Every once in a while I will get a game to review which I will start and not like within the first hour. Sometimes I will walk away for a day or two and come back to it with a fresh mindset and that seems to help. That certainly helped with my approach to Outward. Shoot, after about 30 minutes I was ready to write this off as a bad game. But with a new perspective as to what the game was, I was able to enjoy it a bit more. That being said, Outward is NOT for the faint of heart and only the most seasoned gamers may walk away with their souls not crushed! So grab your backpack and let’s go on an adventure!
Outward tells a bit of its story via text. At the beginning of the game, we know that you are an adventurer that is involved in a shipwreck and your first real mission in the game is to make money to pay the village for a tax that you could not pay while you were on the boat. If you cannot pay the tax, your home will be taken away. It was during the exchange with the townsfolk and the mayor that I noticed the voice-overs and the subtitles almost never match. In fact, it would benefit the player to be sure to always have subtitles on as you could have an entire paragraph of information but then only get a line or 2 of spoken dialogue. I am an “All or nothing” kind of guy so if they were going to to have voice-overs, I wish they would’ve done it right.
What threw me off the first time I played the game was the tutorial. I know that is a strange thing to say but I have never seen such a large tutorial to a game. To be fair, it is one of the most detailed I have ever seen as well. It will direct you from the basics of movement all the way to crafting items, cooking food to how to deal with negative effects. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to work your way through the 45-minute tutorial and have a basic idea of what you are doing at all times.
Once you are released into the world of Outward, you will notice many things that will feel weird to fans of these types of games. There are no experience points!!! You do not gain levels in Outward. So how do you gain new abilities and whatnot? There are different ways such as being taught how to by someone, or you can buy them. Money is the ultimate resource that will see you go in under-prepared for a situation or not. Oddly enough though, if you rush into a situation without thinking about it, you can still quickly be met with your demise. You have a map and compass that you can reference, but don’t expect to be told anything beyond that. You really are playing a survival game that doesn’t hold your hand.
Or so you think considering you cannot die in Outward! At any point you would think that you are dead, you will go into a textbox story of how you cheated death yet again because of X reason. Good luck with trying to revert back to an old save for reasons too as Nine Dots Studio has made it so you can only have one save per character. You have to live with every decision you make. Though I have not encountered any issues myself, I would have concerns for people that may have encountered any kind of glitches along the way.
I want to address the elephant in the room when it comes to the worst quality of Outward, the graphics. It took seconds into the create-a-character menu to realize that the graphics seem extremely dated. Coincidentally I started playing The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind not long ago and the character designs look about the same! It’s not to say that everything is ugly. When I left the first city, I was amazed by how lush everything in nature looked. It is not hyperrealistic but has that same feel as nature did in Breath of the Wild. Try not to get too caught up in the moment though as you never really can tell when the next attack may be coming, that’s where a second set of eyes can help.
This is where having multiplayer will be extremely helpful. You may not have much luck with connecting to a random person on the search feature, but if you have a second controller and an able and willing family member or friend, then you can jump into couch co-op! It is as simple as going into the menu and hitting the “Split Screen” option. The other person will make a character real quick and upon completion will spawn next to you. Remember that there are no levels, so the only thing you may need to do is hook them up with some gear. After that, though you can travel together! If one person dies, the other can revive them right away. That makes it worthwhile on its own, but hopefully, more players get into the game so that trying to find a random will be more successful than my attempts.
Having a second player will hopefully help with one of my least favourite parts of the game, the fighting system. Fighting feels like a chore to me in which I never felt like I was becoming a threat to the enemies around me. The action feels slow and janky with very little “OOMPH” felt behind each swing of your weapon.
Outward was not the game I thought it was going into it. It takes a lot of what you think an RPG is and tosses it out the window. Once you realize the game you are playing and adjust accordingly, it does become much more enjoyable. The graphics make this game seem dated and the action is not the most fast-paced I’ve ever seen, but these are things that can be fixed in patches.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*