Outward is on a mission to send all would-be players on a grand adventure. Is this journey worth taking, or should you stick with something else? Check out our review and find out.
Outward begins with you creating your character. You are no hero, no wizard, no chosen one; you are just a random person in the world of the game. In the past, your bloodline has acquired a debt that you now have to pay. With nothing to lose, you join your friend Yzan on a ship hoping to strike it rich and clear the name of your family. However, on your return voyage some rocks sink your boat, taking the treasure and many of your crewmates with it. Though you and Yzan survive the trip, your debt still has to be paid and the village doesn’t let you forget it. As soon as you start playing, you are given a debt of 150 silver and five days to pay it.
Without a job or any savings, you are forced outside of the safety of your village to find means to earn silver. You can hunt, spearfish, mine, cave dive, kill bandits, kill monsters, and find a number of other ways to make silver. At first, it seems like a huge task, but 150 silver is easy to get in five days. After you pay your debt, the big choice opens up. There are three paths that your friends have each taken outside of the city. You have to choose who to follow and which faction you want to join. There is no time limit on this choice, and you are free to explore to your heart’s content before deciding. Joining a faction removes to option to join another. You can still visit their lands and cities, but you are stuck with your first choice unless you do a second playthrough.
Outward is an open world action RPG with survival elements. Combat makes up a large part of the game, and you are given a number of tools to experiment with and use. One can certainly use a sword, large axe, bow, or spear and engage in battle if one so chooses. However, two words best summarize the combat: “clunky” and “floaty.” You never feel the hits, meaning they have no impact. You swing wildly, and most of your opponents will do the same. Knowing this, Outward provides other ways to deal with enemies. Magic and traps even the odds, allowing you to face enemies at your own pace as opposed to standing still while trading blows. As mentioned earlier, you have no skills and no magic, and you have to learn these things to use them properly.
While exploring, you will come across blueprints. These blueprints give you new recipes to craft, and thankfully you can craft snare traps right from your backpack. That said, you can easily miss blueprints or avoid buying them due to money concerns. Still, you can find most basic blueprints from the various vendors in the world, should you change your mind. The same cannot be said of magic in the game. You can easily miss magic in the game if you don’t know where to look. On top of that, you have to give up life and stamina in order to gain mana. That can be a tough one to manage; you can always achieve more mana by sacrificing points, but you cannot get that HP or stamina back after exchanging it. I could easily see players completely avoiding the magic in favor of a more physical character.
The world in Outward is full of promise, but ultimately falls short after exploring it thoroughly. While exploring, you will occasionally run into enemies, select events, caves, and the odd dead explorer. These are few and far between, and you are expected to travel a lot in this game. With no horse to use and no fast travel, you will be running through Outward’s fields quite often if you are looking to complete the game. It got to the point that I would die in the wilderness so I could be warped back to town quicker. You lose nothing when you die; you just have to deal with the long load time back to town or to safety in general. A method to quickly access each area would have gone a long way.
Since you are running around a bit, you also have to worry about surviving in the wild. Food, thirst, sleep, and body temperature are all things players will manage. Honestly, I didn’t have a problem with sleep. You can put down a bedroll and sleep anywhere if you are willing to risk an ambush while you sleep. You get a waterskin within a few minutes, so again, water is rarely a problem. Managing food is rough before you know some good cooking recipes, but by the time you leave your village, you will have it under control. Temperature is going to be your most significant problem. Clothes weigh a lot, and you can only carry as much as your backpack allows. For first time players, it is easier to avoid both the desert heat and frigid snow zones.
Outward is co-op, and you can play split screen if you wish. I didn’t get to try the split screen, but online co-op worked as it should. A person can jump in almost immediately and start their adventure along the side of you. I didn’t spend a ton of time in co-op since I didn’t know the person I was playing with, but they made combat a lot easier. If you are planning to play the game, it would be worth seeing if you can get a buddy to join.
I was playing on the PlayStation 4 Pro, and I had a few problems during my playthrough. There were multiple crashes, but thankfully I never lost a ton of progress. However, the pop in on textures and foliage is rough. The shadows work well in some spots, but not others. For instance, I ran past a fence near a tree, and the fence had a shadow while the tree did not. I fell through the world in a couple of spots, and had frame drops in certain areas as well.
Outward may show a ton of promise, but it is pretty rough in its current state. Those interested should check back after a couple of patches.
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