My favorite Elder Scrolls-like RPG ran bafflingly badly on Steam Deck, but a small, surprising tweak has doubled its performance
I make it no secret that I love Dread Delusion, a chunky, retro RPG in a stunning alien world with body horror-fueled societies clinging to life on the asteroids orbiting a small, blood-red star. Despite its throwback looks and a green “verified” badge however, it used to just tank my Steam Deck, rarely cresting above 30fps and typically hovering around 25. A recent early access update has vastly improved those numbers, and the culprit was so simple I can still barely believe it.
Developer Lovely Hellplace outlined the changes coming in the Cadaver Keep update earlier in the month, and one of them particularly caught my eye. “Our programmer fotocopiadora has vastly improved the way the game loads data between regions,” lead developer James Wragg explained. “This has allowed us to create super low-detail models of many of the game’s structures, which means if you’re not in a region, it’s even more low-poly than usual if you can even imagine that.
“This means that the game should run much faster now, especially on low-end systems like the Steam Deck.”
So I was expecting good things when booting up Dread Delusion on my Deck after Wednesday’s update, but was positively shocked to see it hitting 60 fps when previously 30 was out of the question. This perfect 60 didn’t last when stepping outdoors into Dread Delusion’s open world, but thanks to the option to set the Deck’s refresh rate, it’s possible to get a rock solid 40hz/40fps out of Dread Delusion now, with projected battery life between 3.5 and four hours.
Level of detail (LOD) systems are a common sight in open world games, with older favorites like Skyrim sometimes having a visible fade out and back in as you approach a landmark, with a low-detail model for distant viewing replaced with a high-detail one for examining up close. Dread Delusion has a seamless open world with no loading screens, and if I’m understanding Wragg correctly, it previously had no LOD system in place, with everything in the Oneiric Isles, or at least a significant chunk of it, rendering at full fidelity in the background no matter where you were.
This helps explain why my beefy Alder Lake desktop processor could handle Dread Delusion no sweat, while the Deck’s quad-core mobile CPU was so humbled despite the game’s retro visuals. No matter how low I set the resolution or what graphics options I chose, those four cores were creaking under the weight of an entire open world at all times.
In addition to the big performance uplift, the Cadaver Keep update has also seen another expansion of Dread Delusion’s main quest, bringing it one step closer to its full 1.0 release. That’s the best news of all for me, because no matter how much I love this game, I can’t keep playing it piecemeal. We’ve reprinted the full Cadaver Keep patch notes down below:
- New Quest: The Duchess, in which the player hunts down Vela’s old comrade; an esoteric woman based in the Endless region.
- New Dungeon: Cadaver Keep, a multi-challenge dungeon teeming with cannibalistic enemies look for new prey.
- New Dungeon: Endless Mines, a sprawling underground crystalline cave network with a underlying sinister presence.
- Enemy Enhancements: Certain enemies have been reworked to be able to drink potions and use shields to add a new layer of strategy to combat.
- Performance Overhaul: Overall performance improvements – Game loads fewer assets at once, in-game structures now have low-poly variants when far away, and loading save data is now more efficient.
- The number of spells a player can have equipped now scales from 1 – 4 based on that player’s Spellcast skill.
- Players were getting confused by the feature that prevented stamina from draining when a weapon was sheathed, so this feature has been reverted.
- The journal map has been updated with new landmarks and landmasses, including Rustburg and the game’s new Endless areas.
- Added a secret passage next to the Wikkan statue in Hallowshire, which was supposed to mark a secret.
- A number of changes have been made to dialogue, correcting small errors etc.
- Fixed a number of UI bugs that were causing minor glitches in certain menus.
- Fixed the alchemy screen not being usable with a controller.
- Fixed a bug that would softlock the game when sheathing weapons while crouched.
- Made it harder for large enemies to push the player through walls.
- Fixed the Flesh Door in the Endless region opening too slowly.
- Fixed a bug that would prevent the Penchant for Dreaming quest from being completed if the journal was picked up too early.
- Fixed an exploit that was allowing players to craft too many items.
- Fixed an exploit that was causing sold items to still buff the player.
- Fixed a bug where the player could attack while drinking a potion.
- Breakable doors now correctly register spellcasts as hits.
- Arrow colliders no longer damage the player when they’re on the floor.
- Fixed an issue where the Chained God would repeat dialogue every player death.
- Fixed bug where levers wouldn’t play their animations.