When I first heard about Outward, I had mixed feelings, I wasn’t sure I needed another archetypal fantasy open world game to invest in, yet conversely like the survival aspect that was being touted around. When the game plopped through the burgeoning letterbox at Finger Guns Towers, I snatched out of the hands of everyone just so I could get to find out what it was all about.
The first thing you need to know is that you’re going to die a lot. This game is going to pick up slam you upside your face. Chew you up and spit you out, and seemingly enjoy doing so to boot.
The part of the game that I liked was that the character you play is just a normal person, not lost king, not a hardened adventurer or a magical progeny from days gone. You’re just a geezer who owes some money from generations of debt. This, in my opinion, is a refreshing change to the age-old fantasy story stalwarts. The trouble is the character models are so hideous you fail to feel any attachment to your character. I just couldn’t care two hoots about this near faceless being that doesn’t get to talk. I didn’t feel the need to power through the game to level up and get better gear, you know the usual feelings you get when embarking on a journey such as this.
Anyway, when you start on your adventure you realize that it’s not just the beasts in the game you need to be aware of. Everything else can have an effect on your progress. Even sunlight and darkness can affect your character. Your character needs food and sleep, needs to be kept warm in cold climates, else you’ll catch a cold, yep a common cold. How quaint. You need to make sure your water is purified and that meat is cooked. It’s a lot to keep on top of in such a big world. Thankfully none of the status effects are that pressing that they need to take over the game. They will simply make you do less damage, take more damage or make you walk slower things like that.
So when the elements or the food aren’t trying to kill you, bandits and various beasties are. You have a trusty sword, to begin with, which just about makes a scratch on the opposing side, but they will hit back but much harder, you feel like you’re being bullied for a long time until you can start to use potions and magic, but that does take a while to get going, in the meantime every weapon you find barley makes a dent. Good or bad there are no deaths in this game, only setbacks. For example in my enthusiasm to do something in this dull world I hurtled headlong into battle with two bandits. I inevitably lost. But rather and seeing a game over screen, I awoke in a prison cell and had to complete a basic task to get out, (or, as it turned out jump down a hole which landed me on a beach oddly) Although this sounds good on paper, the reality is, it’s just an annoyance, there is no fast travel in this game, so you could easily find yourself on the other side of the map and the only way to get anywhere is to hoof it. No friendly horse to help you out. And if you do happen to put your backpack down in combat (because it makes you more agile) if you die, you are quite likely to lose all your hard earned belongings. Unless of course, you want to walk for what seems like forever from one side of the map to where you dropped your backpack. It does seem that success in this game relies on the humble rucksack.
This is one hell of a slog of a game and one that seems like it’s missing a few things to make it actually enjoyable. It reminds me in some way of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, even that game had its fair share of annoyances and harsh survival elements but Outward takes it to another level. You’ll be tired of adventuring long before you get into the main crux of the game, and that’s not just your character, but you too. I’m not excited to get to talk with another cardboard looking NPC’s. I’m not enthused to sluggishly duke it out with any more baddies, and I certainly don’t want to wait for what seems like an age for my character to warm up, high foot it across the entire map just to pick up all my gear. It is tiring.
It’s not just the gameplay that makes you tired either. The graphics are dated, it looks like it was built in Minecraft with a smooth texture mod. (although to be fair certain sunsets can look pretty good). The dialogue is terrible, the acting is terrible which beggars belief considering only the first line or two of dialogue is actually read out loud. The music is all wrong with chirpy strings playing as you search a dull looking house only to end in a great crescendo just because you walk down some stairs! Conversely as you walk out into the main world for the first time there is no rise in tempo, or something to herald a great adventure is about to begin It’s just some plinky plonky that’s more fitting for the house you’ve just explored and the music playing in the house is more fitting for starting your adventure. It’s all back to front.
However, adventures are always better with friends, and surprisingly there is a co-op feature which allows you to team up with your buddy, I didn’t get the chance to play this option but the concept is exciting. I guess you’ll both have to be in to this sort of game to get the most out of it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it Outward more enjoyable than it already is.
Outward is billed as a survival RPG and that it is. The survival elements do make it an interesting adventure to an extent but sometimes it goes overboard and frustrates. The fighting is awful, the spells are too confusing and convoluted and as mentioned it’s really hard to give a crap about your character. Massive kudos to Nine Dots for embarking on a game of this magnitude and there is some great ideas here to make it stand out from the glut of other fantasy RPGs.
The faults listed above will make Outward a tough sell for many players but if you like this kind of game you’ll get a great sense of achievement when you ‘make it’, whatever that goal may be. Outward on paper sounds great, but in reality it doesn’t live up to its lofty ideas, and should have remained on paper.
Outward is available now. Reviewed on PS4 Pro.
Developer: Nine Dots
Publisher: Deep Silver
In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publisher. For our full review policy please go here.
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