to start the game without one often results in a ‘fatal error’ and a crash back into the library.
Recommended settings for Layers of Fear on Steam Deck:
Usually, we would go with AMD’s temporal upscaler - FidelityFX Super Resolution 2 (FSR2) - which is a valid option on any AMD platform. However, this time, you might want to opt for Epic Games’ UE5 TSR instead. The Epic Games in-house upscaling solution results in improved clarity and less ‘fuzziness’ than you’d expect at the ‘Performance’ level. It goes without saying that the overall visual stability during exploration is much better than with, for instance, FSR2.
With the optimisations above, ‘Layers of Fear’ runs at a relatively solid Golden 40 performance, settling between 17 and 19 watts, resulting in around two hours of game time.
As you can see below, the Default High settings (left) appear less crisp, while the optimized preset (right) not only looks slightly clearer but also maintains a comfortable 40FPS:
The easiest way to gain additional battery life on Steam Deck would be to target a 30FPS frame rate, which means setting the refresh rate at 60Hz and the frame rate limit at 30 FPS.
Blooper Team supplied a review copy of Layers of Fear for this technical review.
For more in-depth technical analysis and performance optimisations like this you can follow Timo Schmidt on his YouTube channel: Deckverse.