It’s been a little more than a month since my early-release Steam Link & Steam Controller arrived, and in that time I’ve been putting the two little devices through a few paces. Time for a more seasoned recap…
Now to caveat, readers of this blog will know very well that I’m not the type of gamer who plays incredibly complex and immersive games for every waking hour. So, to give a more concrete idea of my usage, let’s start by saying it this way: for the past six weeks, I’ve been logging about six hours per week, in sessions ranging from thirty minutes to two hours, using either the Link (with a wireless mouse and keyboard) or the Controller and Link together.
Now, to be clear, these games were chosen because they are largely family friendly, and a lot of the time when I’m playing I have an eight year old playing along — or at the very least watching out of the corner of her eye while she plays Minecraft on the laptop. I try to limit the gore and violence. I’ve got a few I’ve fired up later in the evening, or while she’s out doing extra curricular, but for the most part I’ve been leaning on the PG-ish games, like:
- Portal 2
- GRID 2
- LEGO Worlds
- LEGO Hobbit
- Minecraft (PC)
- Farming Simulator 2015
The Steam Link
Simply: I love this thing. It does exactly what I needed it to do: moved my PC games into my living room two floors away without a bunch of awkward cables.
I will say many of my initial frustrations were back in that intermediate phase when it crashed and or hung back when there were a lot of beta-like bugs that seemed to be cropping up. Many of my issues though, I’ll just blame on my PC. It bugs out, or tries to run an update that I forgot to turn off, or the fact that it’s down in the basement and I need to run down two flights of stairs to wake it up. First world problems, eh?
My Link has been running almost exclusively on a wired network, and I’ve been using the “Balanced” streaming profile. Occasionally I get noticeable artifacts on the stream, but nothing that has broken the experience to the point where I would toss this device or fail to recommend it to someone who was looking for a solution like this.
My second biggest win has come since I hooked in a wireless mouse and keyboard. I had originally tried an Apple Bluetooth mouse, but the full touchable surface is not great for gaming. So, I switched to a cheap-o little Logitech mouse with a USB dongle: no setup. It just works. And between that and the keyboard, the only thing that makes this experience unable to keep up with the PC downstairs is that I need an ergonomic gaming couch so I don’t have to sit on the floor.
The Steam Controller
This is where I’ve been less impressed.
Controller-wise, it’s fine. Technically, there have been few bugs, but again — it connects, and works and does (largely) what it claims to do: provides a standard console-like controller for PC games.
But I’ll go back to what I’ve written earlier: setting up unique configurations for games is a pain. and spending twenty minutes for each new game trying to tweak config setting is not a good use of my very limited gaming time. And second, as much as this thing was advertised as a full-fledged replacement for mouse-and-keyboard driven games, it is not ideal.
I include the game here because it illustrates my point, but if you haven’t tried Farming Simulator 2015 –even ironically– you’re missing out on a very well crafted bit of zen gaming sim fun with a real challenge and that same immersive feeling you get from any game where you can’t. turn. it. off. until you plant one more row or feed one more damn cow… See, it uses virtually every key on a standard keyboard at some point in the game. And the mouse. It uses the mouse in ways I hadn’t even considered, to do things like control forklifts and other machinery. You literally cannot play this game to it’s full potential without a keyboard and mouse. I tried to use the controller. I tried. I really did. I spent an hour trying. I hurt my fingers and drove a perfectly good tractor off of a cliff.
So, I’ve been playing a few games like Minecraft and Farming Simulator 2015 lately, and while the Link is pulling it’s weight and getting used, the Controller has been collecting dust.
Overall, no regrets.
Both pieces have their place, and for sixty bucks (CAN$) you can’t go wrong with the Steam Link. If you play games that are button mashers — LEGO-styles, the GRID racers or Portal strategy things — the controller is fine. I can’t say about bigger crazier stuff, like FPSs or whatever. For those simple, easy config games, it works and you’ll enjoy it. But if you need to decide on spending that other sixty bucks on the Steam Controller versus, say, a nice wireless keyboard and gaming mouse — personally I think I’d recommend leaning towards the latter.