I was really looking forward to playing Outward. A friend had told me all about it and with the game shouting about an “immersive” experience and a “challenge”, I was on board with it.
So firstly coming into Outward, I went straight for the tutorial as I do with most games that offer one. I would rather be told how to do bits then figure it out myself, I’m that kind of person. The tutorial jumps you into this cave-like system and gets you to follow the red line on the floor. The red line guides you throughout this cave and into different areas which have different points for you to learn. Most areas have single or multiple stones within it for you to read and learn how to play.
Okay, not so bad, to begin with, but after the tenth stone, it gets a bit tedious. And when you think it is going to end soon, it just keeps going and going. It will tell you to change your clothes for the hot weather and make you do it, then you have to change your clothes for the cold weather and then it makes you do it.
Essentially you’re doing the same thing twice, why not just do it in one area?! So yeah, the tutorial is a little long in the tooth, so expect it to waste about half an hour of your life, but still, least you know how to play the game!
Right, tutorial over, time for that new game experience. Immediately you’re taken to a character customization screen to play about with your character. The developers had said before the game was released that the customization was minimal, and boy, they weren’t kidding! The game gets you to pick from three races, which after going through all three of them, the only real difference seems to be skin color, which is a real shame.
There are about four different face shapes for each race and then about fifteen different hairstyles. I think I would rather have that many face shapes or races to pick from, but hey, it is what it is!
So, with the character made let’s jump into the game. After a LONG load screen (expect this throughout your game), you wake up on a beach pretty much naked with no equipment. Standard beginning. Before long, you pick up some clothes, find a machete, find a torch, and so on. You find the first NPC to talk to, the first bedroll to sleep on, your first enemy encounter. You know, the usual kind of stuff. Before long you wake up in Cierzo, the first town within Aurai in which Outward is set.
From here, the story starts to tell you that you were shipwrecked but people still want to collect their debts from you, even though you’ve lost the money on the ship. You can then go around the town and talk to NPCs, visit the shops and after that, you can go out and explore the rest of Aurai.
The game doesn’t give you markers where to go for your quests, you either have to stumble across where you need to go or remember what the person said to do and find it yourself. That’s fine by me and a bit of a unique take considering most games put points on a map for you.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you’ve jumped into Outward is how poor the graphics are. It feels as if this game was made fifteen years ago. The textures within the world aren’t great and there is a lot of blurriness. I mean when you are bleeding, the blood graphics are horrendous! It’s a shame because the world is colorful and if the graphics were even a fraction better than they are, then it would look beautiful. It means the game struggles to deliver that “immersive” experience that it promised.
You’ll notice that although the world may look colorful, it also feels very empty. When you do stumble upon creatures, a lot of them feel and look the same as the last. When you go into towns, it’s filled with NPCs. Great right? Not really! You can’t interact with half of them and when you can, the voice acting is incredibly poor. There is no talking animation for them and when they speak, they only speak the first sentence before leaving the rest for you to read. It’s a mild annoyance, but another point against that “immersive” experience.
Another big factor within Outward is the combat, and for a game that features it so heavily, you’d expect it to be good. Well, think again. The combat in the game is clunky and that’s probably being nice about it. Going from an attack to blocking is painfully slow and can be frustrating most of the time. It does, however, get a bit easier the more you play, but it is still one of the most frustrating parts of the game.
What makes it even more frustrating is that the game makes it known that your character is a “normal” person. No special one, no chosen one, none of that, just normal old “you”. This means when you come up to a 2v1 situation, you are very likely to lose. Eventually, you’ll start bringing magic, traps, and lures into play and start to turn the odds around, which makes combat a bit more interesting.
Annoyingly, the game still has a lot of bugs in it, and for a game that has been fully released and expects over £/$30 for it, it’s disappointing. There are minor points within it such as women having male voices when fighting that can easily be patched out, but then there was a major co-op bug that my co-op buddy and I stumbled upon. So, let’s set the scene.
Both of us climbed up a nice purple mountain to collect something at the top when we are met by a crab-like creature. Odds aren’t great for us to win this one and before long I kept getting knocked down. Luckily she kept reviving me though. I then died on the edge of the top of the mountain, so I could still see her and the crab battling. The only difference was on her screen, my character had actually fallen down the bottom of the mountain. So she ended up walking all the way to the bottom to my mangled body. The game didn’t let her revive me so she then ended up walking all the way to top again with me telling her where my body was.
Her character was then above me but of course, on her screen, it was just empty. It didn’t let her revive me again. Sigh! Luckily (or not so) she got killed by the creature and we both woke up in a dungeon…
Okay! So I have focused on a lot of negatives, but surely there are some positives right? Right! There are! Although the general experience of Outward was poor, some of the gameplay elements I enjoyed and thought were good concepts. My favorite is the ability to drop your backpack. I mean in real life, if you were to fight something or someone, you’d take your bag off. This game makes it so if you keep your bag on, you’re actually slower in combat then you would be if you have it off. Great! And if you get knocked down in battle? Well, you’ll just have to go and find where you left it!
Outward features in-depth cooking, crafting, and alchemy mechanics, all of which are easy to use and really draw you into the game more. There are various recipes for you to either find yourself or buy at the shops. Crafting within the game is simple and will tell you what you can make with the items you currently have in your inventory. Nothing too confusing!
There’s no leveling up your character up in the game if you want an extra perk, then you have to buy it. Do you want a new spell? You’ll have to buy that too. You’re a normal person in this remember! You don’t have immediate access to those kinds of luxuries you’ve had in other games!
Overall, Outward was a highly disappointing experience. Although some of the concepts within the game were good, the overall finish and polish were severely lacking. Considering the game was shown to be made for a co-op experience by having a split screen option as well as online play, it was probably the weakest area within it. Especially with the game-changing bug that my friend and I stumbled upon.
Even when you had to grab a “waterskin” at the beginning of the game to get out of Cierzo, there was only ever one for you to pick up, meaning the other person went without. Crazy!
The graphics within the game felt outdated and not how it should be for a game with this price tag. The customization of your character is minimal and not in a good way. On top of this, the combat is heavy and will see you struggle for a good few hours of the game. You’re expected to lose in most combats and work it out with new traps and magic spells. It’s just a shame that the combat is clunky and not as smooth as it should be.
Unfortunately, after my own hype I had for this game, I wouldn’t be able to recommend Outward. The negatives far outweigh the positives for this one. I know it’s a small development team of ten people, but next time release a beta of the game before a full release!