Steam Link App - Everything You Need to Know

Posted by Campbell Bird on May 16th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Steam Link has finally released for iOS! That’s right, you can play your epic backlog of PC games on the go now. Well… sort of.

While the Steam Link app was announced seemingly ages ago, it only got actual approval for release last night. Check out the video above to see what it looks like in action, and be sure to ignore my amateur Into the Breach skills. For some more detailed written impressions, see below:

Setup is pretty simple, though not elegant

When you boot up Steam Link, it reads your local wireless network for a PC running Steam already. This means you have to have a running PC turned on connected to the same wifi network as you for any of this to work.

So, this app only lets you play “on the go” in the sense that you don’t have to be sitting in front of your computer. You still have to be nearby though.

Playing without a controller seems bad

The Steam Link app seems designed specifically for you to use a controller. Booting up the app and playing a controller-based game with an MFi controller posed little to no issue for me, except for the fact that my controller needed to create special button combinations for things like R3 and L3 presses.

But when I heard about the launch of Steam Link, I didn't want to test a controller-based game. I had one mission in mind, and that was to play Into the Breach from the comfort of my bed. As I’ve already said, the game seems like a perfect fit for mobile, so I figured it'd be easy to deal with the touch-based mouse controls without having to bother setting up a controller.

I was prepared for the fact that Steam Link wouldn’t be able to suddenly gin up touch controls for me, but what I wasn’t prepared for was just how lousy the mouse control is. When using the app in mouse mode, everything is tap to click and the cursor follows your finger wherever you touch. Since PC games don’t anticipate cursors teleporting across the screen, this presents some significant control issues.

In addition, there’s no option to offset the cursor from your finger either, so it’s hard to see what you’re clicking on at any given time.

It’s not smart about disconnects

Another weird thing about Steam Link is how it seems poorly prepared for the realities of gaming on a mobile device. If you have to lock your screen and walk away from a streaming session for a bit, whatever game you were playing will still be running (good), but it doesn’t bring you back to that game when you open the app back up (bad).

In some cases, this wasn't a big deal and I was able to get back to the action with a little finagling. In others, I found my PC still running a game and I had no other recourse but to go to my desk and exit it manually before I could use the app again. From what I've heard about Steam Link software and hardware generally, this is just a thing that happens sometimes. With the nature of mobile games and how easily interrupted sessions can be, I imagine this issue can and will find more opportunities to crop up on mobile than just about anywhere else.

Games look good!

I realize I've spent a lot of these impressions sort of poo-pooing the the Steam Link app. To be fair, it's because there's a lot of stuff about it that isn't anywhere close to ideal!

That being said, part of the deal with a Steam Link or any other PC streaming software is that their purpose is to deliver a compromised experience. These games are meant to be played on a PC, after all. With that in mind, I do want to take a moment to say that having Into the Breach and other games from my library boot up at all feels like some incredible magic, especially since they look sharp and respond quickly.

I just wish the app was a little more tuned-in to how people play games on mobile devices. Perhaps one day, it will be.

Share This: