Outward is the answer to the question what would happen if two of the most popular gaming genres crossed paths, those genres being RPG and survival. In this game you are a nobody who is just trying to pay its rent. You make your own story from here on out as you start exploring the world around you, making enemies and friends along the way.
This is the concept that had us intrigued ever since we heard about Outward as a game. You start off with a lumber axe and crippling debt (which you have to pay off) and as you make your way through the far from linear story, you gain access to swords, armour and even magic abilities. There aren’t any quest markers around, nor is there a clear path to follow most of the time, travelling happens entirely with a primitive map of the world, a compass and your non-existing sense of direction in our case.
Travelling is the most fun thing to do in this game. It genually feels amazing and nothing has ever spoken as much to my sense of wanderlust before. You set out with only a vague idea where you’re going, an almost empty backpack and a waterskin. When planning on visiting a town that’s two days travel from where you are now, you have to carefully examine what you’re bring on your trip and whether or not you have enough food to eat. Diseases, cold, heat, beasts, bandits, there are many factors to take into account.
Death is never permanent however. After being smacked-down into the ground by some bandits, you might wake up in a prison cell inside of their stronghold. Don’t see this as a mercy, there are only autosaves so you’re stuck with whatever happened. DId you lose all your stuff when running away from some wolves? Well it’s gone forever. Taking into account combat is ridiculously tough and there isn’t a forgiving thing in this world, you know it takes a certain kind of player to enjoy this game.
There are some other downsides we need to talk about. The world can feel inconsistent in a number of ways. Spoken lines of dialogue never seem to match up with the lines you can read on-screen. Falling off a cliff kills you outright most of the time, but enemies never seem to be bothered by it. Crafting works fine, but after spending hours on a new pair of boots, losing them after an hour of exploring might be discouraging.
Outward is a fun, rewarding and extremely tough game. Progress is inevitable, but it will take up quite some time before you can start slinging fireballs around. Travel is perfect, setting out with the sunrise and camping next to a cosy fire in the rain. Combat stays difficult and the visuals aren’t what we expected from current-gen games. All-in-all you will either be smitten by Outward after the first couple of hours, or you will realize it just isn’t the game for you. The game also gains bonus credit for having tried something interesting and new.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Nine Dots Studio
Publisher: Deep Silver