“Outward” is the strangest anomaly of a video game that I have ever played. With its controversial and polarizing changes to established mechanics, it is certainly a unique experience to play. However, a unique experience doesn’t always mean a good experience. With “Souls”-like combat and a myriad of other mechanics from the RPG genre, “Outward” stands out as one of the more successful rips of the old formula. When I mean successful, I mean that it was well-spoken about months before I reviewed it. I would not have even bothered to look more into this game if it weren’t for a recent uptick in popularity due to the release of an expansion DLC for the game called “The Soroboreans.” From my limited knowledge of this kind of game and with few other games to compare it to, spare the survival games that I’ve played in the past, I decided that I would give this game a fair shake.
This led me down a path of bursts of laughter, anger and bewilderment at the whole experience. I was so torn on how I felt about the game that I looked up other people’s reviews just to see if I was just missing something other people were ecstatic about. To no one’s surprise, I wasn’t missing anything; this is what people like about the game.
To start, I’m going to go over the things I enjoyed in the game. Navigation with your map is quite nice, since the map doesn’t explicitly tell you where you are. It’s another level of challenge, I think, that spells in the game were well implemented. Not “mana,” the resource you use to cast spells, but the spells alone. The system encourages you to discover combinations of different spells to see how they interact with the environment and enemies. There are quite a number of ways you can use magic as well. You can use runic magic, which allows you to be incredibly flexible, but takes longer to cast. You have your standard magic with fire and the like, and a couple other ways you can use your magic. My favorite way was runic magic because I felt there was a spell for quite a number of different situations both in combat and for survival. Another thing that I thought was not too poorly done was the melee combat but ONLY WHEN YOU’RE ALONE.
There are quite a few moves that can be done depending on your stamina, the number of basic attacks that you’ve done, et cetera, and it actually flows fairly well. This all changes with multiplayer, but when alone, these mechanics are quite nice. I also like how equipment degradation works. Instead of completely destroying all your hard work when the equipment “breaks,” it simply isn’t as effective as if it were fixed. I actually like the rhythm of having to fix your stuff when it is damaged.
And finally, what I think the game does best: death. Dying in this game is an odd feeling. Whenever you die in this game, you very rarely lose things besides food and water from the time you were unconscious. Sometimes when you die, you discover something in the environment that you would have never thought to check before. I’d almost say that the game rewards you for dying. There were times after I died that the area I was taken to was filled with glamorous rewards and a new look into the world’s culture. Another time, I fought someone who said it was in my best interest to rest in his abode, and he ended up beating me up to do just that. After my character woke up, I was in a completely different location with a note about my health and a couple resources that I’ve never seen before.
With all of the compliments that I have for the game, you may think that I enjoyed a majority of my experience with it. That could not be further from the truth. While many reviews that I’ve seen praised the graphics of the game, I will say that the characters and models in this 40-dollar game sometimes look very out-of-place or completely different from the established style. Faces in this game are an uncanny game where, the more you look, the less realistic they seem. A regal gold encrusted throne can be placed inside a wooden building, and quite often you can see through the world in these awkward slips of reality revealing the void underneath.
Another thing that I have to note is the janky nature of the game as a whole. Sometimes when you are trying to scale a steep slope, you will simply fly off the surface and fly a couple dozen meters away to your death. Certain enemies shoot shockingly massive projectiles which their models barely portray properly, like portraying a careening double-decker bus as a fly, and all enemies can hit you through walls. Sometimes you’ll be in a place where you’re certain no one can see you, then out of nowhere a character sees you through two layers of solid stone wall and begins to attack you.
However, the absolute worst problem in this game is resource management. The stamina of your character could be trumped by an 80-year-old smoker. While health is rather plentiful, getting any back is an ordeal without sleeping. Mana can’t regenerate on its own and requires the player to eat certain kinds of food or get an incredibly expensive skill to get any back without sleeping, which also leads to other problems, but all of these issues are completely trumped by the fucking inventory system. I think a live hand grenade would have better inventory management than your character. You can barely carry your essentials, such as food and water. On top of that, to make any ounce of progress, you often have to carry heavy items that, when looked at from a glance, seem incredibly easy to carry.
While I hate the phrase “the game gets better later,” this perfectly encapsulates my experience with “Outward”: a shaky start that ends with a much more tolerable product toward the end. That doesn’t mean that the game is good or that one should suffer through the low points of the game to reach it. It is the type of game that if you are already into the genre, you’ll most likely enjoy it through and through.
Edward Park is a third year student with a BsED writings track. EP909767@wcupa.edu