Editor: Diane Hutchinson Editor@girlgamersuk.com

Outward

Posted by GG Goblin On April - 11 - 2019

No heroes here. Just a regular person in an unforgiving world.

 
Most gamers will be familiar with the concept of being chosen by destiny. In many video games, the first thing the player will do is be introduced to, or invited to create, a hero. This could be someone chosen by the gods to vanquish evil, or employed by nobility to save a kingdom, or just someone who had a dream in which they had to save the world. Whatever the reason, the hand of destiny is often felt by these characters. But, what if your character was not in the slightest bit interested in saving the world, but rather just wanted to pay their bills? And what if they were not some hero of legend, but just a regular person who wanted perhaps a bit of excitement and preferably to live another day? That would be a different type of game. That would be Nine Dots Studio’s Outward.

 
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While many games throw the power fantasy at the player, making it easy for them to enjoy, Outward takes a very different approach. Outward is an open-world RPG in which the player is no hero, just a standard inhabitant of the fantasy world who, to start with, has to raise the money to pay off a debt and keep the roof over their head. It is such a lowly starting point that any sense of power fantasy may seem a long way off. However, Outward has an honesty and difficulty that proves there is power to be found in the simplest of things, such as getting a decent nights sleep.

 
Outward takes many of the gameplay mechanics that players have come to rely on, and throws them out of the window. This is most obvious in the way players can work out where they are and where they need to go. Basically, they can’t. Well, they can, but it will take some skill. The player is presented with a map, complete with land marks. But there is no marker on the map to show where they are, and players will need to work that out for themselves. The same is the case with any quests or tasks that the player accepts, there are no markers and the player will have to work from spoken directions and a little bit of luck. There is also no fast travel system available in Outward, leaving players to embark on massive treks across the wilderness just to reach some destination or another.

 
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A massive trek wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but the player has to worry about the most basic things in the game. Players will need to keep their hunger and thirst in check, and so ensuring they have enough supplies for a long journey would be essential. But they also need to think about wearing appropriate clothing for the destination, and getting enough sleep to heal. There are ways that the character can get ill, such as through unboiled water or dodgy food, and that is as likely to kill them as any monster attack. Even sleeping comes with a risk, as the player can set up to sleep anywhere, but will risk being ambushed. They can be guarded, but will benefit less from the sleep. Outward stacks the odds against the player in a challenging way, and leaves them to try and work everything out for themselves.

 
The players character may be a regular joe, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot improve during their time as an adventurer. They won’t become stronger or anything as obvious as that, but they can learn new skills, including some magic, and they may be able to craft better weapons and equipment, including traps that can make life a little easier. It is a natural way for the character to progress, and it does make the game a bit easier, along with the knowledge of the mechanics that the player will have picked up. Getting to this point is difficult though.

 
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Many players will relish the challenge presented by Outward. The survival aspects and lack of hand holding can be appealing to the more hardcore gamers. However, when it comes to the combat, players will find less of a challenge and more of a compromise. Outward is a game that gives the player plenty of choices in how they approach quests, tasks or even simple encounters, and so combat is avoidable much of the time. But those occasions when combat cannot be avoided can prove disappointing. The combat is incredibly janky, feeling imprecise and unsatisfying. There is no kind of skill here, and players will mostly have to rely on luck. To rub salt in the would, if the player is defeated, they will wake up somewhere else, and the vague map system means that it will take a while to work out where that is. If the player had limited supplies at the time of the defeat, then getting back on track will be a real struggle.

 
The other main downside comes from the games presentation. Once the character creation begins, it becomes obvious of the games’ low budget. The choices are limited for the player, and none of them look so great. Once the game begins, the player is presented with low detailed textures in environments that look positively last gen. Outward is not a good looking game.

 
But there is a crowning glory to Outward, one that really makes it stand out from many other games. The entire adventure can be played in co-op, and bringing along a friend makes everything more interesting. Sure, any enemies will be tougher in a co-op game, but two minds are better than one. Playing online co-op is great, but the real fun comes in local split-screen co-op, sharing the experience as well as the sofa. Split-screen games are few and far between, but a split-screen open-world RPG really is something unique.

 
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Outward is a mishmash of great ideas and limitations. The combat is horrible and the visuals are unimpressive, while the survival and exploration aspects will appeal to the hardcore gamers. And then there is the excellent local co-op, which really is a lot of fun. More casual and less forgiving players may struggle to look past the faults, but anyone looking for an open-world RPG survival game that can be experienced with a friend would do well to check out Outward.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 



 

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